Archives For GMAC

GMACLast Friday, I attended the biannual GMAC Summit, a special conference that the makers of the GMAT put on for test prep companies. I want to share various tidbits that you should know!

Integrated Reasoning (IR) has existed long enough now that GMAC is starting to be able to draw some conclusions about the efficacy of the section. Dr. Lawrence Rudner, chief psychometrician of GMAC, is quite pleased with the section’s performance to date.

Though they still need to collect more data to be sure, early results indicate that IR is actually a little bit better of a predictor of grades in business school than are the quant and verbal scores. It will still be a while before they can collect as solid / extensive data as they have for quant and verbal, but perhaps it will be the case that, eventually, IR will become the most important section! (Don’t worry: if you are applying right now, nothing has changed. Even if you aren’t planning to apply until next year, it’s unlikely that the importance of IR will change extensively by then.)

There were no admissions officers in attendance, but we did hear from GMAC that they have heard that admissions consultants are starting to consider using IR as a tiebreak for borderline cases. For example, let’s say a school considers 680+ a strong score and 630 to 670 an average score. For the pool of 630 to 670 candidates (only a few of whom are likely to be admitted), one potential tiebreak is the IR score.

If IR is not your thing, don’t worry: it’s unlikely that any school is making this tiebreak decision based solely on the IR score. After all, many different variables go into an application; they might also decide to use number of years of work experience, under-represented industries, or some other factor. If you do tend to perform well on IR, though, then bonus: that’s an extra mark in the plus column for you.

Interestingly, US students are tending to do a bit better on IR than all other students. (This is also true for the Verbal section of the test, while non-US students tend to do better than US students on the quant section of the test.) A lot of people consider IR more of a quant section, but verbal is just as important. If quant is your strength, then you’ll feel that IR is testing verbal more, and vice versa.

Scoring and Timing

I have only one piece of info for you here, but it’s quite an important piece of data. As we were discussing the scoring algorithm, someone asked the age-old question: whether certain questions were “worth more” than others. Dr. Rudner indicated (as he always has in the past) that the earlier questions are not worth more than the later ones. He did, though, indicate something that we suspected but had never heard officially confirmed: “outlier” questions ultimately count less towards your score.

What’s an outlier? Briefly, an outlier is a question for which your performance was unexpected. Read on to understand what this means.

An outlier is always relative to your own performance. (Note: we’re also talking only about the questions that count towards your score; the experimentals don’t matter here.) Most of the questions you answer will be within a certain range of difficulty. As a general rule, you’ll answer more of the easier questions in your range correctly and you’ll answer more of the harder questions incorrectly. This is the expected behavior.
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Do you qualify for testing accommodations on the GMAT? Or do you think you might? In the first half of this article, we talked about the general application process for testing accommodations. If you haven’t read it yet, go ahead and do so before joining us again here.gmat disability accommodation

As I mentioned in the first part of the article, I spoke with two experts from GMAC: Teresa Elliott, Ph.D., Senior Manager of GMAT Exam Accommodations, and Kendra Johnson, Ed.D, Director of GMAT Exam Accommodations.

I also spoke with Tova Elberg Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in private practice in Israel and New York.

Please note that GMAC does not endorse or recommend the services of any specific evaluator in relation to any disability. The information provided by Dr. Elberg represents Dr. Elberg’s views and should not be interpreted as reflecting official GMAC  policy

As we discussed during the first part of this article, GMAC divides possible accommodations issues into 5 main categories (as well as an Other category):

1. Attention Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder

2. Learning and Cognitive Disabilities

3. Physical and Systemic Disabilities

4. Psychological Disabilities

5. Sensory Disabilities (Vision and Hearing)

All Conditions

All quotes in the sections discussing specific conditions are copyright GMAC and come from the organization’s testing accommodations materials posted on its website, unless otherwise cited.

Any condition has to be documented in the following ways:

  1. A diagnosis by a licensed professional, including a complete description of the tests used to make the diagnosis
  2. Documentation of the “severity of the functional impact” in both “academic / testing settings” and “other life realms.” All tests used to determine this information must be described in detail and the test results provided to GMAC
  3. The specific accommodations recommended by the professional evaluating you, along with an explanation as to how the requested accommodations will address whatever issues you have
  4. A list of current medications that you or your doctor believe may impact your performance on the GMAT, along with an explanation as to how you believe they impact your performance. (You do not need to disclose any medications that would not impact your GMAT performance)
  5. Full identifying information of the professional conducting your evaluation; this person also needs to attest that s/he is not a family member of yours

 

In addition, the individual categories have certain requirements. Note that the following text about the 5 categories has some redundancies because I’m assuming that many people will read only the category that applies to them.

