Thank you to Apex for contributing this informative article!
With an industry-leading syllabus Apex offers the most comprehensive GMAT & GMAT Focus preparation on the market today. We exclusively offer 1-on-1 private GMAT tutoring, both in person and online, in order to deliver the strongest results for clients who simply want the best, most efficient preparation available.
And don’t miss our Admissions Straight Talk podcast interview with Manish Dharma, Director of Product Marketing at the Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC), where he chats with Accepted’s Linda Abraham about the new, shorter GMAT Focus exam. Listen below or click the image to read the full transcript.
The GMAT is one of the greatest challenges that many people face on the road to their MBA acceptance, but it doesn’t have to be. For many, the anxiety surrounding the GMAT is due to it being a largely misunderstood challenge. Contrary to what you might think, the GMAT represents an opportunity to illustrate your creativity and improve your critical and creative thinking skills, not just revise your knowledge of high school math and grammar. When properly preparing for the exam you’ll develop:
- new ways to approach solving problems of all sorts
- novel techniques for organizing and characterizing information
- the ability to curate your own thought process to become a more effective thinker
With this in mind, I’d like to discuss five key points to help you get into the correct mindset for a successful (read: transformative) and low-stress GMAT preparation experience.
1. You are not your GMAT.
Many people use their GMAT score to define their abilities across a range of fields, their value as an applicant, or, even more insidiously, in a greater self-esteem context.
You are not your GMAT!
Your GMAT score doesn’t represent how smart you are or how capable you are as a person, student, or professional. It certainly doesn’t deliver the distinct mix of characteristics that make you, well, you. What admissions committees are seeking when they look at your GMAT score is a set of skills that are valuable in a number of ways (more on this later), but tying your self-worth up in a number is perilous, to say the least.
Putting the self-esteem aspect aside for a moment, identifying yourself with your GMAT means that you are giving short shrift to who you are as a person outside of a testing environment – you know who I’m talking about, the badass who has already achieved so much and is on track for so much more. There is no need to put additional pressure on yourself to perform well on the GMAT to prove to yourself, or to your family, friends, or an admissions committee how “valuable” you are, how smart you are, or how capable you are.
From our perspective as teachers, we also see this occur frequently in the other direction, with tutors who apply to work with us. They define themselves by their GMAT success rather than their ability as educators. We reject many potential tutors out of hand, despite their having a 770+ score, because a score is simply a number on a piece of paper; we seek people who understand others, are strong communicators, and who are always growing as educators.
Takeaway: By focusing on your score, rather than developing stronger critical and creative thinking skills, you’re missing the point of the GMAT.
2. The GMAT is both easier and harder than you think.
I know this sounds counterintuitive, but bear with me.
The stigma of the GMAT – that it’s a terribly difficult exam – affects the performance of most test takers. This hyperbole can cause you to freeze up and underperform. The people who make the GMAT out to be more difficult than it is, in the end, hold themselves back by placing it on a pedestal and treating it with too much reverence.
The GMAT is certainly an exceptionally challenging exam that will push you to your limits. There is no mistaking that. Further, it compares you to your peers – people who have similar levels of skill and experience, hence gaining a competitive edge seems nearly impossible without working harder. However, because most people make it out to be harder than it is, they end up holding themselves back.
Conversely, the GMAT is easier than you think because it rewards informality and creative thinking, especially on the math side. A successful GMATter can use intuition and clear, logical reasoning in order to solve the most intractable problems.
Because of this seeming dichotomy, test takers bring to the exam a paradigm of thought that is very restrictive. By not looking for an accessible or intuitive answer – the most efficient answer of methodology to solve a problem – they restrict their options and make their task all the more challenging.
Once you free yourself of the academic restraints that come from the burden of too formal an education, whether with math or language, and utilize your intuitive reasoning mind, all of a sudden GMAT problems become much more simple and straightforward.
