To keep up with the growing demands of business education, the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), has announced that a new section will be introduced from June 2012. The new integrated reasoning section will provide business schools a way to determine how prospective students respond to the complex challenges they will encounter as managers in an information-rich business environment. We spoke on the phone to Ashok Sarathy, vice-president, GMAT Program of Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC). The company, GMAC, owns the GMAT. Sarathy tells us what brought about the change and what will it mean to the future of business education.
What is the new section going to test students on?
The integrated reasoning portion of the GMAT will capitalize on innovations in technology and assessments and feature questions that further enhance the validity of the test. These questions include information from multiple sources, such as charts, graphs, and spreadsheets. Examinees will be asked to analyze information, draw conclusions and discern relationships between data points, just as they must do in business school.
How much will the new GMAT change from its current avatar?
The overall length of the GMAT (three-and-a-half-hours) and the verbal and quantitative sections will not change. The new integrated reasoning section will be 30 minutes long and replace one of two essays that are part of the GMAT’s analytical writing section. Admissions officers GMAC research has shown that performance on the essays is closely aligned, making a single essay acceptable for predicting performance. As a result, when the new section is introduced in June 2012, tests will be scored on the same 200-800 scale used today. Test takers will receive a separate score for the essay—as they do now—and another distinct score on the new integrated reasoning section.
What prompted the change?
GMAT has been on a path of continuous evolution since it’s inception in 1954. This is the 10th generation of the exam. We launched in 1954 in response to nine business schools in the US who determined that they needed a specific test for business schools. With time, we have been introducing changes gradually. We lost the antonyms and analogies and data sufficiency in the 1999 and added the writing section. In 1997 we made it a computer adaptive test. In 2006, we changed our business partners from Prometric to Pearson because we wanted to focus on the quality and security of the test using state-of-the-art technology.
We have always been about and for business schools. We went back to schools all over the world speaking to 740 faculty members from US and Europe. We asked them if we were measuring the right skills and if there were additional skills we could be measuring. What we got was, in addition to the verbal, quantitative, what they were looking for was the ability to assimilate from multiple sources—textual, visual, the ability to solve complex problems, to accurately interpret data, to solve probability and statistics, evaluate trade-offs in a given situation, and to assess complex spoken material.
There have been debates about how business education in its current form is not evaluating creativity and innovation. Is the GMAT planning to evolve in keeping with such debates?
Even with the new section, GMAT will measure candidate’s ability to handle academic curriculum. There are a lot of subjects that current business educators are trying to incorporate into the learning process such as creativity, leadership, team-building. We, at GMAT, are in the process of piloting such soft-skills assessment with schools and students. Once we have the results of that pilot, we will work on it.