Sylvan to give grad tests


An article Saturday about Sylvan Learning Centers gave an incorrect description of the Graduate Management Admission Test. The GMAT is the standard admissions examination for the nation's graduate school business programs.

The Sun regrets the error.

Columbia-based Sylvan Learning Centers, already the dominant player in the field of computer-based testing, has landed a lucrative contract to administer the standard examination of admission to the nation's graduate schools.

Douglas Becker, Sylvan's president, said the Graduate Management Admission Test is administered to more than 200,000 people worldwide each year.

"It's clearly a big deal," he said yesterday. "It bodes well for the whole trend of computer-based testing."

Sylvan stock, which rose from less than $20 a share in June to more than $30 late last month, regained some of its recent losses yesterday as it closed up $1.25 at $27.50.

David Wilson, president of the Graduate Management Admission Council, said the organization plans to begin computer-based administration of the test in late 1997. The council, which oversees administration of the test, said it expected to replace pencil-and-paper testing at all but some international sites.

Mr. Becker said Sylvan will administer the test through its chain of 280 company-owned and franchised tutoring centers, plus a few university-based sites. He would not estimate the value of the contract because his company is in a "quiet period" as a result of recently filing for a secondary stock offering.

Sylvan, which is best known locally for its tutoring centers in Baltimore public schools, has emerged in recent years as the only major player in the field of computer-based testing. Analysts project that the company's revenues will amount to about $160 million next year, about $90 million of it from computer-based testing. The most widely used test administered by Sylvan is the Graduate Record Exam, which is taken by about 400,000 people year.

Sylvan has stated that it intends to solidify its dominant role in the market and hopes to eventually win the contract to administer the Scholastic Assessment Test -- the most widely used undergraduate admission test -- by computer.

Michael Moe, an analyst with Lehman Brothers in New York, called computer-based testing "the wave of the future" and said Sylvan was well-positioned to ride it.

"It has really carved out a very attractive niche that ultimately could be a huge market," he said.

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