ACT Science Test: No science required

Many test-takers have told us that they chose the SAT over the ACT because they were uncertain/cautious/leery/petrified of the science part of the test.  But never fear, here I come to save the day! (cue Mighty Mouse theme)

The truth of the matter is that the Science Test is a misnomer – instead it should be called the ACT Science-y Test, the ACT Science-Lite Test, or maybe the ACT Loosely-Related-to-Scientific-Thinking Test.


6pm GMAT Test Time? Say What?

It’s the end of the GMAT as we know it! It’s the end of the GMAT as we know it (And I feel fine)!

We are down to the last two weeks of the GMAT B.I. (Before Integrated Reasoning) and people are scrambling to get their official test done before the switch on June 5th.

We’ve written frequently in this space about how people shouldn’t rush their prep just to avoid IR (i.e. you should not rush to take the test before the IR section gets added in June if you are going to get a lower score on the sections that matter – Quant and Verbal). That being said, there are a number of folks who have been prepping to take their test in the next couple weeks and are ready to do so.

I have a couple such tutoring students, and I found it interesting when one of them told me that her upcoming GMAT was scheduled for 6 o’clock. As in 6 o’clock PM. 1800 hours. Say what? Starting a GMAT at 6pm means ending your GMAT around 10pm. Not good times, but unavoidable it seems given the high volume of test-takers rushing to take test before the change to NextGen GMAT.

Another student taking the test before the change said he had a 4pm test appointment, which is better than 6pm, but certainly outside the ideal testing time for most people. It got me thinking that it might be beneficial to share some tips with people about how best to gear up for their official tests. People with particularly unorthodox testing times like 4pm and (gasp) 6pm should pay particular attention to numbers 1 and 3 below.

  1. Practice (Test) like it’s the Game – Your full-length practice tests should mirror your official test in every way possible: focus, intensity, start time, and components (meaning do the essays, even if you don’t want to). Your goal is both to increase your stamina and prepare your mind/body to be “on” at the same time you have to “on” for the real thing. The later your test is in the day, the more important this is, as people (even late-risers like me) are less fresh and sharp as the day goes on. 6pm, for example, is really pushing the limit of people’s endurance.
  2. Don’t Go Overboard – Practice tests are designed to be evaluative and help you hone your pacing and test management. They’re also designed to increase your test stamina. Doing a test every day isn’t a surefire way to get there. You need time to review, and time to recharge. For every person who says “I did a full-length test every day for two weeks and got a 700,” there’s a dozen people for whom that will not work as a strategy (not least of all because that 700-scorer was probably already ready to score 700). Find your happy medium for practice tests that will allow you enough time to increase your stamina AND give you time to thoroughly review your mistakes and hone skills.
  3. Seek Balance – Don’t disrupt your normal routines too much. We are creatures of habit, and if you all of a sudden stay up really late for a couple nights so you can sleep in later for your noon (or 4pm) test time, your body will NOT be pleased. Same goes for amending your diet or exercise routines. Find the balance between preparing for your test time and maintaining your normal life rhythms.
  4. Avoid Last-minute Practice Tests – Taking a practice test a day or two before your official tends to offer the potential of far more negative consequences than positive. GMAT Preparation is a marathon, not a sprint. Squeezing in that last-minute practice test is going to do very little for your chances on the real thing, largely because you have very little time to learn from and assimilate any insights from it. Conversely, a poor result a day or two before the test can really affect your confidence, and (again) leaves you with little time to redress that blow. Additionally, a 3.5-4 hour GMAT practice test is no joke. It drains you (or should if you’re doing it right). Recovering from that takes time, in the same way that recovering from a marathon session at the gym might for your body.
  5. Don’t Limit Your Prep to Practice Tests – You can do effective practice in small doses as well. In fact, some of the most effective practice comes in smaller doses, largely because you can more easily learn from those sets and then turn around to apply that learning on another set. Regardless of whether you’re doing a lot or a little prep, try to start around the same time you’re going to be taking the real thing (largely because of the reasoning outlined in number 1).
  6. Relax  - The final 24 hours before your test should largely be a stress-free affair. You’ve prepped. You’ve learned what you’re going to learn and have improved as much as you’re going to improve. Frantically running through a bunch of problems the night before (for a morning test) or day of (for afternoon/evening tests) is a recipe for disaster. It taxes you and drives your stress levels way up. You want to go into the test cool, calm, collected, and rested. Period.

For all those taking the test in the next couple weeks, good luck! May the GMAT be permanently in your rear-view when you’re done!

On the Record: Q&A with BC Alumnus Denitresse Burns

We thought that many of you battling through the business school application process might benefit from some thoughts and insights from others who went through the experience. To that end, we started On the Record: Q&A with BC Alums. Last time around we spoke with Lauren Sickles, and before that we got insights from Gabe Perez, Rhomaro Powell and Radina Russell. This time, we’ve asked Denitresse Burns to provide her take on some interesting business school questions.

