Registration for the new Graduate Management Admission Test Focus Edition was announced today (May 2), though actual testing dates remain as-yet-unknown. Test takers will be able to register for the new test on August 29 “for testing in the fourth quarter this year,” the Graduate Management Admission Council announced.
GMAC announced the release of the GMAT Focus Edition in March. The revamped test will have 10 fewer Quant and 13 fewer Verbal questions and be nearly one hour shorter. It will include Quantitative, Verbal, and Data Insights sections, the latter of which will replace the current Integrated Reasoning section. And
GMAC announced today that for ease of transition, the current version of the test will continue to be used “until early next year.” Importantly for applicants on a budget, GMAT Focus Edition fees will remain the same as the current GMAT exam, GMAC announced.
GMAT DROPS WRITING PORTION OF THE TEST, TOO
GMAC CEO Joy Jones: New GMAT “will allow candidates to optimize their preparation for graduate business education while helping schools attract a global pool of qualified and diverse applicants”
GMAC also announced that it will release GMAT Focus prep materials at its website mba.com on June 6, “with a free study planner of only six weeks to help test takers stick to a schedule, inform prep activities, and track progress, as well as a free GMAT Focus Official Starter Kit that comes with a sampler of 70 real GMAT questions and two full-length practice exams to help candidates establish performance baseline.”
“We want to encourage people with a broad set of qualifications, undergraduate backgrounds and lived experiences to understand the richness of their choice and take that leap forward on their business school journey,” says Joy Jones, CEO of GMAC, about the new version of the test that despite significant declines in test-taking volume in recent years remains the preferred way to gain admission to graduate business programs worldwide. “It is our belief that GMAT Focus Edition will allow candidates to optimize their preparation for graduate business education while helping schools attract a global pool of qualified and diverse applicants.”
The new test’s Quantitative section includes 21 questions, with a focus on problem-solving; geometry is no longer covered. The Data Insights section has 20 problems on such subjects as data sufficiency, table analysis, and multi-source reasoning; this section “measures candidates’ data literacy skills and ability to analyze and interpret data and apply it to real-world business scenarios,” according to GMAC’s description.
The Verbal section has 23 problems focused on reading comprehension and critical reasoning. The sentence completion section has been eliminated, and the test’s Analytical Writing Assessment has been dropped entirely.
NEW SCORE RANGE: 205 TO 805
Another noteworthy change: The Focus edition will allow test takers to mark questions and go back to review and revise them, if time allows, giving them the ability for the first time to change up to three answers per section. They also may complete the sections in any order they wish.
How the GMAT is scored will change significantly, as well. The GMAT Focus Edition’s Total Score, ranging from 205 to 805, is based on test taker performance on all three sections of the exam, with each section, ranging from 60 to 90, weighted equally. This change “has been made to ensure that test takers and schools can easily distinguish from a GMAT Focus Edition score to the currently available GMAT Exam score, which ranges from 200 to 800,” GMAC announced, pointing to concordance tables at mba.com that link score distributions between the two versions of the exam by percentile. With the GMAT Focus Edition’s new score scale, percentile rankings deserve the primary attention from test takers and schools when looking to understand the results.
GMAC says in its May 1 announcement that test takers will have access to an enhanced Official Score Report at no additional cost that will offer performance insights “that help test takers assess strengths and identify focus areas.”
“When comparing scores of GMAT Focus Edition to the current version of the GMAT Exam, we encourage test takers and schools to compare percentile rankings rather than comparing total scores,” says Manish Dharia, director of product development at GMAC. “Because the Total Score scale and the score scale distribution have both changed, comparing total scores or section scores from the current version of the exam to the GMAT Focus Edition is not appropriate, accurate, or a meaningful comparison of performance. Scores of 600 and 605 may look similar, but they represent very different performance levels on different skills.”
“Keep in mind, all GMAT exam scores — whether they are of the current GMAT or GMAT Focus Edition — continue to be valid for five years,” says Ashish Bhardwaj, senior vice president and head of market development at GMAC. “With the advance announcement of the new edition, we encourage candidates to proceed with registering and taking the GMAT exam in ways that best enable their pursuit of graduate management education.”
SEEKING TO REVERSE A YEARS-LONG SLIDE IN TEST TAKING
The overhaul of the GMAT — which Stacey Koprince, director of content and curriculum at Manhattan Prep, told Poets&Quants in March is “easily the biggest change to the GMAT since it moved from a paper-and-pencil format to a computer-adaptive format in 1997” — was the result of “extensive research efforts involving hundreds of school professionals and an in-depth concept testing with thousands of students globally,” GMAC says, adding that the test “was redesigned with improved test-taking experience and flexible new features to better support candidates of graduate business education. Schools will benefit from it as an improved element in their holistic admissions process.”
The changes come as GMAT test-taking volume has dropped to historic lows. In the U.S., the number of GMAT tests taken fell to just 38,509 in testing year 2021, which includes test takers who sat for the exam multiple times in a year when many business schools were experiencing a boom in applications for their MBA programs. Last year’s GMAT test volume represents a 47.7% decline from the pre-pandemic testing year of 2018 when 73,556 exams were administered in the U.S.
Just how dramatic the falloff has been can seen by comparing the latest number for the year ended July of 2021 with GMAT’s record high volumes in 2012. In that year, 117,511 tests were taken in the U.S., more than three times this past year’s total. Every year since 2012, volume in the U.S. has fallen with only one exception, 2016, when exams inched up by just over 600 tests.
AS THE TESTING LANDSCAPE SHIFTS, THE GMAT IS IN DANGER OF BEING LEFT BEHIND
The worldwide picture is somewhat better, but no cause for celebration if you're GMAC. In testing year 2021, 156,453 tests were taken all over the world, down 10% from the 173,179 tests administered in the previous year. From the pre-pandemic year of 2018, tests worldwide have fallen by 35.5%. From the peak testing year of 2012, when a record 286,529 GMAT tests were taken, the decline is a whopping 45.4%.
At some prominent schools, students admitted on a Graduate Record Exam score now represent more than a third of the incoming class. That is true at Yale, Berkeley, Dartmouth, Michigan, Duke, and Notre Dame. At several other business schools, including Georgetown, Washington University, Ohio State, and Pittsburgh, the GRE has become the dominant test, taken by more than half of all recently enrolled students. This past year, Harvard Business School enrolled a new record percentage of GRE test takers, 29% of the Class of 2023, more than double the 12% only three years earlier. At Stanford, one in four of the MBA students admitted last fall got in with a GRE.
In a 2020 survey of nearly 100 business school admissions officers by Kaplan, 86% of the business school officials said applicants have no admissions edge with the GMAT. Just 13% believe GMAT takers have an advantage, while 1% said that GRE takers are preferred.The explosion in online degree programs in business has not helped the GMAT: The vast majority of these programs do not require a GMAT or GRE for admission.
GMAC Focus Edition “is an important evolution of the test,” says Bruce DelMonico, assistant dean for admissions at Yale School of Management and a GMAC board member. “In terms of the relevance and usefulness of the test, this is definitely a positive step that will be beneficial both to business schools and to candidates.”
Adds Arnold Longboy, executive director of recruitment and admissions at London Business School: “I think the redesign of the GMAT exam is testament to GMAC’s commitment to continuous improvement. Changes to the exam address the growing importance of certain competencies and the future of work — for example with the addition of Data Insight."
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