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Take out a piece of paper and pencil.

We're going to get serious now and do some planning.  Here's what we'll do:

  1. Look at what scores your school says they need (in your case, by approximating it).
  2. Adjust the score for competitiveness and figure out a target score for  you to shoot for.
  3. Calculate how much improvement you will need on the test based on your personal profile.
Ready?  On your paper write "1.  Target Score:".
  1. What scores does the school say they want.  When you find out you can come back and revise this.  For now you can use the following general guidelines (it never hurts to shoot for higher than you need.)
        Top Schools in the Country: 700+
        Next Best Schools or Very Competitive Programs: 600+
        Average Schools or Moderately Competitive Programs: 500's
        Lower Ranking Schools or Minimally Competitive Programs: 450-550

        This can vary a huge amount, so try to get the facts.

Hints: When you do ask them, try to find out if the number they quote you is a minimum score below which they will not look at you, a score that pretty much guarantees your acceptance, or something in the middle, such as an average score.

It can be hard to get this info out of them.  If they don't give you a straight answer, ask them what the average score was of students they accepted last year.  Also, ask them how many people applied and how many were accepted.    This will tell you how competitive the program is.

For a very competitive program (9 out of 10 or more rejected), add 10 percent  to the score they say and even more if you feel you need to maximize your chances.

Next to "Target Score" put down your estimate, as a total or by section.

On your scratch paper under "target score" write "2.  Diagnostic score:".
  1.   Diagnostic Test.   If you have taken a practice test, enter your score, as a total or by section, next to "Diagnostic Score:"  Subtract this from the target and label it "Improvement Needed". If you did better on your diagnostic than you need to, this number will be negative.
            If you haven't taken a diagnostic test, I will give you directions for one at the end of the     tour.  After you take it, you can calculate your "Improvement Needed".

On your scratch paper below "Improvement Needed" write "Minimum Study Time:"

  1. How much will you need to practice?  If your Improvement Needed for any section is:
-30+ - You are scoring more than 50 points above where you need to be.  Practice on your own for a month or two to solidify your score.  Make sure you stay at this level or improve.

-30 to 10 points - You are scoring right around where you need to be, plus or minus.  A couple months of studying on your own might work, or a small amount of help from an expert.

10 to 30 points - This could take 3 to 6 months or prep and may require the help of an expert.

More than 30 points - Plan on up to 6 months of work with some kind of expert help.

Absolute best score - This usually takes up to 6 to 8 months of practice, working with expert instruction and with 4 to 6 hours of individual expert guidance.

Fill in an amount next to "Minimum Study Time".

You've got a plan now.  How realistic is it?

There are many factors that determine how long you need to study and what resources you should use:

Do you have a history of not being a great standardized test taker?
Do you have math or test anxiety?
Do you have concerns about timing or the computer test?
Do you have any Learning Disabilities or physical disabilities?
Are other aspects of your application less impressive than what you would like?
Have you been out of school for a long time?
Is English your second language?
Are you the first generation of your family to go to grad school or college?

I'm going to give you some additional suggestions on these in just a minute.

Also, I'll be happy to consult with you free of charge on these issues and make (relatively) impartial suggestions.  If you continue to the end of the Tour, you'll get a password worth a free phone consultation.

Almost done!  Click to 
Compare prep options =====>>>
, then get some other freebies including your free password.