Tuesday, June 5, 2012, is fast approaching and with it the launch of the Next Generation GMAT with Integrated Reasoning. I can only imagine what test takers are thinking — that it’s probably a little stressful to be contemplating the changes to the test and that it’s unclear what importance schools will put on an IR score in evaluating your application. Actually, I can do a bit more than just imagine, as I took the exam myself in 1998.
Nobody likes change. Even my 18-month-old daughter can tell you that. For her, the change from a bottle to a “sippy cup” was tough, until she realized that the cup offered better control, a chance to show off a new set of skills and a path to more choices in drinkables. Now, she’s happily drinking away and the trauma she conjured up never quite materialized. Well, except for my wife and I. For us the trauma was real … and loud.
I can also imagine that some of you are wondering why these changes to the GMAT exam are, seemingly, being thrust upon you. After all, isn’t the GMAT exam just a standardized test that allows you to be compared objectively with all of your peers in front of an admissions committee?
Sure the GMAT exam does that, but it is more than just a standardized test — it is an exam built to purpose. For nearly 60 years the GMAT exam has been built to measure the skills necessary to succeed in a graduate management program, whether your goal is an MBA or a masters in accountancy or finance, for example.
In a recent survey, 740 faculty members from management programs worldwide identified an emerging set of skills that the business community is telling them are — and will continue to be— essential to success at the management and executive level. Schools went on to tell us that they needed to know that incoming students could demonstrate their ability in these emerging skills as the schools themselves began to develop coursework to develop and strengthen them. We named these skills Integrated Reasoning, and they are at the heart of the new section.
Examples from the business world validate the relevance of these skills, as data mining and analysis are critical in identifying purchase behaviors, cost factors, and opportunities to improve efficiencies. Even in graduate management programs, the case study approach (a typical methodology to teach various management concepts) requires students to integrate many different sources of information (graphical, tabular, text-based) to answer questions or provide a solutions to business problems. So Integrated Reasoning skills are relevant in school and on the job, but that doesn’t mean that they’re completely new to you. Students who have participated in pilot studies for the Next Gen GMAT and who have taken the Integrated Reasoning section have told us that they are already using these skills in their undergraduate study at or at work. One student said, “…it’s just the PowerPoint, spreadsheet paradigm we live in every day.”
All this to say, you don’t need to be nervous about the Next Generation GMAT exam, and you don’t need to panic. To help you prepare, we have created a hub of information on mba.com to familiarize you with the new Integrated Reasoning section, the skills being measured, and the questions. On the hub you will find examples of question formats and appropriate directions to help your respond. We will publish new test preparation materials in April: the 13th edition of the Official Guide to GMAT Review and free GMATPrep software.
If you’re wondering how you might prepare for the Next Generation GMAT exam in just two months, remember this: The Quantitative and Verbal Sections will remain the same, as will the Analysis of an Argument essay. You will still get separate Quant and Verbal scores and a Total score to send to schools, just like before. You will still get a separate essay score, too. And now you will also get a separate IR score.
You can begin your preparation for the Quant, Verbal and AWA sections of the GMAT exam now. When the new test preparation material is released in April, you can switch your attention to preparing for the Integrated Reasoning section.
One more thing to remember is that, time-wise, the test will not be any longer. Our goal in developing the Next Gen GMAT exam wasn’t to make the test harder; it was to make the test better. Better at testing relevant skills for today’s management education classroom and better at helping you differentiate yourself from other applicants by showing you have those skills.
The GMAT test has evolved continuously since its launch in 1954. We take great pride in being not just a leader in developing the gold standard of admissions exams, but also in being a leader in the discovery of talent. This means that with the Next Gen GMAT exam, we’re developing a 21st century assessment to help prepare you — the 21st century student — for the 21st century business environment in which you have chosen to make your career and your future.
-Ashok Sarathy, Vice President, GMAT Program