“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe,” said Abraham Lincoln – clearly a proponent of preparation. To apply his strategy to academia, a test preparation course is the best tool for sharpening.
For over 20 years, students have been maximizing their test-taking potential by taking the test prep courses offered at SDSU Global Campus. They learn important strategies, expectations, and content specifics about the CBEST, GMAT, GRE, and LSAT exams.
Each course is conducted over four Saturday classes, from 9 am to 3 pm, and comes with a free repeat policy. Students can take the course as many times as needed to pass the required test.
The classes are held in partnership with BTPS Testing, distinguished by its outstanding educators. At SDSU, those educators include the husband-and-wife duo of Jerry and Barb Swovelin. Both are also licensed pilots and accomplished skydivers.
Meet SDSU’s Test-Prep Instructors Jerry and Barb Swovelin
What’s your background and how did you became a test preparation instructor?
Jerry: I have a master’s degree in psychology, specifically a field called community-clinical psychology; my graduate program had a major emphasis on both testing and statistics, all of which applies directly to the test preparation courses I teach. At that same time, I taught college-level psychology courses part-time through the Los Angeles Community College District. In addition, I also have several years of teaching experience when I ran a large skydiving school; that was one of the most rewarding periods of my teaching career. Finally, there is one specific reason I became a test-prep instructor, and her name is Barbara.
Barb: I was an English teacher for 34 years; a College Board consultant with both national and international experience; an ETS essay reader; a test preparation instructor since 1984; and I have a master’s degree in British Literature. I began teaching for Bobrow Test Preparation Services after being introduced through a fellow English teacher.
Which test prep courses do you teach at SDSU?
Jerry: I regularly teach courses for the GMAT, the GRE, and the LSAT exams.
Barb: I teach those as well, and occasionally SAT and CBEST courses.
Does the course require homework outside the classroom?
Jerry: There’s no assigned homework, per se, but on non-class days we encourage students to practice their test-taking skills for about two hours daily. This additional practice helps maximize the value of the course for each student.
Can you summarize one or two test-proven strategies that you teach students?
Barb: To prepare for the Reading Comprehension section, for example, I provide strategies that allow for effective reading of the prompt passage, along with specific techniques to master the most common question types, as well as tools that are used to quickly eliminate wrong answers. On the other hand, when I teach students how to tackle the oddball Analytical Reasoning questions, it’s more like analyzing and completing a variety of intricate puzzles.
What’s the general outlook of students who complete the course? Do they feel confident and ready?
Jerry and Barb: Yes. My students gain confidence by knowing what to expect on the exam, by knowing how to approach the different sections, and by getting practice on the various question types, both in-class and at home.
Do students take advantage of the course’s great feature of a free repeat if needed?
Jerry: Absolutely. We have repeat students in virtually every class. They return for a variety of reasons. Some never got around to taking the exam and now they want a refresher, some took their first try at the exam but didn’t achieve the score they wanted, so now they want to improve their skills even more. Some students plan from the beginning to take the class more than once to maximize their skills before tackling the actual exam.
Who should take a test-prep course?
Barb: Anyone who wants help understanding how to intellectually approach the test, how to work through the questions and the reading passages. Anyone who wants to ensure that they can write a high-scoring timed essay, and/ or how to understand the logical and critical reasoning sections. Many students take the course simply to learn specific test-taking strategies.
What is the best advice you can give students about test preparation?
Jerry: Give yourself plenty of time; you’ll find it takes longer than you think until you finally feel properly prepared. Learn about your own personal strengths and weaknesses by taking practice tests and identifying patterns. When reviewing your practice exams, don’t forget to analyze the wrong answers to better understand how they try to fool us. When taking the actual exam, concentrate on applying the strategies you learned in class and the tricks you learned in practice.
What do you love most about your job?
Jerry and Barb: It’s intellectually stimulating and very rewarding to watch students gain confidence and engage with the test strategies.
What Students Say About the Test-Prep Program
“The instructors were great. They cut right to the chase so I was able to get the information I needed. And the Bobrow book is phenomenal because it has really good practice tests and really good explanations of how to prepare properly. It was a great class. And I passed the test!”
– Matthew Saeman
“I felt overwhelmed when starting GMAT prep. I wish I had started with the courses at SDSU Global Campus as the first step. Once I started the courses, the preparation process was simplified and I was able to get on track. The courses narrowed down necessary information, providing encouragement and guidance to stay focused while preparing for the exam, making it less overwhelming.”
– Shanna Harger