ACT 2020: Upcoming Changes

ACT 2020: Upcoming Changes

The ACT has remained, in many ways, essentially unchanged for decades. That’s all about to change in September 2020 and will necessarily change the tutoring process. However, there is little to fear here. The SAT completely revamped itself twice in the past 15 years, going from a scale of 1600 to 2400 and then back to 1600, and everyone adapted successfully to the changes. Fortunately, the ACT will not be changing in such a drastic fashion; rather, it will begin offering students more options in terms of how they test starting next year.

First, the ACT will begin allowing for an in-house super-score policy, allowing students the option to have ACT, Inc., rather than college admissions officers, calculate their super-score. A super-score is the result of multiple test sittings in which the highest section scores (English, Math, Reading, Science) are recombined for a new composite score. Since fewer schools have super-scored the ACT historically, this could ultimately help students who might have been better suited to the ACT but who opted to take the SAT in hopes of maximizing their super-scores settle on the test that is best for them, thus leveling the playing field between the exams.

The ACT will also start offering students the opportunity to retake individual sections, rather than the entire test, which will allow students to concentrate on their particular weaknesses, without having to worry about focus so much on a weaker section that their stronger sections take a hit on the next test. This will allow students who are significantly stronger in particular areas to target their weaker areas without worrying about whether they are spending enough time maintaining their high scores in other sections. It is important to note that this option will only be available to students who have previously taken a full ACT. So the tutoring process will remain the same for, at least, the first ACT and then students have the option to either retake the entire test or pinpoint specific sections that need work.

Consistent with their other changes, the ACT will allow students to choose between two testing modes—paper or online. There are pros and cons to both, of course. Some people—like me—strongly prefer paper test administrations, and many of my students do as well. However, some of my students have already had the opportunity to take the online administration and loved it. The biggest benefit of the online administration lies in score release timelines. By taking the test online, students will receive their scores far sooner than if they take the test on paper, as early as two business days after their test date. I have seen countless students spend weeks fretting about their scores after their test date, so I have a vested interest in getting scores to students as soon as possible. However, I am also thrilled that students still have the option to test on paper. It is clear that the ACT is moving toward a more student-centered take on testing. Do you live on the internet and take all of your notes digitally? You can take the ACT in a format that’s familiar to you. Do you struggle to focus when looking at a screen? You can still take the ACT on paper.

Ultimately, the changes to the ACT will be nowhere near as drastic as the changes we’ve seen to the SAT in the past. These changes will benefit students by giving them more options to cater to their specific learning styles. If students could adapt to the 2016 SAT, they can definitely handle the changes coming to the ACT in 2020.

 

Aja B

Elite Tutor

Common Myths and Misconceptions about the ACT and SAT

SAT and ACT: Common Myths and Misconceptions

Many students and parents come into the test preparation process with a lot of preconceived notions about the way the tests function, how they’re perceived by colleges, and whether one is easier than the other.

Perhaps the most troubling myth I hear is that colleges prefer the SAT. This is not true! Colleges weigh the ACT and SAT equally, so it’s especially important that students take the test that is most appropriate for them and their skillsets. The ACT has more timing pressure, while the SAT creates difficulty by asking students to engage with more complex questions. Neither is necessarily difficult than the other in general, but most students will have an edge on one test over the other. We help with this process by using our Agnostic Diagnostic, or AgDi, which determines to which test a student is better suited.

Another common misconception is that large score gains are difficult to attain, but this could not be further from the truth. While improving a score from the initial diagnostic takes work, most students will already have the academic skills they need to perform well on the test but likely have not encountered any tests in the style of the SAT or the ACT. What this means on a pragmatic level is that students need to learn the strategies for these tests, not necessarily the content—though that is important, too! Both tests are incredibly coachable, and we as tutors have worked through countless tests and problems in-depth and identified the best strategies for different styles of learning. Large score gains are certainly possible with the right tactics and some dedication!

Getting back to the content of the test, I hear my students tell me that they hate science, so the ACT must be too difficult for them.

Well. Good news and bad news.

