GMAT: the next generation

From 2013, students applying to business school will have to sit a new admissions test—an updated version of the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT). Below, the body responsible for administering the test, The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), explains what will change.

The new test, known as “Next Generation GMAT”, is a response to changes in the business marketplace and in the needs and interests of students. These include more specialised masters programmes and more variations on the traditional MBA. Schools have also revised and continue to review their curricula to better match the needs of employers and an increasingly diverse range of students with different ambitions, backgrounds and learning styles.

The Next Generation GMAT, due for completion in 2013, will build on the foundation of the existing test, but will incorporate advances in testing technology and science. It will provide a more precise measures of the skills needed for both traditional MBA and new business programmes.

Developing the new test will involve three phases over the next five years: skills research, pilot testing and operational readiness. Throughout each phase, GMAC will seek feedback from key school professionals, including faculty, admissions officers and programme directors.

Phase one: skills research
GMAC is currently identifying and reviewing potential new skills that the GMAT could measure. Faculty members from leading business schools around the world are being recruited to review and rate the importance of various skills and make recommendations for change based on new expectations of students.

Phase two: pilot testing
During this phase, new questions will be piloted with GMAT test takers to determine the correct proportion of new questions on the exam and the impact of the questions on the testing experience. New score scales may be developed in collaboration with school admissions professionals, who will also review the design of the score report. Once a sufficient bank of questions has been developed, GMAC will field test the Next Generation GMAT and then finalise its blueprint.

Phase three: operational readiness
Before launching the new test, GMAC will ensure that it is easily accessible to all test takers and that test centres are upgraded as needed. New test preparation materials will be developed and made available to candidates before the first new tests are delivered.

The final result
What will the Next Generation GMAT look like? Will it be more difficult? Will there be more or fewer questions, perhaps in a different format? Numerous options are currently being identified, reviewed and measured—and GMAC is committed to conducting thorough review and testing at each step in order to deliver a successful Next Generation GMAT that will meet the needs of business schools and students well into the future.

Background
The GMAT was created in 1953 by nine business schools as their personal test to evaluate and admit the best students for their programmes. Five decades of research and continuous improvement have proven the GMAT to be the most reliable indicator of academic success in graduate management education. Today, it is used by almost 5,000 programmes in 1,900 schools.

In 2008, more than 250,000 prospective business students took the GMAT exam in more than 90 countries. The reach and stature of this computer-adaptive exam reflect its ability to help quality schools find the students around the world who are the best match for their programmes and for the demands of the marketplace. The process of continually reviewing and revising the exam is a rigorous one. An international panel thoroughly studies each potential new question before it is pilot tested with candidates who represent the diversity of the GMAT test taking pool. Questions are carefully screened to ensure they are bias-free.

This article was based on a submission by The Graduate Management Admission Council.

HAVE YOUR SAY: How do you think the GMAT could be improved? What does a modern-day business school test need to measure. Leave your thoughts below.

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8 Responses to “GMAT: the next generation”

  1. MQ Says:

    At the moment, GMAT scores are good for 5 years. I am curious for those that take the exam during the 2009-13, how will schools be able to fairly compare them to new test takers.

  2. FSG Says:

    The GMAT is a racket!!! I see the need for some sort of standardized test to evaluate potential students abilities – especially as MBAs become more international – but the GMAT certainly is not it. I don’t believe its a predictor of academic performance, and the test’s content and format is unlike anything I’ve every come across in the real business world. At $250 a pop, its a money making scam and nothing else.

  3. B. Lawrence Says:

    I do not believe that the GMAT serves a purpose. With questions relevant to HS training, and designed to seek those who are “trained to think in a certain way”, rather than analyze and assess options, such a test does not do justice to incoming students. The latter is what is strived for in graduate programs, not students who think/act as each other. Especially when asked to choose an answer that is not correct, but rather “mostly correct”. This sub-par testing style is not what graduate schools claim to seek in new students.

    Coupled with professionals who have been out of the academic scene for (let’s say 5) years, such a test does not measure current/relevant subject knowledge – the main reason behind an individual seeking further studies in the first place.

    I say scrap this test, and look at someone’s CV/resume. Stop looking for “easy – fix-all solutions to problems that cannot be answered by them (i.e. which students are best for a certain program).

    BHL

  4. David Albert Newman Says:

    I don’t buy the argument that the GMAT is the best predictor of graduate school academic performance. I think undergraduate academic record, any other professional studies academic record, work experience, and work ethic predict graduate school success. Why? Since these are relevant to business studies.

    The GMAT is not very relevant to business studies. The mathematics is high school mathematics that is irrelevant years after taking it. The verbal communication both multiple choice and essays are MUCH more indicative of predicting academic success.

    The mathematics component of the GMAT should therefore be changed and the time limits should be relaxed somewhat. Some people are reflective thinkers not directive thinkers.

    I’ll take my repeated academic A-average but with my 54th percentile 550 GMAT score and 6/6 essay score, and still get into schools of my choice. It’s not about the GMAT, it’s about character, influence, and communication.

