There was a time when a student could graduate from business school with the basic MBA tool kit and knowledge about a single industry or job function and be reasonably confident that he or she was well positioned to launch a career. But now, with the constant stream of data, news and opinions that needs to be sorted through, having a depth of knowledge is no longer enough. Today, mastery of business requires the ability to filter and synthesize information from multiple sources in order to make effective business decisions.
In the mid-1990’s, when use of the Internet was growing by leaps and bounds at colleges, many business school faculty noticed a shift in the way information was being gathered and processed. Students, for the first time, had access to high-speed Internet connections and a wealth of information that made the computer lab an extension of the library. Textbooks, which for generations served as the definitive study reference, became just one of a vast array of information sources.
In hindsight, we can now see that a large-scale adaptation was taking place. When faced with information overload, students—and businesses—became more nimble at sourcing, sorting, analyzing and applying data to solve problems. Eventually, business schools caught on, in large part because the market (employers) told them that their graduates needed to come equipped with more agile information integration skills. Our schools, The Tuck School at Dartmouth and the University of San Diego’s School of Business, are among many programs that revised curricula and innovated to address these issues.
Business schools also recognize that their screening of candidates needs to adapt to reflect these changes. It is no longer enough just to test for quantitative, verbal, and writing skills; schools realize that they also need to understand how well applicants synthesize information to solve problems.
We are pleased to see that the Graduate Management Admissions Council has worked with business schools to change the way these new skills are measured. The Council surveyed 740 business school faculty members and identified specific questions that reveal how well students can use different data sources to analyze information and identify relationships to solve interrelated problems.
The result: On June 5, graduate business schools will welcome the Next Generation Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) with a new section called Integrated Reasoning. The older version of the test, which includes two 75-minute sections—one quantitative and one verbal, had two separately scored 30-minute essay questions. One of these essays will be replaced by the Integrated Reasoning section. The Graduate Management Admissions Council will report Integrated Reasoning scores separately on a one-to-eight scale that, like the essay question, will not be included in the total GMAT score.
Schools, like students and businesses, are constantly adapting to the proliferation of information. When considering a large number of applicants for a limited number of seats, we too must sort through mounds of data to try to determine which candidates are the best fit. We look at academic transcripts, letters of recommendation, career advancement, application essays, candidate interviews, and test scores. Now, with the inclusion of the Integrated Reasoning section, we have another tool to more effectively understand the strengths and needs of those vying for a place in the incoming class.
We recognize that the Integrated Reasoning section adds a new area of uncertainty for test-takers preparing for the GMAT. There are some prospective graduate business school students who, under the current format, choose to put something less than their best effort into the essay questions, since they know that those writing samples do not count toward the total GMAT score. And there is no doubt that some people will be tempted to underestimate the value of the Integrated Reasoning section of the Next Generation GMAT for the same reason. However, we would counsel candidates to take the additional sections seriously and send a strong positive signal that you understand how important verbal and integrated reasoning skills are for business leaders.
We believe that this new section on integrated reasoning is a very positive step in improving graduate business education.
Paul Danos is Dean of the Tuck School of Business and the Laurence F. Whittemore Professor of Business Administration.
David A. Pyke is Dean of the University of San Diego School of Business Administration