By Stuart Schultz
GMATs, LSATs, GREs: the unholy trinity of graduate school testing. Sure, it may be absurd that your candidacy is judged via some computer-adaptive standardized test. But fortunately, no matter how bad of a test-taker you think you are, there is no standardized test that can’t
be taught. Let me repeat that. No matter what the official line of the companies who write these tests, each test can be broken down into common problem types and then studied for methodically. So don’t be disillusioned by a low starting score. There is a wealth of companies and individuals out there that can familiarize you with the tools necessary to conquer these formulaic exams. That’s not to say that hiring a tutor is necessary for everyone. Many people do just fine by purchasing a few books and practice tests and working on their own. But if you need a decent-sized bump in your score after taking the diagnostic, participating in a class or hiring a tutor may be just the thing to ensure you’ll get the score you need for the school of your dreams. Here’s how to decide whether or not to go the tutored route, and if so, how to make the most of it.
Take the Diagnostic
LSAT , GMAT , and GRE , sample tests are available online. Take the test of choice in a setting comparable to that of the real exam. This means finding a quiet place and having a reliable timer sitting on our desk. Taking the diagnostic test in your beds and having to stop every five minutes to answer the phone will not give you a reliable score to judge if you need tutoring, and if so, what type will be most effective.
Research Graduate Programs
The next step is to look at your diagnostic score and decide which programs are realistically in your range. Your college career office may provide statistics, but if you’ve fallen out of touch, you can check these lists of LSAT and GMAT average scores by school, register for free access to Business Week MBA program statistics , or pay for access to U.S. News & World Report data . Using this information, you should compile an assessment of programs that you could expect to get into (keep in mind that with studying or tutoring, your scores should rise from our diagnostic test).
At this stage, it's important to be honest with yourself. If you’re scoring a 140 on the LSAT and hoping to get into a school whose average LSAT score is 170, pick another school. On the flip side, if your diagnostic LSAT score is 160, with a lot of work and dedication, you can reach your target. One thing to keep in mind: test scores aren’t the whole package—when analyzing which schools are within reach, be sure to factor in all of your other relevant stats such as GPA, academic experience, and, in the case of an MBA program, work experience.
Try to Go It Alone
Even if you are only within a few points of the promised-land, you shouldn’t just sign up for the test and take it the next week. You need to be sure that you can consist...