  5. kavin marapon Says:

    GMAT, GRE both are for the dollars, it is an education rip off. The admission should focus on quality students, not just high score on the exams.

  6. Paul Dionne Says:

    Why is there so much hysteria around GMAT scores? I think they are an important tool for both schools and for prospective students.

    Just one look at the 20%-80% range of a school will reveal that they are accepting people with a wide range of scores. Obviously, other factors, including experience, the quality of application essays and fit are important considerations too.

    GMAT scores helped me to evaluate schools I was applying to as well. For example, my GMAT scores helped me to figure out which schools would be my safeties, and which would be a challenge.

    So, yea, it was stressful studying and taking the test, I certainly didn’t get the score I would have liked. But after I took the test, I found it a really useful tool.

  7. Larry Underwood Says:

    I don’t know much about GMAT to be perfectly honest. In the real world of business, however, I do know that corporate America is doing a lousy job of motivating its employees; according to the Gallup Organization, only 31% of American workers like their jobs and feel they are making a contribution to their company’s success.

    In other words, the other 69% of employees are actually doing very little, if anything, to help increase overall productivity. In a recently published book, “Primal Management”, by Paul Herr, based on over 30 years of research, he has concluded that it is human nature to want to fulfull our five “social appetites” to be productive members in a business environment, just as much as our “biologic appetites” need to be fulfilled (food, shelter, reproduction, etc) to sustain mankind as a whole.

    I’ll mention them very briefly here, while encouraging you to read his book: (1) Cooperation (2) Competency (3) Skill Deployment (4) Innovation (5) Self-Protection.

    He concludes that the vast majority of corporate America is still using outdated hierarchial management systems which dictate a regimented structure for organizations, yet neglect to incorporate a true understanding of the basic human instincts each one of us has to be productive and highly motivated employees.

    I always felt it was simply common sense to treat employees with courtesy and dignity, making sure they’re properly trained, and set them loose with a high degree of autonomy; this creates a good team atmosphere, and produces measurably better results than treating them like replaceable cogs in a machine. My 26 years experience in dealing with the good and bad side of corporate America is chronicled in a book, “Life Under the Corporate Microscope”. It’s hardly a scientific approach to business, yet it’s amazing similar to the revelations that Herr advocates.

    By the way, Herr estimates that the lack of productivity resulting from corporate America’s poor management practices is in the neighborhood of $2-3 trillion, annually. There’s a Stimulis Package without having to tap into the country’s already out of control national deficit.

  8. admin Says:

    Thanks for an interesting article. I note the following paragraphs:

    “The GMAT was created in 1953 by nine business schools as their personal test to evaluate and admit the best students for their programmes. Five decades of research and continuous improvement have proven the GMAT to be the most reliable indicator of academic success in graduate management education. Today, it is used by almost 5,000 programmes in 1,900 schools.

    In 2008, more than 250,000 prospective business students took the GMAT exam in more than 90 countries. The reach and stature of this computer-adaptive exam reflect its ability to help quality schools find the students around the world who are the best match for their programmes and for the demands of the marketplace. The process of continually reviewing and revising the exam is a rigorous one. An international panel thoroughly studies each potential new question before it is pilot tested with candidates who represent the diversity of the GMAT test taking pool. Questions are carefully screened to ensure they are bias-free.”

    Since 1979, we have run a local GMAT preparation program in Toronto, Canada. As a result we have worked with thousands of students to improve their scores. Hence, my thoughts are based on many years of experiences with students, the paper based test and GMAT CAT.

    What does the GMAT actually test? Why is it used? Should it be used?

    My opinions:

    1. The GMAT is a test of reading and reasoning skills. It is NOT a test of math. It is a test of your ability to understand what you read and to then reason using that information. Hence, most GMAT preparation is misconceived.

    2. Why do the schools use the test? If they don’t use the test their rankings will fall. The Harvard Business school stopped using the GMAT for a period of about 10 years – during this decade its ranking dropped. It is interesting to me that Queen’s University in Canada created their own version of the GMAT which they call the QMAT. (This presumably – just my guess – was a way to ensure that nobody with a low GMAT score entered their Executive MBA progam.

    3. Why is GMAT making the changes? Just my guess but: they are under intense competitive pressure from GRE (which is a comparable test). GRE is making changes. Hence, GMAT better make them too.

    4. The format of GMAT questions has changed very little from the 1970s (when we started GMAT prep) and I expect not since the 1950s. The main change was to:

    – remove a decision section called “Business Judgment” and replacing it with Critical Reasoning.

    – change the form of the test from a paper based test to a computer based test.

    My suggestion would be for the MBA programs to force GMAT to justify its value and validity. The fact the GRE is making fast inroads suggests that schools are open to alternatives. My suggestion: MBA programs should also accept the LSAT (Law School Admission Test) which is a better test of reading and reasoning than either the GMAT or GRE.

    I would be interested in any thoughts on this.

    John Richardson
    Toronto, Canada

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