1. Hold on to your seats. The Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC), the organization that runs and administers the GMAT, had its annual summit on December 2 in Frankfurt, Germany. At this gathering, GMAC revealed some never-before-seen secrets about the exam – and examPAL has the scoop.

    News From the GMAC Summit


    Some people overlook the Integrated Reasoning section. Situated after the AWA and before Verbal and Quant, and not part of the Total score, the IR is, to many, something to just get through. However, the GMAC revealed an interesting bit of information at the summit that casts this section in a new light: the IR has been found to be the best predictor in the screening of potential MBA applicants, as it strongly correlates with later success. Perhaps this statistical finding shouldn’t be so surprising; after all, the section checks your integrated skills – if they are strong, you almost certainly ‘have’ what the entire test seeks to check.

    But is the IR score itself important? Well, that depends. As detailed in our GMAT Score Explained blog post, the Total score is made up of only the Verbal and Quantitative sections. The IR, as well as the Analytical Written Assessment, on the other hand, receive their own, separate scores. Thus, the IR score doesn’t always carry much weight: many schools look at the Total score only. However, as explained in our What’s a Good Score blog post, the IR score can be an important factor in specific situations, such as applying to a top school, for which it can serve as a sort of ‘tiebreaker,’ differentiating you from other applicants. Also, as more schools consider the new stats the GMAC shared, they might take the IR score much more seriously.

    So if the IR is important, what should you do differently? Not much, necessarily. As we mentioned, the IR, as its name implies, tests your integrated skills, meaning the best way to be good at it is simply by being good at everything else. The GMAT is about Verbal and Quantitative skills, and these are the fundamentals one needs for the entire exam, including the IR.


    Cancellation Prolongation

    As we’ve previously reported in our GMAT Cancellation Explained blog post, the GMAC has recently instated a 72-hour window following the exam, during which one can cancel his or her score (for a $25 fee). Score cancellation can be undone, if one wishes, for a newly extended period of five years (4 years and 11 months actually, but who’s counting?) for a fee of $50.


    Executive Order

    As detailed in our blog post on the subject, the GMAC Executive Assessment is a shorter, lighter test than the GMAT, which is aimed at experienced executives seeking to apply to Executive MBA Programs. The 90-minute test, which debuted on March 1, can already be used for acceptance at 7 Executive MBA programs worldwide: 3 American, 2 European, and 2 Asian. But this is just the beginning: the GMAC has announced that more MBA programs will accept the exam in the near future. Accordingly, in early 2017 the GMAC intends to publish designated practice materials to allow concentrated study for the exam.


    New Revelations On How The GMAT Works

    The GMAC has also divulged, for the first time, many previously secret GMAT details. The new information, part previously unrevealed details about the test itself and part statistical data about test-takers’ performance, sheds new light on the exam and those who take it:

    • As we all know, your GMAT score comes with your percentile, both in the Total score and in each section. But what is this percentile exactly? After all, people take the GMAT all around the world every day. Well, it’s like this: this is your percentile among those who have taken the test in past three years. This allows MBA programs to compare your score to other test takers from the past three years. This is updated annually in July, meaning that your percentile will remain the same during the year that you take the exam, but a year or more later, it can change. While your Total score will of course always remain the same, your percentile could change from year to year.


    • The Verbal section is of course adaptive: the next question you see depends on how you did on your previous ones. However, an interesting detail is that Reading Comprehension questions operate somewhat differently: as these consist of a single passage that is followed by several questions, the questions themselves are not adaptive. In other words, the passage and the questions are selected adaptively together in light of your performance on the exam up to that point. But once you see the passage, the upcoming questions are not going to get harder or easier according to how you did on the previous ones; they’ve already been selected.

    Some Secret (and some not) GMAT Stats Were Revealed

    • Approximately 185,000 people took more than 261,000 GMAT exams around the world between July 1, 2015 and June 30, 2016.
    • 38% of the test-takers took the exam more than once.
    • 27% of test-takers cancelled their scores.
    • In 2016, about 32% of GMAT score reports were sent to non-MBA programs.
    • Each GMAT question costs thousands of dollars to produce, and takes from 9 months to a year to be implemented in the test, as it has to go through a long line of pilots and statistical tests. This is why the official GMAC CATs are the only reliable tool for estimating your score. No other tool is based on such a huge amount of work.

    Two more important insights from the data the GMAC shared:

    • The average retaker improves his score by 30.3. This seems like a lot, but don’t necessarily rush to improve that 680: this is just an average, and the range of score changes is broad, from -100 to +150. The level of improvement in a test taker’s performance depends on a number of factors, including the approach towards the first exam and the extent and nature of a student’s test preparation. Also, importantly, the highest improvements are made by those with the lowest scores, whereas retakers with scores of 700+ improve only mildly, up to 10 points on average. This makes sense at a basic level, of course: higher scores are harder to improve, by definition. However, it tells us more than that: a low score can often be improved because it may stem from a fundamental piece of knowledge or skill that can be easily learned. High scores, however, are achieved by those with a strong grasp of the fundamentals. This means the ‘problem,’ if there is one, is probably more complex, and studying the same way that got a student to the first score is unlikely to solve it. For more on this subject, read our How To Improve an Already High Score blog post.
    • Many students focus their studying on tackling the hardest question a certain subject has to offer. The GMAC claims this is a mistake: studying above your level can be counterproductive; you simply aren’t likely to see a very hard question in a subject you aren’t very good at. As the test is adaptive, you need to get the easy and moderate questions right in order to even see a hard one. Therefore, it is important to practice questions that are at your own current level, and progress in stages this way,

    That’s all from this year’s summit. We’ll be sure to get some more secrets next year…

    Jack Oren Jackman
    CEO & Founder of examPAL. 21 years' experience in the field of test prep. Has written dozens of books and courseware, and personally taught over 4,000 students.

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