Friday, November 27, 2015

Preparing Your Application: Standardized Tests

This is the fifth post in a blog series discussing best practices for preparing your application for Johns Hopkins SAIS. Today, we'll be covering the Standardized Tests. Standardized tests--particularly the GRE and GMAT--are a big stressor for our applicants. We get a lot of questions about them, so I want to de-mystify them for you here.

There is no minimum test score for the GRE or GMAT.
We don't have an arbitrary cut-off for our test scores. These scores can be a bit controversial, and it's not uncommon to hear people discuss the cultural bias of standardized test scores. So we recognize that otherwise strong candidates can perform poorly on standardized test scores, so we don't use a minimum test score as a baseline to eliminate candidates. 

We may reject someone with poor test scores, but that applicant was rejected because his application contained a series of weaknesses, one of which were his test scores--not because of test scores alone.

There are no exceptions to the minimum TOEFL/IELTS score, and for good reason.The one exception to this is the English competency exam (TOEFL or IELTS) for non-native English speakers. We do have minimums for these exams (see the application instructions for more specifics), but we don't do this so we have an easy way to eliminate applicants. We have a minimum score on the exam because we want to make sure that all of our students are well-prepared to succeed in our program. If we admitted an applicant with less than minimum scores, we would be doing a disservice to him/her, because we would know that they would be unable to keep up with the intensity of our program.

If you almost scored the minimum, but not quite, we can't make an exception for you. It's not because we want to punish you or make the application process harder. It's because we want you to succeed.

You CAN take the GRE or GMAT multiple times...
...without hurting your application. The reviewer will not see that you've taken it multiple times. They will only see the best scores you've received.

We only consider the best scores you receive in each category...
...even if they are from different test dates. Say you take the GRE three times, and each time you max out score-wise on a different section. We will use whichever quantitative score is best, whichever verbal score is best, and whichever analytical writing score is best, even if all three scores came from three different dates.

You might get your scores instantly, but we don't.
It takes up to 10 business days for our office to receive GRE/TOEFL test scores (and potentially longer for GMAT and IELTS!), even though the testing center will give you unofficial score results for the verbal and quantitative section on the same day. Why the difference? Two reasons: 1) Your analytical writing essay needs to be evaluated and scored by an actual human, which takes time; and 2) It takes time to calculate your score percentiles, which are just as important as the tests themselves.

So, when planning for your application, make sure that you take the standardized exam well in advance of the application deadline to make sure we get your scores in time.

Do you have other questions about standardized test scores? Post them in the comments!

Thanks for reading!

--Erin Skelly, Associate Director of Admissions

More in this series
Letters of Recommendation
Class Visits
Statement of Purpose
The Analytical Essay