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GMAC Adds Integrated Reasoning Section To New GMAT

Young woman studying

June 5, 2012

The Graduate Management Admissions Test -- a standardized test required of most business school hopefuls -- has long had a reputation for being tricky. Thanks to a new version of the test unveiled today, it may have just become even trickier.

The Wall Street Journal reports that a new integrated reasoning section is making its GMAT premier beginning today. The new section requires test takers to read and sort complex charts, analyzing data from several sources, and replaces the essay section.

Many nervous test takers worry that the new GMAT will be more difficult: According to Bloomberg Businessweek, students equate the new integrated reasoning section's level of difficulty with that of the test's data sufficiency questions, which have a reputation for being some of the most difficult. Fear of the unknown prompted a rush of students to complete the exam before the changeover.

"A business school student is generally going to want to take the easier path if there's no disadvantage to doing so," Andrew Mitchell, director of pre-business programs at Kaplan Test Prep, told Bloomberg Businessweek. "Integrated reasoning is all about working with data. Quant data is displayed graphically, and that's intimidating to a lot of people. It makes sense that people would be apprehensive."

Indeed, Bloomberg Businessweek and The Wall Street Journal report that students' determination to dodge the new section drove an increase in the number of students who took the exam in April and May, and test preparation services saw a sharp increase in demand as well. Many students drove hours out of their way to take the exam before the switch, and The Wall Street Journal notes that one student even took the exam shortly after a serious motorcycle accident just to make the deadline.

"We expected volumes to go up in April and May, and they have," Graduate Management Admissions Council spokesman Bob Ludwig wrote in an e-mail to Bloomberg Businessweek. "Quite significantly."

According to The New York Times, the new integrated reasoning section was designed to meet growing demand from business schools and professors worldwide who feel the skills tested will be more pertinent to a business school curriculum. Still, Bloomberg Businessweek reports that many business schools do not yet know how to respond and weigh the changes.

"It's going to be very challenging for us to use it," said Sara Neher, assistant dean of admissions at University of Virginia's Darden School of Business, who told The Wall Street Journal that schools won't know how to rate the changes for at least a few years.

Whatever its impact, a more acutely-tailored exam for future business school graduates was not GMAC's only motivation for redesigning the test: Ashok Sarathy, GMAC's vice president in charge of the testing program, told The New York Times that security was another as charges of cheating have increased dramatically in the last decade. In 2008, for instance, a website acquired and sold real GMAT test questions. Sarathy hopes that providing the integrated reasoning data in a variety of formats using pull-down menus and tabs will "minimize the ability of candidates to memorize questions and reproduce them on web sites."


Compiled by Aimee Hosler

Sources:

"GMAT Adds New Thinking Cap," nytmes.com, May 17, 2012, D.D. Guttenplan

"Q: What Is New and Scary? A: The Revised GMAT," online.wsj.com, June 3, 2012, Melissa Korn

"The New GMAT: Thanks, But No Thanks," businessweek.com, May 31,2012, Louis Lavelle

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