Schools To Ignore New GMAT Section

The anxiety that caused thousands of MBA applicants this year to take the GMAT early to evade a new integrated reasoning section may have been for naught. Several business schools are now saying they will give the IR scores little to no weight in this year’s MBA admission decisions.

Launched in early June, the new portion of the test was added to analyze candidates’ abilities to process information from multiple sources. It is graded on a separate scale of one to eight and does not affect the grades of the other sections–verbal, quantitative, and AWA–nor the general score.

In a blog post entitled “Why You Shouldn’t Worry About GMAT Integrated Reasoning” earlier this month, Stanford University’s Associate Director of MBA Admissions Allison Davis said it as clearly as anyone:

“Rest assured that IR is new to us, too, and it’s going to take us (and our peer schools) some time before we know how to interpret it as it relates to the Stanford MBA Program,” wrote Davis. “For this application year, we will see your IR score if you have taken the new GMAT, but will focus on the verbal, quantitative, AWA, and total scores. Once we have had the chance to review IR scores in this first year, we will determine how to evaluate them in our process for next year.”

Several other prominent business schools, from INSEAD to Northwestern University’s Kellogg School, already have echoed the Stanford message. “A number of the programs are announcing outright that the change is still new to them and they have no way to rate candidates according to the new score,” says Gil Dubowski of Aringo, an MBA admissions firm.

Among these schools is Wharton. “We will not be including it as part of our evaluation this year,” Ankur Kumar, director of admissions at the Wharton School, told Poets&Quants. “We’ll wait and see.”

The development is not entirely a surprise. After all, GMAT scores are valid for a full five years after taking the test and thousands of test takers rushed to sit for the GMAT before this year’s early June debut of the integrated reasoning section. For admissions officials, it would be hard, if not unfair, to apply the metric to some applications and not across the entire applicant pool.

INSEAD has explained, “Until there is more benchmarking data from test-takers to consider, INSEAD will not be using the IR section to review a candidate’s performance in the GMAT; we will continue to focus on the quantitative and verbal scores as well as the total score.”

Harvard Business School, on the other hand, plans to both “consider and learn” from the new GMAT section. Asked how Harvard  might use the new integrated reasoning scores this year, Managing Director of Admissions Dee Leopold told Poets&Quants: “if by ‘use’ you mean are we going to consider and learn from the new IR section, then the answer is ‘yes’; if by ‘use’ you mean are we going to assign some mechanical weighting factor – which we DO NOT DO for ANY element of the application, then the answer is ‘no’.”

The Graduate Management Admission Council, which administers the GMAT test, believes that most business schools will ultimately find the new section useful “The GMAT has always been about building an exam that provides the highest value to students by preparing them for the demands of the classroom and the highest value to schools through the exam’s validity,” said Ashok Sarathy, vice president for the GMAT program at GMAC. “The IR score is designed to be an additional data point to help schools differentiate among the most competitive applicants.

“We are already hearing from schools, students, and corporations that the skills measured by IR section – and the section itself –are valuable in both the classroom and in the work place, where 97% of corporate respondents to a survey said the skills where important for success.  Students – as others have said – should give the section their best effort to prepare themselves for school and the corporate environment.  Schools will benefit from these best efforts because the shortest distance to achieving validity is through test takers knowing the IR section does and will matter in the admissions process,” said Sarathy.

Dubowski says Kellogg “has also admitted that they will continue to base” admission decisions on the quantitative and verbal GMAT scores since these are the scores they know and can currently appraise.


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