Let’s look at an example:
Since implementing new work protocols at the start of 2020, every employee’s efficiency in the factory has increased by 33%, leading to layoffs of 25% of the workforce. Assuming no other changes, and that each worker has the same level of productivity, if the factory produced $20 m worth of widgets in 2019, what value of widgets did it produce in 2020?
- $10 m
- $13.3 m
- $16.75 m
- $20 m
- $33.25 m
It’s very easy to dive into doing a lot of math here, but the real skill is finding what’s important, and realizing that there’s little math to be done.
First, focus on only the important information: Efficiency +33% and Workforce -25%.
Second, realize that you’re not constrained to using percentages: Efficiency +⅓ and Workforce -1/4.
Finally, understand that these changes are built upon the existing base. Efficiency 4/3 as much and Workforce ¾ as much. These changes cancel out! The more problems you do, the more sensitive you become to the ways that simple truths can be communicated in unnecessarily complex ways, but if you just keep hitting the math you’ll never get there.
Takeaway: The most challenging part of the GMAT is dehabituating the solutions paths that you’ve locked in through your training at school and allowing yourself the mental flexibility to really explore, be creative, and go with your gut.
3. Don’t force it. It’s not a knowledge test.
There is a great misconception that the GMAT is just about knowing how to solve every problem that they might throw at you, and knowing how to do so before you’re actually sitting in the exam.
In fact, while you need to know all the concepts that are being tested, the exam is not testing your knowledge of these mechanics. Rather, the exam tests your depth of knowledge. The contextual relationship between the rules and the correct answer is often hidden in the space between two concepts, as in the example above. Examining how those rules can be bent, or broken, or how they relate to other rules, can lead to new insights that you wouldn’t think were otherwise there.
Takeaway: It’s a conversation, not a play. There is no script. Being prepared means being able to handle the unknown challenges that will come your way, not knowing exactly what to say in advance. You’ll never be totally prepared, because you’ll never know what the other person will say.
4. Most performance issues are not intellectual.
Many high achievers come to the GMAT and find themselves plateauing in the mid-upper 600s or low 700s. They think that a lack of fluency or a deeper understanding of the material is what’s holding them back.
True GMAT success is governed by the recognition that it is a test of acuity, confidence and temperament. For example, being comfortable in uncertainty, making decisions quickly, and finding out of the box solutions are all highly rewarded skills in this exam.
A general understanding of the dynamics of a problem, rather than a precise answer, are often the characteristics that allow people to truly excel, especially on the most challenging questions. So much of success on the GMAT at the highest levels is about managing the emotional and behavioural stresses, not the intellectual challenge. Being able to regulate your anxiety, self-confidence/questioning, and overall comfort can impact your GMAT score significantly once you’re past 700, where each second and every unique approach can mean extra points.
Takeaway: Once you’re in the upper 600s, improvement comes from focusing on non-intellectual elements. Preparing for these challenges from the start is what makes for the most rapid, fluid, and meaningful preparation.
5. Most people don’t do it alone
The dirty little secret that no one talks about is that nearly every high-achiever seeks assistance to obtain a great GMAT score. This is all the more true in those places where the smartest people congregate. People don’t speak about getting help because they are usually in environments, whether academic or professional, where they are valued for their intellectual ability and feel that it is a mark of shame to not be able to “go it alone.”
We have so many clients that come to us from McKinsey and BCG, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanely, Google, Apple, et cetera, who are not comfortable sharing with their peers or family the fact that they have sought help. This is because they fear that their admission will in some way diminish their achievements or their cachet in the eyes of those they respect most.
There is no shame in seeking help, even if it is the first time you’ve ever needed to (for many of our top performing clients, we’re the first tutor they’ve ever needed in their lives). You may have found yourself at a great school or already landed your first job and thus consider yourself exceptionally successful. But the GMAT is pitting you against those who are of a similar ilk and so going it alone is fraught with difficulties. One of these difficulties being the ability to gain a competitive edge after being homogenized for so long in academic or corporate environments.
