The Educational Testing Service (ETS) re-announced its plan to revamp the GRE by Autumn 2011, with the largest revisions in the test’s history. The changes will be in content and format including adjustment of the scoring scale, changes in the verbal and math content, more flexible navigation abilities while taking the test and addition of the use of tools – specifically, a calculator. While it’s important to be aware of the changes, our take on this is that there’s a lot more hype here than substance. The few changes that do make a difference can be beneficial if you’re aware of them, prepare judiciously and in a focused manner, and learn how to take advantage of them. Below we’ve explained what you can expect and what this all really means to test takers.Content and Format ChangesThe exam will still include verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning and analytical writing sections, and each is being revised. The new verbal section will eliminate antonyms and analogies questions and add more reading comprehension questions. On the quantitative section, the number of geometry questions will be reduced, and more data analysis added; most notably, there will be the addition of an online calculator. The writing section continues to have two parts, one asking for a logical analysis and the other seeking an argument of an issue, expressing a student’s own views.The GRE’s Computer Adaptive Testing (CAT) format, which provides harder questions for students who have gotten previous questions right (and simpler questions for those who have gotten questions wrong), will no longer operate question by question, but section by section. That is, students who have done well on the first half of the test will get a harder second half. The new test will be three and a half hours — forty-five minutes longer than the current test. New content will be introduced and the sequence of questions scrambled every two hours.In addition to adapting the question dispersion, students will now have the flexibility to move about each section’s test questions. Students will be allowed to revise, skip questions and return to questions before finishing a section. This feature will make the experience more similar to taking a paper test, and may also mean that students have to remember to address the remaining blanks before they finish a section.  (Note: The pencil-and-paper version of the test continues to be offered in countries without adequate facilities for computer testing but ETS continues to move away from this older mode of testing.)The added mobility will likely be perceived as a beneficial change for test takers, as it will aid those who need extra time to process questions. On the other hand, for those who historically have issues with ‘second guessing’ themselves and not committing to answer choices, they now may need to practice plowing through the test without jumping around too much.New ToolFor many, the addition of an online calculator will bring much relief, especially if the math itself doesn’t change much. ETS says adding this computation device will indicate the test taker’s comprehension of concepts rather than measure speed of basic calculations. If the math continues to be 7th through 9th grade level, many competent in math will continue to not require the tool; for many, it will in fact be a better strategy to avoid using the calculator, as it may make answering the questions a more clumsy and time consuming process.What will the change cost me?As of now, there is no fee increase to cover the cost of the revisions; however, ETS is planning a review of the pricing next year and may decide to raise prices before the new version is offered.Why the change? Why now?There are several reasons that ETS would make these changes now. In 2006, ETS lost its bid to Pearson to administer the GMAT; this has contributed to increased competition in the testing industry. ETS has vied for the GRE’s acceptance in the business school market, competing directly with The Graduate Management Admission Council’s test, the GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test.)  The GRE is increasingly being accepted by scores of business schools, including Harvard University, MIT and Stanford University, in lieu of the GMAT. ETS hopes it will gain even more leverage and prominence in this market, and it can be argued that ETS changed the test to directly meet the demands of this particular market.If ETS picks up even a small percentage of the thousands of business schools applicants, it will have developed a major new client base, at a time when its own test taking numbers have begun to diminish. ETS benefits from gaining access to a new test-taking pool and increased acceptance from business schools.The GMAT versus the GREThe GMAT is still the dominant test for business school hopefuls, but with the GRE’s less threatening content and what seems to be an easier format (and addition of a calculator), it is clearly a more attractive test to prospective business school students, especially those for whom English is not a native language.Even with the proposed changes, the verbal section of the GRE is more vocabulary driven, whereas the GMAT requires greater mastery of the nuances of English grammar, and presents a more difficult hurdle for non-native English speakers. Specifically, GMAT test takers are expected to know the difference between formal written English versus spoken.Further, up until now, the math on the GRE has been objectively easier: it lacks the data-sufficiency section which perplexes many, and its overall ‘mode’ doesn’t prompt as much thinking “out-of-the-box,” necessary for the business school student and professional. The combination, permutations, statistics and probability questions are objectively easier on the GRE, and on the whole, the GRE is more straightforward: it’s likened to the SAT on steroids. That’s it. Even with the ballyhooed changes, this isn’t going to change.The bottom line is, the changes on the test lend themselves to a great marketing campaign and are nothing to worry about, but to celebrate. They just made your success easier!

