Yesterday, the Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC, the organization that makes the GMAT) released its annual mba.com Prospective Students Survey, a wide-ranging study of nearly 12,000 prospective GMAT-takers and graduate-school-applicants. While this survey is designed primarily to target the needs of graduate schools, there are some interesting data points that you, the aspiring student, may want to know.
Why do people want a graduate business degree?
The survey identified three main groups of people:
Career switchers (38% of respondents): these prospective students are looking to switch industries or job functions and hoping that a graduate degree will give them the boost they need to make the change successfully. People in this group are more likely than the overall pool of respondents to be age 24 or older and living in the U.S. or Canada. The size of this group has dropped by 8 percentage points in the last 5 years, perhaps not surprising as the economy has picked up since 2010.
Career enhancers (34%): these prospective students are seeking a graduate degree primarily to enhance their existing careers, whether planning to keep their current jobs or move to a new employer. People in this group are more likely than the overall pool of respondents to be female, under the age of 24, and living in Asia-Pacific, Europe, or the U.S. The size of this group hasn’t changed much in the past 5 years.
Aspiring entrepreneurs (28%): these prospective students hope to start their own businesses, possibly even before they earn their degrees, though only about 10% have already started businesses. People in this group are more likely than the overall pool of respondents to be male and living in the Middle East, Africa, Central or South Asia, or Latin America This group increased by about 9 percentage points in the past 5 years.
These three groups show some very interesting regional differentiation:
What does that mean for you? First, it’s just interesting to know. Second, it gives you a sense of whether you are coming from a more “common” demographic or whether you will stand out more from the crowd. If the former, then you’ll want to look for other ways to make your story stand out.
Want kind of degree do people want to get? What kind of program do they want to attend?
The survey includes some very interesting data about the types of degrees people want. First, let’s address the two main categories of degrees: MBA and specialized. A little over half of the respondents were firmly focused on MBA degrees, while about 22% said that they want a specialized degree (such as a Master of Finance). The remaining 26% were considering both types of programs (it was unclear whether they are considering getting a dual degree or whether they just haven’t made up their mind about which type of degree to get).
Check out the graph below. Of the people considering only an MBA program, about 32% were most interested in a full-time 2-year program and 27% were aiming for an accelerated full-time 1-year program. For those considering only a specialized degree, Master of Accounting and Master of Finance programs are by far the most popular programs.
The report did not indicate what these numbers looked like in the past, but I would speculate that more people today are interested in a shorter study timeframe than 5 years ago. As the economy picks up, people don’t want to spend a full 2 years out of the work force, particularly those who are looking to stay in the same industry after graduate school. (This is just my anecdotal take based on the questions and comments I hear from students in my classes and on our forums.)
The below data reflects two combined categories: those who know they want a specialized degree and those who are still considering both types of degrees. There are distinct preferences by region for the two most popular specialized degrees.
There’s strong interest in a Master of Finance degree in Asia-Pacific and Europe. Those considering a Master of Accounting degree are most likely to live in the Asia-Pacific region or the U.S.
Want to read more?
If you’d like to read more, hop on over to the GMAC website and download the full report. If you have any interesting insights to share, or want to discuss something you find intriguing, let us know in the comments!
The GMAT® is property of the Graduate Management Admissions Council. All data cited is from GMAC’s 2015 mba.com Prospective Students Survey.
Big news from GMAC, the makers of the GMAT! Starting January 29th, you can order an Enhanced Score Report (ESR) that will contain all kinds of nifty data from your official GMAT CAT. I’ve got all of the details below, but first I’ll address a few details that will be on everyone’s mind.
- Costs $25.
- Is available for any GMAT taken from October 2013 forward, as long as you are still within the 5-year window from the date of the exam (which everyone is right now!).
- Contains great data such as: percentage correct by question type and certain content areas; average time by question type and certain content areas.
- Is available even if you cancel your score!
Read on for more.
Why did they create this report?
The motivation was primarily student-driven. Test-takers naturally want more data about their strengths and weaknesses for a variety of reasons, some obvious and some not so (more on this later). Spokesperson Rich D’Amato, speaking on behalf of GMAC, told me that they have been beta-testing the ESR with students for the past year, exploring what students would want to see, how they would use the information, and how best to display that information visually so that it is easy to analyze.
In fact, Rich said something that impressed me enough to write down verbatim: “We spent a great deal of time listening.” So thank you to all of the beta-tester GMAT takers who gave their time and thoughtful opinions to help develop these reports, which will help all of the rest of us going forward.
The Graduate Management Admission Test, better known as the GMAT®, is a standardized test used in the admissions process for business school and other specialized Master’s programs. The exam measures certain skills that the business schools care about, most notably Executive Reasoning skills. It does not test any specific business knowledge.