This can often lead to frustration, sadness, and sometimes missing the boat entirely on the next stage of your life. It is important to recognize that everyone, all those people that you respect and admire most, at one point or another, have needed help, and have had to ask for help.
Takeaway: Don’t hesitate to ask for help. That’s what strong people do. It’s what leaders do. It’s what those who are the most successful do. Never go it alone.
Apex GMAT exclusively offers one on one private GMAT tutoring, both in person and online, in order to deliver the strongest results for clients who simply want the best, most efficient preparation available.
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The New, Shorter GMAT Focus: Your Questions Answers [Episode 534]
What’s the new, shorter GMAT Focus? How is scoring going to work? What does it mean for you as an applicant and test taker? If those are your questions, this episode is for you. We’ll be discussing the GMAT Focus with GMAC’s director of Product Marketing and former director of product development.
Welcome to the 534th episode of Admissions Straight Talk. Thanks for joining me today. You’re invited to take Accepted’s free six question quiz – this is not the GMAT – Accepted’s Map Your MBA Application Quiz and see how prepared you are to actually apply. You’ll also gain access to relevant other resources that can help you develop an application strategy for acceptance.
Our guest today is Manish Dharia, Director of Product Marketing at the Graduate Management Admissions Council. He earned his bachelor’s at UVA and his MBA at Georgetown McDonough. In his career, Manish has been a consultant and owned his own business. Since 2005, he’s been working in HR consulting and analytics and product development. In 2015, Manish joined GMAC as director first of product management, then product development, and now product marketing.
Manish, welcome to Admissions Straight Talk. I’m delighted to speak with you today.
Thank you, Linda. I’m excited to be here today to talk about the evolution of the GMAT exam.
How has the GMAT exam evolved? [1:49]
Yeah. We get that question a lot. So why are we changing the GMAT? What’s sort of the basis for this? And I like to take people back to the beginning. The GMAT exam, for those that maybe aren’t aware, launched first in 1954. So it’s come a long way, almost 70 years. And over that time, the needs of the market, what business schools need, what business school candidates, what employers need, has been evolving. And so too has the GMAT. So the GMAT exam that’s currently available looks very different from the one in 1954, and GMAT Focus edition continues that evolution forward. So just to remain current, to remain relevant so that individuals applying to business school can demonstrate their capabilities for success in school and beyond, we continue to evolve the GMAT exam.
How is the new GMAT Focus going to be structured? Let’s just start with some really basic questions. I understand it’s an evolutionary process, but what is the applicant going to face when they take the new GMAT? [2:43]
Yeah. So the good news is, from a test taker perspective, the questions that the individual sees on the GMAT Focus will look the same as they do on the current version of the exam. A lot of the work we’ve done is to ensure that the information that comes out of the exam provides better insight to both test takers as well as to schools so that they can make better decisions about their readiness for school. So structurally, yeah, we’ve made some changes. Everyone hopefully knows the current GMAT. It’s quant, verbal, integrated reasoning, and an essay. And so as we talked to admissions, faculty, and frankly recruiters in the business space, we heard a lot about three areas of importance. One skillset was problem solving, the second one was critical thinking, and the third one was data analytics or data literacy. And so we took that to heart as we reimagined the GMAT exam, really wanting to make sure that those three skillsets were coming through clearly from the GMAT.
And so as we restructured the GMAT, we continue to have a quantitative section, but it’s really focused on problem solving with the use of those mathematical skill sets. We continue to have a verbal section and then we added a new section called data insights, which really is getting at that data literacy capability. So are you comfortable analyzing data, synthesizing data from multiple sources? Is that an area where you’re comfortable so that schools have that added piece of information and frankly, an individual test taker also has that added piece of information. But as I mentioned, the questions are the same. We’ve moved some things around, we’ve removed some things frankly so you no longer see sentence correction on the exam because it doesn’t fit those three buckets, problem solving, critical thinking, and data literacy.
