Timely Advice From The Guru Of The GMAT

The Guru of the GMAT has some important advice to offer MBA applicants: If you haven’t yet taken the exam but plan to do so, go and sit for it before the launch of the newly revised test in three months. Doing so, says Andrew Mitchell, Kaplan Test Prep’s director of pre-business programs, can mean the difference of scoring a 680 or a 710 with the same amount of prep time.

The Graduate Management Admission Council, which administers the GMAT, is adding a half-hour “integrated reasoning” section to the test starting June 5th. The time to take the test will remain the same: three and one-half hours. To make room for the new section, GMAC is cutting the analytical writing portion of the test in half from one hour to half an hour. GMAC says it is changing the test because “today’s managers need to integrate data into meaningful information” and the new section measures your ability to work in a more data-driven world.

“To do well in an MBA program,” believes Mitchell, “you have to be a little bit of a poet and a quant. These new questions may reflect that more accurately than the total score on the GMAT.” He says the new section won’t make the test harder, per se. But generally test takers will have to spend more time preparing for the new test if they want to get the same score they would be able to achieve on the existing exam.


“If you spend the same amount of time practicing for the test, you are therefore spending less time on quantitative and verbal practice, assuming you spend any time on integrated reasoning,” believes Mitchell. “So on average, you won’t do quite as well on your total score. This is true regardless of how you do on integrated reasoning.

“You could call this an arbitrage opportunity–because you have the opportunity to get a 710 with an amount of overall effort that will only get you 680 after the test change,” he adds in an interview with Poets&Quants. “One way to think about this is that you are buying your 710 with X amount of practice. The price is cheaper because to get a 710 on the new test will require that you study more. Someone who has 100 hours to prepare before June actually has a little advantage over someone with equal skill over someone who prepares after the test change.

“Is it a crushing advantage?,” asks Mitchell. “No. But it is a significant advantage if you have time to prepare before the test change. It’s also true that when June comes around it will be moot because no one will be able to exercise this option anymore.”


Add to all this the fact that test scores tend to go down slightly when a change is introduced. “It might be the fact that there is always some uncertainty when the test changes,” believes Mitchell, “and it also takes us a little bit of time to truly perfect our own prep materials until we know more about the new questions on the test. It’s very true that we have to extrapolate and draw some inferences, which are not guaranteed to be correct about what we think the questions will be like.” Translation: It will take a little time before any GMAT prep firm can best prepare a test taker for the new section of the exam.

Mitchell is the grand Pooh-Bah of the GMAT at Kaplan, which has been preparing prospective MBA students for the three-and-one-half-hour test for more than 40 years and is acknowledged as the market leader among GMAT prep companies. Over the past few months, ever since attending a Test Prep Summit put on by the Graduate Management Admission Council last September, he pulled together a team of more than 100 experts in text design, psychometricians and computer types to bone up for the changes in the test. The work of that team will come out in changes to Kaplan books, prep courses and online efforts. On Friday (March 2), the firm launched its update to the GMAT prep courses to help prepare test takers for the change.

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  • Sofakingsexy

    Arizona state 🙂

  • TK

    If B-schools are not favoring someone taking the new test over the old one is it fair to assume the new section is not going to be looked at too heavily and Adcoms will still mainly look at the Q/V score?  I can’t see them separating ppl out who took the new score if anything it may serve as a tie breaker between those who both took the new test.  

    In the end this is just GMAC’s way of trying to lower the value of the GRE, it’s all about $$$.

  • Basma,

    Manhattan GMAT is owned by Kaplan, though it operates as a separate entity. I think the quality of your experience is largely a function of the quality of your instructor which can vary. Manhattan GMAT has a superb reputation. I would go with them in all likelihood.



  • SM,

    Andrew’s point is that you will still have to study for the analytical writing section where examinees will now get one essay instead of two. He believes it takes the same amount of time to prepare for one essay as it does for two. So the new integrated reasoning section is purely additive to the test, requiring more preparation time. Some of his reasoning harks back to some published GMAC research, which has since been taken off its website, probably because it is a little misleading. The research essentially showed on many hours of preparation it took someone who got a 700 GMAT score versus 500 or 600. And what it showed it that you pretty much have to put in a good number of hours–roughly 100, I believe–to get a 700. Now, of course, there are people who can score at that level with less prep and there are others who wouldn’t be able to score at that level with double the prep. So these are merely averages. But Andrew is making his assumption that it can mean 30 GMAT points to you based on that underlying data.

  • FunnyMBA

    Guys, I’ll do my mba n the future but honestly want to enjoy..which school has the most beautiful and wild girls?! it is important criteria for me plz help…

  • Cobra Kai


    I have to disagree a little, because I didn’t study for the essays at all and got a 5.5. Another thing to note is that the essay portion is basically pass/fail – a 4.5 is just as good as a 6.0. A 6.0 isn’t going to put someone over the top if their Q/V score is mediocre.

    What remains to be seen is what kind of weight is given to the IR score. It could be as important as the total score, or it could be a footnote like the AWA score.

    Either way, I’m glad I took the GMAT last year and got it done with.

  • John

    And what exactly makes him the guru of GMAT? How much did Kaplan pay for this?

  • SM

    I take issue with the arguments made above.

    It’s assumed that studying for the IR will take more time than studying for 1 of the essays (perhaps because in studying for the Argument essay, you end up studying for the Issue essay also ??)

    But why should that be the case?
    Looking at the sample IR questions on page 3, they just seem like variations of the topics one already studies for the Quant and Verbal section. Overlapping sets will be familiar to any prepared GMAT candidate. And if you’ve done any Reading Comprehension, then ‘Interpreting an email’ is a cakewalk. With such a large crossover of topics and skills, the IR in fact requires less study time than an essay would – more of that 100 hours prep is dedicated to the sections that matter.

    Plus, from a mental stamina/conservation POV, I’d always choose 12 multiple-choice questions over punching out an 400-500 word essay.

    I think the new GMAT format could actually boost your /800 score. Alas, June is too late for me!

  • srini,

    B-schools will not view the score differently because over the next several years, they will have to accept the old GMAT scores. Mitchell makes this point in the article.

    So it really is best to take it now–if you have time to properly prepare for the exam.

  • srini

    If someone takes the test this year before the IR section is in place, will the b-schools view the score differently than if he takes it after?

    In other words, will the bschools take in account the fact that someone has the IR section as opposed to someone who has not.