Preparation varies for graduate exams

Jordan Senchak has a full plate.

As a senior biology and pre-med major at Grove City College, he doesn’t have much room for error before he applies for medical school.

The Medical College Admission Test, or the MCAT, course he took at Youngstown State University, he said, was a tremendous help in getting him the score he needs to get into the school he wants.

YSU also offers prep courses for the Graduate Record Examination, or the GRE, but not for the Law School Admission Test, or the LSAT.

Senchak, a New Castle native, attended YSU’s Kaplan-developed MCAT course in conjunction with his own studying of the Kaplan MCAT curriculum.

“When you’re preparing for med school, busy unfortunately becomes the norm,” Senchak said, noting that his time in the classroom at YSU helped him imagine what the actual exam would be like.

“There was a multitude of practice exams and section tests that really helped to get the timing of the test down,” Senchak said.

The MCAT, according to its official website, is designed to test prospective medical students in three areas: problem solving, critical thinking and writing skills.

Jacki Papa, a junior biology student at Mercyhurst College, attended YSU this summer both on-campus and online. Her experience at YSU “definitely helped” when it came to preparing for the MCAT.

Papa said the physics course she took at YSU gave her a great refresher for the MCAT.

“Some of these concepts are things you haven’t dealt with since high school,” she said. “Taking the physics class at the same time as the MCAT class helped me make a lot of connections in the material, which I wouldn’t have been able to make otherwise.”

Both Papa and Senchak are on track to graduate with honors from their respective universities, and they hope to have offers from medical programs across the country.

Senchak has already begun to interview with medical schools. He is confident that his scores will take him where he wants to go.

“The MCAT course really helped me improve my score,” Senchak said.

Papa still faces the agonizing task of waiting to receive her MCAT scores.

“It’s the worst kind of wait, because your whole future depends on this,” she said. “You can take it again, but it’s just a total peace of mind if you can be done after your first try.”

As Papa waits, several YSU students are preparing to take the GRE through an on-campus prep class.

The GRE is another measure of scholastic aptitude that is similar in format to the SAT. GRE scores are required by nearly all graduate programs, including the Master of Business Administration program at YSU.

The GRE consists of quantitative, verbal and analytical writing sections, a combination created to gain perspective on a student’s aptitude as a whole.

YSU’s GRE course began Oct. 6. It continues for four consecutive Saturdays, with the days divided into two separate courses: preparation for both the verbal and quantitative sections.

Jesse McClain teaches the English portion of the course, while Jessie Canter teaches the math portion. According to Monique Bradford, the MBA coordinator at YSU, 12 students are taking the course, which meets in Williamson Hall.

“Students from all fields can take this course to prepare, not just the MBA candidates,” Bradford said.

Students in the course take practice exams and learn test-taking strategies specific to the GRE. In a format similar to the MCAT course, students learn through instructor-led discussion and a documentation of progress through the GRE prep book exams.

Each section of the test varies in length from 30 to 45 minutes, according to GRE’s official records. The entire exam totals around 3 hours and 45 minutes, including short breaks.

The YSU course strives to make students more comfortable within the timed guidelines, using sample questions and formatting the practice exams within the same time constraints. The practice is important, as one point is deducted on the exam for each unanswered question.

Aspiring lawyers must take the LSAT to gain acceptance to law school. Though YSU does not offer an LSAT prep course, the university does offer many resources to help students prepare.

“We have a library of resources that students can access with many of the LSAT prep books that are on the market,” said Paul Sracic, chair of the political science department at YSU. “We advise students on how to prepare for the exam.”

Sracic said he doesn’t see an LSAT course as a possibility for YSU’s campus, because, in comparison to the MCAT, the LSAT doesn’t require specific legal knowledge.

He said the exam consists mostly of reading comprehension, analytical reasoning and questions of logic.

“It’s structured more like another version of the ACT or the SAT,” Sracic said.  

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