Starting from April 16th of 2018, some important changes were made to the GMAT exam. Don't worry, they didn't make the test longer – in fact, it's the opposite.
GMAC shortened the test by 30 minutes, bringing the total length of time it takes to complete the GMAT to 3.5 hours. This is good news, right? Many students would agree, as it helped decrease some anxiety about sitting through what used to be a four-hour exam, tapping your foot apprehensively for the next set of questions and wondering when it all will end. GMAC has done this by cutting a combined 23 minutes from the Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning sections, as well as offering an online tutorial you can view at home instead of at the test center.
But did these changes in the test length affect GMAT scoring? Did it alter your course of study as you approach exam day? Why has GMAC made these changes? Read on to find out more about how these modifications to the GMAT affect your preparation.
The changes to the test itself were in the quantitative and verbal sections. Since April 16th, there are 31 total questions in the quantitative section as opposed to 37. While it used to take 75 minutes to finish this section, it now takes 62. The verbal section used to consist of 41 questions and take 75 minutes, whereas it now is 36 questions in 65 minutes.
It's important to note that while these two sections have changed, the other sections did not. The Analytical Writing Assessment continues to take 30 minutes and consists of one essay topic. The Integrated Reasoning section remains at 12 questions with a 30-minute time limit. In addition, break times have stayed the same.
Luckily, the scoring algorithm, as well as the number of scored questions in each section and average time per question, did not change. The questions GMAC cut in quant and verbal were considered "research" or "pre-test questions" that were unscored and used for development of future tests. There are still be some unscored questions on the exam, but this change did not affect the scoring process at all.
Since July of 2017, the GMAT has given students three options with respect to the order in which the individual test sections appear. The original order was Analytical Writing Assessment, Integrated Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, and Verbal Reasoning, and this remains one of the options. Or, students may take the verbal and quant sections first, in whichever order they wish. In these cases, the third and fourth sections will always be Integrated Reasoning and Analytical Writing respectively. Test-takers make their decisions on section order immediately before beginning the exam.
In addition to the reductions in the quant and verbal sections, an additional seven minutes has been cut from the exam by allowing students to view the online tutorial of what to expect on test day at home, as opposed to watching it on test day prior to beginning the exam.
This tutorial can be accessed online and is included in the reminder emails you'll receive from GMAC as test day approaches. The tutorial provides general information on the GMAT exam questions as well as break times and test center rules. It will introduce you to the layout of important GMAT screens, various question types, and ways to track your progress throughout the exam. It also includes a detailed summary of each section, and you'll learn how to accept or cancel your GMAT score and how to navigate the GMAT score-sending process.
Sitting through this tutorial isn't required, but it's highly recommended, as it helps you become familiar with the screen layout and what to expect on test day. It provides important reminders about the exam as a whole and can be accessed at any time. GMAC specifically recommends you review this tutorial within three days of your actual test, so the information is fresh in your mind. You can review it at your own pace and as many times as you need in order to understand what is being conveyed.
Beginning in 2012, the GMAT became a four-part exam with the introduction of an integrated reasoning section that includes multi-part problems requiring both verbal and quantitative skills. The other major 2012 content revision was to reduce the number of required essays in the analytical writing assessment from two to one. The old GMAT included two essay tasks: analysis of an argument and analysis of an issue. The latter essay task does not appear on the current exam, and the verbal and quantitative sections of the GMAT have not undergone any changes. The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) also implemented a series of policy revisions that took effect in July of 2015. Cancelled scores are no longer included on score reports, the minimum waiting period for GMAT retakes has been reduced from 31 days to 16 days, and the authentication code required to access online score reports has been replaced by student date of birth. The official limit of five GMAT test attempts in any 12-month period remains in place. GMAT scores are valid for five years from the date of the test and are reported for up to 10 years. Validity for the last administrations of the old GMAT will therefore expire in 2017, although reports for these administrations will continue to be available until 2022.
GMAT revisions were inspired by requests from business schools for additional measures of evaluating applicants, especially those that tested student ability to solve complex problems. Hundreds of academic officials at graduate business programs around the world were surveyed, and these officials noted that multi-step problems requiring integrated skill sets were more typical of graduate business courses and professional situations than the narrowly focused questions (such as algebra or sentence completion) that appear on the verbal and quantitative sections of the GMAT. The new integrated reasoning section is GMAC's response to these requests. In order to avoid lengthening the exam, one of the essay tasks was dropped from the analytical writing assessment, for which students were previously given the 30 minutes now allotted to the integrated reasoning section.
When the new integrated reasoning was announced, GMAC repeatedly assured test-takers that the new GMAT would not be significantly more difficult. Some GMAT teachers disagreed, with a few even recommending that students make every effort to take the GMAT before the changes took effect. Opinions continue to vary on this issue. Aspiring graduate business students with significant work experience tend to view the integrated reasoning section favorably, and claim that their professional duties have greatly eased preparation (which would seem to validate the changes). Other GMAT students feel that the new test includes too much material, and that the time limit on the new section is unreasonable. At the individual level, the changes ultimately benefit students with strong problem-solving skills, and students whose greatest strength is writing will need to invest more effort than before in the other areas of GMAT preparation.
Though the total GMAT score (based on the verbal and quantitative sections only) remains the most emphasized component of the GMAT score report, there are indications that the integrated reasoning section is gaining wide legitimacy. Among business school admissions officials surveyed in 2015, nearly 60% claimed that a candidate's integrated reasoning score was a significant factor in overall assessment of GMAT performance. Even among schools that consider the most recent addition to the GMAT less important, a low integrated reasoning score can have a negative effect. The most recent available data shows that the average integrated reasoning score is 4.34 out of 8. Applicants to selective business schools should aim for at least 6 (the 67th percentile), and scores of 7 or 8 (the 81st and 92nd percentile respectively) are likely to be more helpful to their chances of acceptance.
Though many business schools avoid setting specific GMAT admission prerequisites, some institutions require minimum scores on the integrated reasoning and/or analytical writing assessment sections. California State University San Marcos, for example, expects at least 4 on each of these GMAT areas. Business schools most commonly provide averages for total GMAT scores only, but some will report averages for the other sections. The Graduate School at Clemson University claims median GMAT integrated reasoning and analytical writing scores of 5 for accepted MBA students. Curiously, PhD in management students at this institution had both the highest average total scores (670) and the lowest average integrated reasoning scores (3.5), showing that GMAT performance across sections is not always consistent.