Jun 02 2015

Sneak Preview of 2016 GMAT Quantitative Official Guide

2016 GMAT Quantitative 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. In doing so, I have thoroughly analyzed the 2016 versions of the GMAT Official Guides, and want to give you an overview of what to expect. Out of respect for the GMAC, I cannot share specific questions. In this post, we will instead focus specifically on how the 2016 GMAT Quantitative Official Guide differs from the 2015 edition in terms of question difficulty and math concepts.

Problem Solving – Difficulty

Both the 2015 and 2016 editions of the GMAT Quantitative Official Guide contain 176 Problem Solving questions. But the allocation of question difficulty, as assigned by the GMAC, has noticeably shifted. In particular, the Easy category has expanded whereas the Medium category has shrunk. A big portion of these change resulted from the GMAC downgrading 10 questions from Medium difficulty (in the 2015 edition) to Easy (in the 2016 edition). Interestingly, one Hard question (#159 in the 2015 edition) has also been downgraded all the way to Easy.

Difficulty 2016 2015 Change
Easy 82 67 +15
Medium 57 74 (17)
Hard 37 35 +2
Total 176 176

A total of 44 brand new questions, which we have never seen before, appear in the 2016 GMAT Quantitative Official Guide, with difficulty ratings of Easy / Medium / Hard as follows: 22 / 13 / 9. This is in lieu of 44 questions from the 2015 edition that have been removed, with difficulty ratings of Easy / Medium / Hard as follows: 17 / 20 / 7. Let’s further break down how each of these difficulty categories has changed.

Easy Problem Solving

Additions:
22 new questions
10 downgraded from Medium
1 downgraded from Hard

Subtractions:
17 questions removed
1 upgraded to Medium

Net change: +15 questions

Medium Problem Solving

Additions:
13 new questions
1 upgraded from Easy

Subtractions:
20 questions removed
10 downgraded to Easy
1 upgraded to Hard

Net change: -17 questions

Hard Problem Solving

Additions:
9 new questions
1 upgraded from Medium

Subtractions:
7 questions removed
1 downgraded to Easy

Net change: +2 questions

Problem Solving – Concepts

Let’s now consider changes in the concepts of the 44 new (in 2016) and the 44 removed (from 2015) 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 2016 2015 Change
Arithmetic Basic 2 2
Arithmetic Absolute Value 2 0 2
Arithmetic Divisibility 1 1
Arithmetic Exponents 3 4 (1)
Arithmetic Fractions & Ratios 4 2 2
Arithmetic Percents 3 5 (2)
Arithmetic Positive/Negative 1 1
Algebra Formulas 2 0 2
Algebra Inequalities 2 2
Algebra Linear Equations 2 4 (2)
Algebra Quadratics 1 1
Algebra Simultaneous Equations 2 4 (2)
Geometry Coordinate 1 1
Geometry Other 4 4
Statistics Averages 2 4 (2)
Statistics Other 0 1 (1)
Word Problems Combinatorics 2 1 1
Word Problems Functions & Sequences 5 1 4
Word Problems Groups (Sets) 1 1
Word Problems Interest 1 0 1
Word Problems Revenue & Profit 1 2 (1)
Word Problems Rate & Work 2 3 (1)

Although we cannot draw definite conclusions from this data about question composition on the GMAT, what clearly stands out is the decrease in algebraic equations and the increase in functions and sequences.

Data Sufficiency – Difficulty

Both the 2015 and 2016 editions of the GMAT Quantitative Official Guide contain 124 Data Sufficiency questions. As with Problem Solving, the allocation of question difficulty has noticeably shifted. Once again, the Easy category has expanded whereas the Medium category has shrunk. Interestingly, the GMAC has upgraded 23 Medium questions (from the 2015 edition) to Hard.

Difficulty 2016 2015 Change
Easy 22 9 +13
Medium 25 42 (17)
Hard 77 73 +4
Total 124 124

A total of 31 brand new questions, which we have never seen before, appear in the 2016 GMAT Quantitative Official Guide, with difficulty ratings of Easy / Medium / Hard as follows: 14 / 11 / 6. This is in lieu of 31 questions from the 2015 edition that have been removed, with difficulty ratings of Easy / Medium / Hard as follows: 1 / 6 / 24. Let’s further break down how each of these difficulty categories has changed.

Easy Data Sufficiency

Additions:
14 new questions
1 downgraded from Medium

Subtractions:
1 question removed
1 upgraded to Medium

Net change: +13 questions

Medium Data Sufficiency

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

Subtractions:
6 questions removed
1 downgraded to Easy
23 upgraded to Hard

Net change: -17 questions

Hard Data Sufficiency

Additions:
6 new questions
23 upgraded from Medium

Subtractions:
24 questions removed
1 downgraded to Medium

Net change: +4 questions

Data Sufficiency – Concepts

Let’s now consider changes in the concepts of the 31 new (in 2016) and the 31 removed (from 2015) 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 2016 2015 Change
Arithmetic Basic 2 2
Arithmetic Absolute Value 1 0 1
Arithmetic Divisibility 0 3 (3)
Arithmetic Exponents 2 2
Arithmetic Fractions & Ratios 2 2
Arithmetic Percents 0 1 (1)
Arithmetic Positive/Negative 3 2 1
Algebra Inequalities 3 2 1
Algebra Linear Equations 0 3 (3)
Algebra Simultaneous Equations 3 6 (3)
Geometry Coordinate 3 0 3
Geometry Other 3 4 (1)
Statistics Averages 2 2 0
Statistics Other 2 0 2
Word Problems Functions & Sequences 1 0 1
Word Problems Probability 1 0 1
Word Problems Revenue & Profit 1 0 1
Word Problems Rate & Work 2 2 0

Although we again cannot draw definite conclusions from this data about question composition on the GMAT, what clearly stands out is the decrease in algebraic equations and divisibility concepts, offset by the increase in coordinate geometry and applied word problems.

Removed Questions

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

Problem Solving – 44 questions removed:

4, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 23, 25, 28, 30, 32, 37, 43, 45, 74, 75, 77, 84, 92, 99, 104, 106, 109, 111, 115, 120, 122, 123, 128, 132, 134, 138, 139, 141, 143, 144, 163, 165, 166, 167, 174

Data Sufficiency – 31 questions removed:

3, 23, 27, 28, 30, 36, 47, 56, 57, 60, 64, 68, 71, 72, 77, 84, 86, 92, 94, 97, 98, 103, 105, 108, 109, 110, 112, 114, 119, 120, 123

Key Takeaways

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

By downgrading 10 Medium Problem Solving questions to Easy while upgrading 23 Medium Data Sufficiency questions to Hard, the GMAC seems to be indicating that it considers Data Sufficiency more challenging than perhaps it did previously.

Furthermore, given the changes in concepts as discussed above, the GMAC seems to be moving away from questions that are more process-oriented (i.e. solve by following a set procedure) and towards applied questions that require more analytical reasoning to solve.

GMAT Genius will offer much more detailed analysis and critique of the 2016 GMAT Official Guides in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!