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Testmasters GMAT Test Prep Course FAQs

CAT – Computer Adaptive Tests

New GMAT & GMAT Changes

GMAT Scores

Business School Admissions


What is a CAT (Computer Adaptive Test)? How do CATs work?

The computer-adaptive format presents questions according to each individual’s ability level. These questions are chosen from a pool of test questions categorized by content and difficulty. The first question is of medium difficulty. Every subsequent question is then determined by your responses to all previous questions. You are not allowed to change answers to previous questions as you proceed through the test, and you are not allowed to skip questions. A key part in preparing for the GMAT is to understand the CAT format and how your score is determined.

What are the advantages and disadvantages to CAT tests?

Advantages: Since each question adapts based on the test-taker’s previous responses to questions, the computer requires less time to calculate your score, resulting in a shorter test. This can reduce test-taker fatigue, which can significantly lower an examinee’s test results. CATs are individually paced so the examinee does not need to wait on others to finish before going on to the next section, which can also reduce the total length of the test. CATs can be given on demand and scores can be available immediately, resulting in greater flexibility for test-takers. CATs also provide more accurate scores within ability ranges; pen and pencil tests typically do not provide as high a degree of differentiation for high and low ability test takers. Finally, if you’re slow at writing by hand and more comfortable typing responses on a computer, you’ll be able to write more during the Analytical Writing section.

Disadvantages: The first couple questions are critical in determining your score. If you miss the first question, your score will be significantly lower, even if you get all the subsequent questions correct. Examinees cannot skip around a section to answer questions; they must answer the questions in the order presented to them. Finally, if you are uncomfortable using a computer or slow at typing, a CAT could further handicap you during the Analytical Writing section.

What were the changes to the GMAT?

In June 2012, GMAC introduced a new section called Integrated Reasoning. The Integrated Reasoning section has eight questions and is 30 minutes long. There are four question types: graphics interpretation, table analysis, two-part analysis, and multi-source reasoning. It is scored on a scale of 1-8, but does not affect your Total Score (the combination of your Quantitative and Verbal section scores).

Also in June 2012, GMAC removed the Analyze an Issue question from the Analytical Writing section, making the Analytical Writing section 30 minutes shorter. The Analytical Writing section now only consists of one, 30-minute Analyze an Argument essay.

Why did GMAC change the GMAT? What is their goal?

GMAC is changing the GMAT with the goal of making the test better meet the needs expressed by business schools around the globe. In 2009, GMAC surveyed 740 business school faculty worldwide to ask them what test skills would be important for incoming students as they prepare to work in technologically advanced, data-driven environments. They are introducing the Integrated Reasoning section to address the needs specified by those business schools. The Integrated Reasoning section is designed to test your ability to synthesize graphical information, evaluate relevant information from different sources, organize information to see relationships and solve interrelated problems, and combine and manipulate information to solve complex problems that depend on information from one or more sources.

GMAC is reducing the Analytical Writing Assessment to one Analyze an Argument question because admissions directors have said, and recent research has shown, that most test takers get similar scores on both essays, making one essay an acceptable predictor of performance.

When was the last time the GMAT was changed?

The GMAT has changed several times in the past 60 years since its introduction in March 1953. It was last changed in 1997 to introduce Computer Adaptive Testing as a test-taking option. Prior to 1997, GMAC introduced changes to the GMAT approximately twice every 10 years. Most recently, the GMAT was changed in June 2012.

Does the new GMAT affect my GMAT score?

Your GMAT Total Score (on a scale from 200 to 800) is the combination of your Verbal and Quantitative section scores. Since the Verbal and Quantitative sections did not change, the changes to the new GMAT should not greatly affect your GMAT score. Currently, additional preparation is needed for the new Integrated Reasoning section, but because it is scored separately, like the Analytical Writing section, it does not factor into your Total Score.

When will universities only accept new GMAT scores? How long will old GMAT scores
be accepted?

GMAT scores are valid for five years. Most schools accept all valid GMAT scores from the past five years, however, schools that want to see scores on the Integrated Reasoning section may require applicants to take the new GMAT. Contact the program you’re interested in to find out whether they would prefer old or new GMAT scores.

Did GMAT scoring change?

No, the scoring for the GMAT remained the same. You still receive a total score ranging from 200-800, which is the combination of your Verbal and Quantitative scores. You also receive separate scores for the Analytical Writing and Integrated Reasoning sections. The Analytical Writing section is scored from 0 to 6 and the Integrated Reasoning section is scored from 1-8. The Analytical Writing and Integrated Reasoning sections do not affect your total score, but schools will still be able to see your percentile for those sections, so it is important to take them seriously.

What is a good score on the GMAT?

A good score on the GMAT is a score that will get you into your first choice for business school. This varies with the schools you are applying to, what type of program you are trying to join (full time, part time, or executive education), your work experience, and your undergraduate GPA. Below is a chart of the 2012 GMAT score and undergraduate GPA for students admitted to the top 20 business schools as ranked by US News and World Report.