When is the GMAT given?
You can take the GMAT year-round, nearly any day of the week (though they limit you to 5 sittings in a 12-month period and require a wait of 31 days between tests). The exam is given on a computer and is known as a “CAT.”
What is a CAT?
A CAT is a computer-adaptive test: the test actually adapts itself to you while you’re taking it! Two of the four sections on the GMAT, the Quantitative and Verbal sections, are adaptive. Each of these two sections begins with a random, approximately medium-level question. The computer chooses each subsequent question based upon your collective performance to that point in the section.
The practical implications are important. First, every test taker will take a different exam with a different mix of questions, but the test feels hard for everyone, since the test will just keep getting harder until it finds a particular person’s limit. Second, the scoring is pretty peculiar; it’s important to understand how the scoring works.
Want to try your hand at a practice test? Take our free, full-length practice exam here.
How is the GMAT Scored?
Tests you took in school were generally based on the percentage of questions answered correctly: the more you got right, the higher the score you received. As a result, you have been trained to take your time and try to get everything right when you take a test. This general strategy does not work on computer-adaptive sections of the GMAT because, strangely enough, the quant and verbal scores are not based on the percentage of questions answered correctly. On the GMAT, most people answer similar percentages of questions correctly, typically in the 50% to 70% range (even at higher scoring levels!).
How is that possible? The first thing to know: the GMAT is not a school test. The quant section is not really a math test, and the verbal section is not really a grammar test. Of course, you do need to know how to handle those topics. The test writers are really interested, however, in knowing how good you are at making decisions and managing scarce resources. (That’s the second time we’ve linked to that same article. Go read it!)
Last week, I attended the annual GMAT Summit, held by the fine folks at GMAC (who own / make the GMAT), and I have some interesting tidbits to share with you.
It really is a myth
You know what I’m going to say already, don’t you? The first 7 (or 10, or 5) questions are not worth more than the questions later in the exam. I’ve written about this topic before but I’m going to mention it once again because of something that happened at the conference.
Fanmin Guo, Ph. D., Vice President of Psychometric Research at GMAC, was answering questions after a presentation on the test algorithm. A couple of people were peppering him with questions about this myth and apparently just didn’t seem to believe that it could possibly be true that the early questions aren’t worth more. One of the questioners also made a pretty significant faulty assumption in his arguments—and now I’m worried that an article is going to pop up trying to revive this debate. I don’t want any of my students led astray on this topic.
First, to understand why the early questions actually aren’t worth any more than the later ones, see the article I linked a couple of paragraphs back.
Second: here was the faulty assumption that I heard:
“You said that the earlier questions aren’t worth any more than the later ones. So you’re telling us that students should spend the same amount of time on every question.”
Dr. Guo was saying the first part: that the location of a question on the test doesn’t impact its weighting in the overall score. He and the other GMAC folks weren’t saying anything, though, about how you should take the test.
In fact, it would be silly to spend exactly the same amount of time on every question. Some questions are harder than others. In addition, you have various strengths and weaknesses in terms of both accuracy and speed. There are, in fact, very good reasons not to spend the same amount of time on each question. All Dr. Guo was saying was that the location of the problem in the section is not one of those reasons.
So, if you read something that says that you should spend more time on the earlier questions, roll your eyes and click away. Alternatively, if you read something that concludes that you should spend the same amount of time on every question, drop that source as well. Take a look at the data in my other article to see that GMAC actually does know what it’s doing and the GMAT is not just a test of how you perform on the first 7 or 10 questions.
GMATPrep offers more data
GMAC has been building more score reporting functionality into GMATPrep to give us a better idea of how we do when we take the official practice CATs. In fact, this capability has already launched! I need to go download the newest version of GMATPrep to see exactly what’s offered (and I’ll report back to you once I’ve done so), but they’ve started to offer data for sub-categories such as question type and content area.
Beginning Friday, June 27th, 2014, prospective business students taking the Graduate Management Admission Test® will now be able to preview their unofficial scores before deciding whether to report or cancel them, the Graduate Management Admission Council® states. The score reporting feature will be available at all 600 test centers around the world that administer the GMAT exam.
“We are pleased to offer this feature as part of our efforts to make preparing for and taking the GMAT exam easier,” said Ashok Sarathy, GMAC vice president, product management. “The new score reporting feature gives test takers more certainty and control in the testing process and in how their scores are reported to schools.”
GMAT takers will be given the option of reporting or canceling their scores immediately after taking the test before leaving the test center.
Read the full details in our latest blog post on this, To Keep or To Cancel Your GMAT Score? — That is the question!
Last Friday, I attended the biannual GMAC Summit, a special conference that the makers of the GMAT put on for test prep companies. I want to share various tidbits that you should know!
