Ivy Link’s Director of Standardized Testing, Cory Bragar, Shares Her Views on Test Prep

As Ivy Link’s Director of Standardized Testing, Cory Bragar helps students and parents plan and prepare for college and graduate school entrance exams. In addition to overseeing testing strategies for Ivy Link, Cory directly tutors students on a number of exams, including the SAT, ACT, LSAT, GMAT and GRE. Cory has worked as an Admissions Associate in the Trinity College Admissions Office, and while at Harvard, she advised undergraduates with respect to the law school application process. A graduate of the Dalton School and Trinity College, Cory also holds a Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School. Prior to teaching full time, Cory was an intellectual property attorney at O’Melveny & Meyers LLP.

Q: When did you begin teaching?
A: I started teaching Taekwondo when I was 12 and opened my own Taekwondo school when I was 14.

Q: What other teaching have you done?
A: I taught students throughout high school and college as both a private tutor and a teaching assistant. I’m currently the Program Director and Instructor for a children’s Krav Maga (Israeli self defense) program. I also began teaching magic (the kind with the cards, not hexes) about 15 years ago and continue to do so today.

Q: What advice can you give someone preparing for a standardized test?
A: Preparation, planning and more preparation. Regardless of whether you’re going to take a class, prepare on your own or work with a private tutor, you must set out a game plan as far in advance as possible and then prepare thoroughly. One key to preparing thoroughly means doing many actual practice tests (at least 8 for SATs, 12 for GMATs and 30 for LSATs) under timed conditions.

Q: Many people will agree that test scores factor prominently in the admissions process. How do you view the role of test scores?
A: As admissions to colleges and graduate schools have become more competitive, admissions offices have become so over-burdened with increasing numbers of applications that they must use some factor to easily cut down the applicant pool. Almost all admissions officers will tell you that test scores are not the end all and be all of admissions. However, whether the practice is fair or not, test scores are often used as a barrier to entry. Generally, if a student exceeds a certain score, his application will be considered in full. Without at least a certain score, an admissions office won’t even consider the rest of a particular student’s application.

Q: What are some factors that a student should consider when choosing a test preparation program?
A: First, a student should decide what her goals are and how much work she wishes to devote to test preparation to achieve those goals. The student must then find a program that is in line with these factors. Programs range the entire spectrum from those requiring very little work to those requiring a lot of work (usually with proportional results). Regardless of how much work the program entails, the student should be using real practice tests (not those authored by the test prep company) and taking them under real test conditions.

Next, it is important for the student to find an instructor whom she finds engaging. In addition to the student’s level of motivation, what makes the most impact on her improvement is the quality of the particular instructor. Good materials are useless absent a motivated student and an engaging instructor. Finally, it is a bonus if the test preparation program helps the student acquire skills applicable to other areas in addition to test preparation.

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