Attention Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder

This category requires a DSM-IV or DSM-V diagnosis and the professional who diagnoses you must rule out alternative explanations for the symptoms that you are displaying.

GMAC also requests a history of your grades and prior testing issues in school, in addition to information about the impact your ADHD continues to have in adulthood and employment situations.

The following tests are listed in GMAC’s guidelines. Many other tests are acceptable as well.

- Self-report and Other-report: Connors, Brown

- Performance-based: TOVA, IVA, CPT

- Adult intelligence: WAIS-IV, Scholastic Abilities Test for Adults

In general, your evaluator should use “age-normed, performance-based measures of skills of clear relevance to the GMAT,” according to Dr. Elliott. She continues: “For example, if a person is asking for extended time due to concerns with reading speed, he would need to use well-validated, timed measures of speed and accuracy when reading lengthy, complex material. On the other hand, untimed measures, measures without solid age-based norms, measures that rely on subjective scoring, measures that emphasize oral reading, or measures that do not use lengthy, complex material would not tell us much about a person’s need for extended time on the GMAT.”

Learning and Cognitive Disabilities

This category includes conditions such as dyslexia and requires a DSM-IV or DSM-V diagnosis. The professional who diagnoses you must rule out alternative explanations for the symptoms that you are displaying.

GMAC also requests a history of your grades and prior testing issues in school, in addition to information about the impact your learning or cognitive disability continues to have in adulthood and employment situations.

The following tests are listed in GMAC’s guidelines. Many other tests are acceptable as well.

- Age-normed measures: Scholastic Abilities Test for Adults

- Adult intelligence: WAIS-IV

- Other age-normed performance-based measures (e.g., where appropriate, “measures of phonologic and symbolic processing are often helpful”)

In general, your evaluator should use “age-normed, performance-based measures of skills of clear relevance to the GMAT,” according to Dr. Elliott. She continues: “For example, if a person is asking for extended time due to concerns with reading speed, he would need to use well-validated, timed measures of speed and accuracy when reading lengthy, complex material. On the other hand, untimed measures, measures without solid age-based norms, measures that rely on subjective scoring, measures that emphasize oral reading, or measures that do not use lengthy, complex material would not tell us much about a person’s need for extended time on the GMAT.” Continue Reading…

gmac gmat accommodationsDo you qualify for testing accommodations on the GMAT? Or do you think you might?

Broadly speaking, the term accommodations refers to altering the testing conditions for a particular student in order to “level the playing field” for that student. Someone who is blind, for example, may need some kind of altered test format in order to read the test questions. These accommodations do not make the test easier for the student; rather, they make the test possible at the same level as for a regular student.

Other potential issues are less obvious but no less valid. Someone with a severe reading disorder might qualify for extended time while someone with a mild form might not, because a severe reading disorder might slow someone’s reading speed to the point that it is no longer reasonable to expect this person to get through the test in the standard length of time.

Where is that line drawn, though? What is the process for applying for testing accommodations and how are the decisions made?

That’s what we’re going to talk about today. I’ve spoken with representatives from GMAC (the organization that owns the GMAT) as well as a psychologist who works with students to determine whether they qualify for test accommodations. I’ve also reviewed all of the application materials and in general kept an ear open to hear what students and teachers are saying about this process. Consider this your unofficial GMAT Testing Accommodations Encyclopedia!

Note: The official GMAT Testing Accommodations handout explains the overall process. Later in this article, I also provide additional links to resources relating to specific conditions.

I spoke with two people at GMAC who are experts in this field. Teresa Elliott, Ph.D., Senior Manager of GMAT Exam Accommodations, was kind enough to talk me through the process, start to finish, and patiently answer interminable questions about hypothetical scenarios and how things work. In addition, Kendra Johnson, Ed.D., Director of GMAT Exam Accommodations, took time out of her extremely busy schedule to clarify the trickiest aspects and to advise me as to the best way to convey these details.

