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.”
September 13, 2012
The Associate Director of MBA Admissions at Stanford University, Allison Davis, amplified the discussion over the potential impact of the Integrated Reasoning (IR) score in an admissions decision. In August, she posted on her department’s blog titled “Why you shouldn’t worry about Integrated Reasoning.”
Since you are reading Kaplan’s GMAT Blog, I can only assume that you are in the midst of prepping for the GMAT exam or otherwise quite interested in topics surrounding the GMAT exam such as business school, MBA programs, graduate school admissions, etc. I can also imagine that Ms. Davis’ provocative title may well have sparked a hesitant albeit palpable feeling of relief. After all, such a bold statement about a generally feared section of the test from a representative of one of the most competitive and influential MBA programs in the world must be either commonly held or similarly held within most if not all MBA programs out there, right?
Evidence suggests that this is likely true. In “Schools To Ignore New GMAT Section,” David Byrne, founder of www.PoetsandQuants.com, quotes top admissions officials at the Wharton School, INSEAD, and Kellogg as saying very similar things to Ms. Davis at Stanford. Granted, despite the high profile of these four institutions, we are hard-pressed to come to a generalization about MBA admissions committees worldwide. However, what we do know a few things that, considered together, present a meaningful list of evidence that support an inference or two about what IR scores will mean for this year’s round of admissions decisions as well as those in the near future. Here’s what we know:
- Admissions officers have never seen IR scores before.
- Because they have never seen IR scores before, they have no established student data from which to measure prospective student data.
- GMAT scores are valid for 5 years.
- Many people will have valid GMAT scores that do not include an IR score to present to admissions committees.
- GMAC has a percentile distribution table for IR scores achieved and GMAC updates this table with new data regularly.
- A reported IR score will be accompanied by its then current percentile range.
- Admissions officers will see the IR score along with the other scores in the Official GMAT Score Report of an applicant.
- Some have said that, this year in particular, they will not factor the IR score into an admissions decision.
- Even those who claim the IR score will not impact this year’s decisions, they also say that they will be actively collecting the data and devising a structure for how to incorporate the new scoring data into admissions decisions made in the future.
- Integrated Reasoning will not be removed from the GMAT.
So what does all this mean to us? What supported inferences are we able to draw, and what should a test taker do during GMAT prep with respect to the IR section?
- The IR score will become more and more important in the future. Therefore, at minimum, those folks who are not submitting applications to b-school for the upcoming admissions cycle should diligently prepare for the IR section.
- It might be true that many are not taking the IR section as seriously as they could in light of the generally accepted idea that the IR score is not very important right now. Thus, the IR scoring data currently collected might be skewed. If that is the case, then the percentile distribution of IR scores might become more competitive. (Note: In the first published scoring scale, a 4 equated to the 50th percentile. When the scale was recently updated, a 5 now represents the 50th percentile.)
- Although some admissions committees are on record as saying they will not use IR scores in the established decision-making process, they will see the scores. Hence, there is a chance that a low IR score could have some impact in the mind of an admissions officer when evaluating an applicant. This impact, if it occurs, could be positive or negative.
- It can be imagined that some MBA applicants who do submit applications this year will not be accepted. Some of those individuals will like their GMAT score and not want to take the test again. Some of these individuals might have a low IR score which does not align with the percentile range of their Verbal, Quant, AWA, or Total GMAT scores.
- Finally, the absolute best and safest thing to do for any future GMAT test-taker is to diligently study for the Integrated Reasoning section and score as high as possible.
So, what do you think about the new IR section? What are you doing to prepare? How do you anticipate the scores to come into play in the future? Do you think that they will have any impact this year despite what some admissions departments are saying? We’d love to hear your thoughts!
August 25, 2012
As you likely know, with the inclusion of the Integrated Reasoning (IR) section came the exclusion of the one of the previously required essays. Before the test change, GMAT test takers built their Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) score on the backs of two essays: Analysis of an Argument and Analysis of an Issue. These two essays would be scored independently—by one human and one computer—then those two scores would be averaged for a total AWA score on a 0-6 point scale in ½-point increments. In order to keep total testing time at 3.5 hours, test makers decided to cut the thirty-minute Analysis of an Issue essay and insert a thirty-minute Integrated Reasoning section.