Denitresse is a 2009 graduate of the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth.  Currently, she’s a part of John Deere’s Strategic Management Program (a leadership rotational program).  Her rotations have included:

1.       Economics: As a Project Manager, she supported the Chief Economist, looking at global economic and policy trends to understand their impact to their business and customers.

2.       Social Media:  As John Deere’s first Social Media Manager, she launched the social media program at John Deere from the ground up, growing the base to over 500k and designing and implementing the internal processes to support the channels.

3.       Strategic Planning:  As Strategic Ambition Coordinator, she manages the strategic planning efforts for one of the largest global platforms in John Deere’s agricultural division.

Why did you go to business school?
I decided to go to business school for a number of reasons. Some rational… some, well, not so much.  In undergrad, when I finally declared a major in International Finance, I knew I would also pursue my MBA (someday).  In my mind, the two simply went hand in hand.  When a mentor left my firm to attend Stern, I was reminded of item #8 on my “Deni Do List.”  Three years later I found myself doing well in my career but completely uninterested and as a result, uninspired.  At that point, I knew I was ready for a complete career change and that a MBA would give me the latitude to make that transition.

Graduate Management Education Events & Deadlines

Though it may seem like the “off season” in the world of GME, there’s actually quite a bit going on as people and schools gear up for a big fall of 2012. Check out some of these events to get face time with school reps, valuable application information, or test preparation advice.

April 26th

INSEAD MBA Master Class & Info Session in New York City
“The Essence of Leadership” – Discuss the psychological foundations of leadership, and what makes leaders emerge, appeal to followers, and on occasion derail. We shall also touch upon how leadership can be developed. More info.

April 27th, May 10th & 11th 

Northeastern University Evening MBA Coffee Chat
Gives prospective students the opportunity to meet one-on-one with an Admissions Officer in an informal setting. More info.

April 28th & May 9th

Northeastern University Information Sessions
Learn all about Northeastern’s MBA and MS programs, meet with admissions staff, and hear from an alumni panel. More info.

On the Record: Q&A with BC Alumna Lauren Sickles

We thought that many of you battling through the business school application process might benefit from some thoughts and insights from others who went through the experience. To that end, we started On the Record: Q&A with BC Alums. Last time around we spoke with Gabe Perez, and before that we got insights from Rhomaro Powell and Radina Russell. This time, we’ve tapped Lauren Sickles to provide her take on some interesting business school questions.

Lauren graduated from Columbia Business School and now doubles as a financial services professional and entrepreneur.


Why did you go to business school?

In college, I attended a mentoring event organized by the women’s group at Stanford GSB.  I was extremely impressed by the background and the quality of both the students and the alumnae.  It opened my eyes to the types of career opportunities available to business school students.  After attending that event, it wasn’t a matter of “if” I would go to business school, but “when”.

How has business school impacted your career?

ACT vs SAT: Fee Waiver Throwdown

There are many great debates in the country today: Democrat vs Republic, Charter schools vs Public schools, Robert Frost vs E.E. Cummings, Lebron vs Kobe, McDonald’s vs Burger King … the list goes on and on. We’d like to weigh in on one of the most important debates of our time: The SAT or the ACT?

College-bound students today are having this debate in numbers that their predecessors, ancestors, and older siblings never did. In part due to the ubiquity (SAT word!) of acceptance of either test, and in part due to the growing awareness of testing options, students are now more frequently asking themselves “which one should I take?” The answers are as varied as are the answers to all of the debates mentioned above, and as passionately defended. We’re going to try to be the voice of reason and help you make the decision by providing as much information and perspective as we can. There are a lot of factors that go into making this decision, from what a particular school is looking for to what subjects the student excels in, but here’s something else to consider: fee waivers.  Or more specifically, what fee waivers do and do not include. Today’s post will help you understand this often overlooked difference and how it might help make the difference for you.

LSAT Discussion: Is a Law Degree Worth It?

It’s been a rough few months for the legal industry. Law schools have taken a beating for their inflated costs and potentially inflated post-graduation employment figures. Additionally, the number of LSAT test-takers seems to have fallen significantly. Here’s a quick round-up of the latest big stories on law school:

Law School Jobs Data
The first lawsuit pitting law school graduates against law schools over the potentially fraudulent representation of post-graduate employment numbers has recently been concluded (not guilty, surprise-surprise), but the furor and fallout doesn’t seem likely to abate any time soon. More lawsuits seem imminent. However, it also seems the lawsuits and disillusionment have begun to spur change. Many law schools are modifying the graduate jobs data they supply, and The American Bar Association’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar is taking steps to improve the data they release. While these are the first baby steps, the hope is that they will continue, providing greater transparency and insight for prospective law students. For more, check out this article.

