Advisers unaware of changes in GMAT

Central Florida Future

Originally published in the Central Florida Future:

The Graduate Management Admissions Test, the primary yardstick by which business schools measure applicants, is getting a makeover. But most of the College of Business’s academic advising team and its undergraduate business majors are unaware of the changes.

The changes, which were announced by the Graduate Management Admission Council in June 2010 and published in periodicals such as The Washington Post and BloombergBusinessweek, are the most the test has changed in 50 years. One of the two essays in the analytical writing section, which schools do not look at as much as the rest of the test, is being done away with, and in its place will come a separately graded integrated reasoning section that brings together the test’s verbal and quantitative elements.

Andrew Mitchell, Kaplan Test Prep’s director of pre-business programs, is trying to spread the word about the new integrated reasoning section of the test.

“We try and get the word out through the website and we communicate it directly with many advisers,” Mitchell said. “But for some people it’s going to be a surprise.”

Even after more than a year of Kaplan advertising the new section, Dr. Taylor Ellis, the business college’s associate dean for academic programs and technology, was unaware of any changes in the GMAT.

“I don’t know anything about the new section,” Ellis said.

He said he knew about the revisions to the Graduate Record Exam that took effect last fall, but the GMAT changes were “something I didn’t know.”

But Judy Ryder, the business school’s director of graduate admissions, said the GMAT is far more important to business students than the GRE. Most schools prefer that MBA applicants take the GMAT instead of the GRE.

Ryder herself was misinformed about the progress of the test’s revisions. She believed that they were in the preliminary stages and that they would not take place for quite a while.

“Until they’re ready to announce it fully, I think we’re just getting the updates as they go along with the testing process,” she said.

Ryder said she gets regular newsletters and invitations to webinars concerning the GMAT but has not responded to any of them. Her reason was that the college was too occupied with bringing in a new dean, who is scheduled to start July 1.

The officials’ unfamiliarity with the change created a buzz outside of the Business Administration building on Wednesday.

Junior business management major Kelsey White was baffled. She hasn’t taken the GMAT but hopes to get into an MBA program upon graduating from UCF.

“It seems a little bit unprofessional because they should know what’s going on — it’s their job,” White said. “It’s very hard as a student. You’re worried about your classes, yeah you should be proactive, but when you’re going out and asking people for help, the help should know an answer. The correct answer.”

But to MBA student Chris Ram, it’s just as important for the student to be up-to-date with information as it is the advisers.

“I think a student, if serious about getting into a program, should be on top of it themselves,” Ram said. “On the other hand, it reflects poorly on the school. Even if they’re not telling the students, they should at least know what’s goingon.”

Although the GRE is becoming more widely accepted, the GMAT is still the primary gatekeeper to business schools. Mitchell said the GMAT is a better predictor of success in an MBA program. The addition of the integrated reasoning section, which is replacing one of two 30-minute analytical writing assessments, will help in the act of prediction by providing a new data point.

The new integrated reasoning section will combine some aspects of the quantitative and verbal sections of theGMAT. The types of activities that a test taker will perform in the section are reminiscent of what they would do in a business school: Each question will challenge the test taker’s ability to understand different types of graphs, spreadsheets, text, charts and tables.

Mitchell said that the inclusion of the new section will make the GMAT more difficult. But Ram said that more challenging is a good thing.

“I prefer this change. You find a lot of people that make you wonder how they got into this program,” Ram said. “This is a good way to weed out candidates instead of school just being like an MBA mill.”

But the section, which makes its debut June 4, has some seniors, like marketing major Singling Lee, worried.

“I prefer the essay,” Ling said. “I guess I would have a better chance at explaining myself instead of looking at a graph that can go one way or the other.”

Although UCF advisers encourage students to take the essay portions of the exam, UCF’s graduate program currently doesn’t recognize the scores for those assessments because the program requires applicants to complete a separate essay.

For many UCF applicants, this meant that they didn’t have to write the essays. However, because the integrated reasoning section will replace one of the assessments, test takers will be forced to complete the new section.

The integrated reasoning score will not be included in the total mark, a 200-to-800 score that reflects the test taker’s performance on the quantitative and verbal sections. Instead, the new section will have a separate rating, which makes it impossible for an applicant to hide his or her new section score among the others.

Although Kaplan has already dedicated a chapter to the new section in its latest GMAT prep book, Mitchell still advises students to take the test before the changes are made.

“Avoid taking the integrated reasoning section entirely,” Mitchell said. “The average amount of studying time spent on the GMAT is 100 hours. With the new section, it will go up. So the easiest preparation is to avoid the preparation and take the test before June.”


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