So what can we make of this decision? Now, let’s not bicker about the Integrated Reasoning section here; it is what it is and we all have to deal with it. Rather, let’s focus on the essay left standing. Since we still have to write, are we better off with the Argument essay over the Issue essay? And, if so, is there a way we can ensure a top-scoring essay on test day? Good news: yes and yes.
First, writing an Argument essay over an Issue essay is preferable because of all the work we do studying GMAT Critical Reasoning (CR) questions. Seventy percent of CR questions we will see on test day will come from what is known as the Assumption Family of question types (aka, the Argument Family). In each of these question types—Assumption, Strengthen, Weaken, and Flaw—we always approach in the exact same way. That is, we identify the Conclusion, then we identify the Evidence, and then we can tease out the author’s primary Assumption(s) by applying our highly tuned critical thinking skills. You see, a GMAT argument will always state both a conclusion and evidence for the conclusion. What we will never be given, what the author will never state explicitly, are the underlying assumptions that allow this evidence to lead to this conclusion. But, in order to answer Assumption Family questions we must identify what those unstated assumptions are.
The good news about the Argument essay can be summed up by “The Four Truths” present in every single essay prompt created:
- There will be a Conclusion.
- There will be Evidence.
- There will be Assumptions linking the Conclusion and Evidence.
- Those Assumptions will be flawed.
Beautiful, right? The better we get at Critical Reasoning, the easier deconstructing the AWA essay prompt will be. In the Issue essay, we had to come up with our own ideas, reasoning, and support for taking a particular position on an issue provided. However, in the Argument essay, all we need is tucked away within the prompt itself. Sure, we have to do some detective work to sniff it out, but it is comforting to know it’s there and that we definitely have developed the skill to find it.
OK, so what about the other question: Is there a sure-fire way to churn out a top-scoring essay no matter what the given argument is? You bet. Quite simply, you’ll open by restating the conclusion and evidence in your own words. Then, you’ll identify at least two flawed assumptions and explain why they are flawed—one assumption per paragraph. After that, you’ll talk about how the argument could be strengthened (here, you can just feed off of what you said was wrong with it), then you’ll wrap up with a conclusion. That’s it.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, your GMAT essay is going to be scored by one human and one computer. I suggest reading my previous post titled “GMAT essays: Computers score your work, and they are really good at it” to learn more about those computers. But just in case you’re running short on time, I’ll give you the gist…
When that human grader gets to your essay—you know, the one you toiled over for half an hour—what do you think that human had been doing right before your essay popped up on their screen? Grading essays. And what do you think that human is going to do after they finish with your essay? Grading essays. And how much time do you think they will devote to evaluating your little essay baby that you worked so hard to compose? Under two minutes, even as little as one. So, then, what is that human trying to do? Emulate a machine.
The aforementioned structure of an Analysis of an Argument might seem bland and formulaic, but you need to appreciate that you are writing for a machine and someone trying their darndest to act like one. Feed the machine and you will be rewarded.
Do you have more questions about the argument essay or the test change? Post them in the comments and we’ll tackle them one at a time.
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.
July 2, 2012
Being the best means never letting up—always moving forward and always striving to be even better. It is with great excitement that we officially launch our new and improved GMAT prep course offerings.
As always, you can choose to study with Kaplan GMAT On Site, Classroom Anywhere, On Demand, or GMAT One-On-One – and we have revamped all of these GMAT prep course packages. From the textbook to the number of class sessions, our students get more and better of everything. Let’s take a look at some of the features and details of the new course:
- 11 class sessions: We have added 2 sessions. Our new GMAT course is now comprised of 11 class sessions. If you’re in an instructor-led course (On Site or Classroom Anywhere), your session structure will include Fixed and Flex sessions to heighten personalization, convenience, and in-depth, structured training (more on this in a moment). (If you’re studying with the On Demand course, then all of your sessions are on demand – you’ve opted for maximum flexibility. These Lessons-On-Demand are included in the On Site and Classroom Anywhere courses, also.)