The bad news is that, while the SAT does not have an official science section, science is well integrated into the test, so if you hate science, there’s no real avoiding it on either test. The good news, however, is that neither the ACT nor SAT are testing your science skills in the way, say, your biology teacher is. On the ACT, you will be tasked with analyzing charts, following trends, and utilizing your basic scientific reasoning skills. Do you remember the scientific method from sixth grade and know how to read a chart? Then you should be completely fine on the ACT’s science section with a bit of help. There will be a handful of outside knowledge questions, but even if you don’t know any of those, you can skill achieve a strong science score since every other question can be answered simply by reading a chart, following a trend, or referring back to a passage. The other bit of good news is that the SAT’s science, since it’s integrated into the reading, math, and English sections, requires no outside knowledge at all. So even if you hate science with a burning passion, you can and will pull through, and you are more than capable of learning the strategies to make this topic as pain free as possible.

Aja B

Elite Tutor

Why Testing Multiple Times is to your Benefit—to a Point

Multiple Test Dates and Superscoring: A Primer

How many times should I take the ACT/SAT? Why can’t I just do it once and be done?  How far apart should my test dates be spaced?

These are, by far, some of the most common questions I receive from concerned students and parents at the beginning of the test preparation process. And each question is valid and deserves a thoughtful response.

As a general rule, I recommend that any student test at least twice, for various reasons. The first, and most obvious reason, is simply that, statistically speaking, you are likely to score better on your second test; over half of students taking the SAT or ACT twice will receive a higher score on the second test. For the ACT, most colleges only consider your highest score, so there is no risk in trying again. For the SAT, students are in an even better position, as most colleges will super-score the SAT, meaning that they will select your highest section scores from each test sitting and consider those for your admission decision. Let’s analyze an example student who scored 1200 on two different test dates. On the first date, she scored 700 on her Verbal and 500 on her Math. On the second test date, she decided to focus on improving her math and scored 550 on her Verbal and brought her math to a 650. Most colleges will then take her 700 Verbal from her first date and the 650 Math from her second date for an overall score of 1350, a 150 point improvement. This does not happen organically, though. In order to benefit from super-scoring, you will need to submit all of your scores to colleges and they will super-score your tests, not the College Board.

On the ACT, super-scoring is less common across colleges, though that will be changing next September. Some schools will super-score while others will not, so it is in students’ best interest to try to maximize their composite scores on a given test date, which is why testing more than once is also to your benefit for the ACT. By taking the ACT more than once, you are able to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses to better maximize your score on your next test and can use that data in conjunction with your tutor to precision target areas of weakness in each section, which leads to stronger composite scores.

However, there is a point of diminishing returns after three or so tests. Higher scoring students have smaller margins of error to improve, so students scoring in the upper ranges do not benefit from testing more than two or three times. There is also the simple fact that test preparation is work, and at some point, students are better off working on other parts of their application if they are hitting a plateau after multiple rounds of testing. Remember, the college application process is a holistic one; it is not merely your test scores that determine whether you are granted admission to a given college. Admissions officers also weigh your grades, extracurricular activities, and volunteering experience, and those should not be shunted to the side to continue testing closer and closer to application time.

There is a balance to be struck, and I have found that it is generally between two and three test dates. This allows students to have lives outside of test preparation while maximizing scores and giving them the best chance at attending their college of choice

So, testing multiple times is always to your benefit, but testing too many times is never worth sacrificing other aspects of your application. Aim for two or three attempts at the test, confident in the knowledge that you will almost certainly improve on each test, and then move on to the rest of your life. We know this is a stressful time, and our goal is to make it as painless as possible. So trust the process. It works.

Aja B

Elite Tutor

What the Test Makers Won’t Tell You

What the Test Makers Won't Tell You

Let me lay a common scenario for you. You, a high school student, purchase an official guide to the SAT or the ACT in the hope that this will make your college application process roughly one hundredth of a percent easier. Upon opening the book, however, the official guide insists that you, yes, you, have already mastered all of the skills required for this test, and that you have nothing to worry about. 36, here I come, you think. Emboldened, you take the first diagnostic test only to realize that you’ve run out of time, the questions are inane, and you now believe that you are woefully under-prepared for this exam.

There is no telling how often this happens, but it is essential to know that what the test makers claim about the test and what the test actually entails are fundamentally different things. Taking the ACT or SAT does not simply require the knowledge of content that you receive in school—you also have to train for the strategies inherent to the tests themselves.

Neither test is necessarily harder than the other; they simply test different skills in different ways. For the ACT, most students struggle with the time pressure that the test enforces, particularly on the reading and science sections, both of which require students to answer 35 questions in 40 minutes, with the added pressure of reading through multiple passages. On the surface, this seems like an incredibly difficult task, but what they don’t tell you is that, with the exception of a handful of outside knowledge questions on the science section, every question is answerable based on a surface level reading of the passages and graphs. Once this is understood, the timing becomes significantly less difficult, and the test begins to appear far less daunting.