I also spoke with Tova Elberg Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in private practice in Israel and New York. I first became acquainted with Dr. Elberg more than 5 years ago when we were both answering questions on the Beat the GMAT forums. She was also kind enough to answer my interminable questions and help me break the intricacies of the process down into more manageable steps.

Please note that GMAC does not endorse or recommend the services of any specific evaluator in relation to any disability. The information provided by Dr. Elberg represents Dr. Elberg’s views and should not be interpreted as reflecting official GMAC  policy

What categories of conditions are covered?

GMAC lists five main categories (in alphabetical order) on its website. Click on the link to pull up the PDF in a browser.

1. Attention Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder

2. Learning and Cognitive Disabilities

3. Physical and Systemic Disabilities

4. Psychological Disabilities

5. Sensory Disabilities (Vision and Hearing)

It is also possible to submit something in the category of “Other” if you feel your particular issue does not fit into one of the five categories listed above.

The general application process is the same for all categories, but the material required to document your condition can vary. We’ll cover each of the categories in greater detail during the second half of this article.

What does qualify… and what doesn’t? Continue Reading…

manhattan gmat integrated reasoningExciting news! GMAC (the owners of the GMAT) announced on Friday that, starting immediately, we’ll get our unofficial IR scores as soon as the test is over. They already do this for our Quant, Verbal, and Total scores, so IR will be added to the mix.

As with the other scores, the IR score will be considered an “unofficial” score until you receive your official score report. You can consider these test-day scores essentially official, though, as it’s incredibly rare for something to change after that day. The folks over at GMAC are professionals; they’re not going to release scores if there’s even a small chance that something could change, upsetting students who thought they had earned a different score.

So now you won’t have to wait to find out how you did on IR. (You’ll still wait for the essay score, of course, but that’s not quite so nerve-wracking, is it?)

Need to practice IR? Try our new free GMAT Interact lessons for Integrated Reasoning.

Happy studying and good luck on test day!

gmacLast week, GMAC updated its percentiles for GMAT scores. The organization does this once a year to smooth out any differences in the testing pool.

What do I mean by “differences?” The demographics of the people taking the exam change over time. In particular, over the last ten years or so, GMAC has seen a huge increase in the number of non-United-States-based students taking the test. A majority of these students speak English as a second (or third!) language; a majority also have a better grounding in quantitative skills than the average U.S.-educated student. These differences lead to changes in the data over time.

Scaled Scores vs. Percentiles

GMAT results are reported using various “scaled scores.” We receive a 2-digit score for quant, a separate 2-digit score for verbal, a Q+V-combined 3-digit score, and two more separate scores for the essay and IR sections.

Think of these scaled scores as “skill levels.” They reflect a specific, measurable level of ability. Here’s the interesting thing: the skills needed to reach a certain level do not change over time. A quant score of 45 today reflects the same skill level as a quant score of 45 earned ten or even twenty years ago.

What does change over time is the percentile ranking associated with that score. A percentile ranking reflects how much better you did than a certain percentage of the test-taking population. For example, if you score in the 75th percentile, then you scored better than 75% of the people taking the test—not just that day, or that week, but for the past couple of years (or whatever timeframe is designated for that test).

Imagine that you give a math test to a bunch of 10-year-olds. The scoring algorithm is very simple: if you get a question right, you get one point. You then gather all of the scores and figure out percentile rankings for that group. Let’s say that a certain score (let’s call it 5) represents the 50th percentile. A student who scores 5 earned a better score than 50% of her peers.

Then you take that exact test and give it to a bunch of 14-year-olds. They’re a lot better at math. The same score of 5 might represent only the 25th percentile for this new group, because more of these students have better math skills and can answer more questions correctly. A score of 5 still means the same thing (in this case, 5 questions right), but the pool of testers has changed and so the percentile rankings change too.

This is essentially what happens with the GMAT over time as well. If more people who are good at math start taking the test, then that score of 45 (which represents a certain, fixed level of skill) will drop in the percentile rankings because more people will be capable of performing at that level or higher.

We’ve seen especially big demographic changes on the GMAT over the last 5 to 10 years. In 2006, a quant score of 45 was rated the 78th percentile. Someone scoring at that level had better quant skills than 78% of the people taking the exam around that time.