- Integrated Reasoning (IR): Our courses now feature a dedicated IR teaching session and a Lesson-on-Demand in addition to full-length, scored Integrated Reasoning sections on all 9 practice tests. It’s the most IR preparation you’ll find anywhere.
- 9 full-length practice tests: Students have access to 9 full-length test. In addition, we offer the Official Test Day Experience – students can take any of their practice tests at a Pearson/GMAT testing center, the same place they will sit for the actual GMAT exam.
- Free make-up sessions: You can schedule makeup sessions at your convenience, because we know how hectic and unpredictable GMAT students’ lives can be.
- Adaptive Learning Technology: With our proprietary Smart Reports™ technology, we answer two questions: How am I doing? and, What should I do next?
- Brand new coursebook: Written with extreme pedagogical care and expertise and influenced by feedback from students and faculty, our new coursebook has doubled in length and serves as the comprehensive reference and practice guide for GMAT success.
- Guarantee: As always, every course comes with our exclusive Higher Score Guarantee. (Which reminds me: this guarantee also covers those of you who are finishing up your course. If you’re hungry for our overhauled study program, you can use your guarantee to repeat “into” the new program.)
All this and more make up our new GMAT course—one of our biggest projects to date. Innovation and commitment to excellence have yielded a powerful GMAT prep arsenal for our students, and we can’t wait to see the scores roll in. Take a look at some of our GMAT links below for more information:
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 18, 2012
The GMAT is a long test, but it can feel like it goes by quickly. You’re working straight through after all, at a rapid pace of 2 minutes per math problem, 4 minutes per quickly-scanned passage, and 1 minute per sentence correction question. You’re testing for three and a half hours, so your two eight-minute rests may not seem like enough. The solution? Take more breaks.
This may seem like odd advice, especially given that I’ve written blogs about shaving mere seconds off math problems. And certainly, seconds do count. But taking breaks on the test is similar to paraphrasing question stems and taking notes or reading passages: spending time to rest can save you more time on the rest of the test.
For starters, humans blink less often when they are staring at computer screens. This can result in dry eyes and eyestrain—the last thing you want to happen when you’re faced with a high-difficulty passage on, say, neuroscience. Additionally, human concentration is a limited resource. Focusing exclusively on the test and nothing else for 1:15 can be nearly impossible. And finally, top test-takers tend to breath slowly and regularly, and just taking a few seconds to take a deep breath can help you stay on target.
For these reasons, experienced test-takers will seldom work straight through a GMAT section without pause. Of course, the GMAT is still timed, and any time off from the test has to fit into that time frame. So my advice is this: four times during each test section, close your eyes and count to ten while breathing slowly. That still leaves 74 minutes 20 seconds to answer every question. And in all likelihood, your sharp eyes and sharp mind will improve your performance. If you can catch a detail on a single question and thereby avoid just one 40-second re-read, you’ve already made up for the missing time and taken a key step to Test Day success.
June 16, 2012
One thing I like about Google is that they are constantly churning out both new products and improvements to additional products. Google knows that in order to stay relevant and lead the market, innovation is fundamental. Kaplan does, too.
For more than 70 years, Kaplan has been training ambitious individuals to reach and exceed their goals on standardized tests so they can reach and exceed their goals professionally. We have been teaching the GMAT to prospective business students almost since its inception in 1954. In short, Kaplan Test Prep is a product leader and, like Google, we have multiple teams devoted to continuous product improvement and innovation.
Instead of letting all this hard work and commitment go unnoticed, I want our students to know what is going on behind the scenes. Not only do the smart people behind these projects deserve some recognition, but it is also important that everyone is up-to-date with everything we have to offer. After all, the worst resource is the one that goes unused!
Recent Product Updates:
- All nine of our computer adaptive practice tests contain an Integrated Reasoning section. We offer the most full-length practice tests in the business and we were the first to develop IR lessons and realistic practice sections. By the way, practice tests taken at a Pearson VUE Testing Center will include the IR section, as well, and that Test Day Experience is only available to Kaplan GMAT students.
- We offer eight practice test timing options. It is important to provide our students with a realistic testing experience during their preparation with us. Some individuals require special accommodations to sit for the GMAT due to various physical and cognitive challenges. In order to maintain an ultra-realistic testing experience for all of our students, we have fully fleshed out our special ADA timing options within our program to meet every need of every student.