Integrated Reasoning (IR) has existed long enough now that GMAC is starting to be able to draw some conclusions about the efficacy of the section. Dr. Lawrence Rudner, chief psychometrician of GMAC, is quite pleased with the section’s performance to date.
Though they still need to collect more data to be sure, early results indicate that IR is actually a little bit better of a predictor of grades in business school than are the quant and verbal scores. It will still be a while before they can collect as solid / extensive data as they have for quant and verbal, but perhaps it will be the case that, eventually, IR will become the most important section! (Don’t worry: if you are applying right now, nothing has changed. Even if you aren’t planning to apply until next year, it’s unlikely that the importance of IR will change extensively by then.)
There were no admissions officers in attendance, but we did hear from GMAC that they have heard that admissions consultants are starting to consider using IR as a tiebreak for borderline cases. For example, let’s say a school considers 680+ a strong score and 630 to 670 an average score. For the pool of 630 to 670 candidates (only a few of whom are likely to be admitted), one potential tiebreak is the IR score.
If IR is not your thing, don’t worry: it’s unlikely that any school is making this tiebreak decision based solely on the IR score. After all, many different variables go into an application; they might also decide to use number of years of work experience, under-represented industries, or some other factor. If you do tend to perform well on IR, though, then bonus: that’s an extra mark in the plus column for you.
Interestingly, US students are tending to do a bit better on IR than all other students. (This is also true for the Verbal section of the test, while non-US students tend to do better than US students on the quant section of the test.) A lot of people consider IR more of a quant section, but verbal is just as important. If quant is your strength, then you’ll feel that IR is testing verbal more, and vice versa.
Scoring and Timing
I have only one piece of info for you here, but it’s quite an important piece of data. As we were discussing the scoring algorithm, someone asked the age-old question: whether certain questions were “worth more” than others. Dr. Rudner indicated (as he always has in the past) that the earlier questions are not worth more than the later ones. He did, though, indicate something that we suspected but had never heard officially confirmed: “outlier” questions ultimately count less towards your score.
What’s an outlier? Briefly, an outlier is a question for which your performance was unexpected. Read on to understand what this means.
An outlier is always relative to your own performance. (Note: we’re also talking only about the questions that count towards your score; the experimentals don’t matter here.) Most of the questions you answer will be within a certain range of difficulty. As a general rule, you’ll answer more of the easier questions in your range correctly and you’ll answer more of the harder questions incorrectly. This is the expected behavior.
Exciting news! GMAC (the owners of the GMAT) announced on Friday that, starting immediately, we’ll get our unofficial IR scores as soon as the test is over. They already do this for our Quant, Verbal, and Total scores, so IR will be added to the mix.
As with the other scores, the IR score will be considered an “unofficial” score until you receive your official score report. You can consider these test-day scores essentially official, though, as it’s incredibly rare for something to change after that day. The folks over at GMAC are professionals; they’re not going to release scores if there’s even a small chance that something could change, upsetting students who thought they had earned a different score.
So now you won’t have to wait to find out how you did on IR. (You’ll still wait for the essay score, of course, but that’s not quite so nerve-wracking, is it?)
Need to practice IR? Try our new free GMAT Interact lessons for Integrated Reasoning.
Happy studying and good luck on test day!
Last week, GMAC updated its percentiles for GMAT scores. The organization does this once a year to smooth out any differences in the testing pool.
What do I mean by “differences?” The demographics of the people taking the exam change over time. In particular, over the last ten years or so, GMAC has seen a huge increase in the number of non-United-States-based students taking the test. A majority of these students speak English as a second (or third!) language; a majority also have a better grounding in quantitative skills than the average U.S.-educated student. These differences lead to changes in the data over time.
Scaled Scores vs. Percentiles
GMAT results are reported using various “scaled scores.” We receive a 2-digit score for quant, a separate 2-digit score for verbal, a Q+V-combined 3-digit score, and two more separate scores for the essay and IR sections.
Think of these scaled scores as “skill levels.” They reflect a specific, measurable level of ability. Here’s the interesting thing: the skills needed to reach a certain level do not change over time. A quant score of 45 today reflects the same skill level as a quant score of 45 earned ten or even twenty years ago.
What does change over time is the percentile ranking associated with that score. A percentile ranking reflects how much better you did than a certain percentage of the test-taking population. For example, if you score in the 75th percentile, then you scored better than 75% of the people taking the test—not just that day, or that week, but for the past couple of years (or whatever timeframe is designated for that test).
Imagine that you give a math test to a bunch of 10-year-olds. The scoring algorithm is very simple: if you get a question right, you get one point. You then gather all of the scores and figure out percentile rankings for that group. Let’s say that a certain score (let’s call it 5) represents the 50th percentile. A student who scores 5 earned a better score than 50% of her peers.
