Is Waiting To Take The GMAT™ Focus Edition a Good Idea?
By Stefan Maisnier
The newly announced GMAT™ Focus Edition is taking MBA admissions by storm. In the absence of much detail from the Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC), online speculation is running rampant, and many MBA candidates are already asking: should I wait to take this new “easier” version of the GMAT? The answer isn’t a simple “yes” or “no”, but there are pros and cons of sticking with the current legacy GMAT exam or delaying the standardized testing aspect of your application packet for a few months.
Differences in GMAT Versions
According to the GMAC, the Focus Edition is an exam that will be more relevant to today’s (and tomorrow’s!) business environment. It supposedly focuses more on “higher-order critical reasoning and data literacy skills” than the current GMAT does. To accomplish this goal, the Focus Edition has completely eliminated one aspect of the the current exam and promoted another.
The four sections of the legacy GMAT will be cut to three in the GMAT™ Focus Edition by removing the Analytical Writing Assessment essay, and those three sections will each be a uniform 45-minute duration. The Quantitative and Verbal sections will test the same skills as the current GMAT using the familiar problem solving, reading comprehension, and critical reasoning formats. However, the new Data Insights section is expected to be comprised of the GMAT’s unique Data Sufficiency and Integrated Reasoning question formats. The biggest change is that this Data Insights section will be part of the overall Focus Edition score, whereas the current GMAT relegates the Integrated Reasoning section to an individual score that is not part of the all-important overall score out of 800.
Applying in 2023
A GMAT™ Focus Edition release date hasn’t even been provided as of this post, so it’s not reasonable to expect that the new test will be fully integrated into the admissions process for this cycle. Anyone planning to apply in the first or second round of the 2023-24 admissions cycle should assume that the majority of those decisions will be based on the testing environment as it currently exists and decide between submitting a GMAT, GRE, or if it’s accepted and Executive Assessment score. For that reason, if you plan to submit your application in 2023 (or even early 2024) it will be best to prepare for the GMAT, GRE, or Executive Assessment as if the Focus Edition didn’t even exist.
Reasons to Take the Current GMAT
The legacy GMAT will remain available for MBA candidates through at least the beginning of 2024, so if you’ve been preparing for that version of the test – stay the course. GMAT prep done well should not take more than six months at the absolute most, so you have plenty of time to get ready for the test you expected. All official GMAT scores will also remain valid for up to five years after the test date.
Now, if you haven’t really begun prepping and aren’t targeting the 2023-24 MBA application cycle there are still a couple of reasons to consider the exam as it currently exists. First, would be if you are proficient at one of the two components of the current exam that are expected to be absent from the GMAT™ Focus Edition: geometry and sentence corrections. While the exact content of the Focus Edition Quantitative and Verbal sections has not yet been officially revealed it is expected that these content areas will not remain part of the exam moving forward. The second reason to take the current exam is if you find the Integrated Reasoning section to be particularly challenging. That section is not a major consideration in the current GMAT scoring, so taking advantage of that omission can be beneficial.
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Waiting for the GMAT™ Focus Edition
This option should really only be considered by MBA candidates who aren’t applying this calendar year. There may be some benefits to the approach, though. First, this new GMAT will be the shortest test available for programs that accept it but do not accept the Executive Assessment. Second, while the essay has long been an afterthought of the GMAT, it is still the first and longest section of the GRE, so the GMAT™ Focus Edition will possess a key stamina differentiator for test takers who are considering it against the GRE. Third, the Focus Edition is being advertised as a less intensive prepping experience because it will not have as much to memorize once the exam eliminates the sentence correction and geometry content areas. Lastly, if you have found the Integrated Reasoning section to be a strength on the current GMAT it may be beneficial to your score to wait until that portion of the test is part of the overall score.
Ultimately, a huge difference in difficulty between the current GMAT and the GMAT™ Focus Edition is not expected. The exam is changing, but benefits for some may not be beneficial for others. Most importantly, the Integrated Reasoning question formats require a significant amount of spontaneous thinking and, while that means less to prep, it can also make for a harder testing experience. One thing is for certain though, experts such as me will be following the GMAC updates closely over the summer to help candidates navigate this shift!
About the Author
Stefan is an experienced education professional leading the effort at MyGuru to deliver uniquely engaging online tutoring. Under his guidance, MyGuru and Analyst Prep have launched an affordable GMAT prep course to cover all aspects of the exam. Stefan is also a test prep professor at Northeastern Illinois University holding a Bachelor’s degree in Communication from the University of Southern California and a Master’s degree in Journalism from Northwestern University, who has participated as an invited test prep expert at live college admissions events globally for schools such as the University of Chicago and ESMT Berlin.