The GMAT Is Now 30 Minutes Shorter—Here's How That Affects Your MBA Application

Candidates will be “less anxious and feel better prepared” for the test as a result of the time reduction

The Graduate Management Admissions Test is anything but easy—candidates routinely spend 100 hours swotting for it. But some test takers might find it less taxing after recent changes.  

This week GMAT owner the Graduate Management Admission Council announced it was cutting the length of the GMAT by 30 minutes. The new shortened exam will last for three and a half hours instead of four from April 16.

GMAT scores before and after this change will be the same and comparable across time.

GMAC also said it would provide a new online tutorial that mimics the screens that test-takers see on exam day, further “streamlining the experience”.

There is no change in the content of the GMAT itself. But Vineet Chhabra, senior director of product management for GMAC, said that candidates will be “less anxious and feel better prepared” for the test as a result of the time reduction. One test prep expert said that now “endurance may be less of an issue for some”.

The change is a reflection of growing competition between the GMAT and a rival entrance exam called the GRE, said Alex Min, chief executive of The MBA Exchange, an admissions consultancy.

“No doubt, GMAC’s hidden agenda is to make the GMAT more appealing to candidates who might otherwise opt for the rival GRE test,” he said.

But such competition between the test companies tends to benefit test takers, he added, by creating a “friendlier testing experience”.

Dennis Yim, director of academics at Kaplan Test Prep, added: “It can’t be lost on business schools or test takers that with this change the GMAT will be 15 minutes shorter than the GRE, with which it’s fighting a pitched battle for market share in the admissions space.

“With GRE acceptance nearly universal among MBA programs, many top business schools have reported an increase in the number of applicants who are submitting GRE scores. This change may be an effective strategy to reverse the trend.”

But he said that the GMAT might give MBA applicants an edge at some business schools. According to a 2017 Kaplan survey, 21% of MBA programs said those who submit a GMAT score have an advantage over those who submit a GRE score. Only 1% said GRE takers had the advantage.

The GMAT’s time savings will be made by streamlining two long sections of the exam, Quantitative and Verbal Reasoning, reducing the number of un-scored, research questions in those sections. Several tutorial and instruction screens have also been simplified.

There are no changes to the exam’s Analytical Writing or Integrated Reasoning sections.

“This change will not affect GMAT exam scoring as the number of scored questions will not change,” said GMAC’s Vineet. “The scoring algorithm will be the same.”

Alex at The MBA Exchange said that the greatest impact on MBA applicants is that having fewer total questions makes each remaining question relatively more important.

He added: “The biggest unknown is which tutorial and instruction screens will be removed from the beginning of the exam.

“We suggest waiting until May at the earliest to take the actual test to ensure all changes are in place and the process is working smoothly.”

Kaplan’s Dennis added that if someone is scheduled to sit the GMAT before the changes go into effect on April 16 and they are prepared, they should keep the exam date.

“Students registered to take the exam before May 6 may reschedule for no change fee by calling GMAC and saying that the duration decrease is why they want to change,” he said. “But they must do so by April 11 in order to avoid the change fee.”

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