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Next Generation GMAT to Measure Reasoning Skills Tailored to Business School Needs

The GMAT Integrated Reasoning section made a big splash when it was announced at the Graduate Management Admission Council’s Annual Industry Conference in San Diego in June. The 30-minute section, launching in June 2012, will be the biggest change to the GMAT exam since its move from paper and pencil to computer adaptive format in 1997.

“The Next Generation GMAT is the latest evolution of a test that remains true to its original mission: to measure skills students need to succeed in business school as well as in their careers. The exam will take advantage of state of the art innovations in technology and measurement to test how well examinees assimilate and interpret data from multiple sources,” said Ashok Sarathy, GMAC vice president of GMAT Program. The addition of the Integrated Reasoning section will actually represent the 10th version of the GMAT exam since a handful of business schools launched the test in 1954 because existing ones didn’t meet their needs, he added.

GMAC periodically surveys schools to ensure the exam is aligned with their needs, and previous changes, such as the addition of Data Sufficiency questions in 1961 and the Analytical Writing Assessment in 1994 were driven by schools, Sarathy said.

Surveys conducted in 2006 (US business schools) and 2008 (European pre-experience masters programs) show that the schools think the current GMAT exam already does a good job of measuring the right skills for their programs. And in 2009, GMAC dug deeper, asking business faculty around the world what skills they valued that aren’t measured by the current GMAT exam.

Responses from 740 faculty worldwide identified skills that fell into four basic categories:

  1. Assimilate and integrate information from different sources to solve complex problems
  2. Accurately interpret data presented visually in graphs to determine or estimate probabilities and statistics
  3. Recognize and evaluate tradeoffs and the likelihood of outcomes in a given situation
  4. Convert quantitative data between graphical and verbal formats

The Integrated Reasoning section is being developed to test these skills, Sarathy said. Question types being considered will ask test takers to interpret data from multiple sources, including written text, graphs, and tables. Some questions may include tables that can be sorted like spreadsheets for easier analysis.

Although Integrated Reasoning will test skills business schools want students to have, the section will not require advanced statistical skill or any previous business knowledge, Sarathy said. The current GMAT Quantitative section tests reasoning using basic math rather than higher math skills, and the Verbal section measures verbal reasoning using basic vocabulary rather than advanced English vocabulary. In the same way, the new section will measure reasoning ability using data presented in different ways, as opposed to advanced knowledge of statistics.

The Integrated Reasoning section will replace one of the two 30-minute Analytical Writing Assessment essays, keeping the GMAT length at about four hours, including breaks. Admission directors have found, and GMAC research has confirmed, that a single essay tells them what they need to know about a candidate’s analytical writing abilities.

“The Next Generation GMAT reflects GMAC’s commitment to evolving along with business schools,” Sarathy said. “The GMAT remains the premier admissions test for management education designed uniquely to the needs of business schools.”

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