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This past Friday, GMAC hosted its biannual Test Prep Summit at its headquarters in Reston, VA. (Really: it’s annual, but they skipped a year last year.) I was there and have various tidbits and scoops to share with you. 🙂
We spent a lot of time talking about the Integrated Reasoning (IR) section of the test. The section has been out long enough now (June 2012) for the early test-takers to have completed graduate school. GMAC conducts extensive validity studies on all parts of its tests and IR is scoring well. In other words, performance on IR does actually correlate to performance in b-school, so IR is a valid test to help schools evaluate candidates.
Schools have slowly started to use IR more (the first year, I think everybody ignored it, schools and students alike!). We’ve heard that the most common usage is as an extra data point: a plus in your column if you have a high score and a minus if you have a low score. (As a reminder: this section is scored from a low of 1 to a high of 8. The median score is between 4 and 5, so a 6 is a good score and a 7 or 8 is a very good score.)
My guess is that the validity data will encourage schools to continue the current trajectory, paying more and more attention to IR. The bad news: yes, this means you should be taking IR more seriously than you might have thought you needed to. The good news: the IR section tests the same underlying material (quant, CR-type reasoning, executive decision-making) as the rest of the test. The only true “extra” is how to handle the four question types that are specific to the IR section.
Also: I know many people don’t like or are intimidated by the IR section, but a lot of that is simply that you haven’t really seen this kind of thing before. You just need to study it enough that it feels normal. Imagine what the Quant and Verbal sections of the test would be like if you’d never seen any kind of multiple-choice math question or any Reading Comp passage, ever. It would feel very weird and annoying. (Even more so than it already is. 😉)
Note for anyone who wants to go into management consulting or investment banking: these industries tend to ask for GMAT scores* when recruiting on b-school campuses—and some of the big-name firms have reported that they are also paying attention to the IR scores. This makes sense, since the IR section is testing exactly the kind of analytical skills that an analyst or consultant needs to use all day long. So if you aspire to work in these fields, make sure you set aside enough time during your studies to perform well on the IR section, too.
[*p.s. Just a note: I haven’t heard these types of firms ask for your “GMAT or GRE” scores. To date, my students tell me that they’re asked specifically for their GMAT scores, period. Just something to think about if you want to go into one of these fields.]
8-Test Lifetime Limit
GMAC has announced that it will shortly impose an 8-test lifetime limit on the GMAT. This will help them to curb abuses by people who are taking the test 5 times a year, every year, for some nefarious purpose (very, very few of these people send even a single score report to a school). In the past, people have been caught taking the test repeatedly in an attempt to memorize questions and then sell them to aspiring test takers. I’m assuming this is the kind of security issue that the new policy is meant to combat.
GMAC has crunched the numbers and determined that 8 tests is the right threshold to minimize the impact on legitimate students—most people over that threshold in the past five years are people they suspect of taking the test for not-the-right-reasons.
If you are worried about this, take heart: there will be an appeals process, in case a legitimate student really does get caught up in the new limit. I imagine that some people are already in the 5 to 7 test range and will now be really worried; if you are a legitimate student, it’s okay! You will have to jump through some hoops to show them that you are a legitimate student, but assuming you are, you will be able to take the test again.
For others who aren’t that far down the path yet, I will say: it’s still totally okay to take the GMAT multiple times, but it’s also wise to make sure that you’re prepared as best you can be. I’ve talked to a lot of students who take an official test after having studied only a week or two—because they just wanted to see what the experience was like. Use GMATPrep for that (GMAC’s official free practice test) and save the real test for a legitimate attempt. It’s fine to have a “dry run” attempt after you’ve been studying for a while but before you feel you’re totally ready to hit your goal—that’s still only one test.
The Executive Assessment (EA) is GMAC’s new test (launched March 2016) for Executive MBA (EMBA) programs. A seventh school, University of Virginia Darden has started using the EA, joining the six founding members: CEIBS (China European International Business School), Chicago Booth, Columbia, University of Hong Kong Business School, INSEAD, and London Business School.
At the summit, GMAC confirmed that geometry will not show up on the EA. Yay! There are also plans to release practice questions and practice tests early in 2017, hopefully in the first quarter. If you are planning to take the EA before then, take a look at our article summarizing our best guesses regarding what the EA does and does not test (and, therefore, how to prep for it).
GMAC also provided more in-depth details as to how the EA works as an adaptive test. It’s not question-adaptive, the way that the GMAT is. The Integrated Reasoning section is given first because it combines both math and verbal skills. After that, you’ll do the Verbal section in two groups of 7 questions each. The difficulty level of the first batch of 7 questions will be chosen based on how you did on verbal-based IR questions. Then, you’ll receive another set of 7 questions chosen based on how you did in the first batch of Verbal questions. The same thing will happen with the Quant section (the final section on the EA).
GMAC also emphasized that, though the EA looks and feels a lot like a shorter version of the GMAT, it’s not just a “mini-GMAT.” The GMAT is a much longer and a much more precise test—it’s designed to help schools evaluate you against other applicants as well as predict your chances of success in b-school.
The EA, on the other hand, is what’s called a “readiness” test: it’s designed to assess whether your fundamental Q and V skills are good enough for you to start your EMBA program. Presumably, the schools will use it at two levels: they’ll want to see a “good enough” score to know that you won’t crash and burn as soon as school starts, and they might use the results to recommend certain pre-term courses that will get you ready to start—maybe you need a math refresher course or a tutorial on data and graph interpretation, for example.
Just one: I’ve asked them (again ) to please release a Focus product for Verbal. GMAC currently has a GMAT Focus product for the Quant section and it’s one of the best study tools available: it’s a 24-question adaptive quant section. It’s literally the only adaptive study tool that’s not a full-length practice test.
I keep emphasizing that word adaptive because that’s the key feature. The best practice is practice that mimics the format of the real test, but it takes 3.5 hours to take a practice test and sometimes…I’m just not ready for that. But I still do want to get very GMAT-like practice.
GMAT Focus is made for just this situation. It allows you to get additional, CAT-like practice in shorter bursts, so you can iterate more (take a Focus, analyze it, then set study priorities for the next week before you do it all over again—and take a full CAT 2 or 3 weeks from now).
On a per-question basis, Focus is more expensive than other official products, and there’s only a max of 4 before you see repeated questions, so I would save it for later in your studies—when you know all the math you want / need to know and are really looking to put your skills together in timed, adaptive conditions. Bookmark the store link I gave above and keep this in your back pocket—you’ll want to use it when the time is right.
That’s all I’ve got for you today. Questions? Comments? Let us know below or contact our Student Services team (firstname.lastname@example.org) for additional help. 📝
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Stacey Koprince is a Manhattan Prep instructor based in Montreal, Canada and Los Angeles, California. Stacey has been teaching the GMAT, GRE, and LSAT for more than 15 years and is one of the most well-known instructors in the industry. Stacey loves to teach and is absolutely fascinated by standardized tests. Check out Stacey’s upcoming GMAT courses here.