Timely Advice From The Guru Of The GMAT

As you might expect of the GMAT guru for Kaplan, Mitchell has no fear of standardized tests. When the Scholastic Aptitude Test was based on a 1600 scale, he was just ten points shy of a perfect score and managed to get an invitation from Harvard University where he majored in physics. He has taken the GMAT twice in his 34 years—scoring 720 in 2004 and 770 in 2009, the latter score after training with Kaplan.

MITCHELL HAS TAKEN THE GMAT TWICE, GETTING SCORES OF 720 AND 770

His first score helped to get him into the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. When he graduated with his MBA in 2007, Mitchell took a flyer on a social media startup in Cambridge, MA, that was similar to Digg.com. When it failed to throw off much cash, he began teaching GMAT prep courses for Kaplan. Then, in 2009, he pulled the plug on his startup and joined Kaplan full time in New York to help manage the company’s GMAT business, including program development and delivery and marketing.

The GMAT change in June follows last year’s significant revisions in a Graduate Record Examination, which most business school now accept in lieu of a GMAT score. “My speculation is that the GRE test change might have accelerated the timetable of the changes to the GMAT,” says Mitchell. “The GRE has emerged as something of a competitor to the GMAT in the business school space. The way GMAC describes it is that integrated reasoning is simply designed to help the GMAT do what it does best: predicting success in business school.”

The new integrated reasoning section of the GMAT exam will be composed of a dozen questions in four different formats, testing one’s ability to interpret graphics, analyze tables of data, correctly infer the meaning of an email, and do a two-part analysis of data to solve a problem.

GMAC WILL REVEAL HOW IT WILL SCORE THE NEW SECTION IN APRIL

The new section will be scored separately from the overall test score. GMAC has not yet revealed the IR scoring scale and is planning to release this information in April. “It could be something like zero to six, like the writing section,” imagines Mitchell, “or it could be something like 200 to 800. Most likely, it will be neither one of those scales but something else so that test takers don’t confuse them.”

Admission officials deem the analytical writing section, which has its own score, far less important than the total score, says Mitchell. “People know that schools don’t pay as much attention to the writing score, and schools occasionally go on record that they use the writing score more as a double check to confirm the veracity of someone’s writing ability on the essays. With integrated reasoning, there will be a standalone score. So it could make it less important or potentially more important because as a standalone score, your performance will also standalone.”

Mitchell believes most prospective GMAT examinees are making the decision to take or not to take the new test on misinformed assumptions. “A lot of people guess that the primary consideration is whether you are going to be good at integrated reasoning,” he says. That would most likely be a mistake given the fact that the new test requires more time to prepare for.

BUSINESS SCHOOLS WILL NOT FAVOR APPLICANTS WHO HAVE TAKEN THE INTEGRATED REASONING TEST

“Another consideration that people have is they wonder if business school perception would be an issue,” Mitchell adds. “All GMAT scores are valid for five years. There’s no real feasible way that business schools could attempt to favor applicants who take the new GMAT, other than just letting the test change take its course. Between now and five years from now, the fact of the matter is that there are going to be plenty of people applying who took the GMAT in earlier years. Business schools will have to consider all of those scores valid. So it doesn’t do a test taker any advantage to take the new test just for the mere fact of having an integrated reasoning score.”

About The Author

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.