Graduate School Tests: Preparation Options
Do It Yourself?
The graduate school testing organization (i.e., Educational Testing Service, American College Testing Program, etc.) generally assert that a good dose of home study and practice test taking is sufficient preparation for their exams. For some people--those with the time, motivation and self- discipline to buckle down on their own or who are naturally adept at test taking-- this may be true.
A wide array of study materials is available for test prep do-it-yourselfers:
Each test organization automatically provides free handbooks containing sample tests and rudimentary strategies for all registrants. Some publish and sell through bookstores an official study guide featuring actual exams from recent years.
Commercial study guides and software programs designed for both IBM-compatible and Apple MacIntosh computers are available in book and computer stores. some feature "simulated" practice tests.
Cable TV's Learning Channel offers a college exam review series. Check your local listings or call (800) 346-0032 for air times.
Commercial Test Reviews and Coaching
Are these services worth their hefty fees -- usually $500-$600? The consensus is that if you feel you'll benefit from the built-in structure and discipline of a review course, and if you can afford it, it's probably a wise investment (although of course, there are no guarantees.)
Unfortunately, the watchword in selecting a prep course or private tutor is "caveat emptor." There are dozens of choices, but woefully little objective information with which to judge the relative merits. It's a good idea to talk to some people who recently took the course you're interested in.
Keep these questions in mind when you're checking out commercial test preparation courses:
How much actual classroom time does the course provide?
Does it include questions from the real tests?
Does it thoroughly cover tricks and strategies for that specific test as well as content-oriented material?
Does it have a good track record? (Some courses will provide figures on average score increases.)
Does it allow a dissatisfied student to repeat the course without charge?
Are scholarships or discounts available?