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The New GMAT

The big business school admissions exam and the changes ahead

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Wall Street Courtesy Ryan Imel, Stock.Xchng

Every flavor of grad school has its own entrance exam. MBAs-to-be have a choice - the majority take the GMAT, or Graduate Management Admission Test, but they also have the option of taking the GRE instead.

The GMAT is accepted by 1,900 business schools around the world. It's a three and a half hour, standardized test - a fill-in-the-bubble exam with verbal, quantitative and writing components, including two essays, one analyzing an issue, the other dissecting an argument. GMAT scores are reported on a 200-800 scale, with percentiles given as well.

The GMAT is in what's called a "computer-adaptive format." The math and verbal parts of the exam include multiple choice questions whose difficulty adjusts to the test taker's ability level. Give a right answer and the next question will be more difficult. Answer wrong, and the next question is easier. It's an intriguing concept, but it's one that makes it impossible to skip questions or change answers.

The GMAT is not a business-centric exam, or it hasn't been up till now. But there are changes afoot. Starting on June 5, 2012, one of the essays will be replaced by a new, 30-minute integrated analysis section that requires students to assess spreadsheets and various data, make trade-offs and figure out a solution. In other words, something MBAs actually do. For example, the exam might include a spreadsheet on air travel for 21 airports - passengers, flights, tarmac space - for applicants to analyze and use to base recommendations. The answers will be multiple choice.

The changes, the vice president of the Graduate Management Admissions Council told reporters, stem from discussions with business school professors, as well as in-house evaluations. Some experts believe the changes will favor applicants who acquired some real world savvy by working after college, not just rushing straight to B School.

For more information on the GMAT, including sample questions, test prep and test registration, visit the official MCAT website.

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