Stop Worrying and Learn to Love Integrated Reasoning

There has been a lot of chatter about the new GMAT coming in June, especially the Integrated Reasoning section that will replace one of the Analytical Writing Assessment essays. Much has been made about the change, with some self-styled gurus reporting that you may see a difference of as much as 30 points between the old test and the Next Generation GMAT, given the same amount of studying. Take the test now, they say, or risk being in a world of hurt starting in June.

The arguments about how the new Integrated Reasoning section will negatively impact one’s 800-scale GMAT score cover a range of reasons, the most common one being that the new section will be much more taxing for test takers than Analysis of an Issue essay was. Even with a lot of preparation, the argument goes, someone will just be more fatigued on test day, such that by the time they get to their last dozen or so Verbal questions, their eyes will be bloodshot and they’ll be nodding off at their testing terminals. Workers at the test centers will have to hand out Red Bull and Visine to help test takers get home safely from the big test!

We’re exaggerating, of course, but this “fatigue” argument has some applicants overly worried. While we don’t yet have hard data to refute the fatigue argument (and — don’t forget this — no one does except for maybe the Graduate Management Admission Council, and they probably don’t even have such data yet), we believe that the GMAT is valid enough that even something as daunting as a whole new section of the GMAT won’t impact your raw Quant and Verbal scores. Those sections may contain 37 and 41 questions, respectively, but don’t think that all of those questions are needed to accurately measure your ability level. Before you’re halfway through the test, the GMAT likely already has a good idea of your ability level, at a high confidence level.

For sure, you don’t want to run out of time on the GMAT, and we at least understand (even if we don’t endorse) the notion that the Integrated Reasoning section could leave you feeling mentally fatigued enough that you don’t quite finish one or both sections of the exam. Or, it leaves you feeling tired enough that you make several dumb mistakes on each section. While this argument makes some sense, everything we’ve learned about the GMAT has showed us that it’s extremely robust in measuring your ability level.

How robust? Let’s say someone were to give you answers to five or so questions before you sat down to take the test. Or, let’s say — for some odd, masochistic reason — you deliberately got a few questions wrong, just to fool the test. As GMAC has publicly stated before, that will barely impact your final score, if at all. The test is valid enough that it will barely matter.

So, don’t fool yourself into thinking that you MUST take the test before June. And, don’t fall for the marketing hype from test prep companies that want you to enroll in a class now (“While supplies last!!!”)… If you prepare for the GMAT the right way, whether you take the test now or more than three months from now, you will do just fine.

To dispel this and other myths about the new GMAT, on March 21 Veritas Prep will conduct a free online seminar to show you the basics of the new Integrated Reasoning section. Our own Brian Galvin, the author of our GMAT curriculum, will guide you through what you need to know to excel on the test. In the meantime take a look at the free Integrated Reasoning sample questions that we have on our site. See you on March 21!