Business School 2012 GMAT Score UGPA
Harvard University 724 3.66
Stanford University 730 3.70
University of Pennsylvania 718 3.56
Massachusetts Institute of Technology 710 3.51
Northwestern University 712 3.54
University of Chicago 719 3.52
University of California – Berkeley 715 3.64
Columbia University 716 3.50
Dartmouth College 718 3.52
New York University 719 3.42
Duke University 689 3.44
University of Michigan – Ann Arbor 703 3.40
University of Virginia 701 3.40
University of California – Los Angeles 704 3.50
Cornell University 691 3.29
University of Texas – Austin 692 3.43
Carnegie Mellon University 686 3.35
Emory University 681 3.30
University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill 689 3.31
University of Southern California 687 3.30

*Source: U.S. News & World Report

How does the GMAT test factor into Business School admissions?

Admission officers generally look at your application, transcript, prior work experience, and GMAT score. While having a very high score on the GMAT will not necessarily get you into your school of choice, a low score will keep you from being accepted to many schools. The GMAT is the only required test for MBA admissions, but schools weigh its importance differently. The most competitive MBA schools look for very high GMAT scores for admission.

What is the difference between the GMAT and GRE?

The Graduate Record Exam (GRE) has historically been used for admissions to doctoral and masters programs, but, in recent years, a growing number of business schools have started accepting GRE scores in lieu of GMAT scores. The GMAT is used exclusively for admissions to MBA programs. The GRE has three sections, Analytical Writing, Verbal Reasoning, and Quantitative Reasoning. The Analytical Writing section is scored on a scale from 0 to 6 and the Verbal and Quantitative Reasoning Sections are scored on a scale from 130-170. The highest score achievable on the GRE is 340.

The Analytical Writing Section of the GRE is nearly identical to the Analytical Writing Section on the old GMAT; both had a 30-minute Analyze an Issue and Analyze an Argument question. Since June 2012, however, the GMAT only has one 30-minute Analyze an Argument question.

The Verbal Reasoning section of the GRE consists of approximately 40 sentence completion, sentence equivalence, Reading Comprehension Multiple Answer, Reading Comprehension Sentence Highlighting, and Reading Comprehension Multiple Choice questions. The questions on the verbal section of the GRE do not have as great an emphasis on quantitative analysis as those on the GMAT do.

The Quantitative Section of the GRE consists of approximately 40 Multiple Answer and Numeric Entry questions. There is not as great an emphasis on data analysis on the GRE as there is on the GMAT.

Finally, there is no Integrated Reasoning section on the GRE. GMAC will introduced a new Integrated Reasoning section to the GMAT in June 2012.

If your program will accept either a GRE score or a GMAT score, we recommend taking a practice test for both the GRE and the GMAT and seeing which test you score higher on.

If business schools accept both tests, should I take the GRE or the GMAT?

The short answer is that you should take the test you will score better on. You can take a free GRE practice test and a free GMAT practice test online to see which test gives you a higher score. The long answer, unsurprisingly, is a little more complicated. Many business schools say that the GMAT is a better predictor of your performance during your first semester of business school than the GRE, and prefer that applicants take the GMAT for this reason. Some recruiters for management consulting firms and investment banks also use GMAT scores to find future employees, so taking the GMAT could be more useful in the long term for your job search.

On the other hand, if you are unsure about whether you want to go to business school or graduate school, you may want to take the GRE instead. Likewise, if you have already have a valid GRE score, you may want to focus your energies on perfecting the other parts of your application instead of preparing for another standardized test. If you are applying for a dual MBA program, you may also want to use your GRE scores to save yourself the trouble of taking two tests. Finally, if price is a consideration, the GRE is about $100 cheaper than the GMAT. All that said, if you have not taken either test but know for sure you are applying to business school, you should take the GMAT.

Is the GRE easier than the GMAT?

Neither test is necessarily easier or harder than the other; the GMAT and the GRE are very different tests that assess very different sets of abilities. The most striking differences can be found in the verbal sections of both tests. While the GRE verbal section tests you on your knowledge of vocabulary, the GMAT verbal section is more interested in your abilities in critical reasoning, thinking, and conventional English grammar. Therefore, if you have strong vocabulary skills, the GRE verbal section may be easier, and if you have strong critical reading and grammatical abilities, you may score higher on the GMAT verbal section. The quantitative sections of the GRE and the GMAT also have different question types in addition to basic problem-solving questions; GRE Math has “Quantitative Comparison” questions in which examinees must determine which column represents the larger amount while GMAT Math tests examinees on Data Sufficiency. Finally, the GMAT has a new section, Integrated Reasoning, which is unlike any section on the GRE, and may be easier or harder for certain test-takers.

Does the GMAT require studying vocab like the GRE does?

Unlike the GRE, the GMAT verbal section does not specifically test you on vocabulary. The GMAT verbal section tests you on your reading comprehension, critical reasoning, and sentence correction abilities. It is important to know your grammar and be familiar with critical reading and critical thinking, but you will not be tested on your vocabulary. Nevertheless, you may want to study vocabulary to use in your essay, or to help you understand reading comprehension passages.

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