Radical Changes to the GMAT: What We Know & Don’t Know

By Dr. Amar, Founder of Austin GMAT Review
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GMAC, maker of the GMAT, has announced that it is taking the exam in a new direction. We don’t know everything about “the GMAT Focus Edition,” but as we adjust to the exam’s sudden swerve, we are pulling together the information that you need for a winning run.

The Essay Is Gone (A Change that was Long Overdue!) and the Test Is Shorter.

At long last, the Analytical Writing Assessment section is no more. The AWA is used by only a minority of school admissions teams to evaluate MBA candidates for admissions decisions. For years, I have recommended that our students focus on other and better options to prove their writing skills, and this course correction is most welcome.

The new GMAT exam is two hours and 15 minutes long, with three 45-minute sections instead of four sections. Yes, an easy-to-remember, easy-to-time, evenly spaced 45 minutes per section, correcting the irregular timing (65, 62, 30, and 30 minutes for various sections) introduced the last time that GMAC shortened the exam.

The three exam sections are now Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, and Data Insights. As with the old GMAT exam, you can still choose the order of the sections.

Sentence Correction Is Gone.

GMAT Sentence Correction problems required you to use core writing and grammar rules to evaluate a sentence’s meaning and arrive at the correct answer. With this section gone, what remains in the GMAT Verbal Reading section are Reading Comprehension and Critical Reasoning question types. Generally speaking, these questions ask you to prove that you understand information in written passages and the soundness/faultiness of reasoning behind written arguments.

Geometry Is Gone … Maybe?

Although GMAC has not said so explicitly, the description of the Quantitative Reasoning section mentions only algebra and arithmetic topics, from which I infer that geometry problems may have been removed from the test.

Data Sufficiency Remains.

… but has been moved. Data Sufficiency questions, which are unique to the GMAT, require you to determine which data is relevant to solving a problem, and whether there is enough data to find the solution. A new Data Insights section combines Integrated Reasoning and Data Sufficiency question types, for the purpose of measuring your ability to analyze and interpret data.

You Can Change Your Answer (Up to Three Questions per Section).

This first-time feature is definitely a step in the right direction. Previously, you would not have the opportunity to change any answer as you raced through the exam, raising the stakes considerably. Still, only allowing three answers to be changed per section is a halfway measure, considering that the GMAT’s competitor, the GRE exam, allows you to change any and all answers per section.

What we don’t know: How will this new feature be reconciled with the adaptive nature of the exam? When you answer a question, the GMAT exam presents you with the next question based in part on whether you got the answer right or wrong. Broadly speaking, a correct answer could produce a slightly harder next question; a wrong answer could produce a question that is slightly easier. Your final score is derived from the number and difficulty of the questions that you answered correctly.

With the new exam, you might answer questions incorrectly and get lower value questions as a result, then change your answers. Does it matter whether you correct your answers quickly, putting you back on track to receive higher value questions? If you go back to correct your answers after you’ve completed all the questions, will the score boost be weaker? Does the location of the questions (section beginning versus end) impact the score? I can only speculate at this point, and I hope that the GMAC offers transparency into its scoring strategy.

No Need to Purchase the ESR: It Will Be Included As Standard.

Speaking of transparency, the Enhanced Score Report will be automatically be included with your Official Score Report. The ESR presents data on your performance per question type, the percentage of correct answers per section, average difficulty per question, and your time management. Having the ESR will be handy if you find that you need to make another run at the exam.

Scoring: What We Don’t Know & Really Need to Understand.

In announcing these changes, GMAC has said nothing about the format of the GMAT score. Will the 800-level score come from just the Quant and Verbal sections, as it does now, or will all three sections, including Data Insights, be folded into score? These vital details have not been shared by GMAC, and need to be made public sooner than later.

This is crucial information to know, because Data Insights is an outgrowth of the current Integrated Reasoning section, which is currently scored separately.

GMAC transitions to the new exam formant In Q4 of 2023, but will make the current exam available concurrently until 2024. If you are currently preparing for the exam and don’t want to switch horses, head to the finish line this year.

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