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Saturday February 4th

Here's how the pandemic is influencing graduate exams in the near future

The State Board of Education for North Carolina is seeking a federal test waiver following the United States Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos' announcement that allows for the cancellation of testing. The waiver is in response to the COVID-19 outbreak that has led to school closures.
Buy Photos Several graduate school admissions exams — including the GRE, GMAT, LSAT and MCAT — are altering their exam format due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting entrance exams for various graduate programs, with many being delayed and/or canceled. 

Many graduate exams have transitioned to online testing as a result. 

The GRE — the traditional entrance exam for a variety of graduate programs — is now being administered in an online format that people can take at home with a human proctor monitoring online. The format of the at-home version will be identical to the version normally given at testing centers.

The GMAT — the business school admissions exam created by the Graduate Management Admission Council — will also be provided online with similar scoring, structure and number of items as the version provided in-person. Though the at-home version of the exam will include the Quant, Verbal and Integrating Reasoning sections of the traditional exam, it will not include the Analytical Writing Assessment.

But not all graduate exams are making the switch to online proctoring for all exam dates.

The LSAT — which is made by the Law School Admission Council — will administer one remotely-proctored LSAT exam in May for students. This version is called LSAT-Flex and is available only for students who were registered for the April LSAT exam, which was canceled due to coronavirus. 

The LSAT-Flex will feature three 35-minute sections — Logical Reasoning, Logic Games and Reading Comprehension — rather than the four scored sections and one unscored section in the normal exam format. The Experimental section and second Logical Reasoning sections will not be included in LSAT-Flex. Additional LSAT-Flex dates for the coming months may be administered if future regularly-scheduled in-person exams are canceled.

The MCAT, the medical school entrance exam made by the Association of American Medical Colleges, canceled all of its exams through May 21 and has not publicly discussed an online version of the exam. The AAMC will provide updates on new testing dates.

Last week, Kaplan Test Prep — which provides practice exams and study tools for standardized exams taken by high schoolers, undergraduates and post-undergraduate students — announced many of these graduate school exam changes on its website. 

Jeff Thomas, executive director of admissions programs for Kaplan Test Prep, said he recognizes the uncertainty faced by aspiring graduate and professional school students. But he said applicants would not be at a disadvantage simply by taking the online entrance exam rather than the traditional in-person version.

“All graduate schools are in the business of accepting qualified applicants, and they are looking to increase applicant pools,” Thomas said. “School is just a modality. The education is still phenomenal. I would not let this health crisis stop people from pursuing the programs of their choosing.”

Many UNC students have found themselves having to adjust their summer plans because of these exam changes. 

Ben Picciano, a junior political science major, said he decided to begin studying for the LSAT exam this summer after the internships he was pursuing fell through due to the pandemic. 

Picciano said he originally intended to take the LSAT after graduation, but later decided to register for the August exam.

“It just makes more sense to study for the LSAT,” Picciano said. “For a lot of juniors and seniors, the job market will be really rough, so with a lot of students it makes sense to go to grad school earlier than later.”

Elizabeth Cox, a junior majoring in political science and sociology and vice president of UNC’s co-ed pre-law fraternity, Phi Alpha Delta, said that she also plans to take the LSAT in June, which is still currently scheduled to take place at in-person testing centers. She said she will still prepare for the traditional exam.

“I’ve gotten some more time to study,” Cox said. “I could focus more and prepare for the full-length, five-section exam.”

Deep Upadhyay, a junior majoring in biology, said he is preparing to take the MCAT in August. 

He said this summer, while he still plans to continue his computational biology research remotely, he will not be able to volunteer at UNC Hospitals to fulfill clinical hours for the time being due to the pandemic.

“I do have more time to study,” Upadhyay said. “But beyond that, I am worried about losing connections from not being on campus, which helps with getting letters of recommendation and doing research.”

university@dailytarheel.com

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