GMAT Updates: What You Need to Know


Shorter Sections, More Optionsservlet

Since there is significant overlap among GRE and GMAT students, both for business school and other grad programs, we keep abreast of GMAT news and share important developments with you.

Starting April 16, the GMAT got a face lift. The Quant and Verbal sections got shorter, and the GMAC introduced a new elective section order option that permits students to choose among three test layouts. At the end of April, the GMATPrep® software will be updated to reflect these format changes. Just as the GRE PowerPrep® software is now a web app, the GMATPrep® software will also move online with an updated interface. However, unlike the old offline GRE software, which is no longer available, the older, downloadable GMAT prep software will remain available, at least through the end of the year. 

While these changes are relatively minor, they do change the test-taking experience. According to the GMAC they are intended to reduce student anxiety and streamline the test.  

Read below for an overview of these changes and what it means for you if you're considering the GMAT. 

GMAT Before and After

GMAT Test Section # of Questions Timing Changes?
Analytical Writing Assessment 1 Topic 30 Minutes No changes!
Integrated Reasoning 12 Questions 30 Minutes No changes!
Quantitative 31 Questions 62 Minutes Was 75 minutes, now 13 minutes shorter. Had 37 questions, now 6 questions shorter.
Verbal 36 Questions 65 Minutes Was 75 minutes, now 10 minutes shorter. Had 41 questions, now 5 questions shorter.
Total Exam Time    3 hrs, 7 minutes Was  3 hrs, 30 minutes, now 23 minutes shorter

In addition to fewer questions and shorter sections, the new GMAT includes fewer instructions during the test itself. For instance,  instead of detailed explanations of how to use the computer interface, the updated test assumes that you are already familiar with the fundamentals. At PowerScore, we already instructed our students to skip through the instruction screens quickly, but now it appears as though GMAC has taken the hint.

However, the flip side to this change is that students must at least take one official GMAT practice test before the real thing. While this is already the norm, now that there are fewer instructions on the actual exam you will need to be crystal clear about how the interface operates before test day.

Section Order Options

One significant and somewhat less reported change is the option to take the sections in different orders. The following arrangements are possible:

  1. Analytical Writing Assessment, Integrated Reasoning, Quantitative, Verbal
  2. Verbal, Quantitative, Integrated Reasoning, Analytical Writing Assessment
  3. Quantitative, Verbal, Integrated Reasoning, Analytical Writing Assessment

The first option above is the original order. You will make your selection after choosing the schools to which you wish to submit your score report and before beginning the test. Your two optional eight minute breaks remain available, spaced at ~60 minute intervals. This means if you take the test in the original order, you get your first eight minute break after Integrated Reasoning; in the second order, after Verbal; in the third, after Quant.

  1. Analytical Writing Assessment, Integrated Reasoning, BREAK, Quantitative, BREAK, Verbal
  2. Verbal, BREAK, Quantitative, BREAK, Integrated Reasoning, Analytical Writing Assessment
  3. Quantitative, BREAK, Verbal, BREAK, Integrated Reasoning, Analytical Writing Assessment

While these options are welcome, they do leave out an option many students might prefer: to take the AWA and IR sections in between Quant and Verbal. Oh well, perhaps someday.

There is no correct or incorrect order to take the sections, and your section order selection is not reported on your score report. Unfortunately the existing prep software does not yet reflect these changes and options, but these changes should be rolled out with the updates at the end of the month.

When these updates become available, you should attempt practice tests in at least two of the different orders. The biggest question will be whether you prefer to take the higher stakes Quant and Verbal sections before or after the AWA and IR. Many students want to jump right into the big stuff, but you'll need to be mentally prepared to handle the essay and IR afterwards. 

Impact on Test Decisions

These changes to the GMAT do make it a more student-friendly test, and the GMAC deserves credit for finding and implementing ways to streamline the test-taking experience. If you're on the fence between the GRE and the GMAT, should this sway you to the GMAT? I don't think so. Your overall decision-making process should remain the same. We covered many factors of this choice a couple weeks ago in another post.

Tweet: The GMAT is still a strict question-level adaptive Computer Adaptive Test while the GRE is a section-level adaptive Computer Adaptive Test.

The GMAT is still a strict question-level adaptive Computer Adaptive Test while the GRE is a section-level adaptive Computer Adaptive Test. 

This difference in ability to skip around questions within sections and review your work afterwards remains the most student-friendly distinction between these two tests and is a definitive advantage of the GRE. We encourage you to weigh your decision carefully; there are many good reasons to choose the GMAT over the GRE, especially if you perform comparably on both and are committed exclusively to applying to business school. 

If you have questions about these changes on the GMAT or any other GRE, GMAT, or graduate school application questions, please join us on our free GRE forums. Expert instructors are available to respond to all your questions.

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