Campus / News / May 4, 2011

Knox students prepare to tackle entrance exams

For junior Rita Mertens, a good GPA and strong resume aren’t the only hurdles to face before she applies to master’s programs in Library Science. She must also deal with the Graduate Record Exam (GRE), a required test for many master’s programs across the country.

“Am I afraid of it? A little bit, yes,” Mertens said, who expects to spend almost a year in total preparing to take the exam.

The exam, which tests verbal and quantitative reasoning as well as analytical writing and critical thinking, is slightly more complicated for potential master’s students, as the test is currently moving to a new format. After August 1, the new GRE will provide students with a calculator but reduce their choice of essay prompts and offer different types of multiple-choice questions.

“I think it will have a high impact on my admissions to schools,” Mertens said. “You need a high score to get into programs.”

Potential medical school applicants face a different hurdle. The Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) assesses students in the biological and physical sciences—physics and chemistry—in addition to verbal reasoning and writing skills.

Scores on the MCAT are often a major factor in admission to medical school. Harvard University’s medical school, ranked the top medical school in the country in 2011, reported an average score of 12.48 (out of 15) in the physical sciences; the average score across the country for that portion of the exam is an eight.

Junior Naomi Akagi, who will be taking the MCAT in the fall, said she has already chosen some medical schools that she will apply to no matter what. However, her other choices may depend on how well she does on the exam.

“That’s the general thought—the score will determine a lot about how strong your application is,” she said.

Pre-law students don’t have it any easier. The exam, which takes half a day to complete, measures reading comprehension, logic and analytical reading skills; five multiple-choice sections are followed by a writing sample which can be read by any law schools to which the test-taker applies. Yale, one of the country’s top-ranked law schools, had an average LSAT score of 173 out of 180; the country’s average is around 150.

“A lot is dependent upon it,” senior Ryan Larson, who took the exam in order to apply for law school, said.

For Larson, the experience was an intense one.

“It’s very strict,” Larson said. “You can’t have mechanical pencils. You’re allowed to have like a bottle of water but it has to be under your desk. It’s a long test—I had to get up early in the morning.”

Larson advised serious preparation for anyone interested in attending law school.

“The more prepared you are, the better you’ll feel about it,” he said. He recommended taking the LSAT preparatory course that is offered for no credit every spring term.

Knox offered an informal MCAT preparatory class this past winter term, which included two practice exams. A weekly GRE preparatory course is currently running this fall term and students can get books about all three exams from the library.

Katy Sutcliffe

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