We were waiting for it to happen.http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124278685697537839.html The Wall Street Journal wrote an article slamming our colleagues in the test prep world for manipulating students scores and perceptions. And they should. While intellectual property is a beneficial for any company, the bottom line is 3rd party tests used as sole diagnostic measures are simply not accurate, or kosher, for determining where a student really stands. Whether it inflates or deflates an initial score, the bottom line is that it spells trouble.One company we know of uses tests initially that are easier to soothe students into feeling more confident about the test they were about to take. Then the 2nd and 3rd test out of the 4 given in the course are harder. This was to make student feel challenged. Then the 4th test was the easiest out of all of them. Pretty deceptive, huh? Transparency is super important when dealing with the reality of test taking. Standardized tests already have their mental mind warp on…so to those of you eyeing this: while they’re still available, be sure to use real retired tests and questions whenever you can. Accept no substitute (except for practice.)We maintain that while the tests determine how well someone takes a test, they are coachable, and can be vehicles to better understand content and for some tests, the field one is to embark on (MCAT, GMAT, LSAT, etc.). It’s no simpler than that. Clear.

Just today, the test prep world and parents are abuzz. “What? another test?” 

One of my colleagues in the test prep tutoring world said to me, “dang, more tests suck!”

We agree. 

The LA Times reported one of our colleagues at Princeton Review saying that “the eighth grade is too late to begin pulling together a college prep portfolio….[this is] not the key year for college assessment. That’s sixth grade.”

Yikes!

I started my test prep career with Princeton Review. To read them say that it is 6th grade (that determines one’s merits being college bound) is just a little startling.

While there might be some merit in educational developmental theory that students at this age can indicate, or predict, some academic success, some of the time, this is not the only determination of intelligence or school performance. There are simply too many other issues at hand.

No one debates the increased importance of the SAT and ACT, in the sheer numbers of students applying to schools, and the emphasis that schools are placing on them. Still for the College Board to put out another test? We agree with PR on this one:this does seem like a great marketing plan to place importance of the College Board over the ACT folks. (We wonder if Paris Hilton’s PR firm is the same as the College Boards…but we digress…)

But it doesn’t make sense to those of us who really understand the human mind.

The human brain is plastic, easily changed and molded. A student uninterested in school and testing might not put forth the effort that another student, less smart might in performance.

A student not interested in the test, or completely pressured about taking it, will, as the freaked-out older GMAT and Medical Boards student, be point-penalized because of their anxiety.

As always, these tests will be, predictably, highly coachable. When you get the right training, you’ll get a great score. 

All the recent brain research points to the brain having plasticity at every stage. There is no, “use it or lose it”, rather a “use it, or train to use it better next time.” Then you will succeed.

Neurolinguistic Programming certainly indicates rapid shifts in behavior modification, as does hypnosis and other therapies. The neurological, such as that discussed in the book, The Brain that Changes Itself, and many others, points to our abilities shifting when we have the intention to become better physically as well as intellectually. We all know someone, or have seen someone on TV or in a magazine, who made a major shift: They have lost a lot of weight and then we see them training to compete in triathalons. Likewise, the brain can become conditioned to enhance the ‘natural’ or ‘nurtured’ smartness, and to be, simply, smarter. “We’ve had student start off with 400s on the GMATs to get in the 700s, or SAT students starting off in the 1500s, getting close to 2000. Did they get ‘smarter?” No. They just got great coaching.

The article states that the College Board said the exam would be voluntary starting in 2010, and that it was promted by the growing number of younger students listing for the PSAT.

While the PSAT is optional, and voluntary, last year, 3.4 million students took it. By creating another test, and sandwhich-ing the PSAT between the SAT and this new test, we wonder if it will heat up the pressure for people to take the PSAT, and perhaps ceasing it’s voluntary status.

While some argue that we need tests in order to help students plan on taking “gatekeeper classes” needed for college and to help schools identify talented students likely succeed in honors or AP courses, previously unrecognized.

But with added pressure at a younger age, these tests may do more harm than good. 

Another reason we’re glad to be available to coach students, if it really comes down to this… and if we teach our life skills earlier, to remain calm in the face of such (ridiculous) testing…well, then we’ll give our students skills earlier.

For fun, we thought we’d invite our readers to come up with some more “pre” pre things that might put this in better light.

A pre-tricycle: would that be 4 wheeled vehicle?

A pre-med education: would that mean only science classes in high school?

Pre-pre-school: an infant training academy?

