March 21, 2013
Integrated Reasoning (IR) hit the GMAT in June 2012. Here we are, nearing the end of March 2013. Schools have been receiving IR scores from applicants for the last nine months. I have been teaching the section for that long, as well. Amazingly, Kaplan’s first blog post about Integrated Reasoning was nearly three years ago on June 25, 2010, and my first of many posts involving IR was published on Halloween 2011 (although I first mentioned it in September of that same year). All this to acknowledge the notable history the IR section has already accrued and to tee us up for a little “where are they now” segment.
In September 2012, I wrote a blog post titled “Does my Integrated Reasoning score matter?” At the time, IR had been actively battling GMAT test takers for three months. On the minds of nearly all test-takers-in-training was the potential influence over an admissions decision that this new and difficult section would hold. Unsurprisingly, this concern remains quite potent. So, let’s talk it out.
A colleague of mine, Jenny Lynch, recently referred to a Bloomberg Businessweek article to discuss the evolution of how university admissions offices are utilizing IR scores—or, more accurately, learning how to utilize IR scores. These offices are focused on obtaining data, both university derived as well as data coming from GMAC. The goal is to establish IR as a valid predictor of academic performance in business school. Once this is done, schools can appropriately weight and consider IR scores within the totality of a student’s application package.
While the Bloomberg article maintains a tone suggesting imminent impact, a sober read tracks right along with the expectations we‘ve previously laid out and confirmed through research. In short, admissions committee members remain undecided on the future importance of IR scores. However, what these folks have decided is that, at present, IR scores are not important.
No doubt, Integrated Reasoning is here to stay and no doubt the score it generates will slowly gain traction at admissions offices. However, there is still over four years of valid GMAT score reports that will not contain an IR record. Additionally, the GRE is and will continue to be an accepted admissions exam in lieu of the GMAT at business schools. The GRE has both a Quant and Verbal section as well as an essay portion just as the GMAT does. However, there is nothing like IR on the GRE.
Inarguably, the GMAT is the preeminent business school admissions exam. It communicates a level of focus and dedication to securing a graduate management degree that the GRE will never be able to replicate. Integrated Reasoning strengthens the GMAT’s already powerful position. Students must take IR seriously and prepare diligently. A strong IR score can only help. A weak one could very well damage an application, especially as time marches forward.
It is vital, though, to not artificially inflate or otherwise place this new section above its deserved position. The result will lead to increased stress levels and, therefore, a correlated decrease in overall performance. While IR has the potential to communicate valuable information, it is very unlikely it will become the make-or-break message some might passively suggest. Further, one thing is absolutely certain: no matter how institutions decide to weight IR scores, the 200-800 point total score will always be the most crucial aspect of a GMAT score report.
May 28, 2012
Although it is yet to be seen how Integrated Reasoning scores will actually be used by admissions committees, we do now at least know what they will look like. Starting June 5, 2012, the New GMAT goes live with one less essay (Issue) and one more section (Integrated Reasoning). Contrary to what some might have heard, your performance on the new IR section will not impact your 200-800 point GMAT score. Rather, you will now receive five separate scores across four separate scales.
- Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) – 0 to 6 points in ½-point increments
- Integrated Reasoning (IR) – 1 to 8 points in 1-point increments
- Quantitative – 0 to 60 in 1-point increments
- Verbal – 0 to 60 in 1-point increments
- Aggregated Quant and Verbal (Total Score) – 200 to 800 points in 10-point increments
On test day, immediately upon completing the exam you will receive your total score. Up to 20 days later (though it often takes less time than that) you will receive your Official Score Report as will the institutions you selected to send your scores to upon sitting for the exam. In that official report from GMAC, you will receive your AWA, Integrated Reasoning, Quant, and Verbal scores as well as an affirmation of your total score. [Note: your total score will not change from what you see on test day.]
A wild card in all of this is the instability of the translation of your 1-8 IR score into a percentile ranking. All reported scores are coupled with a percentile ranking. In other words, each listed score will be shown alongside the proportion of scores below your score in order to communicate how your scores compare with those of other GMAT test takers. For example, if you receive a total score of 700 then you will have scored better than 89% of your peers, hence putting yourself into the 90th percentile.
Typically, GMAT score percentiles are based on three years of performance data moving through time. That is, your percentile ranking is based on the data set created by all individual GMAT scores created on the day you took your GMAT aggregated with all other GMAT scores from the three previous years. What this means is that the point value of your score today will change in percentile terms over time. While your Official Score Report hardcopy will remain constant, as will those score reports sent to the (up to) five selected institutions, any future score report requests will reflect the most current data.
