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DCE Magazine

Test Preparation: Running Up The Score

Fall 2017

UCI+One can raise your game if you're taking the GRE, GMAT or LSAT.

More students find that their education doesn't end when they walk off with a diploma. An undergrad degree is the first stop on a lifetime journey of education and success — and that journey can be turbo-charged with a stellar score on the GRE, GMAT or LSAT graduate school exams.

With graduate programs becoming more competitive and selective, preparing for these demanding exams is more important than ever. The Division of Continuing Education's UCI+One program has responded with new Test Prep courses that can help pave the way to acceptance at a prestigious university.

It's the latest DCE program to address today's 60-year curriculum. Test Prep offers professional exam preparation for UCI students, alumni, and community members, with courses taught by current and former item writers for these same tests.

“We're very excited to offer these new Test Prep courses,” said Leigh Poirier, director of UCI+One. “We've partnered with Educational Testing Consultants (ETC), a large educational firm that has worked with institutions across the country, to provide the most effective preparation for the GRE, GMAT and LSAT exams. Their expert instructors administer lessons offered in classroom-based and in live-online formats. It's like a virtual classroom experience anywhere.”

Each online lesson is offered live, with student cohorts interacting with the instructor and each other, similar to an in-person experience. The lessons are then available on-demand for 30 days after the entire course is completed. All course materials are included in the registration fee and can be delivered to the participant's home or picked up at UC Irvine.

It's all about providing the skills and background necessary to ace these crucial tests, which weigh heavily in the acceptance process. Test Prep courses offer in-depth training, including practice exams and deep knowledge of the types of questions and essay topics to expect.

UCI+One is also offering Test Prep classes for the pre-college SAT and ACT exams, collaborating with regional high schools in marginalized communities.

“We're really looking forward to reaching out to the greater community, offering free and discounted classes for those that might not get a chance at college,” Poirier said. “It's our way of giving back.”

Deciphering the alphabet

Thinking about taking the leap? Navigating a grueling exam that spans several hours can be quite intimidating. The first step is understanding the purpose of each standardized test, to determine which is most advantageous for your goals.

It's an important distinction. Lines can blur between the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) and Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), especially with business schools.

The GMAT has been considered the gold standard for MBA programs — and a high score can indeed open doors at prestigious graduate business programs. This computer-adaptive test, accepted by thousands of schools worldwide, assesses a broad range of analytical, quantitative and verbal reasoning, along with analytical reading and writing.

“A GMAT score is still preferred for admission to some schools,” Poirier said. “For someone who has decided on an MBA or other professional management program, the GMAT can be the best way to go. But a growing number of MBA programs are accepting the GRE as well as the GMAT — and many now prefer it for MBAs and other master's programs.”

Long required for admission to many non-business programs, the GRE exam has much in common with the GMAT, both requiring an advanced understanding of math and geometry. But the GRE's verbal section places emphasis on vocabulary skills, reading comprehension and critical reasoning.

Its growing acceptance reflects a greater appreciation for business students with a more expansive background, Poirier said. It also reflects changing attitudes among students in the Millennial generation and Generation Z, who prefer a more experience-based, well-rounded education.

“The biggest factor was when Harvard Business School began accepting the GRE in lieu of the GMAT,” she said. “That signaled a shift that was followed by other schools toward the GRE. It just shows a growing appreciation for students with a more wide-ranging educational background. It also reflects shifting values of the students.”

The emergence of interdisciplinary degrees such as the MBA/JD and MBA/MD is another factor in the GRE's rise. “You have to do your homework and research which exam the schools prefer, acceptance rates and so on,” Poirier said. “It can cause some confusion, but if you're undecided between an MBA or other degree, I'd say it's best to go with the GRE.”

There's no such ambiguity with the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), which is required for those seeking a law degree. The LSAT consists of five 35-minute sections of multiple-choice questions that measure verbal and reading reasoning skills. An unscored writing sample, the final portion of the LSAT, is shared with all law schools to which you apply.

Test Prep courses are offered quarterly. To view the course schedule, visit ce.uci.edu/testprep.

Advancing your career…with a little help along the way

Test preparation is one part of the complicated path to graduate or professional school. Choosing the right graduate program is a crucial step that requires a lot of thought and research. For those who are undecided on which direction to go, additional support may be needed. For those seeking expert guidance, the UCI+One Program offers an Advanced Track program, a custom-designed program that provides advising to help participants determine their best degree options based on their background and career goals.

The “Applying to Graduate or Professional School” Advanced Track provides one-on-one sessions with career coaches and academic experts, assistance applying to graduate schools and support securing strong letters of recommendation — often a deciding factor in acceptance criteria.

For those who've already decided on a degree path, the UCI+One Accelerator program offers professional guidance based on their needs. The 30-day course allows participants to work one-on-one with a personal advisor and receive career coaching services, setting individual goals and designing a specific roadmap to achieve them.

It's all part of the UCI+One mission to provide premium career preparation for UCI alumni and students.

“The implementation of UCI+One is a testament to the commitment for success UCI holds for their scholars,” Poirier added. “By providing career exploration opportunities together with support for graduate school, or other relevant experiences, our participants will have a competitive advantage and greater career success after commencement. We hope to extend help and guidance to support lifelong success.”

Learn more at ce.uci.edu/testprep