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Jun 03 2015

Preview of 2016 GMAT Verbal Official Guide

2016 GMAT Verbal Official GuideI have been working closely with the publisher of the Official Guide for GMAT Review over the past few weeks, in advance of the June 8 release of the 2016 editions, to help improve the online version of the Official Guides. As with my prior post on the Quantitative Guide, I want to give you an overview of how the 2016 GMAT Verbal Official Guide differs from the 2015 edition in terms of question difficulty and concepts.

Sentence Correction – Difficulty

Both the 2015 and 2016 editions of the GMAT Verbal Official Guide contain 113 Sentence Correction questions. But the allocation of question difficulty, as assigned by the GMAC, has noticeably shifted. In particular, the Easy and Medium categories have expanded whereas the Hard category has shrunk. A big portion of these change resulted from the GMAC downgrading 12 questions from Hard difficulty (in the 2015 edition) to Medium (in the 2016 edition). Interestingly, two Hard questions (#70 and #111 in the 2015 edition) have also been downgraded all the way to Easy.

Difficulty 2016 2015 Change
Easy 31 26 +5
Medium 51 38 +13
Hard 31 49 (18)
Total 113 113

A total of 25 brand new questions, which we have never seen before, appear in the 2016 GMAT Verbal Official Guide, with difficulty ratings of Easy / Medium / Hard as follows: 9 / 13 / 3. This is in lieu of 25 questions from the 2015 edition that have been removed, with difficulty ratings of Easy / Medium / Hard as follows: 6 / 12 / 7. Let’s further break down how each of these difficulty categories has changed.

Easy Sentence Correction

Additions:
9 new questions
1 downgraded from Medium
2 downgraded from Hard

Subtractions:
6 questions removed
1 upgraded to Medium

Net change: +5 questions

Medium Sentence Correction

Additions:
13 new questions
1 upgraded from Easy
12 downgraded from Hard

Subtractions:
12 questions removed
1 downgraded to Easy

Net change: +13 questions

Hard Sentence Correction

Additions:
3 new questions

Subtractions:
7 questions removed
2 downgraded to Easy
12 downgraded to Medium

Net change: -18 questions

Sentence Correction – Concepts

Let’s now consider changes in the concepts of the 25 new (in 2016) and the 25 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 1 3 (2)
Verb Tense 4 5 (1)
Pronoun Ambiguity 0 1 (1)
Pronoun Agreement 2 2
Parallel Construction 8 9 (1)
Misplaced Modifiers 2 0 2
Idioms 2 1 1
Comparison & Quantity 2 1 1
Expression & Meaning 4 3 1

Although we cannot draw definite conclusions from this data about question composition on the GMAT, we are surprised by the decrease in verb-related questions.

Critical Reasoning – Difficulty

Both the 2015 and 2016 editions of the GMAT Verbal Official Guide contain 83 Critical Reasoning questions. The allocation of question difficulty has noticeably shifted away from Medium. A whopping 21 questions (more than 25%) have been assigned a different difficulty level, including four Hard questions (#64, #72, #79, #80 in the 2015 edition) that have been downgraded all the way to Easy.

Difficulty 2016 2015 Change
Easy 34 25 +9
Medium 26 38 (12)
Hard 23 20 +3
Total 83 83

A total of 25 brand new questions, which we have never seen before, appear in the 2016 GMAT Verbal Official Guide, with difficulty ratings of Easy / Medium / Hard as follows: 7 / 9 / 9. This is in lieu of 25 questions from the 2015 edition that have been removed, with difficulty ratings of Easy / Medium / Hard as follows: 6 / 14 / 5. Let’s further break down how each of these difficulty categories has changed.

