Next Generation GMAT: What It Means For Your Score Today

Which GMAT Test Format Should I Take?As you may have read on this site or seen via the official GMAT webpage, the GMAT will undergo a small-but-substantial change in June of 2012.  The addition of the Integrated Reasoning section will add a new dimension to GMAT score reports, and schools will begin to incorporate that scoring into their admissions decisions in the first application rounds of late 2012.

With that in mind, you may be wondering as you consider 2011 or 2012 application seasons: should you take the GMAT now, or wait until the new section is in place?

The Official GMAT Blog has taken a stance on this, and as the Veritas Prep offices have answered this question with increasing frequency we’d like to make our similar opinion public, as well.  Take the GMAT when it’s a good time for you to do so; the presence of the Integrated Reasoning score (or lack thereof) alone should not impact your candidacy.

As we mentioned in this space when the new format was announced, the biggest news angle one could derive from the changes to the GMAT is that, well, not much has changed.  The GMAT will not change its quantitative and verbal sections, and the content of the Integrated Reasoning section is actually quite similar to several already-tested concepts.  You’ll be asked to make logical decisions with a clear understanding of a particular objective – and that’s what Critical Reasoning questions are all about.  You’ll be asked to interpret and use numbers and graphs to make decisions; that’s a healthy part of the current quantitative section, which even more specifically includes “data interpretation” questions.  You’ll have multiple questions to answer based on a larger set of given information, and you’ll need to manage your time accordingly as you initially sift through and then return to the given data; but that’s not unlike the challenges that Reading Comprehension passages and questions currently pose.  If you’re poised to currently score well on the 2011 GMAT, you should expect to perform similarly well in the 2012 GMAT.

Perhaps more easily-digestible for your decision-making is this: the scores along the dimension of 200-800 will not be changed, either.  The Integrated Reasoning section will be given its own score, much like the AWA section today.  Your “main” GMAT score – say, 720 – is going to be instantly comparable to others, whether you take the test today, tomorrow, or in late 2012, and all indications are that business schools will continue to use that score as their primary standardized metric.  Within the first year, schools will still need to sort out how important they find the Integrated Reasoning score.  It’s most likely that a school would look at:

-A high I.R. score and see that it supplements the rest of your excellent application package.  You’re an excellent candidate!

-A high I.R. score and note that, well, the rest of your application package (and GMAT score) is substandard, so the I.R. score may be an outlier.

-A low I.R. score with a high GMAT composite (again, let’s say 720) and wonder just as much about the validity of that score/section as about any flaws it might reveal about you.  Unless you completely bomb, if you’re an overall excellent candidate this shouldn’t hurt you.

-A low I.R. score in concert with a similarly-lackluster candidacy…and you weren’t a legit candidate anyway.

-The absence of an I.R. score, and note that you took the test before that section was introduced, and just evaluate the rest of your candidacy without that extra data point.  If you’ll note the above, most instances that include an I.R. score will use that score simply to confirm what the schools are already seeing about you.  If the I.R. section is well-written and well-graded – and GMAC’s long history suggests overwhelmingly that it will be – the scores should typically confirm the rest of your candidacy, so the absence of such a score will just prompt schools to look at the data that they do have.

What’s truly important in your decision regarding when to take the GMAT is how that timing will affect your overall performance.  If you have this spring/summer relatively free of commitment, you’re likely to be able to study effectively and post a high score that will last on your record for five years. Take it now!  If you know that the next year will be hectic for you in other facets of life but that you should have plenty of time in the summer of 2012 to give the test the attention that it deserves, you should wait.  We predict that the extra time required to study for the Integrated Reasoning section should be relatively marginal – mostly because the thought processes, strategies, and conceptual needs to do well on the I.R. section are extremely similar to and in many cases identical to those that you’ll need to study for the Quantitative and Verbal sections.  What matters most in your decision regarding when to take the test is you.