The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) will soon take less time to complete. The Graduate Management Admission Council, which administers the exam, announced today (April 4) that it will shorten the length of the notoriously arduous test by 30 minutes beginning this month, down to three and a half hours from four. In what is probably no coincidence, the Graduate Record Examinations — the test more B-schools accept every year as a substitute for the GMAT — currently takes three hours and 45 minutes to complete.
Yes, beginning April 16, the GMAT will be 15 minutes shorter than the GRE. Have the test duration wars begun?
“We are always looking for ways to help build candidate confidence and streamline the test experience, all with one goal in mind — to help GMAT test-takers do their very best on exam day,” Vineet Chhabra, senior director of product management for GMAC, said in a news release that made no mention of the GRE. “We believe candidates will have less anxiety and feel better prepared, which can contribute to a better reflection of their true performance on the exam.”
THE UNDENIABLE RISE OF THE GRE
While GMAC did not mention its rival in the announcement, its decision to shave half an hour off the GMAT’s duration certainly looks like a response to the growing influence of the former test. That influence is undeniable. A Poets&Quants analysis of 50 leading business schools over the last three years shows that most have increased the number of MBA candidates they accept who submit GRE scores. In 2015, eight schools admitted 20% or more of their students this way; in 2017, that number ballooned to 23 schools. Last year, 12 schools showed a negative year-over-year trend in GRE admits; this year that number shrank to seven. (See a complete chart of GRE admit percentages and trends on the next page.)
Top-tier schools may be GMAC’s best bet to maintain the supremacy of the GMAT. The further down the list of top schools you go, the bigger the GRE admit percentages. Among the very elite, the University of Michigan Ross School of Business leads with 19%, followed by MIT Sloan School of Management’s 18%. Last year just one school, Boston University’s Questrom School of Business, had more than 40% of admits who submitted GREs; this year there are three, all in the lower tier, led by 45% at both Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business and the University of Texas-Dallas’ Jindal School of Management. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (41%) also cracked the threshold; meanwhile, Boston Questrom (29%) was one of a few schools to backtrack, along with notables like UC-Irvine Merage School of Business (20% to 14%) and SMU Cox School of Business (35% to 20%).
Another way the GRE is creeping up on the GMAT: More schools are reporting their GRE admit percentages, though several big-name schools continue to refuse to do so. This year for the first time, Harvard Business School (12%) and UC-Berkeley Haas School of Business (10%) reported GRE admits to U.S. News & World Report (though theUniversity of Chicago Booth School of Business and Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management continued their silence).
Most schools haven’t dumped the GMAT altogether — though it certainly hasn’t escaped GMAC’s attention that a few have. Recently, P&Q wrote about another approach: skipping both tests, which is something Michigan State University’s Broad College of Business has decided to try.
THE CHANGES THAT SLIMMED DOWN THE GMAT
In its announcement on the shortening of the GMAT, GMAC stressed that the change was a “candidate-friendly” move designed to “enhance the test-taking experience.” The quality of the exam, GMAC says, will remain unchanged in terms of reliability, validity, security, and integrity. Nor will the change affect GMAT scores retroactively: scores before and after the change, GMAC says, “will be the same and comparable across time.”
GMAC cut 30 minutes from the GMAT by “streamlining” the two longer sections of the exam, the Quantitative and Verbal Reasoning sections, reducing the number of unscored, research questions in those sections. Additionally, several tutorial and instruction screens that test-takers see at the test center have also been simplified. However, there are no changes to the exam’s Analytical Writing or Integrated Reasoning sections. The way the GMAT exam is scored, the content of the exam, the question types, and the average time per question are not changing, GMAC says.
“Through our ongoing market feedback and operational reviews, we were able to identify this opportunity to shorten the exam, without changing its reliability,” Chhabra said in a statement. “This change will not affect GMAT exam scoring as the number of scored questions will not change. The scoring algorithm will be the same; the Total Score and individual Quantitative and Verbal section scores will be comparable to the exams taken prior to this change. There is no action or change required on the part of business schools and universities. We are providing candidates with a better testing experience, while providing business schools with the same high quality, fair and reliable scores.”
GMAC ‘COMMITTED TO CONTINUOUSLY IMPROVING THE GMAT EXAM EXPERIENCE’
Asked about the role competition played in the changes to the GMAT, Chhabra tells Poets&Quants in an email that “It’s important to note that the GMAT exam is the only test made specifically for Graduate Business Schools,” and stresses that direct comparisons between the tests are inherently faulty.
“Because GRE has a separate section for research questions and the GMAT’s are embedded in various sections, it’s hard to make an apples-to-apples comparison,” Chhabra says, “but with or without the research questions our estimation is that the GMAT exam is now 30-35 minutes shorter overall; total test center time is now 3.5 hours for the GMAT exam and around 4 hours for GRE. This includes non-exam times (check-in, breaks, instructional screens etc.), which we understand to be similar between the two assessments. This would also include any research questions. Total exam time now for the GMAT is 3 hours and 7 minutes.
“GMAC’s mission is to ensure talent never goes undiscovered. We are committed to continuously improving the GMAT exam experience for all test takers, and always looking for ways to streamline the experience and help candidates feel more confident, while maintaining the quality and integrity of the exam. We see a world where talent matched with aspiration can benefit from the best business school education possible and work to help create opportunities for more candidates to achieve success.”