Grad School Test Prep: Keys to Success Part 1

By Douglas Spencer

Because I completed every step of the grad school admissions process except the most crucial one of enrolling, I’m often asked if I feel like I wasted my time. I absolutely don’t. I had a dream: attend a top law school. That dream became a burning desire. Desire pushed me to follow a plan through which becoming a lawyer evolved from an idea to a real possibility. Essentially, I proved to myself that I can actually do almost anything I put my mind to, so that time was invaluable.  

If you want to crush the graduate level admissions test for your dream profession, you already have what it takes inside of you. The true task is figuring out how to game the test that’s designed to game you (I’m assuming the test is standardized). Of course, I’m much more knowledgeable about the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) than the others, and willing to give anyone advice on the LSAT specifically. However, my hope is that this will be the first post of a series helping those considering grad school in many disciplines. All standardized tests perform the same function, and therefore, experience tells me that breaking down the big goal into manageable pieces will position you to succeed. So stop using up all your data – put Pokémon Go aside – and consider this:

Do Your Research

We live in the Information Age: Google should be your best friend (I’m not sure if that’s the default Android browser ☹). More seasoned folk actually know what it’s like to hit the library for knowledge – younger millennials have no clue. The Internet is an amazing resource. The average young person, myself included, doesn’t read current events each morning (I hear theSkimm is popular). But if you truly want to go to grad school, read about the admissions test, schools you’re interested in, or the professional school experience every single day. Don’t overdo the reading, though: about 15 to 30 minutes each day is enough. In time, you’ll naturally build a wealth of knowledge, and you’ll find sites that become your grad school versions of ESPN or BuzzFeed.

Self-study or Prep Class

After you’ve done the recon, your first major decision will probably be deciding whether to self-study or not. Are you prepping on a budget? I’m willing to bet that taking a class will be about three times more expensive than self-studying. Find out how many full-length tests you take in the class; chances are it won’t be as many as you would if you study on your own. When exploring options, discover if the test prep service uses real test questions. Some services, like Kaplan, create their own questions instead of providing studiers with authentic ones from previously administered tests. In generating their own questions, prep companies avoid licensing fees, which allows them to cut costs. After all, they’re businesses. I’m not saying the questions aren’t good, but there’s no substitute for the real deal.

What prep courses lack in flexibility, they make up for in accessibility. Materials and at least one tutor who did extremely well on the test will be readily at your disposal. Furthermore, the structure and set time of a class might be what you need to make it through the process. From what I’ve gathered, it’s advantageous to put in significant time on your own even if you decide to take a class. Ultimately, I decided to self-study. Choosing the right path for you won’t be that hard if you do your research. And once you make that decision, you’ll be perfectly set up to put in the work.  


Photo Credit: Lee Chapman