Is the Law School Tuition Bubble About to Burst?
Early indications from U.S. News and World Report 2012-13 data indicate that law school tuition rates – which have been rising astronomically in the last decade – may finally be headed in the other direction, which is good news for aspiring lawyers. Hopefully the trend continues, and leads to similar downturns for other graduate programs and undergraduate education. To read a thorough analysis of the latest information, click here.

To see the numbers directly from USNWR, click here.


“Legal diplomas are apparently losing luster.”
This is the first line of a recent  New York Times article on law schools. Part of the evidence presented in the article was a precipitous drop in LSAT administrations. We found this odd, so we checked out the data ourselves. Here’s a snapshot of official numbers from LSATs given over the last 25 years that led the Times to speculate that “The decline reflects a spreading view that the legal market in the United States is in terrible shape”:

Upon first glance, the decrease in LSAT administrations from 2010 to 2012 is pretty shocking. What is questionable, however, is the assertion that the legal profession has somehow become less attractive. That assertion requires an assumption that there is a direct correlation between LSAT administration numbers and the attractiveness or health of the law profession. We could spend days (and many thousands of words) deconstructing this one fallacy…but we won’t. I think you get the picture. Of more interest to us is interpreting these statistics.

Our contention is that while the LSAT numbers are down, this doesn’t say the law degree is any less valuable. In fact, given the drop, it may be even more valuable. Here’s why:

A more extensive look at the table reveals the current numbers might have been inflated in the first place. Notice the incongruous jump in administrations from 2001-2003: 33.4%!

Notice as well the relatively sizable jump from 2008 to 2010 of nearly 20% that immediately preceded the latest decline. Between those two increases alone you’re looking at over a 50% jump in test administrations from the 2000 numbers. Do you know what both of those two periods had in common? That’s right, relatively significant economic recessions.

Going back farther, one sees a similar jump from 1988-91, after, you guessed it, another recession (from the famed “Black Monday” of 1987). But these increases gradually came back down over the next decade. The inflated numbers spawned by the downturn of the early 2000′s didn’t have a real chance to tick back down (as they did after the 1987 recession) because we bumped right into another one a few years later. Consequently, the preposterously inflated LSAT administration numbers of the early 2000′s recession were further bloated by the late 2000′s recession increase. If anything, it seems like the law industry has a realistic normal rate of around 100,000 LSAT administrations per year for the last two-plus decades, which recessions periodically inflate. The most recent data seems to indicate that we’re simply going back to that norm, which means a normal valuation of the law degree.


What Does This Mean to You?

If you’re considering a career in law it would be smart to start thinking like a LSAT test-taker (and probably a lawyer) and looking for the assumptions in arguments you find in articles published about this trend.  It would also be smart to start considering your application plan, including LSAT test prep.


GMATPrep 2.0: Mac Version

Everyone who’s prepping for the GMAT now has just cause to rejoice! Throw your hands in the air, drop to your knees, and thank GMAC for finally offering up a newer version of GMATPrep. Mac users will probably be the most overjoyed at the release of GMATPrep 2.0 (GP2.0), because the software is finally Mac-compatible. That’s right! No more borrowing your cousin/sister/neighbor/dad’s PC at odd hours just to get a practice test in. No more leaving your wonderfully designed and fantastically user-friendly Mac on the sidelines for your GMAT prep. You can finally say goodbye to PCs for good (at least for your GMAT work – GMAC can’t help you out on the job front though). I brought my MacBook Pro into the office today to give the brand-spanking new GP2.0 a whirl in the world of Apple. Below are a few quick shots of what I found interesting. We’ll update in the coming weeks as we delve deeper into it.

Preview: Latest GMATPrep

Coming soon to a Mac and PC near you: an updated version of GMAT Prep (available on April 2nd, 2012). Like good investigative journalists (or paparazzi) we got our hands on some of the goods as soon as possible. The goods in question? Screenshots of the latest version of GMATPrep.  Macrumors on the latest iPhone/iPad/Macbook Air this is not, but people are pretty excited about this development, so might as well not wait!

Let’s take a look and point out some of the interesting new features…

GMAT Insight: Reading Comp vs. Reading Comp

With the recent release of the new Official Guide for GMAT Review, 13th Edition and the impending release of a new version of GMATPrep, we thought we’d shed some light on a particularly key distinction between the two kinds of practice material: paper vs. computer.

On the surface the distinction between these two kinds of practice would appear to be self-evident, and to a large extent it is. What isn’t so clear is the potential value of each. With the value of each in mind, one place that most clearly illuminates the difference is with Reading Comprehension.

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