- Students can flag quiz questions and create quizzes comprised of flagged items. Our GMAT Quiz Bank tool houses the highest number of GMAT practice questions in the business. Students can create hundreds of quizzes across multiple layers of granularity. A quiz parameter example might be: a timed quiz (timing based on q-type) focusing on arithmetic and specifically set properties offering medium and high difficulty problem solving and data sufficiency questions pulled from both used and unused items. Now, we have added a new functionality: flagging. Students can flag questions and create quizzes from those flagged questions for further review.
- Question statistics and enhanced explanation display. Our answer explanations are extremely robust and always reflect the most efficient and strategic way to solve a GMAT question. We know that studying can be an arduous process. Just like the need for a comfortable chair, the ergonomics (i.e., visual appeal) of the explanation display makes a difference. No detail is too small! Furthermore, in order to help you identify wrong answer pathologies and to self-diagnose performance, we now offer question statistics. We tell you the percent of test takers that chose each answer choice option for each question.
- The Lessons On Demand and Workshops list now include run times. Sounds simple, I know, but it makes planning study sessions easier. Before, a student would not know how long one of our professionally produced videos would last until they clicked on it. A simple but helpful solution of adding the total run time next to the video title lets you make the most of your study session.
- We adjust our 1-8 Integrated Reasoning scoring scale in tandem with GMAC. As more and more test takers sit for the New GMAT with the IR section, more and more data will help GMAC communicate what a given score within the scoring scale means in relation to a percentile distribution. As GMAC collects this data and updates their percentile distribution chart, so will we. For more on the Integrated Reasoning scoring scale, click here.
- Improved answer choice selection functionality. Again, this may seem like a nominal improvement, but the results justify such attention to detail. In the past, when a test taker selected an answer choice, the cursor of the mouse needed to hover over the bubble preceding the choice. Now, test takers can click anywhere on the answer choice to select it. So what? Well, that small improvement could mean an aggregated decrease of 1 minute of time spent just placing the cursor in the right spot on the screen. One minute can easily equal one question!
From now on, I am going to track our course and product improvements for our students, teachers, and everyone else interested in learning with Kaplan. Check back often for updates. Also, please reply with any and all suggestions you may have to make our GMAT products even better. Thanks!
June 10, 2012
June 5, 2012 has finally come and gone. To those of us within the gravitational pull of the GMAT, this date was no less than a celestial event. June 5th not only marked the transit of Venus across the sun, but also the launch of the New GMAT.
What has changed? A new section called Integrated Reasoning (IR) has replaced the Analysis of an Issue essay and taken its time allotment. Hence, the GMAT is still the same total length. That is, you write a 30-minute Analysis of an Argument essay, then take the new 30-minute Integrated Reasoning section, then take the 75-minute Quantitative section, and finally complete the 75-minute Verbal section (note: you get two 8-minute breaks; one between IR and Quant, and then another between Quant and Verbal).
Integrated Reasoning questions appear in four different formats and across twelve questions total in the 30-minute time frame. The formats are: Graphics Interpretation, Two-Part Analysis, Table Analysis, and Multi-Source Reasoning. A given prompt, or question setup, may have multiple questions and, like the rest of the GMAT, IR is computer adaptive at the question level. Thus, once a question has been answered, you cannot return and change the answer. It is also interesting to note that test takers have access to a very basic on-screen calculator during this section only (i.e., still no calculators on the Quantitative section).
I have written at length about the New GMAT in previous posts and invite you to read through them to learn more (here’s a dozen: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, and twelve). However, I am much more interested in your actual experiences over my anticipated ones. We want to hear from the pioneers out there—those of you who have been among the first to take the New GMAT.
What was it like?
How did you prepare?
Was it challenging?
Did you really feel like the questions were forcing you to integrate reasoning?
What surprised you?
While Venus will not traverse the sun again until 2117, brave explorers destined for b-school greatness will take the New GMAT just about every day from here on in.
Tell us about your experience blazing the trail that others will soon follow. If you have taken it, we want to hear about it! Boast, warn, and teach – whatever you think the experience calls for…
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.