Now I know one of the key qualities of a successful leader and business person is communication skill. And I think you’ve also removed the essay section, you removed sentence correction, you removed the essay section, obviously you still have the verbal section. Do you feel that that’s covering the communications element adequately? [4:59]
Yeah. The focus of the GMAT is more on that ability to think critically and reason. And so we continue to provide that through the remaining question types that are available, reading comprehension and critical thinking. Those are the two question types that remain in the GMAT. We did remove the essay component because by and large what we heard frankly from test takers was they didn’t really love it, but from schools also was that as they thought about prioritizing making the exam more approachable for a broader population of business school candidates and the fact that they really weren’t using AWA significantly in their decision making process, we really just respond to what the schools tell us. We didn’t make any of these decisions in a vacuum. Schools told us, “Hey, can you make the exam shorter? Can you make it more approachable? And honestly, we’re not really using AWA for its intended purpose and certainly we’re not using it as a primary part of our process.” And so with that sort of information at hand, we decided to pull the AWA as well to really meet this goal of creating a more approachable experience for test takers around the world.
Do you think ChatGPT might be changing that at all? [6:35]
It’s certainly a consideration. It’s really a new phenomenon, and I think what we know today will be very different from what we know six months from now and six months after that. So I think business schools and certainly GMAC are continuing to look at how that has implications for the admissions process. We’ll see how we can best support that in the coming months.
How long does the GMAT Focus take? [7:03]
So the GMAT Focus is reduced by almost an hour. The current GMAT takes three hours and seven minutes plus breaks. The GMAT Focus is two hours and 15 minutes. Each of the three sections is only 45 minutes long, and you have one optional break that’s 10 minutes long, and you can take that between either two sections of the three. So you have a lot of flexibility there. You also, as we’re on the topic, you can take the exam in whatever order you choose. As we were having those conversations with business schools and business school candidates around the world, one of the things we heard a lot about was what can you do to reduce test fatigue and test anxiety and how can you create an experience that allows the test taker to have more flexibility?
And so we really took that to heart and throughout the exam experience, we looked for opportunities to sort of target those concerns of testing fatigue and testing anxiety. And so you can take the exam in whatever order you want. The other big one that we added was historically with the current GMAT, you have to answer every question before you can move forward, and sometimes you might get stuck on a question. And so you’ve got to do a little gambling. You got to say, “Hey. How much time am I going to spend on this before I guess? Should I just guess and move on? Should I try to get it right?” With the GMAT Focus, you have the ability to skip and come back-
Within the section? [8:27]
Within the section, you have the ability to skip a question and you get to the end and then you can come back. So you just tag a question and you say, “Hey. This one, maybe I’ll say this to the end and I’ll see how much time I have left and I’ll come back and deal with it.” But in that way, you’re not sort of gambling away time that you could use more effectively on other questions that you do know the ability to solve for, you do have the ability to solve for.
Is the adaptive element that was in the traditional GMAT going away? Maybe I didn’t understand it correctly. The questions changed as you went on within a section in the traditional GMAT. Is that correct? [8:53]
That’s correct. GMAT is a question adaptive exam. GMAT Focus will remain a question adaptive exam. This is an incredible innovation that our R&D team, our psychometrics team as they’re called, we’re able to really drive some great product innovation so that we could meet a lot of these needs that the market was asking for. And so yes, it remains computer adaptive, question adaptive. As you answer questions, the difficulty level will change. If you’re getting questions right, you’ll see the difficulty level increase. As you’re getting questions wrong, you’ll see the difficulty level decrease and that remains.
And so with this review and edit capability, the ability to go backwards, you still will complete the entire section. So the adaptive nature of the exam will continue, the algorithm will complete. And then once you’ve answered all the questions, that’s when you can go back. So the adaptiveness of the section is now complete and then you can go back and you can change an answer. Certainly if you make an incorrect answer correct or a correct answer incorrect, that will have some implications for your score, but the adaptive nature of the section has completed at that point.
So let’s say I’m taking the test, I answer one, two, three, four, five. I decide, “I’m going to answer that later.” I go- [10:26]
You still have to provide an answer, but you can tag it and come back to it.