Since IR is brand spanking new, GMAC will update percentile-ranking distributions with greater frequency (monthly) for the rest of 2012 as the organization grows its sample size. From 2013 forward, IR score updates will follow the same updating schedule as the other generated GMAT scores (annually). All of this translates into a notable and interesting unknown. We can say for sure that your IR score as a percentile value will change. For better or worse? Well, only time will tell.
Are you studying for the new test? How are you coming along with the new section?
February 25, 2012
In our final post of the New GMAT Integrated Reasoning question format series, we are going to dive into the fourth of four new question formats test takers will see as of June 2012: Multi-Source Reasoning. Previously, we looked at Graphic Interpretation and Two-Part Analysis question formats; two of the four new formats GMAT test takers will see in the upcoming Integrated Reasoning section. In this post, we will continue our new format probe with an examination of Table Analysis questions.
From the test maker’s website regarding Multi-Source Reasoning questions:
“Click on the page to reveal different data and discern which data you need to answer the question.”
My first impression of Multi-Source Reasoning questions: wow. Out of the four new formats, MSRs are, for me at least, the most interesting, the most unique, and perhaps the most challenging. They remind me of assessment centers, actually. If you have ever participated in one of these performance evaluation/selection tools, I think you will agree that the MSR questions bear notable similarities to the activities within assessment center work simulations.
Ultimately, however, although the packaging may be novel the question types are not. In the first of seven examples GMAC has posted for you, each of the three questions associated with an email exchange are inference questions. You will find inference questions all over the GMAT Verbal section in both Reading Comprehension and Critical Reasoning question types. Here, in the MSR format, test makers force you to mix quantitative assessment with critical reasoning and strategic reading skills.
This post brings our Integrated Reasoning New Question Format Series to a close, but the conversation is by no means over. For more information on the New GMAT, please visit our dedicated website (www.testchange.com) and keep coming back for more on our GMAT Blog. Always nice to have you over for a visit!
February 15, 2012
Let’s have a quick look at one of four new question formats test takers will see on the New GMAT among the twelve Integrated Reasoning questions in the new section: Graphics Interpretation. From the test maker’s website:
“Interpret the graph or graphical image and select the option from a drop-down list to make the answer statements accurate.”
For your enjoyment, GMAC provides four in-format graphics consisting of two or three questions each (click here to get started). While the answers are provided, unfortunately the explanations are not. Also, be sure to either write down the answers you choose or look at the correct answer before you move onto the next graphic. If you answer all of them consecutively with the plan to go back and review them consecutively, you will be disappointed (like me!).
As for this inquisitor, I found the Graphics Interpretation questions to be pretty interesting. The math tested is straight from the GMAT quant section (e.g., probability, percents, overlapping sets). However, not all of the questions are based upon calculation or even your understanding of quantitative concepts. Rather, as the name of the new question format suggests, some questions rely on your ability to orient yourself and then “read” the graphical information (check out the second question about the Earth’s geological history graphic for an example).
I anticipate similar complaints from my future GMAT students to those I receive from my current GRE students: the graphs are hard to read. That complaint is usually associated with hard-to-distinguish starts and stops of bars, trend lines, etc. or data points that are difficult to correlate with x- or y-axis values. However, the GRE graphs associated with that test’s similar question type (Data Interpretation) seem of lesser graphical quality than the ones I’ve seen so far from GMAC. That is, the resolution for the GRE charts and graphs is worse making them more of a pain to use. For what it’s worth, the struggle to read the charts and graphs is an intentional element of the game.
Stop in next time for a brief review of Two-Part Analysis questions.
February 13, 2012
The new section of the GMAT, called Integrated Reasoning, is going live on June 5, 2012. While we here at Kaplan implore everyone in the free world to take the GMAT before this date, we are hard at work preparing for the test change so we can start training our bar-setting students to blow it out of the water when the time comes.
In a series of four short posts, I am going to focus on the new question formats that comprise the twelve Integrated Reasoning questions test takers will see in the new section. In part 1, we’ll have a look at Graphic Interpretation questions. But before we get into it, here are some FYI question specification bullet points I found here on MBA.com:
- A given prompt, or question setup, may have multiple questions.
- All answer choices for a single question are presented on the same screen.
- Test takers respond to each question before moving to the next question prompt. Once a question has been answered, candidate cannot return and change the answer.
- Narrative prompts (text on tabs) are approximately 300 words or fewer.
