After receiving an unsatisfactory GMAT score, the appropriate response is not “the sky is falling,” but instead, “the bridge is falling.”
This is not because “the bridge” is symbolic of the role the GMAT plays in taking you from your current life to business school. It’s because when a bridge falls, it’s time to do failure analysis.
And just as a civil engineer must learn why the bridge failed, a student who flails on the GMAT needs to learn why they underperformed. In the first case, the new bridge must not contain the same flaws as the one that collapsed. In the second case, the GMAT repeat test taker must not make the same mistakes twice.
Starting next month, the Graduate Management Admission Council, which administers the GMAT, will offer a new tool to help test-takers figure out where they went wrong. But reviews based on the limited information GMAC has put out so far are mixed, and one critic suggests the “GMAT Enhanced Score Report” may be useful only in the event of a catastrophic failure in one area.
‘INVALUABLE INSIGHT’ PROMISED FOR MORE MONEY
GMAC says the new tool “offers prospective graduate business students and GMAT test takers invaluable insight into their performance on the skills tested within each GMAT section.”
Test takers, who already pay $250 a pop to take the exam, will be charged an additional $25 for the enhanced report, even though GMAC’s gross profit margins already are better than the margins Apple makes on either an iPad or an iPhone. GMAC says it collected $87.7 million in fees in 2012, yet it cost the organization only $45.7 million to administer the test, according to documents filed with the Internal Revenue Service. The effective gross profit on the actual exam is roughly 47.9%. If just 20% of the people who take the GMAT pay for the enhanced report, it would add more than $1.2 million to the annual revenue of the non-profit organization.
GMAC says the enhanced service for test takers is to “identify their strengths and weaknesses, discover how much time they spend on each question, and compare their skill level with other test takers from the past three years,” GMAC proclaims.
The company lists among the “key features” an overall section performance ranking; a sub-section ranking; a time-management ranking; percentage of questions answered correctly; average response time; ability to compare against other test takers; and a customized summary report for each section, that assesses strengths and weaknesses.
Matt Symonds, a director at admission consultant firm Fortuna Admissions, believes the enhanced scoring could be “very helpful” for “some test takers.”
KNOWING STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES IS KEY
“For those struggling to achieve the competitive scores expected by the top B-schools, feedback on their performance can provide valuable insight into their testing performance,” Symonds says. “Practicing for the test is fundamental to improving your score, but only if the practice is accompanied by an understanding of where you are time-effectively scoring well – which will be the bedrock of your score on test day – and those areas of weakness that you can still realistically improve, or need to sideline to effectively manage your time and optimize your score.”
Adam Raichel, a master tutor at admission consulting firm The MBA Exchange, says the enhanced scoring could help test takers discover whether they have a weakness on a particular category of questions. But Raichel believes the extra analysis, in general, offers “limited use and value.”
“The breakdown of ‘average time spent per question’ is interesting, but won’t come as a surprise to any applicant who has clocked his or her performance via other means,” Raichel says. “The breakdowns of Verbal performance (i.e., into critical reasoning/reading comprehension/sentence correction) and of Quant performance (i.e., into problem solving/data sufficiency) are given by percentile only, and not by ‘number correct out of number presented,’ so they are a vague indication of true performance in most cases.
QUANT BREAKDOWN ‘OF LITTLE PRACTICAL USE’
“The topical breakdown of Quant into only two broad categories — Arithmetic and Algebra/Geometry – seems to be of little practical use. The enhanced report could be beneficial for an applicant who was surprised to get a test score far below expectations, particularly in Verbal.”
GMAC was not available for comment, or to answer questions about the tool’s value and whether the $25 cost was a case of nickel-and-diming test takers who have already shelled out $250 to take the GMAT.