On the other hand, the SAT allows for significantly more time per question and does not have a science section to get through. However, the questions, at least on the surface, appear more difficult. Fortunately, just as on the ACT, the reading questions are all answerable based on the passages provided and correct answer choices will be either direct paraphrases or immediate inferences.

The math sections for both tests naturally require outside knowledge, but there are strategies here as well to make these sections easier for students. Often when I work with students, we go through the questions and figure out what they are actually asking, and my students realize that they do in fact have the skills to answer most, if not all, of the questions. In order to make the test more difficult, the test makers rely on what I call artificial difficulty—that is, they phrase questions in unusual ways or format answer choices to appear more esoteric than they actually are. Once you work through the methods in which the test makers artificially inflate the difficulty of questions and begin to understand that they are simply testing your knowledge in different ways, the fear factor starts to disappear. And then, even on questions that do test skills you might not have yet, you can usually rule out clearly wrong choices by working backwards from answer choices or plugging in real values for variables.

Ultimately, the ACT and the SAT are not simply testing your content knowledge, they are testing your ability to adapt to the test, which is where tutors come in. We have worked through countless problems and are intimately familiar with the tricks the test makers pull, so we are equipped to ease you through the process and into your best possible score. Once these strategies are mastered, most students realize there is nothing to fear about either of these tests—which is the goal! These tests are teachable, coachable, and preparation for them need not be torturous. Learning test strategies and seeing your score improve can be fun, and that is the most important thing that the test makers will not tell you.

Aja B.

Elite Tutor

graduate admissions test prep

The GRE, GMAT, and LSAT: Test Prep and the Graduate Admissions Process

The GRE, GMAT, and LSAT: Test Prep & Graduate Admissions

Graduate schools in the United States usually require the submission of scores from one of three standardized tests during the admissions process: the GRE, the GMAT, or the LSAT. These tests are each unique in content and format, and nearly every student will benefit from preparing for several months prior to his or her test date.

GRE

The Graduate Record Examination General Test, or GRE General Test, is required by nearly every graduate program in the United States as part of their application processes, and it is also often accepted by business and law schools in place of either the GMAT or LSAT. Students interested in pursuing advanced degrees should therefore expect to prepare for and take this test, which is a nearly four hour test of your math, vocabulary, and advanced reading comprehension skills. The test is typically administered via computer, so Inspirica’s approach to the test includes a mix of content, structure, and strategy, preparing you for the variety of complex tasks you will face on test day.

For more, see our complete breakdown of the GRE, including details on test format, scoring, registration, test dates, and our approach to preparing for this test.

GMAT

The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) is used by business schools throughout the United States for admissions. Much like the GRE, the GMAT involves material students often have not seen since high school, so preparation typically requires a mix of tutoring and extensive self-study. Testing is done on individually scheduled dates at private testing centers and using a computer system that adapts the test to each student’s individual performance. This question-adaptive computer interface is one of the most unique aspects of the GMAT, and it means that practicing the process of taking the test is just as important as mastering the content that is tested.

For more, see our complete breakdown of the GMAT, including details on test format, scoring, registration, test dates, and our approach to preparing for this test.

LSAT

The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is used for admission to law schools throughout the United States. As the LSAT is the most difficult of all the standardized tests used for graduate admissions, preparation tends to be extensive, often lasting six or more months and involving numerous practice tests. Most students test two or three times, with the dates scheduled far in advance. The LSAT is a more “traditional” test than the GMAT and GRE: though it will transition to digital administration beginning in July 2019, it is not an adaptive test, which means that students will receive the same pre-selected set of questions regardless of their performance during the test.


For more, see our complete breakdown of the LSAT, including details on test format, scoring, registration, test dates, and our approach to preparing for this test.

The SSAT and the ISEE: Entrance Exams for Private, Independent, and Boarding Schools

For many families, the process of applying for admission to independent, private, and boarding schools can be intimidating. Not only does each individual school have its own set of admissions policies and procedures, but many include a requirement to submit standardized test scores, too. This often puts parents in the unfortunate position of having to tackle the standardized test preparation process for the first time in an unfamiliar context.

Most schools require the completion of one or the other of the Independent School Entrance Exam (ISEE) and the Secondary School Admissions Exam (SSAT). However, some accept scores from either test, so it is important that you check with each school to which you are considering applying as you begin this process. The tests are in many ways similar to one another, but there are some important differences to consider. Our Program Coordinators are here to provide advice and support every step of the way.