- Answer options will not provide information or clues that help test takers solve other questions.
- A single prompt may provide the information to solve several questions, but the questions are independent of one another. Test takers do not have to answer one question correctly to be able to answer another.
For additional information on the New GMAT, Kaplan has set up a dedicated website at www.testchange.com. Have a look now and revisit often to stay up to date on the latest New GMAT news. Also, be sure to come back to our blog for the IR question exposé series.
February 12, 2012
Arbitrage is a glorious thing. Simply put, arbitrage happens by exploiting differences in price for the same good. Say the currency exchange market (forex) in Asia is trading the US dollar at 1.5 British pounds per USD (yes, I know it’s actually the other way around these days, but let’s have some fun), while the European market is trading 1.25 British pounds per USD. I could leave New York, head to Tokyo, and buy a whole bunch of British pounds with my US dollars, say $100 worth. With my newly minted £150, I could then fly off to London and sell them in exchange for dollars. Since in London I get $1.00 for every £1.25, then due to the market inefficiency I will receive $120 back, yielding a nice $20 profit on my original investment. Yay for me! (And all I had to do was circumnavigate the globe. Easy peasy.)
Not surprisingly, finding arbitrage opportunities is extremely difficult and exploiting those opportunities is nigh impossible. For example, in the forex markets, big banks have incredibly powerful computers constantly scanning currency exchanges and will instantaneously capitalize on them for the brief seconds they exist before the markets equalize. Mere mortals like you and I will never know what it’s like to feel the flush of free money created out of thin air. Or will we?
Kaplan has created a website dedicated to the New GMAT: www.testchange.com. (Actually, one of the videos posted there was the inspiration for this blog entry.] As you may already know, the GMAT is changing in June 2012 by introducing a new section called Integrated Reasoning. The current GMAT demands 100-120 hours of diligent prep time if you are looking to achieve a competitive score (e.g., 650+).
After June 5th of this year, GMAT test takers will have a brand new section to prepare for in addition to the AWA, Quant, and Verbal sections current test takers must master. So how does this present an arbitrage opportunity? If you prepare for and take the GMAT before June 1st, then you will lock in your GMAT score for five years and never have to even think about IR. Those that do not lock in their scores will have to devote the 100+ hours of prep time you put in, then spend another 30 hours or more learning about integrated reasoning data sets and the new question types that accompany them.
Think smart. Act strategically. Let other folks buy the GMAT for 130+ hours of their time. Your market is selling it to you for a much cheaper price. I’ll be drilling down on the five new IR question types in some upcoming posts so come on back for a tall drink of schadenfreude.
December 1, 2011
The Wall Street Journal published an article today on the impending added section to the GMAT. In six short months, would-be b-schoolers will have to be ready to tackle a brand new question type: integrated reasoning. The basic format will be a set of data from which test takers must identify relationships and draw conclusions. This new section will replace one of the essays and give admissions officers one more score to assess their applicants.
WSJ, America’s most widely circulated daily paper, reached out to Kaplan to learn more about what this means for test takers now and those that wait until June to wrestle the new GMAT. Our director of pre-business programs, Andrew Mitchell, is one of many experts who recognize the value-add the new q-types offer. “You’re much more likely to have to analyze an integrated set of data than you are to do a geometry problem [in business school].” Don’t get too excited—geometry is still covered in the quantitative section, but the relevance of the integrated reasoning questions is not going unnoticed. INSEAD’s deputy dean is quoted in the article, as well: “It’s a step in the right direction.”
Admissions officers may share those sentiments, but they also recognize that it is going to be at least a year before they know how to assess the score and learn what it really means in terms of b-school success. This presents an opportunity for test takers. Integrated reasoning will require preparation time as soon as June comes, but won’t take prominence for a year or more. Meanwhile, scores are valid for 5 years. The upshot is that there’s an arbitrage opportunity in taking the test before June. You can save time (the equivalent of “buying” at a “lower price”) and hence achieve a higher total score on average that you can “sell” (just an analogy, of course) when you apply in the post-June world for up to five years.
So what does it all mean? Quite simply: take the test before June. As a GMAT instructor, I see student after student walk into class with the assumption supported by well-earned self-confidence that they’ll cruise through prep and give the GMAT a little chin music. Inevitably, everyone is humbled by the test. Everyone. Prepping for this thing is hard and takes a lot of work. Adding another it-gets-as-hard-as-you-want-it-to section is just going to compound an already extremely demanding workload. Is it doable? Absolutely. Should you avoid it if at all possible? Without question!
