The thoughts of post-graduation life can be seen in the furrowed brows of University of Georgia students carrying study materials in preparation for graduate exams: the Graduate Record Exam, the Law School Admission Test, the Graduate Management Admission Test and the Medical College Admission Test.
The UGA Center for Continuing Education offers prep courses for these tests to help ease students’ anxieties. The instructors are referred by Educational Testing Consultants, a company that “specializes in providing test preparation services to college and university outreach.”
The Georgia Center vets chooses from those provided.
“We can’t all be subject matter experts,” said Mary Garrison, an administrator with the courses at the Georgia Center.
Garrison said the GRE and LSAT usually receive more enrollment than the GMAT. The MCAT, however, doesn’t have a prep course at the Georgia Center.
Steven Harris, the director for curriculum development for these courses, said there wasn’t much incentive for the Georgia Center to join the market of MCAT courses.
“The parts of the test that don’t require lots of knowledge of biology and chemistry in particular, and psychology and sociology now, are vanishingly small, so you need a deep content bench of experts for those tests,” Harris said.
Garrison said MCAT classes were offered in the past, but there has been a lack of interest. She sends students inquiring about the MCAT course to a partner company.
Changes in the Tests and Prep Courses
Harris said the LSAT has remained the most consistent in terms of content at the Georgia Center.
“That test has remained remarkably stable over the past twenty years in fact,” Harris said, noting the only change made in the past included adding a pair of passages with questions instead of a single passage to the reading comprehension section of the test.
The GRE, however, is the opposite.
“The GRE has been bouncing back and forth all over the place over the past few years,” Harris said.
Harris said the GRE, when first moving to computer, didn’t have a format that allowed for students to go back and change answers.
For both the GMAT and GRE, Harris said he has seen more emphasis in critical thinking skills. There are questions that ask for students to identify all possible true answers. These changes to the GMAT and GRE, Harris said, came about in the summer and fall of 2012. As the testing dates for the GRE become more frequent, he said, a larger bank of public test questions will become available, allowing for the Georgia Center to update its curriculum.
For Duncan Elkins, the changes haven’t affected how he approaches the math section of the GRE but have the verbal section.
“I’ve always demonstrated how to do the [math] problem all the way as if it were a conventional fill-in-the-blank question and then stepped backwards through the solution to demonstrate where you could be sure enough which choice was the correct answer,” he wrote in an email. “On the verbal section, the changes have let me de-emphasize building vocabulary in class, because the test no longer contains analogy and antonym questions that require the test-taker to know relatively precise definitions.”
For the LSAT, Elkins said the splitting of the reading comprehension passages hasn’t changed his approach at all.
“It may have led them to emphasize slightly different skills in the questions associated with that passage, but there were occasional passages from before the switch that lent themselves to the same sort of ‘compare and contrast’ questions that show up with these paired passages, now,” Elkins wrote, “so all the new format does is let us count on that style appearing every time.”
The Prep Courses
Courses offered are available in face-to-face and online formats. Face-to-face classes are kept deliberately small, approximately 12 students for each course.
“Our instructors do not work from a script,” Garrison said. “They work from a knowledge of the test. That also enables them to zero in on each student’s special need.”
Garrison said the Georgia Center cannot guarantee a score increase, something competitors like Kaplan, Inc. does provide, due to the human factors involved in the test-taking process. That aside, the Georgia Center allows you to get your money’s worth.
“If you don’t do as well on the test as you feel you should have based on the instruction that we gave you, the instruction you paid for, we allow you to take that course again at just a $60 administrative fee,” he said.