In the Beginning was Stanford-Binet:
How is it possible that some people seem to excel at all manners of standardized tests? Is success on standardized tests the result of innate ability or achieved through practice and preparation? Are there any common skills or strategies that span preparation for different standardized tests?
Much more than a rhetorical lede to a lone blog post on the GRE, these questions are the focus of intense and ongoing study and debate (c.f. here, here, and here just to begin), of which the answers hold lifelong consequences for individuals and profound social and economic implications.
Preparing and administering standardized testing is also big business, and not only for the big college, professional, and graduate entrance exams but also for professional certifications and, most important since No Child Left Behind, a bonanza for companies like Pearson. Among parents of young children, one of the most frequent topics that comes up inter nos is which school to send our kids to, and a top concern is how prominent and frequent standardized testing will be. Indeed, the future of standardized testing appears to be nearing an inflection point in education policy.
As the French say—Revenons à nos moutons ("Return to our sheep")—let's get back to the question at hand: What are the common, essential steps to preparation for standardized tests? To answer this question, it is essential to consider the origin of modern standardized testing, the Stanford–Binet Intelligence Scales, an IQ test first introduced in 1916; its legacy endures in the philosophy and approach of many, if not most, standardized tests. You might even recognize some of the factors used to generate the ultimate IQ score:
- Fluid Reasoning, including Verbal Absurdities and Verbal Analogies
- Knowledge, including Vocabulary
- Quantitative Reasoning, including both Verbal and Non-Verbal Quantitative Reasoning
Sound familiar? To someone who has prepared students for the SAT, ACT, MCAT Verbal, GMAT, GRE, and LSAT, Stanford-Binet represents a veritable Rosetta Stone of standardized tests.
Considering the common threads that connect many of these tests and how students prepare successfully for them, I'd like to share some of the commonalities I've observed to help you prepare a schedule, plan, and strategy for success on the GRE.