Easy Critical Reasoning

Additions:
7 new questions
7 downgraded from Medium
4 downgraded from Hard

Subtractions:
6 question removed
3 upgraded to Medium

Net change: +9 questions

Medium Critical Reasoning

Additions:
9 new questions
3 upgraded from Easy
2 downgraded from Hard

Subtractions:
14 questions removed
7 downgraded to Easy
5 upgraded to Hard

Net change: -12 questions

Hard Critical Reasoning

Additions:
9 new questions
5 upgraded from Medium

Subtractions:
5 questions removed
4 downgraded to Easy
2 downgraded to Medium

Net change: +3 questions

Critical Reasoning – Concepts

Let’s now consider changes in the concepts of the 25 new (in 2016) and the 25 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 6 8 (2)
Strengthen 4 3 1
Assumption 1 3 (2)
Reasoning 1 0 1
Conclusion 1 2 (1)
Explain 3 3
Evaluate 2 4 (2)
Boldface 2 1 1
Complete the Passage 5 1 4

Although we cannot draw definite conclusions from this data about question composition on the GMAT, what clearly stands out is the increase in the Complete the Passage category.

Reading Comprehension – Difficulty

The 2016 edition of the GMAT Verbal Official Guide contains 105 Reading Comprehension questions, one more than in the 2015 edition. The allocation of question difficulty has noticeably shifted from Medium to Easy. Surprisingly, 35 questions (over 30%) have swapped difficulty from Medium to Hard or vice versa.

Difficulty 2016 2015 Change
Easy 26 17 +9
Medium 47 55 (8)
Hard 32 32
Total 105 104 +1

A total of 26 brand new questions, which we have never seen before, appear in the 2016 GMAT Verbal Official Guide, with difficulty ratings of Easy / Medium / Hard as follows: 15 / 4 / 7. These 26 questions are in 5 new passages with difficulty ratings of Easy / Medium / Hard as follows: 3 / 1 / 1.

A total of 25 questions have been removed from the 2015 edition, with difficulty ratings of Easy / Medium / Hard as follows: 6 / 11 / 8. This represents 4 passages with difficulty ratings of Easy / Medium / Hard as follows: 1 / 2 / 1. Let’s further break down how each of these difficulty categories has changed.

Easy Reading Comprehension

Additions:
15 new questions

Subtractions:
6 question removed

Net change: +9 questions

Medium Reading Comprehension

Additions:
4 new questions
17 downgraded from Hard

Subtractions:
11 questions removed
18 upgraded to Hard

Net change: -8 questions

Hard Reading Comprehension

Additions:
7 new questions
18 upgraded from Medium

Subtractions:
8 questions removed
17 downgraded to Medium

Net change:

Reading Comprehension – Concepts

Let’s now consider changes in the concepts of the 26 new (in 2016) and the 25 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 3 2 1
Author’s Tone 0 1 (1)
Organization 1 3 (2)
Function 3 1 2
Specific Reference 9 10 (1)
Inference 10 5 5
Critical Reasoning 0 3 (3)

Although we cannot draw definite conclusions from this data about question composition on the GMAT, what clearly stands out is the increase in the Inference category and the decrease in the Critical Reasoning category.

Removed Questions

Here is the list of the questions that have been removed from the 2015 edition of the GMAT Verbal Official Guide. We’ll publish a list of the new questions in the 2016 GMAT Verbal Official Guide after it publicly releases.

Sentence Correction – 25 questions removed:

3, 6, 7, 8, 20, 21, 27, 34, 35, 36, 38, 39, 40, 41, 47, 51, 61, 62, 72, 76, 81, 93, 99, 101, 112

Critical Reasoning – 25 questions removed:

4, 7, 16, 21, 22, 23, 26, 27, 30, 36, 37, 40, 42, 44, 46, 48, 53, 58, 60, 62, 66, 69, 71, 73, 75

Reading Comprehension – 25 questions removed:

12 to 17, 33 to 38, 56 to 60, 77 to 84

Key Takeaways

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

By downgrading 14 Hard Sentence Correction questions without upgrading any questions to Hard, the GMAC seems to imply a greater rigor within Sentence Correction. The big shifts in question difficulty within Critical Reasoning and Reading Comprehension seem to imply that the GMAC is more closely assessing Verbal question difficulty than perhaps it did previously.

The changes in Sentence Correction concepts are not significant enough for us to reach any conclusions. The increases in the Complete the Passage category for Critical Reasoning and in the Inference category for Reading Comprehension seem to indicate that the GMAC is placing greater emphasis on analytical reasoning skills to solve CR and RC questions.

Look for more detailed analysis and critique of the 2016 GMAT Official Guides in the coming weeks from GMAT Genius.