Navigating the MBA Standardized Test Options and Upcoming GMAT Changes

Learn how to navigate the standardized test options available to MBA candidates, including the upcoming changes to the GMAT. Stay ahead of the curve and ensure your success with our expert insights and advice.

Lauren W.

By Lauren W.

Posted May 4, 2023

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As an aspiring MBA candidate, choosing the right standardized test can be a crucial decision. The GMAT has long been the flagship exam for MBA applications, but recent years have seen the GRE and test waivers gain popularity. To adapt to these changes, the GMAT is introducing significant updates. In this post, we'll discuss the available standardized test options, examine the upcoming GMAT changes, and offer guidance on making the best decision for your MBA application.

Test Options

  1. GMAT (2022 and before) – Traditionally the most popular choice, the GMAT consists of four sections: Analytical Writing, Integrated Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, and Verbal Reasoning. The test takes approximately 3.5 hours to complete and has long been considered challenging, especially for international students.
  2. GRE – Since the mid-2010s, the GRE has been accepted by an increasing number of MBA programs. The exam is often perceived as having an easier Quantitative section but a more difficult Verbal section. Unlike the GMAT, the GRE allows test-takers to skip questions and return to them later, which many find less stressful. The test includes Analytical Writing, Quantitative, Verbal, and Research sections, and takes around 3 hours to complete.
  3. EA (Executive Assessment) – Designed for experienced professionals, the EA is a shorter, 90-minute test with fewer questions. It covers Integrated Reasoning, Verbal Reasoning, and Quantitative sections. While it may seem like an easier option, the EA is typically only suitable for applicants with extensive business experience and is not accepted by all programs.
  4. Test Waiver – Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, many MBA programs have made testing optional, either through waivers or by becoming "test-free." While this may seem appealing, a GMAT or GRE score can still enhance an applicant's competitiveness, particularly for those with weaker academic performance or international students.

Which Test Should You Take?

Although the GMAT remains a strong choice for MBA applications, the best test for you will depend on your individual circumstances. Consider factors such as your strengths, career goals, and target programs when making your decision. Consulting with an MBA admissions coach can also help you determine the most suitable test for your application.

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GMAT Focus Edition: The 2023 GMAT Update

Scheduled for release in late 2023, the new "GMAT Focus Edition" aims to make the test more approachable. It will be an hour shorter, eliminating the Analytical Writing section and replacing the Integrated Reasoning section with a new "Data Insights" section. Test-takers will be able to choose their starting section, skip questions, and change their answer to three questions. Additionally, the GMAT will provide more detailed score reports and a 48-hour window to review scores before sending them to schools.

If you're planning to apply for the 2023 cycle, it may be best to focus on the current GMAT format. However, if you're unsure about your application timeline or considering applying in a few years, the new GMAT format might be a better choice, particularly if you struggle with test anxiety.

As we approach the release of the GMAT Focus Edition, more resources and information will become available to help you navigate these changes. In the meantime, consider consulting with an admissions coach or consultant to discuss your unique situation and get personalized advice on standardized testing for your MBA application. I offer free intro calls where I will give you my assessment. Head to my Leland profile to get started.

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