March 14, 2013
Last summer, the GMAT made the most major change to its format in 15 years by replacing one of the essays with the Integrated Reasoning (IR) section. Since then, GMAT test-takers have been wondering how IR impacts their b-school applications. As it turns out, business schools are wondering exactly the same thing.
In the IR section of the GMAT, test-takers evaluate data in graphs, spreadsheets, and charts, similar to the materials they will eventually see in business school. In theory, IR can better assess students’ ability to perform the tasks expected of them in business school and the work world. Nearly a year after the inclusion of IR, the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), who administers the GMAT, and business schools nationwide are taking the first steps to determine what role IR should play in the admissions process.
Bloomberg Businessweek recently reported that business schools across the country are actively assessing the significance of IR performance on students’ eventual success in business school. While IR isn’t currently being given much weight in the admissions process, largely because many applicants took the GMAT before the test change and therefore do not have IR scores, business schools are analyzing IR data to get a better understanding of the role it will eventually play in admissions. Dan Poston, of the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business, states, “We want to see how it [IR] plays out…We want to see how predictive it is of student’s success at school.”
GMAC has released some key data on the IR section, based upon results of the more than 123,000 test-takers who have taken the GMAT since IR was added to the test. GMAC reports that the distribution of scores is normal and without bias against any subgroup of test-takers. In short, these results suggest that IR has the potential to be a valid predictor of student success in b-school.
In addition to analyzing data from GMAC, some schools are directly studying the connection between IR and student performance. For instance, at Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management, a group of 60 second-year students will complete the IR portion of the GMAT. Their IR scores will then be compared to their success in core courses in order to determine whether IR performance positively correlates with b-school performance.
The obvious question for GMAT test-takers is how they should approach IR in order to put together the best application package possible. While IR may not play a major role in the admissions process for the next few years, a solid IR score can only help applicants. As Dawna Clarke of Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business notes, “IR will help prospective students more than it will hurt them…If you are not ‘quant strong,’ but you have strong IR skills, then this test will help you shine.”
February 19, 2013
How many self-assessment tools for personal development are out there? Let me Google that for you … Well, I don’t know about you, but the ocean certainly seems red with more than 4.7 million search query results.
If you are looking for such a tool or wondering about any that are particularly relevant to meeting your academic and career goals, let me focus your search by directing you to GMAC’s ReflectTM. Developed by GMAC in partnership with Hogan Assessments, Reflect offers clients a unique report and subsequent action plan, including resources, that are presented from a business perspective using business language.
After purchasing the tool for $99.99, customers take approximately 45 minutes to answer more than 500 dichotomous questions (i.e., true/false, yes/no) and immediately receive quantified ranking across ten different competencies. From operational thinking to strategic vision, from resilience to interpersonal intuition, each of the competencies are presented alongside details, actions, and benchmarks. For the next three years, participants can work to complete prescribed actions, utilize embedded resources to do so, and track their personal developmental progress.
Perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of Reflect is the action-oriented focus coupled with resources with which individuals can complete those actions. After all, there is little value in reading a descriptive assessment report without any prescriptive information that allows you to strive toward betterment. This notion is precisely what underpins Kaplan’s Smart ReportsTM technology.
Interestingly, the Reflect project was originally began under the auspices of creating a soft-skills assessment for admissions committees at business schools to use when making admissions decisions. It was thought that such an assessment would be a useful complement to the hard skills assessment of competencies the GMAT quantifies. As the product development team moved forward, it became apparent that “soft-skills are coachable and not appropriate for high-stakes testing,” said Andy Martelli, VP of GMAC product development, as paraphrased here. During a product preview event in held last year in Chicago, Mr. Martelli went onto explain that the target customers of Reflect were business school students interested in identifying strengths and weaknesses in order to zero-in on specific behaviors they can work to modify during the time spent pursuing and professionally implementing an advanced degree in management.
If you have used Reflect, please give us your feedback below!
February 7, 2013
In recent years, the job market has faltered due to the lagging world economy, and MBA grads were hit just like everyone else. However, a recent survey conducted by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), who administers the GMAT, reveals that employment is up for 2012 MBA grads. Of the 4,444 MBA and other graduate-level alumni surveyed, 92% were employed three months after graduation–6 percentage points higher than reported by graduates in last year’s survey. Additionally, 77% of those surveyed this year reported that their starting salary met or exceeded their expectations, and 76% stated that they could not have gotten their jobs without their graduate management education.
