Why You Shouldn’t Worry About the New GMAT

U.S. NewsIn the new U.S. News graduate school rankings issue, which hits newsstands this coming week, we’re quoted on the upcoming changes to the GMAT, coming in June, 2012. The article outlines the big change coming to the GMAT — replacing one of the AWA questions with a new section called Integrated Reasoning — and the Graduate Management Admission Council’s reasons for the change.

The new Integrated Reasoning section will go beyond the traditional “pick one of these five answer choices” format. It will ask test takers to assess information in a variety of formats, synthesize the information given, and draw conclusions from the information given. (We wrote about the new format a great deal last year.) Sounds scary, right?

Not really. As we say in the article, if you’ve prepared properly, then you shouldn’t be surprised. In fact, if you have really studied the right way, we would argue that you need very little preparation for the new Integrated Reasoning section beyond what you’ve already studied. (Fear not… We’re going to introduce an Integrated Reasoning module to our GMAT prep program in the coming year.) Answering these new questions will require the same higher-order thinking skills that the GMAT already tests; it just tests them in a new way, taking advantage of the computer-based format for the first time in the GMAT’s history.

One point of clarification: In the article, we’re quoted as saying that the test’s new “mini case study” format allows for more creative and open-ended responses. Don’t take this to mean that you’re going to be asked to write a short argument or devise a strategy for the company in the question setup. These new Integrated Reasoning questions certainly can be more open-ended in that you may be asked to select which statements are true given a set of data, and one, two, or even all five statements could possibly be true. In this case, you won’t be tasked with simply converging on THE right answer each time. However, there STILL will be a correct way and an incorrect way to answer a question. You just may need to be more creative in how you get there.

Say, for example, you are given a mini spreadsheet showing a company’s revenues, along with its ad spending, average price per unit sold, breadth of distribution, frequency of stockouts, and its main competitor’s average price. You may then be asked which of these items appears to influence the company’s sales. You will be able to sort the spreadsheet to make things easier, but you won’t do any heavier spreadsheet lifting than that. You will identify, for example, that ad spending, breadth of distribution, and competitive pricing all demonstrate a clear correlation with the company’s revenues, but not the other two items. In this case, you could answer the question in any number of ways, but there still is ONE correct answer.

Again, if you’ve studied for the GMAT properly, this will be a piece of cake. If anything, replacing an AWA question with the new Integrated Reasoning section actually removes ambiguity from the test, since it replaces a long-form, written response (graded by a computer) with questions with clear-cut right and wrong responses. And, the best part is… This is exactly the type of stuff you’ll be asked to do in many MBA job interviews. So, you may as well get good at it now!

Getting ready to take the GMAT? Our Fast-Track Course starts in Seattle and in dozens of other cities next week. As always, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!