We might as well have a little fun with this one… 

(original LA Times article: <http://www.latimes.com/news/education/la-me-test8-2008aug08,0,7851692.story> 

Yesterday’s New York TImes wrote about the ‘high cost’ of the college admissions process. It appeared not in the Education or regular section, but the ‘Health’ section. Turns out, the ‘high cost’ is the toll stress has on the applicants. WE know all about that! Cnsider these facts:

  • The New York Times, among other sources, reports that the high school class of 2009 will be 3.2 million: the largest group of students in U.S history ever vying for placement in the top schools.
  • Lower down on the tier-chain, mid-level schools will be accepting more of the fall out students rejected from top tier schools. So even if a student isn’t planning on competing to get into one of the top twenty schools in the country, the reality is that the student may still find himself or herself competing with students who applied for admission to those top schools and were rejected. This ‘chain’ continues to trickle down throughout the entire university system.
  • Below is the article, we’d love to hear what you think about it!

    Colleges High Cost, Before You Even Apply

    Taken from the New YOrk Times, April 29, 2008

    Published: April 29, 2008

    As the frenzied admissions season winds to a close, many students finally know where they will be attending college in the fall.

     Stuart Bradfor

     

     

    But there remains a troubling question: how much damage was done along the way?

    This year’s crop of applicants faced an unusually grueling admissions process. A demographic bubble has produced the largest group of graduating seniors in history, and they now are facing rejection by colleges at record rates more than 90 percent at Harvard and Yale, for example.

    There will be more disappointment this week as the May 1 admissions deadline passes and thousands who were on waiting lists learn that there are no spots left for them. And today’s high school sophomores and juniors may face worse odds. After a 15-year climb, the number of high school graduates still hasn’t peaked – that is expected to happen within the next two years.

    The college admissions process is an initiation rite into adulthood, says Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg, adolescent medicine specialist at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and author of books on teenage stress and resiliency for the American Academy of Pediatrics. But if success is defined very narrowly, such as a fat envelope from a specific college, then many kids end up going through it and feeling like a failure.”

    Students complain about lack of sleep, stomach pain and headaches, but doctors and educators also worry that stress tied to academic achievement can lead to depression, eating disorders, and other mental health problems.

    There are some kids who can handle it, says Denise Pope, a Stanford University education lecturer and author of Doing School, a book about stress and academics. But some of these kids have had college on the brain since sixth or seventh grade or even earlier. When you have that kind of stress over that kind of time, that’s where it starts to worry us.

    At the start of the admissions season, Austin Grogin, 18, from Bellaire High School near Houston, applied to 12 colleges, writing different essays for each school. He had strong test scores and a journalism internship at The Houston Chronicle, he had organized a major breast cancer fund-raiser at his school, and he hoped to attend Emory University in Atlanta. “I had countless stomachaches and headaches,” says Mr. Grogin.

    By April, he was checking online at least twice a day, and was stunned when Emory didn’t accept him.

    At first I refreshed the page to make sure it wasn’t a mistake, he said. When the official rejection letter arrived in the mail, he invited his friends over and burned it. I felt burned by the school, he says, adding that he is looking forward to attending his second choice, the University of California, Santa Barbara.

    Some high schools are trying to improve the process by easing up on the workload of seniors who are filling out college applications. At Princeton High School in New Jersey, Patti Lieberman, a guidance counselor, says she emphasizes stories of real students who won better opportunities like research grants and White House internships after going to slightly less competitive schools. “We try to teach them, Bloom where you are planted,” she says.

    Stanford University’s School of Education this week is kicking off Challenge Success, expanding the mission of its previous program, Stressed Out Students. Challenge Success will work with high schools, teenagers and parents to help them redefine success in college admission and academic achievement in general.

    “College admission is how a lot of people are defining success these days,” says Dr. Pope, founder of the group. “We want to challenge people to achieve the healthier form of success, which is about character, well-being, physical and mental health and true engagement with learning.”

    Dr. Ginsburg says parents can help children develop resiliency for coping with life’s ups and downs. The key, he says, is to teach them that their parents’ high expectations of them aren’t tied to grades or accomplishments. It means teaching them, “I know who you are deep inside, and I always expect to see that compassion and generosity in you,” says Dr. Ginsburg.

    After achieving perfect scores on his SATs, Sam Werner of Norwalk, Conn., was devastated by rejections from Stanford and Princeton. Mr. Werner was also on the crew and golf teams, performed in his high school musical and ranked third in his class.

