Currently viewing the tag: "test scores"

As I mentioned last week, Application Boot Camp is a joint effort between my Admissions pal, Christine, and me.  Today, Christine gives you the skinny on test scores and transcripts.

Test scores and transcripts are two key parts of your application, and they can take time to prepare.  Let’s start by delving into what standardized tests are required.

All MALD, MA, MIB, and PhD applicants are required to submit scores from either the GRE or GMAT exam.  Fletcher does not use cutoffs for GRE or GMAT scores, as we review all applications holistically and the scores are just one part of the overall application; however, they are an important part, and should be taken seriously.  Preparing for the tests can be time consuming and some locations do not offer testing days as often as others.

A good strategy for picking a test date for the GRE or GMAT is to work backwards from the application due date.  Pick a test date early enough for the scores to arrive by the deadline, but also leave yourself time to at least familiarize yourself with the exam format (or even put in some serious review).  Do you want the option of taking the exam twice?  Be sure to factor in the extra time for two exam dates.  For applicants who have taken the tests more than once, we look at the highest score from each section.  Additionally, we require official test score reports that must be sent to us directly from the testing service.  This typically takes about two weeks, so if you are planning to apply by the January 10th application deadline, you should have your scores ordered by the end of December.  GRE and GMAT scores are valid for five years — after that you will not be able to order an official score report.

International applicants for all programs (including the LLM) may be required to take the TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE in addition to the GRE or GMAT.  You must submit this additional test if your native language is not English and you have not earned a university degree (undergraduate degree, or graduate degree lasting two or more years) in which English was the language of instruction.  A score of 100 on the Internet-based TOEFL (with sub-scores of 25 on each section), 7 on the IELTS (with sub-scores of 7 on each section), or 68 on the PTE is generally considered evidence of sufficient English language ability for admission to Fletcher.  As with the GRE or GMAT, it does take some time for these test scores to reach us, and you should plan accordingly.

TRANSCRIPTS are another central part of your application as they provide us with insight into your prior academic work.  A transcript is required for all previously attended undergraduate or graduate institutions.  (Note that we do not need high school results, regardless of where you attended high school.)  Transcripts are required for study-abroad semesters if the grades and course names do not appear on your home institution’s transcript.  If you transferred schools during your studies, you will need to provide transcripts from both the transfer school and graduating school.  Additionally, if your transcripts are not in English they will need to be accompanied by a certified English translation.  This means you cannot translate it yourself!  You will need to take the transcript to a certified translator, and then submit to Fletcher both the original transcript and the translation, accompanied by the translator’s signed and stamped declaration of a true translation.  A bank, post office, or university may be able to help you find translators.

Unlike test scores, transcripts can be uploaded to your online application and do not need to be mailed to us in hard copy.  (We actually would prefer not to receive any hard copies at this stage!)  You will need to upload a scanned copy of your official transcript.  We cannot accept a copy of your unofficial online print-out.  Like test scores, transcripts can take time to obtain and we would recommend that you start gathering these as soon as possible.

Today, Christine tackles one of the topics about which we’re asked the most:  test scores.

The Who, What, When, Where of Standardized Tests.  I purposely did not put “why” in the title.  Why?  Because we all know we have to take standardized tests.  They are not fun, nor are they meant to be, but they give the schools you’re applying to a quantitative base for reviewing your application.  Here at Fletcher, we look at the entire application as a whole, but tests are required nonetheless.  More importantly, we will not consider your application complete until you submit your test scores.  So now that we have gotten the “why” out of the way, let’s move on to look at the other aspects of testing.

Who needs to send test scores?  Ready, all together now: everyone!  The GRE or GMAT is required of all applicants (except for LLM applicants).  For non-native English speakers or those who have been educated less than two years in English, a TOEFL or IELTS will need to be submitted with your application as well.

What will Fletcher accept for test score reports?  We will only accept official test score reports sent directly from the testing center — no exceptions.

For the GRE or GMAT, the scores must be no more than five years old.  Some good news: if you have taken the exam multiple times, we will look at the best scores from each section.  In addition, we do not have a cutoff for scores.  In recent years the middle 50% for the GRE verbal score has been in the 77th to 96th percentile range, the middle 50% for the GRE quantitative score has been in the 61st to 84th percentile range, and the middle 50% for GRE analytical writing in the 49th to 92nd percentile range.  For the GMAT, the middle 50% has been in the 73rd to 92nd percentile range.

