The GMAT has been an arduous test. It’s an exam that not only tests your quantitative ability, verbal ability, analytical writing and reasoning, but also tests a variety of managerial traits - strategy & time management being one of them. Until a few years ago, the GMAT was a "relatively rigid" test with little flexibility, especially in terms of the order of sections.
However, all of that is about to change. The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) has announced that test takers will be able to select the order in which they want to take the sections of the GMAT. The new rules kick-in from 11th July 2017 with the select section options being as follows:
- Analytical Writing Assessment, Integrated Reasoning, Quantitative, Verbal (original order);
- Verbal, Quantitative, Integrated Reasoning, Analytical Writing Assessment; or
- Quantitative, Verbal, Integrated Reasoning, Analytical Writing Assessment
This Select Section Order is a step to allow more flexibility and make the GMAT more "test taker friendly". This comes after a series of other steps taken by the GMAC to enhance the GMAT test taking experience. Some of the recent steps taken include:
- Cancellation of scores online after leaving the test center and the enhanced score reinstatement policies (March 2016)
- Removal of cancelled scores from school score reports; allowing candidates to retake the GMAT after 16-days vs. 31 days previously; and enabling test takers to access their Official Score Report online using their date of birth instead of an authentication code (July 2015)
- Introduction of the GMAT Enhanced Score Report, which provides an analysis of overall GMAT performance (January 2015)
- Introduction of GMAT Score Preview, allowing test takers to preview their unofficial scores before deciding whether to report or cancel them (July 2014)
So what does it mean for test takers?
- Wait it out in the immediate-term: A lot of prospective test takers around the globe would want to rather wait for the change to kick-in. Hence, people looking to take the test in late-June or early-July 2017 would now want to take the test post 11th July 2017
- "Verbal first" Strategy: Given that the GMAT score out of 800 is still the most important number on the score report, almost all test-takers will take the Verbal or the quant sections first, before getting on to AWA and IR. Since Verbal carries the maximum weight, many test takers will go with a "Verbal First" Strategy and get it out of the way at the outset when they are the most motivated and energetic
- Less stress on Test Day: While the Verbal section is considered to be the most challenging and carries the most weight towards your GMAT score (out of 800), it used to appear in the end - at a time when the test taker is on the verge of exhaustion. She has battled out AWA, IR and Quant sections, handling a lot of pressure, making a variety of decisions and trying to keep pace with the ticking clock. And when the all-important Verbal section arrived, she was already facing lack of energy and focus, having been in the battlefield for about 2 hours and 30 minutes. Then followed gruelling RC passages, cleverly crafted SC questions and some not so straightforward questions in CR. In the end, test takers scored well on AWA, IR and Quant, but couldn’t quite manage the same with Verbal, leading to a sub-optimal score. In our experience, this is the most common " GMAT retaker profile" - someone with high scores in the first three sections but a poor score in Verbal. However, with this change, there will be less stress on test day.
In its press release, the GMAC has mentioned that this move has been taken after a pilot conducted in 2016 where it received positive feedback with 85% of test takers surveyed expressed that this new feature boosted their confidence prior to even taking the exam.
Overall, a good news for test takers around the globe, and a welcome move by the GMAC.
Source: "New GMAT Exam Feature Offers Greater Control and Flexibility", GMAC, 15 June 2017; Strategy4GMAT Analysis
The author is an ISB alumnus & Co-Founder of Strategy4GMAT