Pathways to Success: EMU PPAT & ETC Test Prep Partnership

image of a hand holding a yellow sharped pencil, about to mark an answer on a white paper test with red lettering

For many students and professionals, taking the next step in education requires passing a critically important test, such as the GRE®, GMAT®, LSAT®, SAT®, or ACT®

"Often, an admissions test is the beginning part of that pathway to [higher education and credentialing]," says Steven Shotts, CEO of Education Testing Consultants. "I sometimes jokingly call test prep 'the gateway program'. It might be the first continuing education program somebody takes as they start their pathway along their professional career."

Starting your journey toward a new career or the next stage of your education is exciting, but the tests that stand between a student and admission can make even the most diligent students uneasy. EMU PPAT's test preparation can provide confidence, knowledge, and a deeper understanding of test structure — making students stronger test takers.

EMU PPAT's Test Prep Solution

To better prepare you for your academic goals, EMU PPAT has partnered with Educational Testing Consultants (ETC) to provide a test prep solution that covers tests for undergraduate, graduate school, law school, and business school.

Steven Shotts and his business partner, Dr. Stephen Harris, established ETC in 1999. They started by providing graduate-level test preparation courses through The Florida State University Center for Professional Development. Today, ETC offers test-prep classes across the country, including at EMU PPAT since 2019.

Steven Shotts has been teaching test preparatory classes since the mid-90s. After earning his undergrad in mathematics and working as an educator, Shotts recognized that students needed an academic approach to test prep. Dr. Stephen Harris, co-founder of ETC, has led the curriculum design team in developing courses for the GMAT, GRE, LSAT, SAT, ACT, and FCAT.

The EMU PPAT & ETC Approach to Test Prep


"We come from a history of writing items for national and state tests," explains Shotts. "And so our courses will help students break down things like when the test says this, then the test writer wants you to do this. If it's not on the test, it's not in our class."

Instead of asking students to review the entire breadth of material that a standardized test is drawing from, EMU PPAT Test Preparation courses distill the information down to the essentials.

"We take all of the [test] data and then serve it in a manageable, digestible serving size," says Shotts.

In addition to drawing from test writers, the EMU PPAT Test Preparation courses and ETC also take an approach that encourages direct routes to finding the correct answers, rather than exploring every backroad a typical instructor may.

"Sometimes folks who are too close to the education of the student are disinclined to help them avoid some of the rigor that's required by solving the item directly," Shotts explains. "So, while the program is academic, it is also item-focused, so we do talk to students about ways to save time, cut corners, and solve items when you don't even know what to do."

Who hasn't encountered a test question that caused a sinking feeling of bewilderment?

"All of us have that felt way," expounds Shotts. "Read the test item and it might as well have been written in a language you didn't understand. How do you get out of that? We recognize the importance of understanding math, verbal skills, and logic but we also understand the importance of squeezing as many points as possible out of the testing experience."

The Professionals of EMU PPAT & ETC

Enrolling in a test preparation course has its advantages over studying on your own, especially for busy professionals. EMU's Graduate Test Prep classes are available online and offer a structured format that helps busy professionals stay on track.

"When I read the course evaluations, and they ask 'What did you value most from the course?' One of the most common things is that they like the structure," says Shotts. "Being given the opportunity to say, this week you should focus on these things."

Each Test Prep class includes a lead instructor and a supporting instructor who assists with answering questions and other administrative tasks, ensuring the classes are well-organized. The instructors of the EMU Test Prep classes also bring a high level of professionalism and are evaluated on three factors: instructional experience, degree attained, and proven performance on a national standardized test.

The Mental Mechanics of Test-Taking

Rather than giant cram sessions or expansive reviews, the clear structure and cadence of EMU Test Prep courses efficiently and effectively deliver test material— giving students the tools they need to quickly answer the questions that will appear on the GRE, GMAT, LSAT, SAT, and ACT.

"One of the things that correlates with preparation in general is exposure and experience," Shotts says. "Helping students gain experience with the test, the test structure, the test items, the pacing, time cues, helps students prepare for the test in a way that lowers the anxiety, worry, or concern that they'll have. A lot of those concerns stem from the unknown."

In that way, test preparation is similar to football or tennis, in that the drills performed in practice will help you on game or test day. In his line of work, Shotts has seen students spend too much time simply practicing the test — rather than building up the necessary skills that make up a test.

"You don't get better at tennis by playing tennis. You get better at tennis by saying, today I'm going to work on my forehand, and you drill forehand, forehand, forehand, and then you start drilling backhand," Shotts says.

For most tests, performance comes down to quickly and accurately recalling information. For many students entering a graduate program, your memory may be a little more cluttered than it was in previous education settings.

"When you were at a different time in your life and I asked you to find the hypotenuse of a right triangle. The little man or woman in your head went to the file cabinet, pulled out the folder that had triangle facts in it, and got the Pythagorean theorem out. In the years since, somebody has broken into your warehouse and kicked all the file cabinets and stuff is everywhere because now you think about your mortgage, your job, and all of these other different sorts of things, and the little man or woman is desperately grabbing at the files. What our test prep program can do is organize your warehouse, tell you to donate this box because it's not on the test, and then put everything in an organized file in your short-term memory for you to have success on the test, so you can move on to the more exciting stuff like what law specialty or law school to apply to."

Helping students move on to the more exciting fruits of their labor, such as becoming lawyers or business professionals is one of the key reasons Steven Shotts, ETC, and EMU PPAT have embraced undergraduate and graduate test preparation.

"One of the cool parts of doing test prep for a living is that we give people access to their dreams," explains Shotts. "Nobody sits around thinking, golly I wish I just had a better test score; what they want is to become business professionals, teachers, nurses. The little piece that we do helps them along that pathway."

Register for EMU Undergraduate and Graduate Test Prep Classes

EMU Test Prep courses are live, online, and available for registration now. Head to our Test Prep page to learn more and view upcoming courses.