Oh. So you can correct answers? [10:37]
Got it. I understand. [10:40]
So you’re going through it. You have to still go through all the questions, but you can tag them and say, “Hey.” And then on the last screen of the section, you’ll be given a list of all the questions and the ones you tagged and you can go back and revisit them.
So if I finish a section quickly, I could go back and check my work also. [10:58]
That’s right. That’s right.
But you can only change up to three responses.
So you can’t tag more than three either, correct? [11:07]
You can tag as many as you want, but you can only change up to three ’cause you may tag them to say, “Hey, let me spend a little more time to reconfirm my response.” And the fact that we’ve kept it to three, there’s logic and there’s reasoning behind that and part of it comes back to anxiety. So as we looked at all of the individuals who’ve taken the GMAT over the last few years, we started seeing, of the ones that completed the exam of the section, most of them, they had a couple minutes left at the end of each section on average.
And frankly, with a couple minutes, you probably can fix a couple, maybe three answers, but we didn’t want to create this anxiety where you can go back and complete five or 10 because then you’re really stressed out about, “Oh my gosh.” So when we looked at the data, most people had a couple minutes left. We felt like in a couple minutes you might be able to update two or three responses. And so we set the bar at three just to minimize that further anxiety.
Thank you. It’s fascinating. What is the timeline for the rollout of the GMAT Focus? When will it start being offered? Will the traditional GMAT be offered at the same time? [12:17]
We just launched prep for GMAT Focus a few weeks ago in June and we’re excited that there’s a full suite of prep available. People seem to be very excited about learning more about that. The GMAT Focus registrations will open at the end of August, August 29th, and in Q4 we will start allowing people to take the exam.
What again is that? [12:47]
In quarter four. In a fourth-
Quarter four. Got it. Good one. [12:48]
We’ll allow people to start taking the exam, and it’s going to be available both in test centers and online. The current version of the GMAT will remain available through early next year and then GMAT Focus will replace the current version of the GMAT entirely by early next year. So there will be an overlap period of a few months. We’ll give more details, more specifics around the date when you can start taking the exam later this summer.
It seems like the GMAT Focus is shorter. It doesn’t have the written component. It maintains the adaptive nature, but allows you to choose the section. Seems like there’s a lot of advantages to it. Why would anybody want to take the traditional GMAT if the GMAT Focus is available? [13:22]
Yeah. I think it depends on where you are in your process. So I think for some who’ve been preparing for a while, the current GMAT is where they may want to focus their attention. It also depends on what your timeline is. Yeah. I highly recommend once it’s available that people give it a shot, but again, everything we’re doing here is about minimizing anxiety. If people are comfortable with one approach, they’ve been preparing, and their timelines are more aligned with the current GMAT, then yeah, sure, go ahead.
And then if you do happen to have a little more time and you’ve already prepared for the current GMAT, you’ve already done most of the work. The GMAT Focus is actually a curated version of the current GMAT. So you’re not going to see any new question types. You’re actually going to see less question types. If anything, you’ll likely be over-prepared for the GMAT Focus. And so you can try out GMAT Focus at the same time. But again, it just depends on where you want to be and what your timelines are.
Is there any change in the pricing with GMAT Focus? [14:38]
We’re really excited that we’ve been able to include a whole number of features, like I’ve talked to you about. The ability to review and change your answers. One thing that we’ve also done is we’ve incorporated a much more robust candidate score report that provides detailed performance insights and analytics. So it goes way beyond just a number and the percentile. It really gives you a sense of how you did, not just on the total section, but on specific question types, specific content domains. It also provides some analysis on how you compared against other people that applied to similar schools.
So just a lot of different things. We used to provide a similar product, but we charge for that. And now, that is now included in your registration fee. And so I’m really excited that we didn’t have to change the pricing at all. The GMAT Focus has maintained the price points of the current GMAT despite offering a wide host of additional benefits and value, and features.
