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It’s Prime Time for Test Preparation

Worry not, USF’s Continuing Education offers a variety of test preparation courses – in person and online – as well as a resource for entrance, placement, pre-employment, licensure and certification exams.


Kathy Barnes and Cristina Ramirez of Continuing Education's Innovative Education Unit make it easy to sign up for test preparation courses.     Photos by Aimee Blodgett | USF News
By Barbara Melendez
      USF News

TAMPA, Fla. (June 19, 2015) – Does the idea of taking any of the well-known high-stakes tests give you pause or the jitters or worse yet, a stomach ache and sleepless nights? Do the initials GRE, GMAT, LSAT and SAT fill you with dread? Then test preparation classes given at USF may be for you. You might even qualify for a discount and when it comes time to take the test, you can do so right on campus.

“Just the word ‘test’ itself inspires anxiety for a lot of people,” observes Testing Services Director Leonor O’Relly.

Familiarity can make a difference.

“A lot of it is simply fear of the unknown,” adds Continuing Education Advisor/Consultant Cristina Ramirez. “The act of taking practice exams can remove some of the anxiety. Just getting familiar with the environment and the surroundings helps a lot, too”

Strategies can also make a difference. They not only offer the possibility of getting higher scores, they can ease tension.


The USF Test Center is located at the corner of
Bruce B. Downs and Fletcher Ave.

“Students learn how to look at the questions in a different way,” Ramirez explains. “The instructors show how to narrow down the possible right answers.” She sat in on a couple of classes in order to be able to explain the process to prospective students from personal experience. “I began to see how to spot the obvious wrong answer and as you develop that agility it gives you greater confidence – and in the process, less anxiety.”

She went on to say, “The course reviews what test takers should already know. It’s not like you need to learn math or other subjects all over again. The course refreshes the basics that are going to be relevant to the test you’re taking.”

Depending on the test, preparation classes are held over 20 to 30 hours and meet over consecutive days at convenient times. They can be taken online or in a classroom with other students - whichever is most comfortable and effective. All books and materials are included, plus students get a special workbook, broken down into topics and organized in a way that makes it easier to tackle the subject matter.


Test Administrator Ruth Anderson signs in a test taker in the recently renovated facilities in the NEC Building.  Photo by Leonor O'Relly

USF students and employees receive a 10 percent discount as do active military members. The G.I. Bill covers the cost for veterans and some employers pay for their workers’ courses. Sign up at least two weeks in advance and the same 10 percent discount is available.

Spring and early fall are the best times to prepare for the tests that are given around those times of the year. For people who are not sure about taking the course, a free one-hour workshop can serve as an easy introduction.

“We’re here to help,” said Innovative Education Assistant Director Kathleen Barnes. “The workshop gets people familiar with the basics and that’s helpful in itself.”

Testing, testing, testing and more testing...

When it comes time to take your test of choice, you couldn’t ask for a more comfortable and welcoming place than the USF Testing Services test center in the NEC Building. It's one of only three state university test centers in Florida to be certified by the National College Testing Association.  

USF Testing Services is one of the units in USF Innovative Education. High school and college students, working professionals, nurses, doctors, teachers and IT specialists make up the majority of test takers. Not only are the LSAT, SAT, GRE and GMAT administered here, but also the ACT, CLEP, CPT, DSST, EDT, TOEFL-iBT, MCAT exams and many others.

The center’s staff proctors the exams utilizing the latest observation technology which records students in the examination rooms to help deter any misconduct and provide a record in case results are contested later on.

Delivering more than 1000 exams each month – ranging from academic tests to certification and licensure tests, and distance learning and pre-employment exams – is no small feat. Nonetheless, just about everyone who enters the facility is practically guaranteed to receive a warm greeting complete with smiling faces and treats. The center has achieved a customer service rating of 9.64 out of 10. The welcoming atmosphere and the nurturing staff have something to do with it.

In fact, test takers who are lucky enough to arrive on customer appreciation days, which are held twice a year, or around holidays, will encounter an extra added measure of festivities.


Testing Services Director Lenor O'Relly (center) with her staff, which includes test administrators (l-r) Nisha Madnani, Lucienne Camara, Deveda Jackson, Ruth Anderson and George Presson (not pictured).

“People come here stressed,” O’Relly said. “Passing the test may mean a job, staying on a job, getting into college or graduate school, a lot is at stake. We always offer a smile, candy, treats, and twice a year, we hold our Customer Appreciation Day where people can win prizes like tee shirts and other promotional items."

In some cases, test takers get their results immediately and if they’re willing to share the results, the staff responds accordingly. They celebrate or console as the case dictates. More often than not, there are plenty of opportunities to break into what O’Relly calls the office “Dance of Joy.” She said, "We try to make it fun and we celebrate every accomplishment.”

For more information visit www.usf.edu/testing-services, call (813) 974 2742 or email testing@admin.usf.edu. Office hours are 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on some Saturdays.

Barbara Melendez can be reached at 813-974-4563

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