GMAT revamp focuses on reasoning

Problem-solving abilities at the heart of the next generation test for business students

The GMAT test, the entry test for business school, is to get a face-lift with a whole new section added to test integrative reasoning. The 30-minute section will test the problem-solving abilities of prospective MBA students, by assessing them on their skills in interpreting graphs, charts and tables from different sources, says Dave Wilson, president of GMAC, which administers the GMAT test.

“It’s not just their number-crunching abilities,” points out Stacey Kole, deputy dean of the full-time MBA programme at Chicago Booth. “That (problem-solving) is much messier. It addresses the need to think across boundaries. For Chicago this is really important because we are not a lock-step programme.”

Developing the enhanced test has taken time, says Mr Wilson. Research began in 2007 with faculty from top business schools. In total. 750 faculty from around the world were involved in the process. The new test will be introduced on June 4 2012, so the first prospective students to sit the test will start their MBA programmes in 2013 (Class of 2015).

The GMAT exam will still be three and a half hours in length, with one one of the essay questions dropped to accommodate the new section. The verbal and quantitative sections of the test will not change. As a result, tests will be scored on the same 200–800 scale used today. Test takers will continue to receive a separate score for the essay question and will receive a third score for the integrated reasoning section.

“The new integrated reasoning section of the GMAT will be a microcosm of today’s b-school classroom,” says Mr Wilson. “These questions will provide critical intelligence to schools about the ability of prospective students to make sound decisions by evaluating, assimilating or extrapolating data.”

Prof Kole goes even further, arguing that the integrative reasoning test will also have applications beyond the world of business education, in evaluating medical students, for example. “I’m delighted we have it in the GMAT but I think it’s value goes way beyond just our community.”

The revamped test comes at a critical time for GMAC which is facing growing competition from the GRE (Graduate Record Exam), a general test for graduate students from all disciplines. “One of the things I really like about GMAT is that is really written for business school,” says Prof Kole.

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