Three Key Features of the Tests

There are three key features common to both tests that are essential to understand as you begin the testing and application process.

First, both tests are designed by the test-writers to make students feel uncomfortable while taking them. Although most of the concepts tested will be familiar to most students, the format in which those concepts appear will almost certainly be new to them, making the structure of the test one of its most predictable challenges. This predictability, however, is what makes these tests so amenable to preparation: with proper instruction and practice, students can learn to see through the test-writers’ misdirections to successfully answer questions that they would otherwise get wrong.

Second, although the scores on both tests are presented in different formats on each test’s score report, the methods used to calculate those scores are essentially the same. Rather than compare test-takers against an objective set of standards, students are instead compared against one another, with the score reports showing a set of percentiles or stanines that rank applicants against one another. These are methods of calculation used by all standardized-test makers, and for most of the nationally prominent tests, these methods usually result in scores roughly correlated to students’ success in school. But because the SSAT and ISEE are designed to serve the schools that aim to attract the small subset of students who are among the best in the nation, this subjective method of comparison usually results in scores well below what parents anticipate as they begin this process. This gap between expectations and reality can often be closed with time and effort, but this once again illustrates the need for a preparation plan as part of the application process.

Third, both tests allow students to test multiple times, and it is generally to your child’s advantage to test more than once. Part of beating any test is giving yourself as many opportunities as necessary to succeed, and taking the test multiple times can be a great way to maximize chances for improvement. For the SSAT, the process of testing multiple times is fairly straightforward, as the test is administered on a set schedule eight times each year. The ISEE, however, is scheduled using administered using a testing seasons calendar that divides the year into three 4-month periods, with students limited to one test date per period for a maximum of three tests per calendar year. Planning a testing calendar well in advance of application deadlines therefore becomes an essential part of any preparation process.

An Overview of the ISEE

The Independent School Entrance Exam is used for admission to private elementary and secondary schools throughout the United States. There are four levels of the test – Primary, Lower, Middle, and Upper – each used in the admissions processes for students of different grade levels. Each level of the test is taken by students representing a range of ages, with the Middle Level test taken by students applying into grades seven and eight being the most common.

For more, see our complete breakdown of the ISEE, including details on test format, scoring, registration, test dates, and our approach to preparing for this test.

An Overview of the SSAT

The Secondary School Admissions Test is used for admission to private elementary, middle, and high schools throughout the United States. There are three levels of the test – Elementary, Middle, and Upper – each corresponding to one of the aforementioned three admissions processes. Each level of the test is taken by students across a range of ages, with the most common being the Upper Level taken by students applying into grades 9-12.

For more, see our complete breakdown of the SSAT, including details on test format, scoring, registration, test dates, and our approach to preparing for this test.

Get Started Today

To learn more about how we can help your family as it prepares to complete these application processes, schedule a free phone consultation with our team of Program Coordinators today!

An Overview Advanced Placement (AP) Tests

An Overview Advanced Placement (AP) Tests

Advanced Placement classes give students the chance to take college-level courses, master college-level content, and earn college credit while still in high school. College Board offers almost 40 different AP courses in a variety of subject areas, and most American high schools offer some number of those to their students. Every AP course has a corresponding exam, which is administered at the end of the term, and most colleges and universities will offer credit only to students who achieve a certain score on the relevant AP exam.

Inspirica’s approach to AP-exams relies on finding the perfect balance between reviewing content and honing test strategy. Our tutors’ mastery of standardized-test strategy extends to AP exams, but we recognize that content makes up a more significant part of preparation for the AP exams than it does for many other tests. Given this, our tutors only qualify to work on AP programs if they have extensive knowledge of the specific test and its content; many even own graduate degrees in the relevant subject area. Your tutor will be an expert, and he or she will ensure that you go into test day feeling like an expert as well.

Format

The format of the AP exams varies from class to class, but most contain both multiple-choice and free-response sections to last approximately three hours. Visit the test-specific page below that corresponds to the course you’re taking for more information about the format of that particular test:

Scoring

All AP exams are scored on a scale that ranges from 1 to 5, and that score is the one that colleges will use to determine whether a student earns course credit and if so, how much. The requirements that must be met to attain each score vary from exam to exam depending on the composition of the specific test, but they are always determined by a committee of college professors using an introductory-level college course as a reference point. The weight of each portion of the exam also varies from test to test; visit the test-specific page below that corresponds to the course you’re taking for more information about the scoring of that particular test.

