ACT vs SAT: Fee Waiver Throwdown

There are many great debates in the country today: Democrat vs Republic, Charter schools vs Public schools, Robert Frost vs E.E. Cummings, Lebron vs Kobe, McDonald’s vs Burger King … the list goes on and on. We’d like to weigh in on one of the most important debates of our time: The SAT or the ACT?

College-bound students today are having this debate in numbers that their predecessors, ancestors, and older siblings never did. In part due to the ubiquity (SAT word!) of acceptance of either test, and in part due to the growing awareness of testing options, students are now more frequently asking themselves “which one should I take?” The answers are as varied as are the answers to all of the debates mentioned above, and as passionately defended. We’re going to try to be the voice of reason and help you make the decision by providing as much information and perspective as we can. There are a lot of factors that go into making this decision, from what a particular school is looking for to what subjects the student excels in, but here’s something else to consider: fee waivers.  Or more specifically, what fee waivers do and do not include. Today’s post will help you understand this often overlooked difference and how it might help make the difference for you.

Integrated Reasoning Scoring Scale

So we’ve all been waiting patiently for the scoring scale for the new GMAT Integrated Reasoning section. This week GMAC released the scoring scale: 1-8 points in one-point increments.

LSAT Discussion: Is a Law Degree Worth It?

It’s been a rough few months for the legal industry. Law schools have taken a beating for their inflated costs and potentially inflated post-graduation employment figures. Additionally, the number of LSAT test-takers seems to have fallen significantly. Here’s a quick round-up of the latest big stories on law school:

Law School Jobs Data
The first lawsuit pitting law school graduates against law schools over the potentially fraudulent representation of post-graduate employment numbers has recently been concluded (not guilty, surprise-surprise), but the furor and fallout doesn’t seem likely to abate any time soon. More lawsuits seem imminent. However, it also seems the lawsuits and disillusionment have begun to spur change. Many law schools are modifying the graduate jobs data they supply, and The American Bar Association’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar is taking steps to improve the data they release. While these are the first baby steps, the hope is that they will continue, providing greater transparency and insight for prospective law students. For more, check out this article.

Is the Law School Tuition Bubble About to Burst?
Early indications from U.S. News and World Report 2012-13 data indicate that law school tuition rates – which have been rising astronomically in the last decade – may finally be headed in the other direction, which is good news for aspiring lawyers. Hopefully the trend continues, and leads to similar downturns for other graduate programs and undergraduate education. To read a thorough analysis of the latest information, click here.

To see the numbers directly from USNWR, click here.


“Legal diplomas are apparently losing luster.”
This is the first line of a recent  New York Times article on law schools. Part of the evidence presented in the article was a precipitous drop in LSAT administrations. We found this odd, so we checked out the data ourselves. Here’s a snapshot of official numbers from LSATs given over the last 25 years that led the Times to speculate that “The decline reflects a spreading view that the legal market in the United States is in terrible shape”:

Upon first glance, the decrease in LSAT administrations from 2010 to 2012 is pretty shocking. What is questionable, however, is the assertion that the legal profession has somehow become less attractive. That assertion requires an assumption that there is a direct correlation between LSAT administration numbers and the attractiveness or health of the law profession. We could spend days (and many thousands of words) deconstructing this one fallacy…but we won’t. I think you get the picture. Of more interest to us is interpreting these statistics.

Our contention is that while the LSAT numbers are down, this doesn’t say the law degree is any less valuable. In fact, given the drop, it may be even more valuable. Here’s why:

A more extensive look at the table reveals the current numbers might have been inflated in the first place. Notice the incongruous jump in administrations from 2001-2003: 33.4%!

Notice as well the relatively sizable jump from 2008 to 2010 of nearly 20% that immediately preceded the latest decline. Between those two increases alone you’re looking at over a 50% jump in test administrations from the 2000 numbers. Do you know what both of those two periods had in common? That’s right, relatively significant economic recessions.

Going back farther, one sees a similar jump from 1988-91, after, you guessed it, another recession (from the famed “Black Monday” of 1987). But these increases gradually came back down over the next decade. The inflated numbers spawned by the downturn of the early 2000′s didn’t have a real chance to tick back down (as they did after the 1987 recession) because we bumped right into another one a few years later. Consequently, the preposterously inflated LSAT administration numbers of the early 2000′s recession were further bloated by the late 2000′s recession increase. If anything, it seems like the law industry has a realistic normal rate of around 100,000 LSAT administrations per year for the last two-plus decades, which recessions periodically inflate. The most recent data seems to indicate that we’re simply going back to that norm, which means a normal valuation of the law degree.


What Does This Mean to You?

If you’re considering a career in law it would be smart to start thinking like a LSAT test-taker (and probably a lawyer) and looking for the assumptions in arguments you find in articles published about this trend.  It would also be smart to start considering your application plan, including LSAT test prep.