Dave Wilson, GMAC president and CEO, attributes this year’s higher employment percentages to the improving world economy, stating, “As the economy improves in many parts of the world, employers who are hiring look for skilled managers to lead the way. MBAs and other graduate degrees provide the skills people need to manage tough problems in today’s complex marketplace.”
Compensation for 2012 MBA graduates differed most significantly by work location, with Europe featuring the highest median salary ($105,120) and Central Asia the lowest ($27,818). The median salary in the U.S. was $83,000, with Canada just slightly behind at $81,443 (all salaries are expressed in USD). Also, compensation varied between full-time two-year and one-year MBA programs: graduates of two-year programs reported a median salary of $85,000, while graduates of one-year programs reported a median salary of $59,000.
These promising survey results demonstrate that now is a great time to move forward with your plans to get your MBA. Check out other Kaplan GMAT blog posts for tips on getting started with the process, and look for upcoming free Kaplan GMAT prep and admissions events at kaplangmat.com.
The summary report of the 13th annual GMAC Alumni Perspectives Survey can be found at gmac.com/alumniperspectives.
September 25, 2012
GMAC, the makers of the GMAT, has released the findings from their 2012 Application Trends Survey. “A record 744 programs from 359 business schools in 46 countries participated in the survey this year. They include 527 MBA programs, 24 business doctoral programs (PhD/DBA) and 193 specialized masters programs. This year’s survey report includes, for the first time, results for masters in information technology management and masters of marketing/communications” (GMAC Press Release, September 17, 2012).
The survey showed some interesting trends in the applicant pool from the last year. While there is an overall upswing in applications for business programs, fewer traditional 2-year MBA program in the US are seeing the increase while more significantly more international 2-year full-time programs are seeing more applicants. In addition, the applicant pool in the US is increasingly composed of foreign applicants. While traditional program applications are up over the previous year, they are still far short of the numbers in 2008.
More aggressive growth can be found in non-traditional programs such as online, distance, and 1-year programs along with more specialized programs in management, accounting, and finance, according to the study. MBA students are trending toward programs that offer more flexibility. One comment in the survey noted that the increased demand for flexibility may be because the economy is starting to pick up and business professionals don’t want to leave their position or a new raise/opportunity in order to go back into school full-time for 2 years.
Overall, the survey noted that the strength of the applicant pool is trending up or, at the very least, holding steady, indicating that strong application packets will continue to be important. What kinds of programs are you most interested in pursuing – traditional, online, specialized, or some kind of hybrid?
Data, data, data… After 20 days and 6,229 test takers since the new Integrated Reasoning (IR) section went live on June 5th of this year, GMAC has compiled and published the first IR percentile distribution table. A mean score of 4 out of 8 will land you in the 46th percentile and a 5 will get you to the 54th (See below for the complete rankings).
So what does this mean for you and your GMAT prep? Well, a couple of things. First, your IR score goal ought to be somewhere between 5 and 8. As I’ve mentioned before, anyone’s target score needs to be relevant to their respective programmatic goals. Since no one—including schools—have any idea what to do with IR scores just yet nor what the average IR score of an admitted applicant is/will be, your best bet is to focus on turning in a score that is at least better than most.
Second, I want you to note the corresponding percentile rank to a perfect IR score. As you can see from the table above, an 8 will land you in the 94th %-tile. Thus, just like the perfect score of 6 on the Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) does not mean that you’ve written a perfect essay, an 8 on IR does not mean that you’ve submitted a perfect Integrated Reasoning section. While I believe it is easier to learn how to write an essay on the GMAT that garners a 6 than it is to pull off an 8 on IR, it is nonetheless doable. At least, it is much more doable than earning an 800 on the rest of the test!
GMAT percentile tables are regularly updated to reflect three years’ worth of scoring data. Since the IR section is so new, GMAC will be updating the distribution range every month for the first six months, then annually, as with the test’s other tables, thereafter. While we should expect some nominal fluctuation in the scale, updated GMAT scoring data traditionally does not wildly alter the percentile rankings. From the test maker’s website: “Shifts tend to be gradual over long time periods.” In short, I expect the 4/5 demarcation to remain generally stable for quite some time.
June 30, 2012
Often times, the portion of the GMAT most neglected by students is the writing sample. While this section of the test is certainly less important than your overall 200 to 800 score, you still want to make sure that you know how to handle it.
