The GMAC announced today a new Select Section Order feature for the GMAT. Beginning July 11, 2017, test takers worldwide can select the order of the sections on their GMAT administrations. The GMAC claims that this will not affect the statistical validity of GMAT scores, but we believe that many GMAT takers will benefit substantially because of this change.
We often find that students score 20 to 30 points higher when they skip the AWA and IR sections on practice exams. We expect many students to achieve similar results by relegating IR and AWA to the end. Score reports will not indicate which section order you selected.
How Select Section Order Works
You will see the Select Section Order screen during your exam at the Pearson VUE test center on the computer immediately prior to the start of your exam, after choosing the schools for score reports and the navigation tutorial. You have two minutes to make a selection. If you do not pick an option in this timeframe, the original order will be chosen be default. You will have the opportunity to select from one of three possible section orders:
- AWA, IR, Quant, Verbal (original order)
- Verbal, Quant, IR, AWA
- Quant, Verbal, IR, AWA
No matter which order you select, you still get two 8-minute breaks. Each break will be between two of the three parts of the exam: Quant, Verbal, and AWA/IR (combined). Breaks remain optional, but we highly recommend that you take the breaks. Just be sure that you are checked-in and back in your seat before a break ends, or the test will resume without you and you lose valuable time.
What Order to Choose
We highly recommend selecting option 2 (Verbal, Quant, IR, AWA) or option 3 (Quant, Verbal, IR, AWA). Since it is by far the easiest section of the GMAT, save AWA for last, at which point mental fatigue is likely to set in.
Start with either Quant or Verbal, depending on which section mental fatigue is most likely to be a factor for you. Start with the section on which you are most likely to make careless errors. This will typically, but not necessarily, be the section you are weaker on. By tackling this section first while you are still fresh, the number of careless mistakes is likely to decline.
Some test takers claim that the original order will work best, because they need a warm-up period. We believe, however, that one hour spent on AWA and Integrated Reasoning hardly qualifies as a “warm-up” period. Why expend valuable energy and focus for one hour on the two sections of the exam that do not count towards your overall 200 to 800 score? If you really want a “warm up” period, before entering the test center, practice with a very small handful of Official Guide questions that you have previously done. Just be sure not to bring any practice materials into the test center.
Updated Test Materials
The official GMATPrep diagnostic test software and the Exam Pack 1 and 2 add-ons will be updated by July 31 to reflect the Select Section Order feature. When the software is updated, you can receive a free upgrade of GMATPrep and the Exam Packs.
The GMAC is working on shifting GMATPrep to a web-based interface from its current software-download format. We’re not sure whether this much-needed update will occur by the July 31 date given by the GMAC.
Other GMAT Changes
Effective July 11, the GMAC will also eliminate the profile update screens during the GMAT. These are largely unnecessary, since you can update your profile anytime at MBA.com. Removing these screens from the test experience will reduce the overall time you must spend at the test center.
Why Was Select Section Order Implemented
The GMAC ran a pilot program for Select Section Order in February-March 2016. The pilot program allowed the GMAC to collect valuable data from real test takers, including several GMAT Genius clients, in order to evaluate this feature. The GMAC concluded that GMAT takers appreciated the flexibility in choosing section order and that select section order did not affect the statistical validity of GMAT scores.
“The idea of being allowed to choose the section order had been commonly requested by test takers,” noted Ashok Sarathy, the Vice President of Product Management for the GMAC. “We conducted a pilot in 2016 to test this feature and received overwhelmingly positive feedback, with 85 percent of participants surveyed expressing that this new feature boosted their confidence prior to even taking the exam. Our pilot findings also concluded that taking the exam in different section orders continues to maintain the quality and integrity of the GMAT scores.”
Over the past several years, the GMAC has implemented several changes to enhance test takers’ GMAT experience. This is partly driven by increased competition from the GRE. GMAT changes over the past three years include:
- allowing GMAT takers to cancel scores online within three days after the GMAT and to reinstate cancelled scores for five years (March 2016)
- removing cancelled scores from school score reports and shortening the GMAT retake window to 16 days (July 2015)
- introducing the GMAT Enhanced Score Report to provide test takers a more detailed analysis of their overall GMAT performance (January 2015)
- showing test takers their unofficial GMAT scores before having to decide whether to report or cancel their scores (July 2014)
You can read more about the new Select Section Order feature of the GMAT on the official MBA.com website.