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Jun 04 2016

Preview of 2017 GMAT Official Guide Math

2017 GMAT Official GuideIn this third post of this series of exclusive previews of the 2017 GMAT Official Guides, we now turn to the math section of the main Official Guide. We will focus on how the 2017 GMAT Official Guide differs from the 2016 edition in terms of math question difficulty and math concepts.

Problem Solving – Difficulty

Both the 2017 and 2016 editions of the GMAT Official Guide contain 254 Problem Solving questions, including the identical 24 Problem Solving questions in the Diagnostic Exam portion of the guides. But the allocation of question difficulty, as assigned by the GMAC, has noticeably shifted towards Easy difficulty. Part of this change resulted from the GMAC downgrading 8 questions from Medium difficulty (in 2016) to Easy (in 2017).

Difficulty 2017 2016 Change
Easy 82 63 +19
Medium 55 60 (5)
Hard 117 131 (14)
Total 254 254

A total of 36 new Problem Solving questions, which we have never seen before, appear in the 2017 GMAT Official Guide, with difficulty ratings of Easy / Medium / Hard as follows: 18 / 8 / 10. This is in lieu of 36 questions from the 2016 edition that have been removed, with difficulty ratings of Easy / Medium / Hard as follows: 7 / 5 / 24. We are disappointed to see that Hard difficulty has a net loss of 14 questions, although we would rate most of the 24 removed Hard questions as actually Medium difficulty. Let’s further break down how each of these difficulty categories has changed.

Easy Problem Solving

Additions:
18 new questions
8 downgraded from Medium

Subtractions:
7 questions removed

Net change: +19 questions

Medium Problem Solving

Additions:
8 new questions

Subtractions:
5 questions removed
8 downgraded to Easy

Net change: -5 questions

Hard Problem Solving

Additions:
10 new questions

Subtractions:
24 questions removed

Net change: -14 questions

Problem Solving – Concepts

Let’s now consider changes in the concepts of the 36 new (in 2017) and the 36 removed (from 2016) Problem Solving questions. GMAT Genius classifies questions based on their primary and secondary concepts. In order to observe trends, we have condensed our categorization as follows:

Type Concept 2017 2016 Change
Arithmetic Basic 2 0 +2
Arithmetic Divisibility/Factors/Mult. 1 2 (1)
Arithmetic Exponents & Roots 1 1
Arithmetic Fractions & Ratios 3 6 (3)
Arithmetic Percents 5 6 (1)
Algebra Inequalities 2 0 +2
Algebra Linear Equations 2 3 (1)
Algebra Quadratics 2 2
Algebra Simultaneous Equations 2 2
Algebra Variables in Answers 3 1 +2
Geometry Circles 1 1
Geometry Coordinate 0 1 (1)
Statistics Averages 2 3 (1)
Statistics Other 3 1 +2
Word Problems Combinatorics 1 0 +1
Word Problems Functions & Sequences 1 1
Word Problems Groups/Sets 1 2 (1)
Word Problems Probability 2 2
Word Problems Rate & Work 2 2

Although we cannot draw definite conclusions from this data about question composition on the GMAT, what stands out most is the decrease in fractions & ratios questions.

Data Sufficiency – Difficulty

Both the 2017 and 2016 editions of the GMAT Official Guide contain 198 Data Sufficiency questions, including the identical 24 Data Sufficiency questions in the Diagnostic Exam portion of the guides. As with Problem Solving, the allocation of question difficulty has noticeably shifted away from Hard. No questions have been reclassified in terms of difficulty.

Difficulty 2017 2016 Change
Easy 50 46 +4
Medium 51 41 +10
Hard 97 111 (14)
Total 198 198

A total of 26 new Data Sufficiency questions, which we have never seen before, appear in the 2017 GMAT Official Guide, with difficulty ratings of Easy / Medium / Hard as follows: 9 / 12 / 5. This is in lieu of 26 questions from the 2016 edition that have been removed, with difficulty ratings of Easy / Medium / Hard as follows: 5 / 2 / 19. We are disappointed to see that Hard difficulty has a net loss of 14 questions, although we would rate most of the 19 removed Hard questions as actually Medium difficulty. Let’s further break down how each of these difficulty categories has changed.

Easy Data Sufficiency

Additions:
9 new questions

Subtractions:
5 questions removed

Net change: +4 questions

Medium Data Sufficiency

Additions:
12 new questions

Subtractions:
2 questions removed

Net change: +10 questions

Hard Data Sufficiency

Additions:
5 new questions

Subtractions:
19 questions removed

Net change: -14 questions

Data Sufficiency – Concepts

Let’s now consider changes in the concepts of the 26 new (in 2017) and the 26 removed (from 2016) Data Sufficiency questions. GMAT Genius classifies questions based on their primary and secondary concepts. In order to observe trends, we have condensed our categorization as follows:

Type Concept 2017 2016 Change
Arithmetic Basic 5 2 +3
Arithmetic Divisibility/Factors/Mult. 1 0 +1
Arithmetic Exponents & Roots 3 2 +1
Arithmetic Fractions & Ratios 1 1
Arithmetic Percents 3 2 +1
Arithmetic Pos/Neg & Odd/Even 1 4 (3)
Arithmetic Primes 1 0 +1
Algebra Linear Equations 1 0 +1
Algebra Quadratics 1 3 (2)
Algebra Simultaneous Equations 1 2 (1)
Geometry Circles 0 2 (2)
Geometry Triangles 3 1 +2
Geometry Other 1 0 +1
Statistics All 1 0 +1
Word Problems Groups/Sets 2 3 (1)
Word Problems Probability 1 1
Word Problems Revenue/Profit/Interest 0 3 (3)

Although we again cannot draw definite conclusions from this data about question composition on the GMAT, what stands out most is the decrease in odd/even and revenue/profit concepts .

Removed Questions

Here is the list of the math questions that have been removed from the 2016 edition of the GMAT Official Guide. We’ll publish a list of the new math questions in the 2017 GMAT Official Guide after it publicly releases.

Problem Solving – 36 questions removed:

26, 34, 37, 40, 41, 47, 54, 65, 72, 79, 80, 103, 110, 111, 150, 157, 161, 169, 176, 179, 180, 184, 186, 187, 194, 197, 198, 199, 200, 202, 203, 207, 208, 209, 227, 228

Data Sufficiency – 26 questions removed:

1, 3, 9, 17, 33, 44, 65, 74, 78, 81, 109, 113, 131, 139, 140, 141, 150, 151, 154, 158, 159, 165, 166, 170, 173, 174

Summary

In the 2017 GMAT Official Guide, the GMAC has replaced a total of 62 Quant questions, representing just over 15% of the questions (excluding the Diagnostic Exam section). The changes in this edition are far less significant than the changes we saw between the 2015 to the 2016 editions of this book. Nonetheless, what stands out is the net loss of 28 Hard Quant questions, as rated by the GMAC. GMAT Genius will continue to offer detailed analysis of the 2017 GMAT Official Guides in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!

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