Registration and Test Dates

AP exams are administered in mid-May, at the end of their corresponding courses and near the end of the school year. Registration is done through a student’s College Board account and may be facilitated by the student’s counselor or AP teacher; visit the College Board website for more information.

Inspirica’s Approach

Success on an AP exam requires a demanding combination of content knowledge and mastery of test technique; fortunately, our tutors are experts in both. You’ll be matched with someone who is well-versed in the relevant content and who has a black belt in standardized-test strategy, and they’ll work with you to figure out your specific needs and how best to address them. We recognize that there are as many different types of AP students as there are AP tests, so whether you’re a content master who needs some coaching in process of elimination or a test-taker extraordinaire who needs someone to review your class notes with you, Inspirica has you covered.

Get Started Today

To learn more, schedule a free phone consultation with our team of Program Coordinators today!

An Overview of the LSAT

An Overview of the LSAT

The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is created by the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC)and is used for admission to law schools throughout the United States. As the LSAT is the most difficult of all the standardized tests used for graduate admissions, preparation tends to be extensive, often lasting six or more months and involving numerous practice tests. Most students test two or three times, with the dates scheduled far in advance.

The LSAT is a more “traditional” test than the GMAT and GRE: though it will transition to digital administration beginning in July 2019, it is not an adaptive test, which means that students will receive the same pre-selected set of questions regardless of their performance during the test. Inspirica’s approach to tutoring the LSAT focuses heavily on instilling proper technique for all the different question-types so that you can head into test day knowing that you won’t be surprised by anything the LSAT throws at you.

Format

The LSAT consists of five multiple-choice sections, four of which contribute to the student’s score. The scored sections include:

  • One Reading Comprehension section
    • 27 questions
    • 35 minutes
  • One Analytical Reasoning section (a.k.a. logic games)
    • 23 questions
    • 35 minutes
  • Two Logical Reasoning sections (a.k.a. arguments)
    • 25 questions
    • 35 minutes.
  • An additional section of one of the above types will be included with each test. Although this section will not affect a tester’s score, it will not be identifiable by the testers in any way, forcing them to complete it as if it were a regular test section. This variable section as it is used by LSAC to pretest questions and new question-type variations for upcoming tests.

The LSAT also includes an unscored writing sample, and as of June 2019, the this portion of the test is administered separately from the multiple-choice test at a time and place of each test-taker’s choosing. Visit LSAC’s Writing FAQs page for complete details on this process.

The LSAT is defined primarily by both its rigor and its pace. Every section forces students to process information of varying types and in varying formats while operating under severe time constraints. Combined with its nearly three-hour length, that challenge makes for a tough afternoon.

This is exemplified by the Analytical Reasoning section, which presents students with several scenarios of varying types; each scenario contains a number of rules, which interact in multifarious and convoluted ways. Students must plot out each scenario and answer questions that either introduce new information or require them to deduce certain immutable facts about the overall scenario, all while remembering to keep an eye on the clock. If this sounds challenging, that’s because it is! Fortunately, our LSAT programs focus heavily on mastering strategies for each distinct question-type, with the primary emphasis placed on the sections with which each individual student needs the most practice; you’ll go into test day fully prepared for the unique challenges of the LSAT.

Scoring

Test-takers receive a raw score for the test which is simply equal to the number of questions correctly answered. The LSAT does not deduct points for incorrect answers.

Then, using a process called equating, the LSAT will produce an overall scaled score for the entire test that ranges from 120 to 180; this ensures that scores from different LSAT administrations are comparable over time. The scaled score, which is reported along with an LSAT score band, is the best representation of a student’s performance on the LSAT, particularly since the LSAT does not calculate individual section scores as most other standardized tests do.

After each test date, unless cancelled within six calendar days of the test, a student’s scores are added to his or her score report. Each score report includes all of the following:

  • the score from your most recently completed test
  • results of up to 12 tests completed since June 2013, including notations marking any cancellations or absences.
  • An average score, if you have more than one reportable score since June 2013 .
  • a percentile rank for each reported score; these percentiles indicate the percentage of testers over the last three testing years whose scores were lower than the tester’s reported scores.
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When the student applies to law schools, the entire score report is submitted with the application; the LSAT does not offer the option to pick and choose which scores are submitted.

Three times each year — in June, September, November — the LSAC offers tests “with disclosure.” These tests are released directly to test-takers along with their scores, allowing them to review the questions in full along with their scores. Once released, these tests become part of the publicly available set of official test materials and are never administered again.