Then you take that exact test and give it to a bunch of 14-year-olds. They’re a lot better at math. The same score of 5 might represent only the 25th percentile for this new group, because more of these students have better math skills and can answer more questions correctly. A score of 5 still means the same thing (in this case, 5 questions right), but the pool of testers has changed and so the percentile rankings change too.
This is essentially what happens with the GMAT over time as well. If more people who are good at math start taking the test, then that score of 45 (which represents a certain, fixed level of skill) will drop in the percentile rankings because more people will be capable of performing at that level or higher.
We’ve seen especially big demographic changes on the GMAT over the last 5 to 10 years. In 2006, a quant score of 45 was rated the 78th percentile. Someone scoring at that level had better quant skills than 78% of the people taking the exam around that time.
Today, that same skill level of 45 rates the 66th percentile. This does not mean that someone scoring a 45 today is worse at math than someone with the same score in 2006; rather, the two students are equally good. Instead, a greater percentage of the population taking the test today has stronger math skills.
You might be thinking: oh, great. So that means I have to do even better at math. Actually, the opposite is (sort of) true. Keep reading.
This Year’s Trends
Note: The following is a guest post by Liza Weale, Senior Consultant for mbaMission.
The numbers from GMAC’s 2013 Corporate Recruiters Survey are in, and the MBA continues to gain ground with employers. Of the companies surveyed, 75% plan to hire MBAs in 2013 versus the 71% that hired business school graduates in 2012. The median starting salary for MBAs at U.S. companies is also on the rise: up from $90K in 2012 to $95K in 2013. And companies in the classic fields of consulting and finance are not the only ones expecting to add MBAs to their work force (79% in 2013 over 69% in 2012 and 75% in 2013 over 70% in 2012, respectively): 86% of energy and utility companies (up 17% over 2012) and 89% of health care and pharma companies (up 12% over 2012) report plans to do so as well.
Undoubtedly, the outlook for MBAs is rosy, but being aware of this promising forecast is not enough to help an applicant gain a spot at a top program. Some deep soul searching is needed, and resources such as GMAC’s 2013 Corporate Recruiters Survey can be excellent sources of inspiration”especially as candidates contemplate what next after business school.
The following are a few things that might be helpful to consider as you think about your goals:
The new release of GMATPrep, version 2.2, is a significant upgrade!
The biggest improvement is that the software now allows you to review previous practice problems and tests. I was excited when I saw this feature listed in the README and I was thrilled when I found that I could actually review the practice problems and the tests that I took last year! Thank you, GMAC! This is enormously helpful for test takers.
The default for both practice problem sets is now to do what most people want to do, which is to save the test for later review, and the new user interface makes it very hard to accidently delete a practice test. You have to press a test ˜reset’ button and then go through a dialog to reset your tests, another big improvement.
I was also delighted to see that in the practice utility, the Reading Comprehension problems are now grouped correctly. In the previous versions of GMAT Prep, each RC practice problem included an entirely new passage, unlike the real test, where of course each passage has 3 or 4 associated questions. This is another significant improvement and makes the practice utility more helpful for people who are working on RC or who want to do mixed verbal sets. Since this new feature works correctly with mixed drills as well, you can now use GMATPrep to specify realistic verbal mixed sets, with SC, CR, and RC problems, as well as realistic quant mixed sets of PS and DS problems.
Although the two practice tests still seem to have only one IR section, an IR percentile ranking is now computed, which is helpful.
There are is also some new timing analysis available in practice sets, along with some at least moderately useful progress tracking graphs for examining progress on practice sets.
And speaking of time, you can now pause a practice exam or question session. Although you really shouldn’t do this if you want a realistic practice experience, sometimes it is helpful, such as when you are writing a review of the software and need to test features and then write about them. J
GMAC must be thinking more about customer support because you can now generate system information at the click of button, which makes things much easier if you ever need to call of email GMAC about a software problem.
And finally, if you are a test taker with a GMAC approved timing accommodation, you can ask for a special code that you enter that will allow you to take practice tests with the appropriate amount of extra time.
All in all, very well done GMAC! I noticed a couple of weird little bugs that I’ve listed below, but they are minor compared to the improvements and have easy workarounds, which I’ve described.
Weird Little Bugs:
- You have to enter your mba.com account name and password when you first launch GMATPREP and if you are logged in to mba.com when you try this, you will get an unhelpful unknown error message. If you see this message, just log out of mba.com’s website and try starting GMAT Prep again.
- When you solve an IR table question, the ˜submit’ button will be grayed out until you click on sort by a column “ even if you have filled in all of the answers “ so just remember to click on something to sort by if you didn’t actually have to sort (and usually you will have to) to answer the question.