New GMAT in 2012: Our Take

Last Friday the Internet was buzzing with news that the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) will drop one of its AWA essays and replace it with a new question type, called Integrated Reasoning, in June, 2012. The new question format was designed, in GMAC’s own words, to “measure people‚Äôs ability to evaluate information from multiple sources.” (BusinessWeek and Inside Higher Ed both turned to Veritas Prep’s own Chad Troutwine for his take on the new question type.)

Last year we reported that GMAC was working on a whole new GMAT that was to be unveiled in 2013. At that point GMAC had embarked on an ambitious plan to talk with business schools and get to bottom of what they would really want to see in a whole new GMAT. Although many top schools now accept the GRE, our sense is that the schools ultimately said, “It could be improved a bit, but overall we like the GMAT.” So, the changes will be more subtle than a complete overhaul of the exam, and will come a year earlier.

So what exactly is the new Integrated Reasoning section? In short, it asks students to take a small pile of data — presented various forms, including words, charts, and tables — and pull out key insights to asnwer multiple questions about the data. The questions will vary by type, and may ask the test taker to judge whether a statement is true or false or to interpret the cause of a certain trend in the data.

Overall, we love this new question type, because it gets even closer to measuring the type of analytical skills that truly matter in business school and beyond. If you doubt that’s true, just consider that the new Integrated Reasoning format actually looks very similar to the mini-case studies MBA students get when interviewing for management consulting or brand management jobs. This sort of exercise — “Here’s a pile of information. Can you pull out the two or three things that matter and tell me what’s going on?” — is a great measure of someone’s analytical abilities. So often applicants hear “analytical” and assume this means “quant” or “numbers,” but great analysis is actually goes much deeper and is much more challenging than just crunching numbers. That skill is just what many recruiters at top business school look for. And if they look for it, you can bet that MBA admissions officers look for it in applicants, too.

This video from GMAC gives a very brief overview of the new question type. Even if you’ve seen it already, watch it again and pay attention to the words and phrases that GMAC uses to describe the new Integrated Reasoning section:

While much of the chatter has been about the exact format of the question (Spreadsheets? Oh my!), we’re much more interested in what skills GMAC is trying to evaluate. Notice the phrases they use in this video:

  • “evaluate information from multiple sources…”
  • “identify relationships between data points…
  • “recognize trade-offs in given situations”
  • “assessing the reason for, or likelihood of, certain outcomes…”

These are the skills that really matter in business school (and, more importantly, in business in general). And the good news for GMAT examinees is that these skills are consistent with those that already lead to success on the GMAT. As the exam has involved, it has included, among other things, greater emphases on Number Properties and Data Sufficiency on the quantitative section, and on statistical premises in Critical Reasoning and logical accuracy in Sentence Correction on the verbal section.

Similar phrases to those above that explicitly describe the new section can describe the current emphases on the multiple choice sections:

  • Number Properties: “recognize patterns in data and use them to make decisions on more complex situations…”
  • Data Sufficiency: “determine the most efficient way to solve a problem with limited resources…”
  • Critical Reasoning: “analyze the relationship of statistics and the conclusion that they purport to prove…”
  • Sentence Correction: “assess the validity of a statement before spending time on the details within it…”

As fans of the recent direction of the GMAT as a test of “how you think” and not as much “what you know,” we at Veritas Prep welcome and applaud the announcement of the new GMAT section, which will allow us to continue to teach the skills that we love to teach and that we know make a difference in business school and beyond. Similar skills in a seemingly different way sounds just like a well-written standardized test to us, and as with any new challenge, we say “bring it on!”

Thinking of applying to business school this year? Then the new GMAT won’t matter to you. But, either way, we’ve got you covered with GMAT prep courses in more than 90 cities around the world. Give us a call at (800) 925-7737 and speak with one of our business school admissions experts today. And, as always, be sure to subscribe to this blog and follow us on Twitter!