Now I understand that the scoring is going to change. How and why is the scoring going to change? [15:42]
Okay. Another opportunity for a little bit of a history lesson.
So the current GMAT score scale that we know today was launched in 1997. And since 1997, the population of GMAT test takers has changed dramatically. It has globalized dramatically. Back in 1997, it was a very different profile than it is certainly several years later and certainly today. And what that’s caused is the mean has been increasing year over year. The problem that causes, business schools have come to GMAC and said, “Hey, look, this is a real problem that that mean keeps increasing, that the score distribution feels a little inflated. It’s hard to differentiate individuals across that score scale. What can you do about that?” So with GMAT Focus, the fact that we’re changing some of the content, like I said, we’re removing sentence correction, we’ve re-targeted some of the sections. So we now have a data literacy skillset focus.
We’ve added this review and edit capability and we basically saw this as an opportunity to reset the score scale back to a more normal distribution, more of a bell-shaped curve where the mean sits closer to the center of the score scale, which is what the original intent was back in 1997. And what that does, it makes it a lot easier for schools to differentiate, not only across the full score scale, but certainly where they were seeing some sort of tightening up, which was at the top end of the score scale. And so that’s why we’re changing it. Now what we’ve done is, everyone knows the current score scale, 200 to 800, very well known. We didn’t want to get too far away from that, but we did want to make sure that people could quickly, especially admissions officers, but certainly test takers, whoever uses this information, could quickly identify that, “Hey. This person took a GMAT Focus and not a GMAT.”
And so we added a five to the end. So the GMAT Focus score scale will be 205 to 805, but the scores are not directly comparable because of this recalibration of the score scale. And so what we’re recommending to test takers, and we have a lot of information on our website about this, conversion charts, everything you need, but we are recommending that they look at percentiles because using percentiles, you can understand relative performance across the two versions of the exam. And we are doing a full-court press with schools around the world. We have a large team of folks that are out there doing one-on-one meetings, webinars, we just had a big conference. So we are educating them, we are providing them the tools and resources. We recognize that change is hard, but we have some time. And so we’re really making sure that they understand that a GMAT test taker and a GMAT Focus test taker and how you compare them and contrast them.
How do you get percentiles with a brand new exam? [18:56]
What we did was we reconstructed the test data and the response data from the last five years of the current GMAT exam, and we basically ran that through the new sort of constructs. And so we were able to reconstruct a dataset using the constructs for the GMAT Focus, but using the response data from the last five years of the current GMAT exam. As I said, there’s no new items. And so with that, we were able to run analytics against that revised dataset and understand predictive validity, understand reliability, and develop percentiles.
And I guess you’re actually anticipating with that answer my next question, which was I’ve heard many, many, many times, infinite number of times, that GMAT scores correlate to performance in graduate management education. So how has GMAC researched or confirmed that the new shorter GMAT is going to be at least as predictive as the older, longer GMAT? [19:35]
Yeah. So I think one of the hallmarks of the GMAT is its high quality standards, and it’s always been a part of our exam. One of those standards is predictive validity. And so it’s funny that when we talked to schools, they said, “Hey. Can you make the exam shorter, more approachable, but you have to maintain the incredibly high industry leading quality benchmarks that you’re known for?” Well that’s a tall order ’cause the length of the exam actually helps determine the quality of the information that we’re getting. So our team that does test design went back to the drawing board and really rebuilt the exam. Again, more innovation to really figure out how to maintain those standards while reducing the length of the exam.
And that’s a whole nother probably podcast there in some of those innovations. But with that, we were able to maintain industry leading predictability, almost double what standardized testing minimum thresholds are around the world, which is typically around a 0.25 and with GMAT, the current GMAT exam and with the GMAT Focus, we’re up around 0.5, which is a correlation coefficient. I’m getting way too technical. But anyway. I think it was just so important to us as an organization to make sure that an individual or a school that uses that score knows for certainty that it’s going to be a predictor of their ability to perform in that business school classroom. It is designed for that business school classroom. That score will help you confirm that you can handle the rigors of that business school classroom.
