Jun 16 2015

Analysis of 2016 GMAT Official Guide Verbal

2016 GMAT Official GuideI worked closely with the publisher of the Official Guide for GMAT Review in the weeks leading up to the June 8 release of the 2016 editions, to help improve the online version of the Official Guides. In the fourth post of this series of analysis of the 2016 GMAT Official Guides, we now turn to the verbal section of the main Official Guide. We will focus on how the 2016 GMAT Official Guide differs from the 2015 edition in terms of verbal question difficulty and verbal concepts.

Sentence Correction – Difficulty

Both the 2015 and 2016 editions of the GMAT Official Guide contain 140 Sentence Correction questions, excluding the identical 18 Sentence Correction questions in the Diagnostic Exam portion of the guides. But the allocation of question difficulty, as assigned by the GMAC, has noticeably shifted away from Medium. A big portion of these change resulted from the GMAC upgrading 23 questions from Medium difficulty (in the 2015 edition) to Hard (in the 2016 edition).

Difficulty 2016 2015 Change
Easy 29 26 +3
Medium 39 64 (25)
Hard 72 50 +22
Total 140 140

A total of 35 brand new questions, which we have never seen before, appear in the 2016 GMAT Official Guide, with difficulty ratings of Easy / Medium / Hard as follows: 10 / 8 / 17. This is in lieu of 35 questions from the 2015 edition that have been removed, with difficulty ratings of Easy / Medium / Hard as follows: 2 / 16 / 17. Let’s further break down how each of these difficulty categories has changed.

Easy Sentence Correction

Additions:
10 new questions
2 downgraded from Medium

Subtractions:
2 questions removed
7 upgraded to Medium

Net change: +3 questions

Medium Sentence Correction

Additions:
8 new questions
7 upgraded from Easy
1 downgraded from Hard

Subtractions:
16 questions removed
2 downgraded to Easy
23 upgraded to Hard

Net change: -25 questions

Hard Sentence Correction

Additions:
17 new questions
23 upgraded from Medium

Subtractions:
17 questions removed
1 downgraded to Medium

Net change: +22 questions

Sentence Correction – Concepts

Let’s now consider changes in the concepts of the 35 new (in 2016) and the 35 removed (from 2015) Sentence Correction questions. We have categorized these questions based on the primary grammar concepts that are tested on Sentence Correction.

Concept 2016 2015 Change
Verb Agreement 4 2 2
Verb Tense 3 3
Pronoun Ambiguity 1 2 (1)
Pronoun Agreement 0 1 (1)
Parallel Construction 10 12 (2)
Misplaced Modifiers 4 2 2
Idioms 2 5 (3)
Comparison & Quantity 5 5
Expression & Meaning 6 3 3

Although we cannot draw definite conclusions from this data about question composition on the GMAT, what stands out is the decrease in idioms-related questions and the increase in expression / meaning.

Critical Reasoning – Difficulty

Both the 2015 and 2016 editions of the GMAT Official Guide contain 124 Critical Reasoning questions, excluding the identical 17 Critical Reasoning questions in the Diagnostic Exam portion of the guides. The allocation of question difficulty has slightly shifted towards Hard. This change has primarily resulted from the GMAC upgrading 10 Medium questions (in the 2015 edition) to Hard (in the 2016 edition).

Difficulty 2016 2015 Change
Easy 35 36 (1)
Medium 41 47 (6)
Hard 48 41 +7
Total 124 124

A total of 34 brand new questions, which we have never seen before, appear in the 2016 GMAT Official Guide, with difficulty ratings of Easy / Medium / Hard as follows: 7 / 16 / 11. This is in lieu of 34 questions from the 2015 edition that have been removed, with difficulty ratings of Easy / Medium / Hard as follows: 7 / 14 / 13. Let’s further break down how each of these difficulty categories has changed.

Easy Critical Reasoning

Additions:
7 new questions

Subtractions:
7 question removed
1 upgraded to Medium

Net change: -1 questions

Medium Critical Reasoning

Additions:
16 new questions
1 upgraded from Easy
1 downgraded from Hard

Subtractions:
14 questions removed
10 upgraded to Hard

Net change: -6 questions

Hard Critical Reasoning

Additions:
11 new questions
10 upgraded from Medium

Subtractions:
13 questions removed
1 downgraded to Medium

Net change: +7 questions

Critical Reasoning – Concepts

Let’s now consider changes in the concepts of the 34 new (in 2016) and the 34 removed (from 2015) Critical Reasoning questions. We have grouped these questions based on the question type categorization that GMAT Genius uses for Critical Reasoning.