For the IELTS or TOEFL, the scores must be no more than two years old.  The scores listed below are generally considered evidence of sufficient English language ability for graduate study at Fletcher.  Occasionally we will admit a student with a score just below the listed minimum but require that the student complete additional language training before enrolling.  Minimum acceptable scores are as follows:

  • TOEFL: 100 (with sub-scores of 25 on each section)
  • IELTS: 7.0 (with sub-scores of 7 on each section)

When do I need to send my scores?  We strongly prefer that your scores arrive on or before the date you submit your application.  However, we will allow a grace period of a few days after the application deadline. Keeping this in mind, you should take your exams at least a few weeks before you plan to submit your application.  For the GRE and GMAT, it usually takes about two weeks for us to receive your scores if you take the test electronically.  If you take the exam on paper, it could take upwards of six weeks before we receive the scores. The TOEFL and IELTS exam reports usually arrive in about two weeks.

Where do I send my scores?  Scores should be sent directly to the Fletcher School, Office of Admissions and Financial Aid.  For the GRE and TOEFL please use the code 3399.  For the GMAT, please use 7JB-L3-70.

Taking the exams may be unpleasant, but at least the rules for reporting scores are straightforward.

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In general, I think our testing policy is pretty straightforward.  Native English speakers, or non-native speakers whose undergraduate education was in English, should submit a GRE or GMAT.  (GMAT for MIB.  GRE (generally) for PhD.  Both are equally fine for the MALD or MA programs.)

Applicants who don’t fall into one of those two groups (native English speaker, or educated in English) need to submit a TOEFL or IELTS score.  This is the one area where we have a firm cut-off:  100 on the Internet-based TOEFL (or 600 on the paper test), and 7 on the IELTS.  Any admitted student with a score that falls slightly short of the minimum will be asked to pursue an intensive English language program in the summer.  Even admitted students whose scores are close to the cut-off may be asked to pursue an English program to boost their skills.  After all, you’re just not going to succeed here at Fletcher if you don’t have the language skills to get you through the piles of reading, as well as the many social situations that require fluency.

What about an applicant who’s required to take the TOEFL/IELTS, but who also wants to show quantitative strength?  Submit a GRE or GMAT, too.  We won’t focus on your verbal score.  Ideally we’d see a score for a quantitative test from all applicants, but we’ve held off changing our policy because of the expense of the tests for our applicants.  Still, if you’re taking a GRE because another of your schools requires it, send it along to Fletcher!

Here’s one exception to everything I wrote above:  LLM applicants who are non-native speakers also need to submit a TOEFL or IELTS score, but the GRE/GMAT is optional for all LLM applicants.

Those few paragraphs cover virtually all of our applicants.  Still, we occasionally we hear from someone who doesn’t quite match either description.  For example, someone whose country has more than one official language, or someone who moved around a lot.  In these cases, it’s best to contact us, so we can consider your situation on an individual basis.  We don’t want anyone to do more testing than necessary, but we do want to see the relevant test results.

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Last week, my daughter Kayla took her first of (sadly) many standardized tests.  Up to now, she has taken the Massachusetts assessment tests that seem to be given to school children every-other-day from March to June each year, but this was her first of the fill-in-the-bubble college entrance exams.  Fortunately, the PSAT doesn’t count for much, particularly for 10th-graders like her.

We’re very aware, from both personal and professional experience, how annoying, daunting, nerve-racking, irritating, (fill in your choice of adjective here) the graduate-level standardized exams can be.  As I may have written before in the blog, when I started to work in admissions, I had hoped I’d find the GRE and GMAT to be useless.  As it turns out, I learned that the exam scores help us interpret the endlessly diverse education backgrounds reflected in the applications we receive.  Fortunately for applicants, we don’t have minimum acceptable scores, and we don’t assess applicants against the mean or some other statistical basis.  While (probably I don’t need to say this) higher scores are always better, we evaluate test results in the context of the applicant’s overall application.

So what’s a test-taker to do?  At a minimum, follow the advice I gave to Kayla:  prepare yourself by becoming familiar with the test format and the many different question types that tend to recur on exam after exam.  And you really should time your practice tests.  So often I hear that nerves and time-management difficulties are what kept an applicant from doing as well on the exam as he had hoped.  Whether you should study for months on end, or sign up for an expensive test prep class, is a judgment you’ll need to make, but I certainly believe it’s a mistake to hand over your money to the GRE or GMAT people and not try to do as well as you can.

And what about re-testing?  In general, for Fletcher anyway, there’s not much point in re-testing if your scores will only change by ten or 20 points.  (And that’s assuming they’ll go up — scores can also go in the other direction.)  But if you were sick on the exam day, or your car had a flat tire on the way to the test center, or any other circumstances prevented you from doing as well as you believe you could have, then consider taking the test a second time.

Once the tests are taken, make sure you  have had the scores reported to Fletcher, and then think about other aspects of your application.  I can assure you that we never make decisions solely on the basis of GRE or GMAT results.

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