Registration and Test Dates

The LSAT is administered every one to two months year-round at test centers approved by the LSAC, and there is no limit on the number of times a student can take the test. It’s generally to your advantage to test more than once: part of beating any test is giving yourself as many opportunities as necessary to succeed, and taking the test multiple times can be a great way to maximize your improvement. To search for nearby test centers and register to take the LSAT, visit the LSAC’s website and follow the corresponding instructions.

Inspirica’s Approach

Inspirica’s approach to tutoring the LSAT recognizes the differing needs of students applying to graduate programs. We’ve seen every type of student, from those who are in college and want to enroll in law school immediately upon graduation to those who have been out of college and working full-time for years. Our team will work with you to find a tutor who fits your availability, and your tutor will focus both on teaching technique and guiding your independent preparation as you practice those techniques on your own.

Like all other standardized tests, there are certain aspects of taking the LSAT that are impossible to replicate through homework alone, which is why regular practice tests are a staple of our programs. Your tutor will help you set up a schedule of periodic tests that will give you the opportunity to practice the techniques you’ve learned in the context of a full test while also familiarizing you with the experience of taking the full test. Though the format of the LSAT is more traditional than that of either the GRE and GMAT, the experience of taking the test must still be practiced, as the combination of length, difficulty, and timing makes it a grueling experience.

For LSAT programs, you’ll take official practice tests released by the LSAC. After every test, you and your tutor will review the results together in order to pinpoint exactly why and how your right answers were right and your wrong answers wrong. You’ll then use the insight gained during this process to revise your practice plan; you’ll be able to both see the product of your hard work and determine what part of the test to attack next.

Get Started Today

To learn more, schedule a free phone consultation with our team of Program Coordinators today!

An Overview of the GMAT

An Overview of the GMAT

The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) was created by the Graduate Management Admission Council and is used by business schools throughout the United States for admissions. Much like the GRE, the GMAT involves material students often have not seen since high school, so preparation typically requires a mix of tutoring and extensive self-study. Testing is done on individually scheduled dates at private testing centers and using a computer system that adapts the test to each student’s individual performance. This question-adaptive computer interface is one of the most unique aspects of the GMAT, and it means that practicing the process of taking the test is just as important as mastering the content that is tested. Inspirica’s approach to tutoring the GMAT begins with this fact, and your tutor will ensure that you go into test day having had ample experience with the mechanics of taking the test.

Format

The GMAT is comprised of four sections and takes approximately 3 1/2 hours to complete

At the beginning of the test, students are given the opportunity to sequence their sections in one of three pre-selected orders. This gives each tester the flexibility to take the test in the sequence that best fits their individual strengths and weaknesses. The sequences are as follows:

  1. Analytical Writing, Integrated Reasoning, Quantitative, Verbal
  2. Verbal, Quantitative, Integrated Reasoning, Analytical Writing
  3. Quantitative, Verbal, Integrated Reasoning, Analytical Writing

The GMAT is a computer-adaptive test, which means that the difficulty of the test changes from question to question in response to the student’s performance. Because of this, the GMAT is only offered in digital form, and test-takers are not able to skip questions or change answers after they have been submitted, as the response to each question controls which question the tester gets next.

In addition to its unique interface, the GMAT also contains multiple question-types that are seldom or never seen on other tests. This is best illustrated by the Data Sufficiency question type, which provides students with a question and two informational statements, then challenges them to determine what combination of the given information is sufficient to answer the question. Even though students are not required to actually answer the question in order to get the problem correct, the difficulty of this question-type is often compounded by the presence of material with which students are rusty. If this sounds challenging, that’s because it is! Fortunately, our GMAT programs focus just as heavily on mastering strategies for each distinct question-type as they do on learning content, so you’ll go into test day fully prepared for anything the GMAT can throw at you.

Scoring

Each section of the GMAT receives an individual score. The essay is scored twice, once by a human grader and once by a computer, and the two scores are averaged to produce a final score from 0.0 to 6.0. The Integrated Reasoning section is scored purely based on the number of questions that a student answers correctly, and the final score will range from 1 to 8. Some Integrated Reasoning questions have multiple parts, and a student must answer every part correctly in order to receive credit for that question. Scoring for the Verbal and Quantitative sections is more complex, as each score takes into account several factors: the number of questions a student answers in the section; how many of those answers are correct; and the difficulty level of the questions answered.

