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Partners for Success: Pearson VUE and ACT Bring Experience, Technology, Service, and Global Reach to the GMAT™ Test

Read through the résumés of the executives leading Pearson VUE, the Minnesota-based company taking over delivery, administration, and scoring of the Graduate Management Admission Test in 2006, and you’ll see that they are experts in computer-based testing.

Pearson VUE—whose clients include the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, the National Association of Security Dealers, and Microsoft—will use its staff’s hundreds of years of combined testing-system experience and the patented testing-center technology and infrastructure to improve the security, reporting capabilities, and worldwide accessibility of the GMAT exam. “We’re excited about helping evolve the GMAT to make it even better and more efficient over time,” said Don Wagner, vice president of business development at Pearson VUE.

Iowa-based ACT, the organization that will develop the GMAT starting next January, is similarly steeped in testing experience, particularly in higher education. In addition to developing and managing the longstanding ACT college assessment and Compass ESL (English as a Second Language) computer-based college placement exam, ACT conducts test development for the Law School Admission Test® and the Medical College Admission Test®.

It was this deep level of experience—coupled with their technological innovations, expansive test-center network, and reputation for customer service—that attracted the Graduate Management Admission Council to Pearson VUE and ACT. “This partnership will allow us to better serve the graduate management education community by increasing the global reach of the GMAT, advancing security measures, and providing flexible access to test information,” GMAC President and Chief Executive Officer David A. Wilson said.

A Growing Global Network

Pearson VUE began delivering computer-based tests in 1997, using the Internet for its scheduling, testing, and reporting systems. As the electronic testing business of Pearson Education, the world’s biggest education company, Pearson VUE administers 40 million exams annually and operates 4,000 testing centers in 145 countries, making it the largest test-center network in existence.

Pearson VUE was the first in the industry to develop a national network of company-owned and -operated testing centers. This expanding network will improve the accessibility of the GMAT and bring computer-based delivery of the exam to test takers globally, Wagner said.

Technology Trailblazers

Staying ahead of the technology curve is a Pearson VUE priority. The company’s visionary approach to technology prompted Pearson VUE to begin using state-of-the-art systems in its testing centers.

“We are focused on security because [it] is of paramount importance to all test stakeholders,” Wagner said. “Ensuring the security and integrity of the exam is one of the biggest benefits we bring to test takers, GMAC, and . . . business schools.”

The technology employed by Vantage Learning, the subcontractor that will take over scoring the essay portion of the GMAT test, is also state of the art. Vantage invested 12 years and about U.S. $25 million into creating its automated essay-scoring engine, the IntelliMetric, which can score an essay in about one one-hundredth of a second, says Vantage Learning Vice President Paul Edelblut.

Pleasing Customers

Superior customer service is a primary concern for the new GMAT vendors. “From the beginning we have had a strong focus culturally and systematically on providing the best service to all stakeholders, including the test owner, the test takers, the users of the testing information, and the test centers,” Wagner said.

Pearson VUE knows how important it is to provide real-time, easily accessible score reporting and plans to offer Web access to GMAT score reports for all business schools. “We will continue to offer the traditional paper reports for those schools that want them,” Wagner said, “but we are also going to offer more options to those schools that want to get online and pull reports based on their individual needs.”

Like Pearson VUE, ACT brings the experience and expertise necessary to help maintain the integrity of the GMAT and even improve upon this crucial test for business school admissions. ACT, for instance, plans to work with GMAC and Pearson VUE to update and enhance the test’s computer-based user interface, “We will be making changes that, from the test taker’s point of view, will make the text experience more pleasant,” Patience said, “but we won’t do anything that will change the nature of the test or the score scale.”

Transitioning for the Future

Above all else, ACT’s and Pearson VUE’s primary goal is to facilitate a smooth takeover of the GMAT test from its current provider, Educational Testing Service®. “Our first order of business is to ensure that we offer stability in the interpretation of test results from the last of the tests administered by the previous provider to the first of the tests administered by Pearson VUE and developed by ACT,” Patience said.

Both companies have extensive experience overseeing complex vendor transitions such as the one they are currently engaged in with GMAC. Pearson VUE is confident that past experience will ensure that the GMAT transition is successful. “We have done numerous complex transitions since our beginning, and they have all gone off flawlessly.” Wagner said.

Pearson VUE and ACT are hitting daily milestones within the detailed plan they created with GMAC and are getting ready for the upcoming limited summer testing at Pearson and the official launch in January. With their experience and the extensive planning their organizations have done, Wagner, Patience, and Vantage Learning’s Edelblut are all confident that the GMAT vendor transition will go smoothly for GMAC, test takers, testing centers, and business schools.

Carlotta Mast


GMAC™, GMAT™, Graduate Management Admission Council™, and Graduate Management Admission Test™ are registered trademarks of the  Graduate Management Admission Council™.
Pearson VUE™ is a registered trademark of NCS Pearson. ACT™ is a registered trademark of ACT, Inc.
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