With the LSAT coming up on Oct. 2 and the MCAT on April 12 of next year, some Yalies continue their intense preparations in an attempt to get a crucial boost in ever more competitive graduate and professional school admissions. For underclassmen who are unfamiliar with the alphabet soup of the LSAT, MCAT, GRE and others, many guides and services offer to help decode the tests’ secrets.
While admissions officers at graduate and professional schools consider many factors when making their decisions, students continue to spend time and money preparing for the exams in an attempt to earn coveted spots at prestigious institutions.
According to the Yale Law School Web site, the school accepted only 7.8 percent of all applicants from 2001 to 2003. But applicants with LSAT scores of 175 to 180 — the highest score on the exam — were admitted at a rate of over 33 percent over the same time span.
In their effort to prepare as much as possible, seniors must decide whether to prepare by themselves, often with a book of practice tests, or to enroll in one of myriad preparation programs offered by Kaplan, Princeton Review, TestMasters and other such companies. Such programs range from the expensive private tutoring, which can exceed $100 per hour, and classes — Kaplan’s MCAT course costs $1,449 — to tutoring over the phone or to online courses.
Tory Phillips ’05 said that she started preparing for the MCAT last summer with a biweekly Kaplan course that ran for 12 weeks. She said that merits of the program included the regularity of course assignments and having a teacher’s encouragement.
Without them, she said, she was afraid that she “wouldn’t find the time and motivation to do the necessary work to prepare for the test.”
Phillips said she took six practice tests during the course. One reason she decided to take the MCAT course, she said, was because she had taken an SAT prep course in the past that gave her greater confidence and made the test seem less intimidating, and she expected the same result for the MCAT. She explained that practice tests are helpful in that regard, especially early on when scores tend to jump before leveling off.
But Phillips said she was not necessarily more confident than her friends after taking a class for the MCAT.
“In some respects, I feel like I was a little less calm than my friends who hadn’t taken the class,” she said, “just because the class did hype the test up a lot in order to motivate you.”
Marcus Haymon ’05 said he chose to prepare mostly on his own for the LSAT, citing the great expense of classes, for which he said parents usually end up footing the bill.
“Honestly, I didn’t feel comfortable asking my mother to pay for an LSAT course, especially when that money could be used on something more useful,” he said. “It’s just a test.”
Instead, he said he is preparing with books of practice tests. He said one drawback of studying alone is that more discipline is required; there is no structured class to set your schedule, nor an instructor to check your progress. But Marcus said that he is determined to not let the situation get the better of him.
“The reality is that I’m not in the position to pay for a prep class, so I have to do the best with what I have,” he said.
Jane Bernstein ’05, who took a Kaplan MCAT course, said that some tests may warrant more preparation than others. She compared the fact-heavy MCAT to the LSAT, which she said involves more logical thinking.
The MCAT, as opposed to the LSAT, involves “knowing more about what’s on the test than how to take it,” she said.