In addition to the individual section scores, the GMAT will also produce a total score from 200 to 800, with two-thirds of test takers scoring between 400 and 600. The total score is the best single measure of a student’s performance on the test, and it is based only on the student’s performance in the Verbal and Quantitative sections.

Students will be able to see their unofficial scores immediately upon completing the test, and they will have two minutes to decide whether to accept the scores or cancel them. Once accepted, scores will appear on all score reports sent to schools over the next five years; the GMAT does not offer the option to pick and choose which scores are submitted.

Registration and Test Dates

A student can retake the GMAT once every 16 calendar days but no more than five times in a rolling 12-month period and no more than eight times total. The test is administered frequently and on all different days of the week, so a student’s testing schedule is typically determined by business school application deadlines and availability of seats at nearby test centers. Students can search for nearby test centers and register to take the test at the GMAC’s website using their mba.com account. If requesting accommodations for a disability, that request must be processed prior to scheduling a testing appointment

Inspirica’s Approach

Inspirica’s approach to tutoring the GMAT starts with recognizing the differing needs of students applying to graduate programs. We’ve seen every type of student, from those who are in college and want to enroll in business school immediately upon graduation to those who have been out of college and working full-time for years. Our team will work with you to find a tutor who fits your availability, and your tutor will focus both on teaching strategy and technique and on guiding your independent preparation as you practice those techniques and review content on your own, in whatever proportion is optimal for you.

More than most other standardized tests, there are certain aspects of taking the GMAT that are impossible to replicate through homework alone, which is one of the reasons that regular practice tests are a staple of our programs. Your tutor will help you set up a schedule of periodic mock tests that will give you the opportunity to practice the techniques you’ve learned in the context of a full test while also familiarizing you with the experience of taking the full test straight through. This practice with the test-taking experience is particularly important in GMAT programs, as students need to become comfortable with the question-adaptive computer interface. After each mock test, you and your tutor will go over the results together in detail, using them to revise your practice plan; you’ll be able to see the product of your hard work and determine what part of the test to attack next.

For GMAT programs, you’ll take official practice tests released by the GMAC using the same software that you’ll use when you take the real test. The practice version of the software scores the test in the same way the actual GMAT is scored but still allows you to review each question individually, giving you and your tutor the opportunity to deconstruct your results in order to pinpoint exactly why and how your right answers were right and your wrong answers wrong.

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An Overview of the GRE

An Overview of the GRE

The Graduate Record Examination General Test, or GRE General Test, is a standardized-test created by the Educational Testing Service (ETS), the firm behind the previous versions of the SAT. As a central component of the graduate school application process, this test is taken by students who have either completed or are close to completing their undergraduate degrees. It is required by nearly every graduate program in the United States as part of their application processes, and it is also often accepted by business and law schools in place of either the GMAT or LSAT. Students interested in pursuing advanced degrees should therefore expect to prepare for and take this test, which is often thought of as the “big brother” of the SAT: a 3-hour and 45-minute challenge that tests your algebra, geometry, data analysis, vocabulary, and advanced reading comprehension skills. Unlike the SAT, however, the GRE is typically administered via computer, so Inspirica’s approach to the test includes a mix of content, structure, and strategy, preparing you for the variety of complex tasks you will face on test day.

Format

The GRE is comprised of five scored test sections and one unscored section across three categories. These sections each test a different aspect of the test-taker’s readiness for a graduate program:

  • One Analytical Writing Section: This is an essay section in which students have 60 minutes to answer two questions designed to challenge their analytical reasoning abilities. On the first question-type, which the test calls Analyze an Issue, students are asked to take a position on an issue presented to them in text. On the second question-type, which the test calls Analyze an Argument, students are asked to evaluate the components of a short, argumentative essay.
  • Two Verbal Reasoning Sections: These sections are designed to test a student’s ability to quickly read and comprehend graduate-level texts, to analyze and draw conclusions from those texts, and to understand logical relationships between component sentences of those texts. Each section is 30 minutes long and includes several question types, including text completion, sentence equivalence, and reading comprehension.
  • Two Quantitative Reasoning Sections: These sections are designed to test a student’s competencies in math, and can include basic arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and data analysis questions. Most of the topics in these sections were covered in high school, and there is no higher-level math typical of college courses found here. Questions include both the numeric-entry and multiple-choice question types that will be familiar to most students, as well as the unique Quantitative Comparison format, which requires students to determine the relationship between two quantities or sets of equations.
  • One of two unscored section-types is usually included with each test:
    • Unscored Section: An unidentified section that is identical in format to one of the above sections but does not count towards a student’s the final score is usually included among the sections. It may appear in any order after the Analytical Writing section, and is used by ETS to test future questions and benchmark the current test against past offerings. Because this test section will be indistinguishable from the other sections, students must complete it assuming that it is real,
    • Research Section: An identified section that does not count towards the final test score and that features questions and question-types dissimilar to the rest of the test. This section, should it appear, will always appear after all other sections.

