The MAT (Miller Analogies Test) is just one of several tools in your graduate school admissions toolbox. The MAT enables graduate schools to compare you to other MAT test takers — it’s not the whole picture. Here’s how to best put the MAT to work for you.

To send or not send MAT scores

The official MAT score report shows your official score and percentile rank, both overall and in your specific graduate school discipline. If you selected a school (or schools) to receive your three free test result transcripts, they’ll receive the same information. If you didn’t specify any schools, you have to request a transcript report, for an additional fee.

Unless you’re really short on cash, you may want to forego specifying any schools when you register, just in case you don’t do well. You’ll have to pay a fee to get the transcripts sent later, but paying a fee is better than risking rejection from your desired program.

Retake the MAT

If you’re really not happy with your score, you can retake the MAT. Just keep in mind that schools will know how many times you’ve taken the test overall.

If you didn’t select any schools to receive scores for your first MAT attempt and you then decide to send the scores of your second MAT attempt to schools, they will know you’ve taken the test twice. Still, schools mostly want to know your best MAT score and don’t care that much if you took the test two or three times.

Some students take an official MAT test as a “practice test.” That practice is un-necessary and potentially detrimental since it will show up on your official transcript.

Gear up for graduate admissions

Be early and organized. Some programs have rolling admissions, which means that when the school starts receiving applications, it accepts good candidates until its program is full. In the beginning of this process, since more spots in the program are available, the school can be less selective.

To get your application in early, start working on components like your MAT prep and your application essays soon, if not now. Essays, in particular, often benefit from careful rewrites and long-term meditation on what to write about.

Don’t for-get your recommendations — ask your professors early, before they get deluged with requests from all your classmates.

Present your best GPA

If your GPA isn’t stellar, graduate schools like to see a trend of improvement. Do what you can to raise your grades; they’re one of the factors over which you have the most control.

If there’s a valid reason that your GPA doesn’t represent your best abilities (such as illness), it’s worth explaining.

If your program’s application does not include a section to explain any other factors that should be considered in evaluating your application, include a brief explanation as either part of your personal statement (if your program requests one), or as an additional note to the admissions committee.

Write a great essay

Application essays are a great way to show schools your unique background and personality. Focus on one to three specific stories in your essay, with the goal of showing the reader one of your outstanding qualities (in-stead of just telling the reader you have the quality).

For example, if you want the admissions committee to know you were an intellectually curious student, you may tell a story about reading all of Henry David Thoreau’s works while you were in high school instead of just saying, “I love learning.”

Avoid writing an essay that tries to cover everything and is essentially an expanded resume. The essay is your chance to showcase something about you that the admissions committee can’t find out from the rest of your application.

Prepare your resume

Many graduate programs ask for a resume or curriculum vitae (same thing). If so, here are a few tips for yours:

  • Keep it to one page. Even if you’ve had a storied, 30-year career spanning several industries, not many people want to wade through a long resume. Just pick your biggest accomplishments.

  • Tailor it. Make sure your resume highlights volunteer work and experience that’s most relevant to the program to which you’re applying. When in doubt, leave off points that don’t apply.

  • Be specific. The most memorable bullet points on a resume are specific, concrete, and interesting. “Improved SAT scores by an average of 254 points” is more interesting than “Helped students improve SAT scores.”

Choose good referrals

Recommendations don’t make or break an application because students typically ask professors they know will write good ones. You, however, can stand out by making sure that the person who writes you a recommendation knows you well. Even if a recommendation is very positive, it won’t stand out unless it’s specific, detailed, and forthright.

Prepare for interviews

If your desired graduate program offers you the chance to interview, take it! Meeting someone in the admissions committee in person gives you the chance to make a memorable personal impression. Here are some tips:

  • Practice! Have a friend ask you typical interview questions (do some research and find some online or in an admissions advice book), and respond as you would if it were a real interview.

  • Look professional. Dress neatly and formally.

  • Be lively. Ask questions, be responsive, smile, make eye contact, avoid one-word answers, and be yourself.

  • Say thanks. Everyone likes getting cards in the mail, so send your interviewer a thank-you note. Make sure you get a business card or the correct spelling of their name. Sending a note is another way to help your interviewer remember you.

Give yourself more than one option

It’s tough to keep everything in perspective if you’re applying only to your dream program. Instead, apply to a few schools you’d like to attend.

Keep in mind that even if you don’t get into any programs, you can almost always try again later.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book authors:

Vince Kotchian is a full-time standardized test tutor specializing in the MAT, SSAT, ISEE, ACT, GRE, and GMAT. He teaches a GRE prep course at the University of California, San Diego, and has an extensive understanding of analogies and the MAT.

Edwin Kotchian is a MAT tutor and freelance writer who has contributed to a variety of test-prep material.

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