Article written by Sia Knight edited by Sarah Brown Tesolin
image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Preparing for graduate school can be a daunting task. One potential stumbling block on the way to graduate studies can be the standardized testing associated with admission to a post-Bachelor’s program.
Check these important factors as you come up with a grad school testing strategy.
Check your motives - Think long and hard before you decide to take a grad school admissions test. Some potential grad students may be tempted to use standardized testing as a tool to decide whether or not to apply to school. Former teacher, counsellor and administrator, Sia Knight says that this strategy is both expensive and time-consuming. It's also important to keep in mind that in most cases, your scores follow you wherever you go. So, if you do not perform well and decide to retake the tests at another time, your original results will be available along with your new test scores, to any grad schools that you apply to.
Rather than let the scores decide your fate, start by doing some research into what your career options are, ask yourself where and what you want to be doing in the next 5 to 10 years and consider making an appointment with a career counsellor before diving into the deep end of grad school testing.
Check the most recent grad school testing information available –Even if you think that you are ready to take the required tests for grad school, do your research. Procedures and content of many standardized tests do change from time to time and if you rely solely on the advice of some well-meaning friends and/or mentors you may end up getting stale or dated information.
Check the scores that your intended program requires - This research may help you get real about your admission chances. For example, if you know that you are a notoriously bad test taker, you need to know if your program requires you to be in the top 5% of test takers.
Check the deadlines – Make sure that you have enough time to take your test and receive the scores before your university’s deadlines. Many tests will provide instant scores, but there are some assessments that can take many weeks before they are scored and sent to the grad programs that you are applying to. Visit the official web sites for each of the tests that you are planning to take to determine the location of nearby test centres, registration procedures, and deadlines.
Check for test preparation material – Standardized tests are primarily aptitude tests. As with most tests that you have written in the past, performance on standardized tests depends more on how well prepared you are rather than on how smart you are. But don’t be fooled. It takes a long time to properly prepare for these tests, so you should begin early. There is a plethora of books on preparing for most standardized test, and are available at most University bookstore and library. These books often include valuable practice tests to help you get an idea of the kind of questions you can expect to see and also to help you chart your progression. For additional help, you may also want to check out the career centre at your current school. They should be able to give you free publications that describe the characteristics and features of the tests and tips on how to prepare for taking the tests.
You can also check with major companies like Kaplan and Princeton Review to find out what resources are available. There are several items like practice tests, test-taking tips, and extended information about your test that are online for free. Or you can also pay to take one of their courses.
Remember that preparation is the key to successful performance on standardized tests. Your first step is to find out what standardized test(s) you will need to take in order to get into a graduate program in your field. Next, go to your college bookstore or the library and purchase or borrow books on preparing for the tests that you will need to write. Prepare for the tests by writing several practice tests, or register with a training service that offers courses on preparing for standardized tests. Timing is critical. Remember that you must register to write these tests several weeks in advance of the test date. Moreover, it can take up to six weeks after the test date for the testing service to process and send your official test scores. Accordingly, you should arrange to write the tests well in advance of the earliest graduate-program application deadline. . If you use Twitter, then you might also want to follow @etsGRE and @KaplanGradPrep. Both provide links to advice on preparing for the various tests, deadlines reminders, and other useful information.
Find lots more expert advice on getting into grad school in the newly released book: Graduate School: Winning Strategies For Getting In, 2nd edition, by Dave G. Mumby, Ph.D. It is the most comprehensive advisement handbook for College and University students who are considering graduate school. Whether you are still deciding if grad school is right for you, or are looking for ways to maximize your application, this book is for you. Paperback version available at Amazon & Barnes & Noble. eBook available on Kindle and for Apple iPad/iBooks, Nook, Sony Reader, Kobo, and most e-reading apps. Get your copy now.