The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) today (June 5) launched the new Integrated Reasoning section of the GMAT exam, with the first test given in the Northern Mariana Island at 8 a.m. local time.
For several months, GMAT test takers have rushed to sit for the old exam, fearing that this new version of the GMAT would put them at a disadvantage in MBA admissions. Now, would-be MBA students will have to choose between the new test or go with the Graduate Record Exam (GRE), a test accepted by most of the best business schools.
In a recent survey of prospective business schools students by Kaplan Test Prep, more than half of those who had seen sample questions on the new GMAT test found the questions “not too similar” or “not at all similar” to other exam questions they’ve had to answer. That lack of familiarity with the kinds of questions Integrated Reasoning may explain why 38% of Kaplan’s test prep students surveyed said they were influenced to take the GMAT before it changed to avoid tackling the new section.
“Integrated Reasoning questions will be unfamiliar to most students and will make the GMAT more challenging,” said Andrew Mitchell, director of pre-business programs for Kaplan Test Prep. ““As far as test changes go, on a scale of 1-10, this is probably about a 5 or 6 – not as drastic as last year’s GRE overhaul, but more significant than, say, the LSAT changes in 2007, which involved adding comparative reading questions and eliminating an essay prompt.”
For a short time at least, it’s possible that the new test could drive more business school applicants to the GRE largely because, as Kaplan’s Mitchell notes, “today’s test takers will compete with applicants submitting scores up to five years old. Because of the new section, today’s test takers will have to put in more preparation time, on average, to reach parity with those scores.”
Using the GMAT exam’s computerized format, the new Integrated Reasoning section of the GMAT exam introduces question types that measure data-analysis skills and the ability to evaluate information from various sources and formats, from graphs and tables to charts and spreadsheets.
‘YOU’RE NOT TAKING THIS TEST ENTIRELY FOR THE BENEFIT OF YOU AND YOUR APPLICATION’
Brian Galvin, director of academic programs for Veritas Prep, puts the new section into perspective for B-school applicants. “In large part, you’re taking this section as a proving ground for the evolution of test prep, and so you’re not taking this entirely for the benefit of you and your application,” he wrote in a recent column for Poets&Quants.
“Schools will consider this score, but they may need to be sold on its value. Integrated Reasoning is GMAC’s innovation for the future, but it’s not likely going to be the deciding factor in your application this year. Appreciate this section for what it is, but do not overvalue its importance to your candidacy. It’s more important that you “avoid a bad score” than that you ‘earn a great score’ while GMAC researches and sells this question type to MBA programs.”
GMAC said the Integrated Reasoning section of the GMAT exam was developed over two years and was the result of collaboration with 740 B-school faculty from around the world. Deans and faculty identified emerging skill sets that are increasingly critical to success in business school and in the business world.
‘THE NEW SECTION RESPONDS TO THE SPECIFIC NEEDS OF BUSINESS SCHOOLS AND EMPLOYERS’
“From the beginning, GMAC’s goal has been to help schools of management do the best job they can of preparing the world’s next generation of business leaders,” said Dave Wilson, president and CEO of GMAT, in a statement. “The strength of the new Integrated Reasoning section—and the GMAT exam as a whole—lies in our unique position to respond to the specific needs of business schools and employers. The information age is demanding a new set of skills that require the integration of verbal and quantitative abilities to analyze different types of data from various sources. The new section on the GMAT measures these skills, which have become essential for success in the classroom and in the business world.”
Rich Lyons, dean of the Haas School of Business at the University of California Berkeley, said in a statement: “For us it’s about leadership potential. The Integrated Reasoning section will make us better at identifying it. This type of reasoning is an important input to innovative leadership, which our businesses and societies need more than ever.”
Responses from test takers in pilot testing of the new section also highlight the importance of Integrated Reasoning skills in what students expect to do in the classroom and after they graduate from business school. In a survey conducted in January, nearly 70 percent of student respondents felt that these skills are either relevant or very relevant to both graduate management education and the corporate environment.
The new section is the latest in a long string of changes. GMAT was the first test to drop analogies and introduce data sufficiency questions on the quantitative section of the exam in 1961. In 1997, the GMAT exam became the first major test to be offered exclusively in a computer-adaptive format around the world.
The length of the GMAT exam continues to be 3.5 hours because the 30-minute Integrated Reasoning section replaces one of two 30-minute Analytical Writing essay questions on the previous version of the test. A test taker’s Total GMAT score is still based on performance on the Verbal and Quantitative sections (on a 200-800 scale). The Integrated Reasoning section, like the Analytical Writing Assessment, is scored separately.