By Josh Gunn
Did you dread getting out your number two pencils and waiting for the bubble sheet to land on your desk?
For many grown-ups, the fear of test-taking lingers well beyond childhood. Adults still have anxiety dreams about being unprepared for tests.
But fear not. Armed with a little information, you can start seeing standardized testing in a new light. You may even find that the online degree you're after won't require you to take a standardized test at all.
Are Tests Required in Order to Pursue an Online Degree?
Most campus colleges and universities require the SAT, GRE or GMAT standardized tests as part of their admissions process, but many accredited online degree learning programs do not. Each school has their own evaluation process, and depending on your academic history and background, your preferred online school might let you forget about number two pencils forever. Three of the most popular online schools provide such opportunities.
- University of Phoenix, the largest accredited private university in North America, is interested in your work experience and grade point average, not standardized tests. They require only a cumulative GPA of 2.5. Whether you’re getting your bachelor’s in e-business or your doctorate in health administration, their online graduate and undergraduate programs can fit your life and professional needs.
- Meanwhile, Capella University caters to adult learners across the country and all over the world. Their post-bachelor's certificate, MS and MBA programs require no GRE or GMAT, only a bachelor's degree with a 2.3 cumulative GPA.
- Another online institution, Strayer University, may only require you to have a 2.75 cumulative grade point average during your junior and senior years of undergraduate school if you’re seeking a graduate degree. If not, they look for a minimum cumulative score of 450 on the GMAT or a minimum of 1,000 on the GRE.
No Need to Worry
If you are required to take a standardized test, there are a few reasons you shouldn't be so nervous. For one, you can't fail. Each school has its own method of balancing test scores with other factors, including grades, interviews and letters of recommendation. Like grade point averages, test scores provide schools with just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to admitting students.
The Skinny on the Big Three
While some prestigious schools are renowned for accepting only those with high test scores, standardized tests aren't like the grueling and cutthroat bar exams portrayed in movies. With adequate preparation, you can better understand how the tests are designed, the questions that will probably arise, and how to employ the best test-taking strategies for success in entering an online degree program.
Here's a quick rundown on three of the most widely taken tests:
Though it's changed over the years, the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) is America’s most well-known standardized test. The College Board, which develops the SAT, offers test-taking tips and a free practice test on their web site, sat.collegeboard.org. In addition to the College Board's official study guide, there are countless books devoted to the SAT, featuring practice tests and helpful tips for your approach. Don't remember the math you learned way back in junior high? You are not alone. You can even enroll in a community college class as a geometry refresher, or take a class from one of the leading test preparation companies, such as Kaplan or Princeton Review.
If you're itching to return to school, preparing for the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) is actually a great way to get back into the swing of being a student again. Except for law, business and medical studies, the exam is required for most graduate programs. A step up from the SAT, the GRE General Test measures verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, critical thinking and analytical writing skills. Though the test is mostly multiple choice, the analytical writing section consists of writing two short essays. The Educational Testing Service (ETS), which develops the GRE, is the best online resource to prepare for the GRE, www.ets.org/gre/. ETS also provides preparation materials for the General and Subject Tests, including downloadable practice booklets for each subject. As with the SAT, Kaplan and Princeton Review offer GRE preparation programs.
The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) is the standardized test most commonly used for admission into an MBA program. While the GMAT measures certain developed skills that have been found to be important in the study of management at the graduate level, it does not measure your knowledge of business or job skills. Similar to both the SAT and the GRE, the exam focuses on basic verbal, mathematical and analytical writing skills. There are numerous test preparation companies including Kaplan, Princeton Review, Manhattan GMAT and Veritas Prep that help you prepare for the GMAT. For more information on the GMAT, visit the GMAT test section of www.mba.com.