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Survey: MBA Admission Officials Uncertain About Revised GMAT

Despite the findings, students can’t afford to underestimate the new integrated reasoning section.

According to a new Kaplan survey, the importance of the new GMAT integrated reasoning section is uncertain.
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Despite media reports bemoaning the GMAT's new "scary" integrated reasoning section, which launched June 5, 2012, the hype underwhelmed some of the first MBA applicant test takers. Meanwhile, new data from Kaplan Test Prep reveals that MBA admissions officials might be underwhelmed by the section itself, which requires analyzing data to solve problems.

Of survey respondents from admissions offices at 265 MBA programs—whose anonymity Kaplan protects, but which it says include 17 of the 25 top-ranked business schools—54 percent were unsure how important the IR section would be in their evaluation process. Twenty-two percent consider the section important, and 24 percent said it was not.

[Learn more about business school test prep.]

Respondents were also less enthusiastic about the IR section's ability to predict test takers' success in business school and as future executives. In 2012, 41 percent said the section makes the GMAT more reflective of the b-school experience—down from 59 percent in 2011—and 64 percent said it either didn't help predict test takers' likelihood of success in business, or they weren't sure.

"Among business schools right now, the dominant attitude toward integrated reasoning is one of uncertainty," says Andrew Mitchell, director of pre-business programs at Kaplan.

But Dawna Clarke, director of admissions at Dartmouth College's Tuck School of Business, says she and colleagues at other schools take IR scores seriously—even though context is hard to come by for such a new section "while we get our sea legs in interpreting the score.

"The more good data we have about an applicant, the better decision we can make," she says.

[Read tips from MBA applicants for taking the revised GMAT.]

Clarke, who was part of a 12-person committee that advised the Graduate Management Admission Council on the new IR section, wasn't familiar with the Kaplan survey. "I've been doing this for 26 years, and I do respect Kaplan as an organization, [but] I have never received a survey from them," she says. "I've never been in a meeting where one of their surveys was referred to by colleagues at other schools."

Mitchell, of Kaplan, isn't surprised that some haven't heard of the survey, which Kaplan has conducted for six years, because he says an admissions staff member, rather than the director, may be the one who responds to the phone survey.

The new findings may be useful to students who are currently cramming for the GMAT, Mitchell says. Since many students take the test—which keeps scores valid for five years—and defer before applying, there's a risk in not taking IR seriously if schools decide to embrace it more, according to Mitchell.

"There's a decent chance that integrated reasoning starts being used heavily by schools next year," he speculates.

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