On Thursday, March 10, 2016, just a week before Mike’s favorite ethnic holiday, GMAC, the folks who create the GMAT, hosted a webinar for test prep professionals, folks such as I, on GMAT updates and I listened in. Here are some of the discoveries I made.
Canceling and Reinstating Scores
Back in the old days (five years ago), at the end of one’s GMAT, one had to decide there and then whether to cancel the score, before even seeing one’s score. One was shooting the in the dark. That was the only chance to cancel, and one had a 60-day window to reverse the cancellation: one reversed this by calling GMAC on the phone. Finally, for every canceled score, a “C” would appear on the score report, notifying adcom that the candidate had sat for a GMAT and had canceled it.
A great deal has changed. In the past year, the GMAT allowed student to preview their GMAT score right at the end of the test, before deciding to cancel. Since then, student have not be shooting in the dark.
In a new blog, GMAC recently has announced a number of changes.
a) the “C” will no longer appear on score reports; the score reports will contain absolutely no evidence of a cancelled GMAT!!
b) students have up to 72 hours after the GMAT to cancel the score (for $25): it doesn’t have to be made sitting in the testing center
c) you can reinstate a canceled score up to 4 years and 11 months after sitting for the GMAT (for $50), and you can do this by phone or online.
It’s wonderful that GMAC offers all these options. I would say: that $25 to cancel and $50 to reinstate is essentially a $75 penalty for not being well prepared. I would say: have a realistic plan. Know what scores are acceptable and what scores would merit a cancelation before you ever walk into the test center: make sure you discuss this plan with friends, with teachers, with admission counsellors, before you ever walk into the test. Be well appraised of the possibility of scoring lower on the real GMAT than you have on practice tests. Be intentional and conscientious and thoughtful about your approach to the GMAT, to business school, to your career, and to your life: this alone, when done consistently, will put you way ahead of others.
The folks at GMAC are quite fond of the IR section of the GMAT. A couple of years ago, many GMATs sent to B-school adcom were still pre-IR GMATs from early 2012. At this point, over 99% of GMATs sent to B-school have an IR section. Now that the IR is a part of virtually every GMAT the folks on adcom see, they are in a position to use it more as an assessment tool. Data suggests that the IR is often used in tie-breaking situations between two close candidates. It is not unreasonable to expect to see the importance of the IR section continuing to increase over time.
In 2016, look for the release of the following new products from GMAC
1) Recently, they released Exam Pack 2. Of course, students still can download the original GMAT Prep software for free, and this contains two practice GMATs. In the past, students could buy Exam Pack 1 and get two more full-length practice GMATs. Now, if one buys both Exam Packs, one can have a grand total of six full-length practice GMATs full of official questions.
NOTE: I highly recommend that all students studying for the GMAT take at least a couple full-length GMATs of official questions before they take the GMAT. Having said that, if you plan to take a lot of practice tests, use other practice tests earlier in your studying, and save the official tests toward the final days of your preparation.
2) The newest edition of the GMAT OG, the OG 2017, will be released in May 2016. Should you rush out and get this newest edition? Well, if you don’t own a GMAT OG yet, and you need to buy one, you might as well buy the most recent edition. If you already own the current OG, or even an OG from one or two editions ago, don’t panic: that’s absolutely fine to prepare you for the GMAT. If you absolutely run out of questions in your current edition of the GMAT, and need more official questions, then go ahead and by the newest edition when it comes out. If you have to buy the OG because you don’t own one yet or have exhausted your current guide, then those are truly valid reasons to make the purchase. Don’t buy the new one simply because it is new. Don’t automatically assume that the value of the current OG will drop to sheer worthlessness when the new one comes out: that’s patently absurd!! In general, I would say it would be extremely healthy to break yourself of any reflexive lurch toward the “next best thing.’
3) GMAC already sells Question Pack 1. In the second half of 2016, look for the release of Question Pack 2.
The Test Itself
At the moment, no new changes have been announced for the GMAT itself. The last big change made to the test was the addition of the Integrated Reasoning in June, 2012. The folks at GMAC are exceptionally proud of the quality and statistical validity of the test they produce, as well they should be!! There are no plans to make any major changes to the content of the test.
Having said that, on the webinar, they spoke of a pilot program that possibly could get expanded to all test takers at some point in the future. In this experimental program, students get a choice about the order of the sections. One still has to do all the sections (AWA, IR, Quantitative, and Verbal), but rather than have those four sections locked in that order, one could choose the order. It’s unclear how much choice one would have—whether, for example, one could opt for any of the 4! = 24 permutations of those four sections, or whether the AWA and IR, the two 30 minute sections, would always be “bundled.” Nevertheless, this could be a huge help to some students. If I were to take a GMAT under these conditions, I would want to take the Verbal section first because that requires my mind to be sharper—when I am half-fried I can still do a lot of math!
There is no timeline for this feature, and there’s no guarantee even that, on the basis of these trials, GMAC will decide to implement this feature. It’s in the testing phase at the moment and anything could happen from there.
If you have any experiences with GMAC’s new products or policies, please let us know in the comment sections. Of course, if you want serious help in preparing for the GMAT, Magoosh will provide as much help as any program that costs anywhere from 10x to 50x as much as Magoosh’s price. You can spend more money if you like—that is entirely your choice—but you won’t find anything significantly better than Magoosh, no matter how much money you spend.