Concept 2016 2015 Change
Weaken 11 13 (2)
Strengthen 9 9
Assumption 7 3 4
Reasoning 0 0
Conclusion 2 5 (3)
Explain 2 1 1
Evaluate 1 2 (1)
Boldface 1 1
Complete the Passage 1 0 1

Although we cannot draw definite conclusions from this data about question composition on the GMAT, what stands out is an increase in the Assumption category offset by a decrease in the Conclusion category.

Reading Comprehension – Difficulty

Both the 2015 and 2016 editions of the GMAT Official Guide contain 139 Reading Comprehension questions, excluding the identical 17 Reading Comprehension questions in the Diagnostic Exam portion of the guides. The allocation of question difficulty has noticeably shifted towards Easy, although the 2015 edition was admittedly underweighted in Easy questions. The GMAT downgraded 18 questions from Medium (in 2015) to Easy (in 2016), and 5 questions from Hard (in 2015) to Medium (in 2016). These downgrades account for most of the changes in question difficulty.

Difficulty 2016 2015 Change
Easy 47 23 +24
Medium 59 74 (15)
Hard 33 42 (9)
Total 139 139

A total of 31 brand new questions, which we have never seen before, appear in the 2016 GMAT Official Guide, with difficulty ratings of Easy / Medium / Hard as follows: 9 / 6 / 16. These 31 questions are in 6 new passages with difficulty ratings of Easy / Medium / Hard as follows: 2 / 1 / 3.

A total of 31 questions have been removed from the 2015 edition, with difficulty ratings of Easy / Medium / Hard as follows: 3 / 8 / 20. This represents 6 passages with difficulty ratings of Easy / Medium / Hard as follows: 1 / 2 / 3. Let’s further break down how each of these difficulty categories has changed.

Easy Reading Comprehension

Additions:
9 new questions
18 downgraded from Medium

Subtractions:
3 question removed

Net change: +24 questions

Medium Reading Comprehension

Additions:
6 new questions
5 downgraded from Hard

Subtractions:
8 questions removed
18 downgraded to Easy

Net change: -15 questions

Hard Reading Comprehension

Additions:
16 new questions

Subtractions:
20 questions removed
5 downgraded to Medium

Net change: -9 questions

Reading Comprehension – Concepts

Let’s now consider changes in the concepts of the 31 new (in 2016) and the 31 removed (from 2015) Reading Comprehension questions. We have grouped these questions based on the question type categorization that GMAT Genius uses for Reading Comprehension.

Concept 2016 2015 Change
Primary Purpose 4 3 1
Author’s Tone 3 1 2
Organization 1 0 1
Function 6 2 4
Specific Reference 9 17 (8)
Inference 6 6
Critical Reasoning 2 2

Although we cannot draw definite conclusions from this data about question composition on the GMAT, what clearly stands out is the big decrease in the Specific Reference category and the increase in the Function category.

Removed Questions

Here is the list of the verbal questions in the 2015 edition of the GMAT Official Guide that have been removed . We’ll soon publish a list of the new verbal questions in the 2016 GMAT Official Guides.

Sentence Correction – 35 questions removed:

11, 18, 28, 30, 32, 34, 36, 37, 44, 45, 66, 77, 80, 82, 83, 85, 88, 89, 98, 108, 110, 113, 117, 119, 121, 122, 123, 125, 127, 129, 130, 131, 134, 135, 137

Critical Reasoning – 34 questions removed:

4, 16, 21, 23, 25, 26, 32, 49, 53, 54, 56, 58, 60, 62, 64, 71, 73, 75, 77, 79, 80, 87, 96, 103, 105, 108, 110, 112, 117, 118, 119, 120, 122, 123

Reading Comprehension – 31 questions removed:

8 to 10, 42 to 44, 93 to 98, 104 to 139

Key Takeaways

We cannot draw firm conclusions about the GMAC’s intent in making changes to the verbal question composition in the 2016 GMAT Official Guide. That said, we can observe certain trends and speculate on what those changes may imply.

By downgrading 23 Reading Comprehension questions without upgrading any questions, the GMAC seems to imply a greater rigor within Reading Comprehension. On the other hand, by upgrading 23 Sentence Correction questions and 10 Critical Reasoning questions from Medium to Hard, the GMAC implies slightly less rigor in these areas than perhaps it did previously.

A shift from idioms-related questions towards expression & meaning in Sentence Correction is consistent with the GMAC’s greater emphasis on understanding sentence structure rather than just learning grammatical rules. A shift from Conclusion to Assumption questions in Critical Reasoning and a shift from Specific Reference to Function questions in Reading Comprehension provide further evidence that the GMAC seems to be placing greater emphasis on analytical reasoning skills to solve CR and RC questions.

Next up from GMAT Genius — look for detailed reviews of the 2016 GMAT Official Guides. Please leave a comment or get in touch if you have any questions.