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New GMAT Not 'Scary,' Test Takers Say

Business school applicants who have taken the revised GMAT say it shouldn’t frighten test takers.

The new GMAT test features an integrated reasoning section.

Natasha Rooney tweeted that she had just realized, at 5:56 p.m. on June 6, that the GMAT she was scheduled to take later this month is a different format than the one for which she'd been studying. 

The Kaplan 2012 preparatory book she had been using to study for the test she plans to take on June 23 notes that the GMAT is changing, Rooney explains. But she hadn't realized that the test was changing June 5, two weeks before her scheduled exam date. 

"It's just really frustrating, as I'm finding that there aren't really many available study resources for the new section, because it is so new," she says. "I just wish they could have given out more information about tips for the new section or more practice questions." 

The Graduate Management Admission Council introduced a new integrated reasoning section to the GMAT exam. Previously, the Graduate Management Admission Test required MBA applicants to write two essays, but the revised test replaces one of the essays with the new section, which calls upon test takers to analyze data to solve problems, according to the GMAC website

Although the GMAC website insists that integrated reasoning is something test takers do every day, media reports about the revised test have hailed it as a game changer. Two Wall Street Journal pieces referred to the new GMAT as "scary" and "more complicated" than its predecessor. And the new test is "downright terrifying" and "apparently is giving test takers the night sweats," according to an article in Businessweek

But MBA applicants who have taken the revised GMAT say that it's not nearly as scary as the news reports indicate. 

"The IR section was not horrible for me at all," says Steve Shields, a supply chain professional based in the Dallas-Fort Worth area who took the GMAT on June 9. "I think anyone with real world job experience ... should not really experience any issue with this section." 

[Read about how more business schools are accepting the GRE.] 

Steve Rogers, a financial analyst at the Florida Department of Transportation who took the GMAT on June 9, agrees that media coverage of the revised test has been sensationalized. 

"I think it's overblown. No truth to it. They removed one essay and added the IR. So maybe it benefits some and not others, and vice versa," he says. "Having been out of college since 1999 and working in accounting and finance, my work experience definitely helped me on the new section." 

The Official Guide for GMAT Review that Rogers purchased really helped him prepare for the test, he says. He recommends it and the accompanying online practice questions for the integrated reasoning section to anyone studying for the test. 

"The questions I received on the actual GMAT test were structured almost exactly, if not the same, as the practice questions," he says. 

[See b-schools with the highest average GMAT score for full-time students.] 

But Arefeen Shamsuzzoha, who took the GMAT on June 6, says the new test is very difficult. While Shamsuzzoha, a graduate student at the College of Engineering at the University of Alabama, was aware that the test was changing, he mostly focused on studying for the quantitative and verbal sections, which he heard were weighed more heavily by graduate admissions officials than the new section. 

"While I see the merit in the testing method used for the new integrated reasoning section, I felt it was trying to test too much too fast," he says. "The section's format veered too significantly from what has traditionally been used for the quantitative and verbal sections." 

The new section also was accompanied by an unrealistic time limit, Shamsuzzoha says. "I feel the GMAT's designers allotted too little time for the type of advanced and integrated reasoning they sought to test," he says. 

[Read six tips for GMAT success.] 

Shields, the recent test taker based in Texas, says only one thing caught him by surprise after carefully studying GMAT for Dummies and the most recent GMAT guides from Princeton Review and Pearson.