September 28, 2011
The GMAT—a test that is specifically designed for aspiring graduate level business students—is confronted with a relatively new (last couple years) competitor, the GRE, a test traditionally associated with any program besides business, law, or medicine. Why? ETS, the company behind the GRE, has recently received the GRE (August 2011), and the “new GRE” is even more similar to the GMAT than the “old GRE” was. Some might speculate (I among them) that the major GRE revision was a move to try to grab market share. Here are the results:
- 2009: 24% of programs accept the GRE as an alternative to the GMAT;
- 2010: 39%
- 2011: 52%
Those numbers are based on an annual survey of 250+ business schools conducted by Kaplan. As you can see, this year is the first one since we’ve started tracking the issue that a majority of business schools have accepted the GMAT.
If you surf the websites of the two tests, you’ll find lots of stuff on the GRE site focusing on business schools and would-be MBA students. For example, here’s a link to a page titled “Taking the GRE® revised General Test for Business School is a Smart Choice.” Here’s another for an article written back in December 2010 describing and providing links to a comparison tool created so business schools can more easily translate submitted GRE scores into GMAT scores. Wanna watch a seven minute video that goes on and on about why accepting the GRE is a “good business decision?” Have a look at the ever-growing list of b-schools that are now accepting both the GRE and the GMAT.
Click over to the GMAT’s site (www.MBA.com) and you will find hints of GMAC’s main counterstrike: Integrated Reasoning. You’ll need to learn more about Integrated Reasoning if you’ll be taking the GMAT in 2012, because in June of 2012 the GMAT will have an entirely new section, with a separate score and 4 new question types. I hear that we’ll have more to say about that with a white paper coming out in October. The plot thickens…
The GMAC, the makers of the GMAT, has announced a major change to the exam coming in 2012: one of the Analytical Writing sections will be replaced by a new thirty-minute section, Integrated Reasoning.
This video from GMAC gives a sneak peak at what some of the new Integrated Reasoning questions might look like. As you can see, one of the question types involves Excel-style sortable spreadsheet, while another uses language about strengthening and weakening arguments that is already common in Critical Reasoning questions.
The goal behind the changes is make the test as reflective of business school as possible. Integrated Reasoning is meant to measure data analysis and balanced decision-making skills that are important for success in business. In a way, the section seems like an extension of Data Sufficiency. This question type in the Quantitative Section is currently the most distinctive feature of the GMAT (and most loathed by test-takers). As GMAC shares more about the question types in the section, it will be interesting to see how those compare with Data Sufficiency.
GMAC’s changes also target the increased competition of the GRE as a business school admissions test. As we’ve blogged elsewhere – in a series of seven articles by our long-standing teacher and test guru Bob Verini – the revised GRE has planned a number of changes that will make the test more relevant for business school admissions. The new Integrated Reasoning section of the GMAT meets this changes head-on by including a section more specific to the business thinking than the other sections. Most business schools aren’t accepting the GRE yet – 25% do, according to a Kaplan survey. Recently, admissions schools officers at top business schools have told us informally they are waiting for data on the Revised GRE before making any decisions.
GMAC reports that, according to its data, the results of one Analytical Writing section have proved just as useful as two in measuring writing skills. That’s why one Analytical Writing section will be removed and replaced by Integrated Reasoning. So, in the same amount of test-taker time, the new GMAT promises to provide much more information on a candidate’s ability to succeed in the classroom in business school. This shift is pretty much the opposite of what’s planned for the GRE, which includes new care and attention to the design of the writing section. Unlike the GRE changes, the changes to the GMAT appear to be designed to have minimal impact on scheduling and taking the test, the cost of the test, and the test’s duration. Since the Integrated Reasoning section is switched out for one of the writing sections, the overall length of the test is unchanged.
What’s the impact for the test-taker? Current students of the GMAT have nothing to worry about – your scores will be valid for five years, and it’s still in your best interest to prepare for the test as soon as you can set aside 2 to 3 months of solid preparation time. The optimal strategy for test-takers will change a little bit as 2012 approaches, because it will be advantageous to take the GMAT before the test change. The trend we’ve seen over the years at Kaplan is that scores tend to go down after a test change. For example, the last time the GRE went through a major change was in 2002, when the Analytical Ability section was dropped and replaced with an Analytical Writing section. Scores dropped 7 points the following year, and continued to decline for the next five years.
There’s a degree of uncertainty with any test change – we saw that in 2007 when substantial changes to the GRE were deferred. We’ll continue to monitor the situation and keep you posted.