The essay is graded on a scale from 1 to 6 and most business schools are expecting you to achieve a score of 4 or higher. While the difference between a 4, 5, or 6 is not all that influential on your admissions prospects, receiving a score lower than a 4 can have a negative impact on your application.
While the integrated reasoning section, which was recently added to the GMAT, replaced the issue essay, the argument essay remains a part of the test. In fact, it will be the very first section you see on test day.
The key to the essay is answering the question that GMAT test maker is asking. This can be trickier than you would think. The writing sample is all about analyzing the argument made by the author, not providing your own viewpoint on the topic. Therefore, it is essential that you do not agree or disagree with the author’s opinion. Rather, you need to analyze the argument the author makes to reach his/her conclusion.
To do so, you will need to look for flaws in the author’s reasoning. Specifically, you will want to identify any faulty assumptions that the author makes. Additionally, you will want to offer potential strengtheners – facts that, if they were true, would make the argument more sound.
You may notice that these skills are similar to those employed in the critical reasoning portion of the verbal section. This is not a coincidence. Both parts of the test are all about breaking down the argument and not about the accuracy of the opinion presented.
In order to get an idea of the types of arguments that appear on the GMAT, you can visit the test makers website, mba.com, and view a complete list of possible essay topics. It is a good idea to practice taking a few of these arguments apart and writing essays before test day.
If you want feedback on how to identify the flaws in an argument, post the argument and a bulleted list of the flaws you notice in the comments below. We’ll help you fill in the gaps.
June 5, 2012
The GMAT has changed this morning–and Kaplan is here to make sure you’re ready to take on the new test. To make sure the changes don’t provide any bumps on the road to crushing your b school applications, here are a few points to keep in mind:
- From today forward, the new GMAT will include an Integrated Reasoning section. It will take place after the Argument Essay, in lieu of the Issue Essay. Since it will last 30 minutes, the overall time to sit for the test will remain the same. The IR section is scored on a scale of 1-8, while the AWA score of 1-6 will now be based on the Argument Essay alone.
- There are 4 question types on Integrated Reasoning. To see samples of those questions, and for the latest on the new test, visit our GMAT Test Change information center, testchange.com.
- Kaplan’s free GMAT practice tests include complete IR sections. The free practice test can be found at kaplangmat.com/gmatpracticetest. Current students should not take the free practice test, and doing so will not grant them access to additional questions.
- The Kaplan GMAT program fully addresses the new section. We offer a session dedicated to IR, and all 9 CATs in the Kaplan GMAT course include a full-length, scored, IR section. This applies also to tests taken at the Pearson testing center as the Official Test Day Experience.
We’ve worked with GMAC, the test maker, to ensure you have everything you need to prepare for the new test. And we’ll continue to place updates on testchange.com as we have them.
Please post a comment and let us know if you have any questions about the new GMAT or your GMAT preparation.
June 3, 2012
A little thing here or there doesn’t usually make a whole lot of difference. But when you aggregate, knowing some of the little things about the GMAT can be a big help on Test Day. In this blog post, I am bringing some perhaps unexpected or otherwise novel little GMAT tidbits to your attention in hopes you find them useful or at least interesting. This list is not comprehensive, of course, but is rather whatever sprang to mind as I thought about it. If you, dear reader, have anything you’d like to add then please do so in the comments section below. Thanks!
- Your photograph taken at the testing center on test day will be sent to schools. That’s right, folks. Just when you thought it was safe to wear your lucky shirt—you know, the one with the crass cartoon of a feral dog at a cocktail party—Big Brother steps in and spoils it for you. According to GMAC’s website, your test day photograph as well as any voluntarily reported background information (e.g., undergrad GPA, phone number, intended area of graduate study, etc.) will be sent along with your score report to any of your selected recipients if they have requested to receive such information.
- Full copies of your Analytical Writing Assessment essay will be sent to schools. Whether admissions officers actually read these essays we can never know, but we do know that those officers can read them if they want to. What does this mean for you? Eh, not much. You are going to learn how to write a top scoring essay way before you sit for the exam and the one you write on test day will be one of several well-composed writing samples you’ve completed. In fact, you’ll want people to read it because it will be that good!
