On June 5th, a new section called Integrated Reasoning will be added to the GMAT. At the same time, one of the 30-minute Analytical Writing essays will be removed. This change is unequivocally a good thing, and new GMAT students shouldn’t rush to take the exam before it changes.
The developers of the GMAT (the Graduate Management Admissions Council, or GMAC) have always emphasized that they’d like the exam to test the skills that are critical to succeed in MBA programs and the broader world of business, so this change was long overdue. The fact is that for many years, admissions committees haven’t cared very much about the Analytical Writing score. The essays are an annoying distraction that saps your mental energy at the beginning of the GMAT. Of course written communication is important, but the ability to write essays is not a critical skill in MBA programs or business in general. MBA programs are very diverse and have many international students for whom English is a second language, and nobody expects them to write grammatically perfect essays. One essay on the exam can be justified – admission officers might want to compare the writing quality to that of the student’s application essays. However, there’s no reason to have two.
The Integrated Reasoning section will involve questions that can be broadly classified as “data interpretation” – it will present graphs and spreadsheets, and ask you to draw conclusions and inferences from the data. Based on the Integrated Reasoning sample questions that the GMAC has published, I’d say this change moves the GMAT in the right direction. Interpreting data sets is a critical skill for business students and professionals. Some students are freaking out about the change, but I think that’s just because there’s “more math” on the exam. The new GMAT exam format is pictured below.
Here’s a summary of the new Integrated Reasoning section:
1. It will consist of a variety of questions that relate to data interpretation: using spreadsheets, graphs, and tables to extract relevant information. There are four questions types: Table Analysis, Graphics Interpretation, Multi-Source Reasoning, and Two-Part Analysis. Each set of data will have multiple questions – for instance, one table of data might have four true/ false questions that accompany it.
2. Integrated Reasoning will be 30 minutes long and will be graded separately from the regular quant/verbal score. The score scale hasn’t been published yet, but is supposed to be available on April 1st.
3. Admissions committees probably won’t consider it very important for the first year (the 2012-2013 admissions season), since they won’t have a solid basis for comparison. Jeff Sackmann had a good article about this.
4. The new GMAT Official Guide will apparently not have a section on Integrated Reasoning within the book itself, but there will a website that provides practice problems for the exam. I can confirm this once I receive the book in early April.
In a future post, I will provide solutions for the sample Integrated Reasoning questions that have been released already.
Author: Matt Kirisits.