Now there are tests that have experimental or unscored sections in them. Will the GMAT Focus have such a section or such questions? [21:37]
Yeah. I think most exam programs around the world have that. So we will continue to have some questions that are experimental.
That’s probably all I can get into it.
You mentioned earlier the test takers can choose the order and that’s one of the big innovations in the new GMAT Focus. Do you recommend starting with the one that they anticipate being the hardest or the easiest? [21:59]
Yeah. It’s an interesting phenomenon, and I think it comes down to the test taker. So it depends on if you want to end on a high note, take this section that you are most comfortable with last as you’re starting to get tired or take the section that you’re most comfortable first so that you can get comfortable while you’re dealing with content that you know that you can handle and so you’re settled down for the rest of the exam. It’s hard to say. We’ve seen people go either way. The good news is you can decide, and you can take our practice exams to figure out what works best for you. We have three practice exams. We have paid practice exams. Try it out. See if you want to start with quant, if you want to start with data insights, if you want to start with verbal. What is helping you feel most comfortable and least anxious as you move through the exam?
That’s a great suggestion. How are schools receiving the new exam? I know you got a lot of input from them. I also believe that Harvard said it doesn’t want to take the GMAT Focus this particular cycle. What kind of feedback are you getting? [23:08]
We’re in an education process here. So there’s a lot of schools that are in learning mode, and we’re out there teaching them.And we certainly have spent a lot of time up until now talking to them in our research process. By and large schools are very excited about the reduced length of the exam while maintaining the quality and the rigor of the exam. To our knowledge, Harvard has essentially suggested that for this cycle, they have a very different approach. They only have two rounds, one and two. And since they didn’t want to create any sort of confusion with their applicant base, they really wanted people to just focus on the current version of the exam. They are using GMAT Focus for their 2+2, which has a slightly later deadline early next year. So from our understanding, that is a unique situation with Harvard. Most schools have multiple rounds or rolling admissions. At this point we haven’t heard of anyone else having any concerns.
Now, many business schools allow applicants to take alternatives to the GMAT. In your view, why should an MBA applicant take the GMAT Focus as opposed to another test, which might be less expensive or shorter or even shorter than the GMAT Focus? What’s the argument for the GMAT exam? [24:23]
There’s a lot of different things we could talk about with that.
First of all, I think it’s important to recognize that the GMAT is the only business school admissions test designed specifically for business school admissions. And it was designed with direct input from business school admissions and faculty. So that’s one key piece. Secondly, it is an exam that is most relevant to today’s business, sort of what you need in the world of business to be successful. And so it is the only exam out there that has a data insights section or a focus on data analytics. And then finally, it has industry leading predictability. So what that means is it is doing what it’s designed to do. It is making sure that you are ready and can have success in the business school classroom. There are other options out there. Individuals going to business school are making a significant commitment. They are making a financial investment, a significant financial investment.
Then it might be a few hundred dollars, but the business school education is tens of thousands of dollars. Also, there’s opportunity costs. If they are going into a full-time MBA program, they’re potentially giving up a job or if they’re part-time or EMBA program, they’re giving up their personal lives because they’re doing their job and going to class at night or weekends. So there’s a lot of opportunity costs. And then finally, one of the main things you’re doing is to make sure that you learn and that your peers and your cohort are strong and of a high caliber. You’re going to be spending a lot of time with them. They’re going to be your network for the future.
And so knowing that they have been through the same standard that you have to get into that classroom, you know at a minimum that the caliber is where you want them to be. So I think those are important considerations in terms of why you might want to take an exam. To make sure that you are ready to invest those dollars, to invest that time, and that the person sitting to your left and to your right is equally ready for the task to go forward in that business school classroom.