    “I kept wondering what more I could have done,” he says. “I realize I didn’t found a company or discover a new insect. I feel like it’s coming to a point where you have to do something like that to get into schools like Princeton or Stanford.”

    Today, Mr. Werner, a pre-med student at Notre Dame, says he has new perspective on being rejected by his top college picks. “At the time, it felt like it was the biggest deal in the world that I didn’t get into those schools,” he says. “But I love it here. Looking back on it now, this is definitely the right place for me.”

    Tests don’t only measure what you know or how well you know it; tests also measure how well you take them. For a majority of test takers, the mere thought of an upcoming exam can elicit anything from minor irritation or a feeling of fogginess on details to a spasmodic explosion of dread and complete immobilization; picture a deer in headlights. If you have experienced any of these reactions, chances are you suffer from test anxiety. Anxiety stems from a variety of causes, but most commonly from a belief that we cannot fulfill our expectations. An estimated 30-35% of college students are handicapped by test anxiety. According to research published in the journals, Review of Educational Research, Contemporary Educational Psychology and Educational Psychology, test anxiety can impede test performance by as much as 12 percentile points. For the GMAT, best results come from a comprehensive and aggressive study program integrated with holistic techniques to prepare you mentally, emotionally and physically for the test. Performing at your optimum means knowing the material and feeling confident, calm, focused, and alert. Follow the three key tips below to draw on your mental, psychological, and intuitive strengths. By using these techniques, you will develop the retention and recall, concentration and focus, confidence and relaxation necessary for peak performance on test day. 1. Create a schedule for the duration of your study. Include designated time for study, exercise, social interaction and downtime. Schedule at least 6 hours of sleep. We also encourage at least 10 minutes a day for meditation, prayer, or quiet time. Your brain works best when it has time to process information. It needs time when you’re not studying or thinking about GMAT material. You also avoid burnout with a balanced schedule. 2. Fire your inner critic. Eliminate self-judgment, especially if it leans towards self-flagellation. If you continue to feel shame and dejection because a third grade math teacher said you’d never be good at math, maybe you can think of the ways, now, as an adult, you ARE good at math. Remember: the GMAT tests what you learned in seventh through ninth grade, not rocket science. 3.  Visualize success.Imagine: It’s test day and you feel comfortable, prepared, and relaxed. This visualization exercise prepares your brain to feel that way on the REAL test day. Spend at least five minutes at a time imagining different details about taking the test. Notice you answer each question with clarity and preciseness. Your visualization scene doesn’t need to be the same each time, but you need to tap into a sense of accomplishment, calm, and confidence. Do this every morning and before bedtime.Researchers at Stanford and University of Chicago evaluated the efficacy of visualization. They compared two sets of basketball players. The first group practiced playing whereas the second group only imagined practicing. The players who didn’t physically practice, but visualized peak performance, improved 23 -30 percent in their actual basket-shooting ability, whereas the students who physically practiced saw little improvement. GMAT test-takers who prepare themselves beyond the intellectual practice by feeling positive and preparing themselves wholly, perform best on the test.

    Welcome to Test Prep New York’s Yoga for your Mind blog.

    We understand that tests don’t only measure what you know or how well you know it; tests also measure how well you take them.

    Our high-octane, fully loaded blog will give students, parents, teachers and curious souls ingredients to excel in school and on upcoming tests. We will introduce you to powerful and easy techniques to optimize your test-taking potential by aligning yourself intellectually, emotionally and intuitively. We will include best methods for organization, perseverance and balance, plus a plethora of personal growth exercises designed to alleviate stress and enhance efficacy and confidence.Our advice includes suggestions to manifest your intention and spark momentum to accelerate your full learning potential. 

    You’ll benefit from experts at the front line, from admissions consultants, tutors, psychologists, learning specialists, linguists, brainiacs, poets, educators, mystics, and a seer or two, who will provide suggestions for the most effective ways to think and be to help you become the you you’re meant to become. You might feel your boundaries stretched and challenged. Learning sometimes does this. 

    It’s up to you to imagine what’s possible, to think big, and to lay claim to your greatness and strengths so you can go into the test, and life, feeling confident and secure that you’ve done all you can to achieve your best score. The secrets to your success are being in the flow, trusting the journey and preparing yourself fully. Have integrity, take responsibility and enjoy the ride. Your learning is the culmination of study, feeling confident and calm. We’re a source to help you get there.

    Put on your seat belts, get your inner guru ready, because we’re ready to fly!