Manhattan Prep On The New GMAT: Don’t Worry. Be Happy.

The new scaling regimen on the revamped, shorter GMAT that test takers can sit for starting on Nov. 7 is causing a “mini-freakout” on social media sites.

But Stacey Koprince, director of content and curriculum at at Manhattan Prep, says there’s no reason to panic.  Koprince, who has registered to take the new GMAT Focus exam on Nov. 13, says that admission officials will adjust their assessment of a GMAT score.

“There’s been a bit of a mini-freakout on Reddit about how GMAT Focus scores may be evaluated,” Koprince tells Poets&Quants. “Manhattan Prep thinks it’s important to clear the air and instill some confidence in test takers that applying with GMAT Focus scores, as opposed to relatively similar scores on the Classic GMAT scale, will not negatively impact their chances of admission. I can also tell you from my conversations with admissions officers that they don’t have any preference for one version of the GMAT over the other.”

Manhattan Prep’s Stacey Koprince 

More importantly, she notes, that “one of the core skills of an admissions officer is making comparisons. They’re comparing applicants who came from a wide range of undergraduate institutions around the globe and who earned a wide range of different degrees, including engineering, communications, business, and so on. They’re comparing applicants who are working in a wide range of fields, from finance to non-profit, and with varying levels of experience.”

The new scoring will force a major adjustment on the part of test takers, admission officials, people who rank business programs, and some employers who use GMAT scores as a screen. That’s because a 750 on the current GMAT, which puts a test taker in the 98th percentile, will convert to just a 695 on the new GMAT Focus Edition, according to the new concordance tables released by the Graduate Management Admission Council, the administrator of the exams. A 700 score on the existing test will become a 645 on the new GMAT (see Why A 750 GMAT Will Fall To Just 695 On The New GMAT Exam).

Koprince maintains the shift won’t be a problem for the staffers who assess candidates at highly selective business schools.  “In short, admissions officers are very skilled at knowing how to evaluate complicated data and distill that data into useful information that allows them to determine who to move forward in the application process,” she says. “It’s the very bedrock of the job. They already have extensive data that allows them to evaluate, for example, a GPA for a mechanical engineering degree from MIT against a GPA for the same degree from a hundred other schools. Handling the switch from Classic to Focus scoring is simple by comparison.”


In publishing the concordance tables, GMAC makes clear that “because the exam scores are not on a common scale, GMAT™ Focus Edition scores cannot be compared to scores from the previous version of the exam. While scores of 600 and 605 may look similar, they represent very different performance levels on different skills.”

Koprince points out that the conversion scale is “literally a two-column chart: Classic Score X to Focus Score Y. And it’s actually even easier than this! Let’s say that a particular school’s range, on the Classic scale, is 650 to 740 with an average of about 700. The admissions officers at this school are using these old ‘anchor’ values to evaluate all Classic scores. So they know, for example, that a 720 is “good” for their program simply because it’s greater than their average of 700.  The exact same thing will be true for Focus. Admissions officers at this “example” school will know that their Focus range is 595 to 685 with an average of 645—literally, three new anchor numbers to memorize. That’s it!”

She outlines the “thought process” like this:

  1. Does the score in this application end in 0 or 5?
  2. If it ends in 0, use 650–700–740. Where does it fall in the range?
  3. If it ends in 5, use 595–645–685. Where does it fall in the range?

“If I were an admissions officer at this school,” surmises Koprince, ” for the first couple of days, I might have to glance at an index card on which I’ve jotted down 595–645–685. And then I’ll know the values by heart and move on to other, far more complex aspects of the application.  If you submit GMAT Focus scores, you can feel fully confident that admissions officers will know exactly how to evaluate those scores. In fact, it’ll probably be one of the least complicated aspects of evaluating your application. This is why standardized tests are valuable for admissions—because they are so easily comparable.”

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