GMAT - Latest Change in Exam Pattern

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GMAT has announced the latest changes in its exam pattern. This came out as a surprise to many of the students; while GMAC came out with a FAQ on its site, it left the students with a lot more questions than answers. The GMACs FAQ on pattern change can be found here -

Let us hence try to understand the reason behind GMACs decision and how it will matter to students' preparation.

Latest changes in exam pattern

 

What is the change?

The GMAT as we all know had 75 minutes each for QR and VR sections where as the number of questions were 37 and 41. This has been changed to QR having 31 questions and time of 62 min; VR having 36 questions and time of 65 min. The AWA and IR sections have not been changed. The below table sums it up

Section Old Pattern (till April 15th2018) New Pattern (from April 16th2018)
  No. of Qs Time for Section No. of Qs Time for Section
AWA 1 30 min 1 30 min
IR 12 30 min 12 30 min
VR 41 75 min 36 65 min
QR 37 75 min 31 62 min
Total   3 hr 30 min   3 hr 07 min

As you can see, a total of 23 min has been decreased from the total duration of the exam. Apart from this, several pre-exam instructions screens have also been decreased; and in each such screen, the content has also been decreased. More information on these screens can be found here - www.mba.com/tutorial

Why the change?

While students might have been surprised with the change, institutes like Career Launcher have indications that the GMAC was mulling such a change for some time now. In fact, there was a large-scale survey conducted with the aim of finding out how can the exam experience be made better.

The GMAT exam had a total duration of 3:30 hours earlier. If you count the break time and the instructions screens, the test center procedures, the overall time that a student would have had to spent went well beyond 4 hours.

GMAT is an exam given by freshers, moderate work experience professionals as well as industry veterans who want to have a career change. The ability to sit for long hours for an exam diminishes as one progresses in their career. Keeping in view the feedback from a number of participants, GMAC has decided to decrease the test duration so that the fatigue that usually sets in at the end of the exam is mitigated

When is the change applicable?

GMAC announced this change on 1st April. The change is applicable from 16th April 2018. That is, any test taker taking their GMAT exam on or after 16th April 2018 will get the new format. Till then, the old format will be administered

How does it affect YOU?

The change in the exam will affect you in the below three areas –

Question breakup

We are expecting the below to be the questions section wise in the new format

Old New
Reading Comprehension 13-14 13 - 14 (4 sets)
Sentence Correction 13-14 12 - 13
Critical Reasoning 13-14 9 - 10
Problem Solving 21 - 22 17 - 18
Data Sufficiency 15 - 16 13 - 14

Scoring

There will be absolutely no impact on scoring as per GMACs official communication. The scoring algorithm remains the same. The content and question type will also remain the same.
The scoring scale will remain 0-60

So how is that decrease in questions will not effect the scoring? This is because the decreased questions are from the experimental lot of questions that every test has. It is a well know fact that in the earlier format, not all 37 questions in quant and 41 in verbal were taken for scoring. Few of these were given as experiments so that GMAC can collect data on the difficulty level of questions (by looking at number of students attempting it, accuracy etc.) and introduce it as a scored question later.

Now by cutting down on these questions, GMAT as an exam will still administer the same number of scored questions to the students thereby not effecting the scoring algorithm.

Preparation

Students would have been practicing their mocks from various sources with the older format. With this change, all those mocks will have to change. Currently at the time of writing this article (10th April), even GMAC has not come up with the change in their exam packs. Their website says that official mock packages will reflect this change from 30th April.

But what is the effect on the exam as such? Prima facie, if you just look at the average time per question in each section, you will notice that there is hardly any change; that is, average time per question in older and new format is the same. Let us take a deeper look

Effect on Quant

It is common knowledge that GMAT begins the exam by giving the initial couple of questions at a medium difficulty level and changes the difficulty level as the exam progresses. This would imply that mostly, students spend less time on initial questions as these are easier in difficulty.

Also note that the experimental questions that were administered could not have all been difficult. A lot of them would be in the low to medium difficult level which again means students will be able to solve them faster. The net effect of this is that students spend lot of time on the end questions as they are relatively more difficult than the initial questions. In such a context, it is incorrect to compare average time per question. By cutting down on the experimental questions, the GMAT is taking away those precious few minutes that a student would have other wise spent on difficult questions.

Because of this, a student now must be much faster in his calculations and answering of questions than ever before!

Effect on verbal

Usually, students spend the most time on RC, followed by CR and the least time per question on SC. If you notice the change in verbal section mentioned above, the RC part may not change which means the time you spend on RC is same as earlier. But because the bulk of the decrease in questions is coming from the critical reasoning section which the second highest time-consuming section is, it follows that effectively, you will have a breather in the verbal section!

In a nutshell, you can expect verbal section to become better for you in terms of number of questions and time utilization per type of question.

So, there you go! I hope I have been able to break down the implication of the pattern change as succulently as possible. All the best for your GMAT exam!