The GMAC, the makers of the GMAT, has announced a major change to the exam coming in 2012: one of the Analytical Writing sections will be replaced by a new thirty-minute section, Integrated Reasoning.
This video from GMAC gives a sneak peak at what some of the new Integrated Reasoning questions might look like. As you can see, one of the question types involves Excel-style sortable spreadsheet, while another uses language about strengthening and weakening arguments that is already common in Critical Reasoning questions.
The goal behind the changes is make the test as reflective of business school as possible. Integrated Reasoning is meant to measure data analysis and balanced decision-making skills that are important for success in business. In a way, the section seems like an extension of Data Sufficiency. This question type in the Quantitative Section is currently the most distinctive feature of the GMAT (and most loathed by test-takers). As GMAC shares more about the question types in the section, it will be interesting to see how those compare with Data Sufficiency.
GMAC’s changes also target the increased competition of the GRE as a business school admissions test. As we’ve blogged elsewhere – in a series of seven articles by our long-standing teacher and test guru Bob Verini – the revised GRE has planned a number of changes that will make the test more relevant for business school admissions. The new Integrated Reasoning section of the GMAT meets this changes head-on by including a section more specific to the business thinking than the other sections. Most business schools aren’t accepting the GRE yet – 25% do, according to a Kaplan survey (PDF). Recently, admissions schools officers at top business schools have told us informally they are waiting for data on the Revised GRE before making any decisions.
GMAC reports that, according to its data, the results of one Analytical Writing section have proved just as useful as two in measuring writing skills. That’s why one Analytical Writing section will be removed and replaced by Integrated Reasoning. So, in the same amount of test-taker time, the new GMAT promises to provide much more information on a candidate’s ability to succeed in the classroom in business school. This shift is pretty much the opposite of what’s planned for the GRE, which includes new care and attention to the design of the writing section. Unlike the GRE changes, the changes to the GMAT appear to be designed to have minimal impact on scheduling and taking the test, the cost of the test, and the test’s duration. Since the Integrated Reasoning section is switched out for one of the writing sections, the overall length of the test is unchanged.
What’s the impact for the test-taker? Current students of the GMAT have nothing to worry about – your scores will be valid for five years, and it’s still in your best interest to prepare for the test as soon as you can set aside 2 to 3 months of solid preparation time. The optimal strategy for test-takers will change a little bit as 2012 approaches, because it will be advantageous to take the GMAT before the test change. The trend we’ve seen over the years at Kaplan is that scores tend to go down after a test change. For example, the last time the GRE went through a major change was in 2002, when the Analytical Ability section was dropped and replaced with an Analytical Writing section. Scores dropped 7 points the following year, and continued to decline for the next five years.
There’s a degree of uncertainty with any test change – we saw that in 2007 when substantial changes to the GRE were deferred. We’ll continue to monitor the situation and keep you posted.
Asst Director, Pre-Business Programs
Kaplan Test Prep & Admissions