GMATPrep 2.0: Mac Version

Everyone who’s prepping for the GMAT now has just cause to rejoice! Throw your hands in the air, drop to your knees, and thank GMAC for finally offering up a newer version of GMATPrep. Mac users will probably be the most overjoyed at the release of GMATPrep 2.0 (GP2.0), because the software is finally Mac-compatible. That’s right! No more borrowing your cousin/sister/neighbor/dad’s PC at odd hours just to get a practice test in. No more leaving your wonderfully designed and fantastically user-friendly Mac on the sidelines for your GMAT prep. You can finally say goodbye to PCs for good (at least for your GMAT work – GMAC can’t help you out on the job front though). I brought my MacBook Pro into the office today to give the brand-spanking new GP2.0 a whirl in the world of Apple. Below are a few quick shots of what I found interesting. We’ll update in the coming weeks as we delve deeper into it.

Preview: Latest GMATPrep

Coming soon to a Mac and PC near you: an updated version of GMAT Prep (available on April 2nd, 2012). Like good investigative journalists (or paparazzi) we got our hands on some of the goods as soon as possible. The goods in question? Screenshots of the latest version of GMATPrep.  Macrumors on the latest iPhone/iPad/Macbook Air this is not, but people are pretty excited about this development, so might as well not wait!

Let’s take a look and point out some of the interesting new features…

GMAT Insight: Reading Comp vs. Reading Comp

With the recent release of the new Official Guide for GMAT Review, 13th Edition and the impending release of a new version of GMATPrep, we thought we’d shed some light on a particularly key distinction between the two kinds of practice material: paper vs. computer.

On the surface the distinction between these two kinds of practice would appear to be self-evident, and to a large extent it is. What isn’t so clear is the potential value of each. With the value of each in mind, one place that most clearly illuminates the difference is with Reading Comprehension.

LSAT Insight: General Pacing Strategy

If you were trying to score 100% on your typical high school or college exam, you’d need to do two things: 1) answer all of the questions, and 2) answer all of those questions correctly. The logic of that is not lost on most people. Unfortunately, many people preparing to take the LSAT walk into that test with similar logic, often to disastrous results.

Let’s be clear about something: the LSAT is not your run-of-the-mill school test. It relies on a whole host of different paradigms by which the game needs to be played. Chief among those paradigms is how one goes about achieving the score one wants. And if we apply the logic of doing well on school tests to the LSAT, we’ll be doing ourselves and our score a disservice.

Often, the key to doing better on the LSAT does not mean doing more questions. It means doing fewer. One thing should be clarified here before we move on: what we talk about when we talk about “doing questions” (yes, that’s a Raymond Carver allusion) is time invested on questions. It does not speak to entering an answer for every question (which you should ALWAYS do). Often, spending more time on fewer questions results in a higher total number of raw score points, which means a higher scaled score.

Let’s take a look at a couple hypothetical test-takers, and talk about why we might observe what we do.

GMAT News: Prospective Students Survey

The old adage goes, ‘Knowledge is power.’ Albert Einstein once said that “Information is not knowledge.” With the right contextualization, however, information can be knowledge, which can lead to power. The latest Prospective Students Survey Report from GMAC contains both a wealth of information and the context with which to empower it.

This report reveals valuable demographic trends in the world of GME (Graduate Management Education). Data indicates that while men comprise the majority of those interested in full-time 1- or 2-year MBA programs, women make up the majority of those interested in most non-MBA Master’s Programs, including Management and Accounting. Additionally, data shows that women interested in non-MBA Master’s degrees are applying at a younger age than their MBA counterparts, with 71% of female applicants to non-MBA Master’s programs aged younger than 25.

The Prospective Students Survey also confirms recent data from GMAC that speaks to the international dynamics in graduate management education. The number of GMAT tests taken outside the United States (which speaks directly to the number of prospective candidates originating outside the U.S.), continues to increase, and a significant portion of those increases are being affected by women. For example, Chinese women now account for a full 33% of tests submitted to non-MBA master’s programs by women.

Review, pt. 2: GMAT Official Guide 13th Edition w/ Integrated Reasoning

As we discussed in a post a couple days ago, GMAC has finally released the first new practice materials in anticipation of the Next Generation GMAT change on June 5th. We ran through some initial and general impressions, and we’re back to take a closer look. Here’s what we were told by our sources at GMAC:

Official Guide for GMAT Review, 13th Edition Fast Facts (from GMAC)

  • 75 New Quant and 80 new Verbal Questions
  • New Integrated Reasoning (IR) Chapter
  • Online access code for 50 IR questions available as online practice
  • None of the questions – new or old – are available in any other GMAC products
  • Retail Price: $42.95 (available in the Bell Curves Bookstore for $29.95)

Looking more closely at the practice questions for the respective questions types, we’ve formulated a list of the new questions in the 13th Edition.

Word Challenge VI: Two Words, One Speech – Our President’s!

The sixth and final entry in the Word Challenge: Two Words, One Speech series, ends with our current commander in chief. Written by Bell Curves co-founder Akil Bello, this entry was posted on

In the final installment of our speeches series, I offer to you a man triply fitting for mention on this President’s Day. A man known as one of the greatest orators of our time. A man of historic stature and prodigious ability. This week’s speech comes to us from the first African-American President of the United States of America: Barack Obama.

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