Graduate school entrance exams moved online, canceled


Graphic by Catherine Buchaniec

Organizations administering graduate school entrance exams have had to cancel test dates in response to COVID-19. Some of these companies, such as LSAC and ETS, have introduced an at-home exam.

Emma Edmund, Print Managing Editor

As COVID-19 shuts down most in-person meetings, organizations administering graduate school entrance exams have canceled spring tests and prepared for a prolonged isolation period by adding more test dates and, in some cases, introducing an at-home exam.

One entrance exam getting a bit of a makeover is the Law School Admission Test, administered by the Law School Admission Council. The LSAC canceled the April test date and will automatically reschedule students for the May 18 exam, unless test-takers choose to receive a coupon for a different LSAT date.

The only difference: The May 18 exam will be completely remote.

The LSAC has recently introduced the LSAT-Flex, designed to be taken on a computer and completed in less than two hours without breaks, making it over an hour shorter than a typical LSAT. LSAT-Flex will be scored on the same 120-180 scale as a regular LSAT.

Susan Krinsky, the LSAC’s senior vice president for candidate services, said a typical-length LSAT just wasn’t feasible at home without breaks, as breaks introduce risk for violations of academic integrity.

The LSAC is targeting June 5 as the score release date for those who take the LSAT-Flex.

“We wanted to make it possible for people, particularly people who are interested in fall admissions, to take the test, and we wanted to make it possible for law schools to be able to evaluate them using a test that they’re familiar with,” Krinsky said. “Whether it gets used beyond that, we shall see.”

The LSAC plans to use ProctorU, which allows live proctors to watch students taking exams through the students’ webcams and microphones. ProctorU is also used by the Educational Testing Service, the company responsible for administering the Graduate Records Examination. ETS also offers an at-home GRE General Test, identical to one taken in a test center.

The at-home GRE does include breaks, but with strict rules regarding how those breaks are to be taken.

“You are required to remain in your seat for the one-minute breaks,” noted a release from the ETS site. “You are allowed to leave your seat during the 10-minute break. If you do not return on time, your test will be canceled and your fee will not be refunded.”

Students taking an at-home GRE will be able to view their unofficial Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning scores, though the Analytical Writing score will not be available until a later date.

The Association of American Medical Colleges, which administers the Medical College Admission Test, has adapted to the pandemic by adding three new dates to the 2020 testing calendar, and it plans to provide more information by April 24. The AAMC also noted it would implement social distancing policies and other safety measures at test centers.

Nancy Tapko, the senior assistant director of Northwestern University Health Professions Advising, said the changes made to the MCAT mostly impact students applying for the 2021 cycle. While there’s no way to be sure, she said she hopes these changes only affect students looking to take the MCAT within the next couple of months.

Tapko added, however, that the MCAT makes up just a portion of a prospective medical student’s application.

“The MCAT is definitely one component, but there is a lot more in terms of grades, even more importantly (students’) experiences, their reflections on those experiences,” Tapko said. “Medical schools do a holistic review, so they will definitely pay attention to your MCAT, but they are looking at all of the different components for a successful application.”

The AAMC also said it plans to expedite the scoring process for some test dates to mitigate the impact of delayed score delivery. It hopes to give at least two weeks’ notice if it cancels the May 29 test date.

Tapko recommends students to go directly to the organization administering a graduate school entrance exam, such as the AAMC’s website, to get the most accurate information as the crisis evolves.

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Twitter: @emmaeedmund

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