- The unique pattern of the veins in your palms will be used to identify you. Who doesn’t love a good biometric identification device? We don’t live in the future just to offer up a driver’s license or a finger print. Come on! We want computers to scan our veins!! In addition to having both palms scanned, you will also have to bring valid photo identification, allow your picture to be taken at the test center, and sign a digital signature pad. Oh, and you’ll have to scan your palms every time you re-enter the testing room—for example, after using the rest room during one of the two 8-minute breaks.
- You receive your GMAT score instantly. You will have to wait to receive your AWA and IR scores as well as a breakdown of your total score, but as soon as you choose to accept your scores… TA-DA!!! Your 200-800 point GMAT score will appear on the screen in front of you instantaneously. When I took the GMAT, this took me completely off guard, actually. I knew I’d get my score on the same day, but the speed with which it flashed on the screen startled me. I think I actually jumped and gasped in the same way I would at the unanticipated sight of a latex zombie in a haunted house at the state fair. However, unlike the zombie, my score looked beautiful.
- You can only take the GMAT once per every 31 days and only up to 5 times per year. The good news is that since you did such a wonderful job preparing for the exam the first time, this information won’t apply to you. However, I do recommend a thorough understanding of what taking the GMAT twice really means [please link the phrase “taking the GMAT twice” with the blog article of the same name (post #110)] and what it doesn’t. This knowledge about the frequency at which you can sit for the exam may be of some help when planning your b-school application timeline. By the way, it’s once per 31 calendar days and 5 times per twelve month period. Basically, you start your own clock on the day you initially sit.
- Preparing for the GMAT takes longer than you think. I wrote about this in a previous blog article that I suggest you read right now. This may well be the most vicious of the unexpected and is arguably quite out of place on a list of “little things.” However, since we’re talking about aspects of the GMAT that may surprise you, a long prep runway is something you can and should plan to lay out for yourself. Respect the test.
January 18, 2012
Last night in class, I asked my GMAT students if they had any nagging questions about the test—not so much about specific content, but rather more general thoughts or queries about what the GMAT is, the process of prepping for it, what it means, etc. One student wondered why anyone has to take it in the first place. The way he sees it, everyone headed to business school is going for their own reasons driven by their own intentions. Why does a person interested in learning how to effectively manage people take the same entrance exam as one who wants to learn how to effectively manage mutual funds?
I appreciated the question and offered up an answer. The gist of it is that the GMAT isn’t testing your ability to find the area of a circle. Rather, it’s using a problem that requires you to find the area of a circle to test your critical thinking skills, among other core competencies. What’s more, the GMAT serves as a selection tool—admissions officers are inundated with applications and the GMAT allows them to quickly screen the pile, then further evaluate those left after the first cut.
He capitulated and we moved forward, but his point is well taken. The concept this student is driving at is known as face validity. Face validity refers to the perception of how valid a selection measure is to the subject being assessed by it. (Face validity matters with respect to the administrator of the test, as well, but it goes without saying that GMAC perceives its test as valid and I am only concerned with the test taker’s perception of validity here.)
Even if a selection tool is shown to be a valid predictor of performance, and therefore is shown to be a tool which can and should be used to make selection decisions (in this case, the decision to admit or not admit), that does not necessarily mean the subject will recognize that validity. If the subject perceives the measure as invalid, then it will impact their performance on that measure, thereby undermining the validity of the measure itself.
Here’s what can’t happen: you cannot let the question “Why do I have to take the GMAT?” derail your preparation. It is a challenging test and when you are submerged under its rough waters, it is very hard to see the point of being able to recognize a modification error. The GMAT is necessary if you want to get a graduate management degree and it is accepted as a valid predictor of first year b-school success. Stop asking “Why do I have to?” and start asking “How do I nail it?”
February 10, 2011
GMAC reports that the median salary for MBA alums was US$94,500 in 2010—well above the pre-recession level of US$89,000 recorded in 2007. Furthermore, 93 percent of respondents to the most recent GMAC Alumni Perspectives Survey were employed. This was up from 90 percent of participants in the Council’s 2009 alumni survey and just below the 95 percent mark seen in 2007.
This is good news for MBAs, certainly. “Continue to rise” may be a bit of an exaggeration – you can play with an interactive data table to get a handle on the facts, for example:
Either way, if you know a little about your own career path, you can get more specific about the rise you’re expecting. For example, if you’re in investment banking and planning a transition into non-profit management, your salary may go down, regardless of the year. Or, if you’re transitioning in the opposite direction, your ROI is more of a sure thing.