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Students, colleges react to online graduate admissions exams

May 13, 2020
<p>Students continue to study in the Eppley Center after MSU released an email notifying students that administration canceled classes after noon on March 11, 2020.</p>

Students continue to study in the Eppley Center after MSU released an email notifying students that administration canceled classes after noon on March 11, 2020.

After the closing of testing sites due to COVID-19, graduate admission exams scheduled for the spring and early summer were either moved to an online format or canceled altogether.

The Graduate Record Examination (GRE), Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) and Law School Admission Test (LSAT) will transition to an online, at home format while the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) has been canceled until May 21 with more summer testing dates being added to the calendar.

For prospective law school students, taking the online LSAT in the spring is the last opportunity they’ll have if they want to begin law school in Fall 2020.

“This is the time of year traditionally, very late in the admission cycle, law schools are making their final decisions on some applicants that were either on the waitlist or looking to submit a last minute application with a solid standardized test score to fill their law school classes that’s starting this fall,” Jeff Thomas, executive director of admissions programs for Kaplan Test Prep and LSAT instructor, said. “So the admins of the LSAT-Flex examination, as announced by the Law School Admission Council (LSAC) in (early April) gives students an opportunity who could not take the test this spring, but had previously registered to do so to have a way to take the exam.”

The LSAC has held multiple webinars about the transition to online admissions exams. Thomas said many law schools' admissions professionals will not weigh the online exams any differently than the traditional test, as they are looking to fill their seats with the best candidates for the fall.

The cancellation of the MCAT in early spring due to COVID-19 has made it difficult for students who wanted to apply to medical school early.

“It was a bummer that the MCAT was cancelled,” pre-medical senior Erich Ruth said in an email. “Applying early provides better chances of getting accepted, so I hope medical schools will take the coronavirus' impact into consideration and amend their admissions process accordingly.” 

Currently, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) has added new dates and times to the 2020 calendar between May 29 and Sept. 28. Students can schedule their testing date online and over the phone. Also, the AAMC is planning to expedite score reporting to allow students to apply for medical school on-time, according to the MCAT website

“I do think that the choice to not move the MCAT exam to an online format was the right move, especially if medical schools take necessary steps to amend their admissions process to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus," Ruth said in an email. "Having taken the official test once before, I want to go back in and succeed the right way.”

Scott Smith, director of graduate admissions at the Eli Broad College of Business, said that the online exams — while not the sole factor — will be a positive factor in the number of business school applicants.

“In absence of having this online option, there probably would have been downward pressure or decrease in admissions due to that,” Smith said. “If you think about when COVID-19 hit, it was when there’s a lot of applications coming through in the final rounds of graduate school applications. In a lot of cases, students normally would be taking their entrance exams during those times, so we had a lot of correspondence from students who had their date canceled. So, these online options will help with that concern for people as they’re finalizing their application.”

To further help with the impact of online admissions tests, Smith said the Broad College of Business has pushed back their deadlines to apply for the full-time Masters in Business Administration (MBA) program.

Both Smith and Thomas said they believe online admissions tests will be a temporary solution to the COVID-19 pandemic, and students should expect to take in-person exams in the future.

“I think that as soon as everybody is comfortable that it’s safe to go back to the testing center and students are comfortable going back to the testing center, my anticipation is that this online format will actually go away,” Smith said. “That is because there’s a totally different infrastructure for proctoring in place to make it happen. So, my belief is that as soon as in-person and exams can continue, they likely will.”

Though the exams have been moved online, Smith and Thomas also said the content of the exams are the same, and students’ previous studying practices should still be effective in preparing for their respective tests.

“The process of preparing for the test stays exactly the same,” Thomas said. “I would tell students to really not worry too much about ‘Should I go to law school in the fall? How will law schools look at this score? Does it matter if I don’t take the real test at a later date?’ Just do your best and get an awesome score on this test now.”

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