The GRE is nearly always administered digitally, with test-takers viewing one question at a time on a computer screen and either choosing a multiple-choice answer or inputting a number using the mouse and keyboard. Questions can be marked for review within a section, allowing students to skip and return to them before time runs out. This computer-delivered version of the test is section-level adaptive, meaning that the computer selects the second Verbal and Quantitative sections based on the student’s performance in the first. The better one does in the first section, the more difficult the second section and the higher the final section scores are likely to be. Finally, although students are not allowed to bring personal calculators with them into the testing center, they will be provided with a basic calculator on-screen during the test along with the scratch paper necessary to do work by hand.

Scoring

At the end of a computer-delivered testing session, students are given the option of validating the test-session and viewing their scores or cancelling the without the scores. There is no option for seeing the scores prior to making this selection. Once validated, students are presented with an unofficial versions of both their Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning scores, which are broken down as follows:

  • a Verbal Reasoning score on a 130–170 score scale and in 1-point increments
  • a Quantitative Reasoning score on a 130–170 score scale and in 1-point increments
  • an Analytical Writing score on a 0–6 score scale and in half-point increments

On computer-delivered tests, the Verbal and Quantitative sections are section-level adaptive, which means that the version of the second section each student receives depends on their performance in the first. By calculating the number of questions correctly answered in both sections and using a statistical process known as equating, the system is able to calculate two scaled scores that take into account the adaptive nature of the testing software. The results in both sections are non-linear scoring curves and scales that require multiple official PDFs to explain. For example, although the mean score in both sections is in the very low 150’s, the 90th percentile is in around 161 for the Verbal Reasoning section but around 166 for the Quantitative Reasoning section. When combined with target scores from the graduate programs to which you intend to apply, the in’s and out’s of these scales become an essential part of any preparation process.

The Analytical Writing score does not appear among the scores on the unofficial report presented to students on test day. Because scoring in this section involves the input of both a human and machine grader, this score will not be available until several weeks after the test day. Essays are graded holistically on a six point scale, first by the human grade and then by the e-rater. If the two scores are equal or within one point of one another, then the final score is calculated by averaging the two; if the two disagree by more than a point, then the e-rater score is rejected, a second human score is obtained, and the two human scores are averaged to produce the final, official score.

Registration and Test Dates

The GRE is offered year-round at more than 1,000 private testing centers around the world, and reservations for a specific center at a specific date and time must be made in advance. While you may take the GRE once every 21 days, you may not take it more than five times in a single 12-month period. Because students may tests several times, and because there is no penalty for doing so, it is nearly always a good idea to test more than once. For complete details on the registration process, see the official GRE site.

Requests for accommodations for students with disabilities or health-related needs must be made prior to scheduling a test date and using the procedures detailed on the ETS site. Once accommodations have been approved, ETS will provide instructions for completing the registration by email.

Paper-delivered tests are only available to students in areas of the world where the computer-delivered test is unavailable, and registration for these can be completed online or by postal mail.

Inspirica’s Approach

Inspirica’s approach to tutoring the GRE begins by identifying the needs of each individual student and finding the perfect tutor match for them. The GRE covers a wide range of topics, which often poses a challenge for undergraduates who spent their time in college specializing in a field of interest. Given this, many students who come to us have not studied math or English grammar since high school yet still need to perform well in those topics on the test. As a result, most of our GRE programs are somewhat lopsided, focusing much more on one section of the test while still working to fill in any gaps in knowledge in the other.

Programs typically meet once a week for a total of ten to twelve weeks, with the first official test taking place during the second month of preparation. Sessions are usually review a mix of strategies, structure, timing, and question-types, and homework is completed between sessions. Because these programs involve older students, they tend to be much more self-directed, with students doing considerable amounts of review and preparation between sessions on their own. Our tutors therefore take on the roles of coach and mentor throughout these programs, guiding the self-directed student in their work towards what are usually very specific goals.

Get Started Today

To learn more, schedule a free phone consultation with our team of Program Coordinators today!

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