On a related, but not the same, note, many schools are offering test waivers, test optionality; some are waiving the test entirely. What is the benefit of a test score for applicants when the test is optional or waivers are issued? Why should they take the test? [27:10]
Yeah. It comes down to your ability to stand out. I have not heard of a business school that won’t accept a score. And so if you have an individual with a similar profile to you, maybe you’re both in finance or what have you, head of marketing, similar years of work experience, great recommendations, how are you going to stand out? I think that standardized test, that GMAT score, will really help you stand out from the others and make sure you get noticed for that admission.
I also think that if somebody has an undergraduate record that is less than stellar, a GMAT score can do wonders in terms of convincing a school that, well, they were goofing off as an undergrad or something happened as an undergrad and they really can perform. [27:56]
Yeah. You’re absolutely right, Linda. It’s a great way to sort of solve for pieces of your resume, let’s say, or your background that you want to show improvement on, that you want to show that you have sort of taken steps to improve upon. So I think that’s a great point.
Aptitude tests are sometimes criticized as increasing inequality or inequity in society and contributing to a lack of diversity in higher education and ultimately in management. How would you respond to that concern? [28:28]
Well, as an organization, GMAC is deeply committed to supporting the business school community to advance an inclusive and accessible approach to business education. And the GMAT exam and the GMAT Focus edition were both designed to minimize bias or to eliminate bias to the extent possible. So we have an incredibly rigorous process that we use to ensure that every question that appears on the GMAT exam and now the GMAT Focus exam is free from bias. It is a nearly 12-month process. There’s actually a seven-step process. It’s all presented on our website. And despite the fact that these questions are really being designed by Ph.Ds, extremely, extremely bright individuals, only about 70% of questions that we put through our 12-month process make it out the other end. So we are very careful about which questions make it onto a live exam and which ones don’t. And if there’s any marker of bias within that, we’re sure to exclude it from the process.
Once we’ve gotten rid of all the bias, how about some really good GMAT prep tips? [29:55]
Yeah. There’s a lot we try to provide there. So certainly-
What are the top ones? What are your favorites? [30:10]
We have this thing on our website. It’s called a six-week study planner. It’s a great tool to sort of organize and it’s great ’cause six weeks. So you don’t have to worry about spending months and months and months. If you’re approaching an application deadline, if you have six weeks roughly, you can really put a plan together to kindof get ready and find success on the GMAT exam. But there’s a lot of tools and resources. We have a free starter kit, which has free practice exams, it really allows you to organize your study. And then there’s a lot of different paid resources as well if you want to add on to the top of that.
Most importantly I think it’s about just understanding the structure of the exam. It’s about understanding the question types. It’s understanding how to attack each type of question ’cause while some people may recently be out of undergrad or maybe they’ve been in the workforce for a while, it’s really about resetting and getting back to thinking about how are these questions structured and how can I most efficiently get through them and work through the answers? So I think that’s where I would start is either the six-week study planner or the official starter kit, all free resources. Take the practice exams to figure out how you, and those are free too, to see where you stand and how you want to think about your strategy with taking the real exam.
What would you have liked me to ask you? [31:49]
I think one of the things that I think people have asked me a lot about is sort of the exam and some of the changes we made and what the implications are for the amount of time you have for each question.
I think it’s important to think about the fact that we provide a lot more time for each of our questions than maybe some of the other exams do.
How much actually? [32:17]
Over two minutes per question.
And so, again, we are not trying to create anxiety there. We are trying to give you an appropriate amount of time to take the exam. You may come across other exams out there that suggest a shorter length, but ultimately, they basically are putting in more questions in the same amount of time. And so as you think about what is the right solution for you and which exam is going to give you the best chance of success, certainly we’ve talked about all the features and benefits, but also recognizing that that fatigue and that anxiety are really important and we’ve maintained sort of the amount of time that you have per question when you’re taking the GMAT.
That’s a really good point and I want to thank you for raising it. Thank you also for joining me today. Where can listeners and test takers learn more about the GMAT Focus and find the prep materials that you’ve been talking about? [33:01]
Yeah. So certainly, Mba.com/gmatfocus. We have all the information there. You can get a sense of the exam, the structure, and certainly all the prep materials.
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