Today, that same skill level of 45 rates the 66th percentile. This does not mean that someone scoring a 45 today is worse at math than someone with the same score in 2006; rather, the two students are equally good. Instead, a greater percentage of the population taking the test today has stronger math skills.

You might be thinking: oh, great. So that means I have to do even better at math. Actually, the opposite is (sort of) true. Keep reading.

This Year’s Trends

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Note: The following is a guest post by Liza Weale, Senior Consultant for mbaMission.

mbamissionThe numbers from GMAC’s 2013 Corporate Recruiters Survey are in, and the MBA continues to gain ground with employers. Of the companies surveyed, 75% plan to hire MBAs in 2013 versus the 71% that hired business school graduates in 2012. The median starting salary for MBAs at U.S. companies is also on the rise: up from $90K in 2012 to $95K in 2013. And companies in the classic fields of consulting and finance are not the only ones expecting to add MBAs to their work force (79% in 2013 over 69% in 2012 and 75% in 2013 over 70% in 2012, respectively): 86% of energy and utility companies (up 17% over 2012) and 89% of health care and pharma companies (up 12% over 2012) report plans to do so as well.

Undoubtedly, the outlook for MBAs is rosy, but being aware of this promising forecast is not enough to help an applicant gain a spot at a top program. Some deep soul searching is needed, and resources such as GMAC’s 2013 Corporate Recruiters Survey can be excellent sources of inspiration”especially as candidates contemplate what next after business school.

The following are a few things that might be helpful to consider as you think about your goals:

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The new release of GMATPrep, version 2.2, is a significant upgrade!

gmatprepThe biggest improvement is that the software now allows you to review previous practice problems and tests. I was excited when I saw this feature listed in the README and I was thrilled when I found that I could actually review the practice problems and the tests that I took last year! Thank you, GMAC! This is enormously helpful for test takers.

The default for both practice problem sets is now to do what most people want to do, which is to save the test for later review, and the new user interface makes it very hard to accidently delete a practice test. You have to press a test ˜reset’ button and then go through a dialog to reset your tests, another big improvement.

I was also delighted to see that in the practice utility, the Reading Comprehension problems are now grouped correctly. In the previous versions of GMAT Prep, each RC practice problem included an entirely new passage, unlike the real test, where of course each passage has 3 or 4 associated questions. This is another significant improvement and makes the practice utility more helpful for people who are working on RC or who want to do mixed verbal sets. Since this new feature works correctly with mixed drills as well, you can now use GMATPrep to specify realistic verbal mixed sets, with SC, CR, and RC problems, as well as realistic quant mixed sets of PS and DS problems.

Although the two practice tests still seem to have only one IR section, an IR percentile ranking is now computed, which is helpful.

There are is also some new timing analysis available in practice sets, along with some at least moderately useful progress tracking graphs for examining progress on practice sets.

And speaking of time, you can now pause a practice exam or question session. Although you really shouldn’t do this if you want a realistic practice experience, sometimes it is helpful, such as when you are writing a review of the software and need to test features and then write about them. J

GMAC must be thinking more about customer support because you can now generate system information at the click of button, which makes things much easier if you ever need to call of email GMAC about a software problem.

And finally, if you are a test taker with a GMAC approved timing accommodation, you can ask for a special code that you enter that will allow you to take practice tests with the appropriate amount of extra time.

All in all, very well done GMAC! I noticed a couple of weird little bugs that I’ve listed below, but they are minor compared to the improvements and have easy workarounds, which I’ve described.

Weird Little Bugs:

  • You have to enter your mba.com account name and password when you first launch GMATPREP and if you are logged in to mba.com when you try this, you will get an unhelpful unknown error message. If you see this message, just log out of mba.com’s website and try starting GMAT Prep again.
  • When you solve an IR table question, the ˜submit’ button will be grayed out until you click on sort by a column “ even if you have filled in all of the answers “ so just remember to click on something to sort by if you didn’t actually have to sort (and usually you will have to) to answer the question.

GMAC has posted new sample Integrated Reasoning questions here. Here’s a first review of these questions, with 5 big takeaways.

1) No Drastic Changes

There’s nothing here that’s too surprising. Integrated Reasoning emphasizes three big tasks:

a) Deal with integrated math & verbal content, as the name says
b) Deal with real-world data in quantity
c) Read critically, drawing accurate inferences from given evidence

The newly released questions reflect these three tasks, just as the older ones did.

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