Starting on the morning of Monday, April 16, 2018, a new, shorter version of the GMAT will be launched. This blog post will go over the major expected changes and highlight those places where it really matters. See the official GMAC FAQ for more details.
So what’s new?
- The overall test time has been shortened by 30 minutes – from 4 hours to 3.5 hours. This 30 minutes reduction breaks down into 13 minutes less for Quant, 10 minutes less for Verbal and another 7 minutes removed from various instruction screens. Scroll on down to see the detailed breakdown per section.
- Only ‘experimental’, non-scoring questions are being removed, and the overall GMAT scoring algorithm has not changed. This means that you shouldn’t panic – you’ll still see the same number of real questions in each section and they will all be scored similarly.
- All of the exam-packs will be changed by April 30th to reflect the new exam structure. If you’ve already purchased the old exam-packs, then once the new exam-packs come out, you’ll need to contact GMAC to get a free code which allows you to replace the old with the new.
- GMAC has launched a new tutorial software which guides users through all the screens and instructions encountered on the full exam.
Wait! I want to do the old version of the GMAT!
As the change in the GMAT structure is rather abrupt, GMAC has offered to let all students whose test is scheduled for before May 6th change the date of their exam for free. This fee waiver is available only until April 11, this Wednesday, and later changes will incur the standard fee. Read on to see the details of the expected changes and what you should do about it.
Detailed Quant section changes:
The earlier version of the test had a total of 37 questions, of which 9 were experimental. That is, only 75% of your exam was scored and the remaining 25% was used to test out new questions. Of these 9 experimental questions, 6 have been removed, so the new Quant section contains 31 questions, 3 of which are experimental. That is, 90% of the new section is scored and only 10% of the new section is used to test out new questions. As was the case before the change, when taking the test, we have no way of knowing which questions are scored and which are experimental, and thus – we must solve each question as if it counts!
In addition to reducing the total number of questions on the exam, GMAC has reduced the overall time. So, instead of having 75 minutes to solve 37 questions, we now have 62 minutes for 31 questions. This comes down to 1.6 seconds less per question on average, a decrease of about 1% for each question. So, with respect to pacing, nothing much has changed – you still have 2 minutes per question on average.
Detailed Verbal sections changes:
The earlier version of the test had a total of 41 questions, of which 11 were experimental. As before, about 75% of the exam was scored and the remaining 25% was used to test out new questions. Of these 11 experimental questions, 5 have been removed, so the new Verbal section contains 36 questions, 3 of which are experimental. That is, 92% of the new section is scored and only 8% of the new section is used to test out new questions. Here as well, scored and experimental questions are indistinguishable for test takers: we have to do our best on every question!
Once again, GMAC has reduced the overall time given in the section in proportion to the number of total questions reduced. So, instead of having 75 minutes for 41 questions, we now have 65 minutes for 36 questions. This comes down to 1.4 seconds less per question, also a reduction of about 1% on average. So, as in Quant, the average time per question hasn’t changed much.
However, there is an important difference between Quant and Verbal which may mean this change is more significant. As you know, different types of Verbal questions (Sentence Correction, Critical Reasoning, Reading Comprehension) are very different in nature and require different amounts of time to solve. In Reading Comprehension, in which four questions relate to the same passage, we spend the majority of our time reading the passage (about 2.5 minutes on average), and a relatively short amount of time on each individual questions (40 to 60 seconds on average). Thus, it is significant whether our test includes one less reading passage, or only one less question per passage. GMAC has not officially stated which of these is the case, only stating that the average test-taker should not be affected. We’ll update more once we have more information!
Changes to the on-test instruction screens
Following students’ request, and as an additional part of reducing the overall test time, GMAC have shortened the online instructions that appear on-screen when you take the exam. Instead, you can now read the detailed instructions for each section online for free at this link. The interactive tutorial not only shows you detailed instructions for all sections but also, to quote GMAC, helps you get the “look-and-feel” of the test screens you’ll encounter. GMAC recommends you go through the tutorial at least once before the exam date, preferably within 3 days of your exam.
The exam itself contains a shortened version of the tutorial, designed to give you final reminders on using the online system, test center rules and how to ask for help. The new tutorial screens have much less text than the old ones, but still function as chances for a ‘breather’, which allow you to pause and mentally prepare yourself before continuing onwards to the next section. Note that these are not full breaks, but rather places where you can momentarily pause if need be. The GMAT will still contain two optional 8 minute breaks.
Changes to the official GMAC exam packs
The official GMAT exam packs are changing to reflect the new structure of the exam. The first change is cosmetic – the names of the exam packs are changing from “Free GMATPrep Software” to “GMAT Official Starter Kit + Practice Exams 1 & 2”, from “GMATPrep Exam Pack 1” to “GMAT Official Practice Exams 3 & 4”, and from “GMATPrep Exam Pack 2” to “GMAT Official Practice Exams 5 & 6”. Additionally, the “GMATPrep Question Pack 1” has been rebranded as “GMAT Official Practice Questions”.
In addition to the more cosmetic changes in name and in software, the content of the practice exams has been modified to reflect the new test composition.The new practice exams will contain the following distribution of questions: Quant – 17 or 18 Problem Solving, 13 or 14 Data Sufficiency. Verbal – 13 or 14 Reading Comprehension questions (4 sets), 8 or 9 Sentence Correction, 13 or 14 Critical Reasoning. It looks as though there is an increase in the number of Critical Reasoning questions and a decrease in the number of Sentence Correction questions in the new exam packs, which will also affect optimal question pacing in the Verbal section. Although these statistics appeared in an official GMAC webinar, they have not yet been officially confirmed on their website. We’ll tell you more as we know more.
All exam packs purchased from Jan 16, 2018 and onwards through examPAL will be eligible for a free upgrade to the new exam pack. GMAC will email relevant customers with the details once the new practice exams are out and we will contact all of our students. However, note that the new exam packs will no longer be accessible for an unlimited amount of time: once purchased, they need to be activated within one year and, once activated, can be used for another year. After this period of at most two years practice exams will no longer be accessible.
So… is the new exam easier or harder?
GMAC has been very clear that the change is not expected to change the test’s difficulty level or affect average score levels, only the test length and, hopefully, the fatigue and stress that comes with it. GMAC emphasize that the question formats, content tested, scoring algorithm and number of scored questions per section have not changed. They have stated that they do not expect overall scores to change as a result of the change in format and that their scoring algorithm factors in the differences in time and difficulty when choosing specific questions.
In other words, the change is meant to make the GMAT slightly more pleasant, not easier.
That being said, it is hard to predict how exactly the changes will ultimately affect test-takers, and some people may benefit more from the change. As noted, in the Quant section the average time available per question is expected to be the same, as is the subdivision into different subjects. Comparing the new and old Verbal sections is a bit trickier. As discussed above, until we know if the reduction in the number of questions involves removing an entire Reading Comprehension passage or only a few questions from existing passages, it is hard to assess whether the section is going to become harder to complete or not. However, in both sections, having to solve less questions, which means having to focus for a shorter period of time, should reduce fatigue during the test. This should make this section slightly easier on average for everyone, but could be a greater benefit for those who currently have more trouble focusing for the length of the section.
As always, here at examPAL we will do our utmost to make sure you have the best preparation available for anything that the GMAT throws your way! Stay tuned for more updates as we get more information on the upcoming changes.