Why MBA Entrance Exams Are Getting Shorter

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Thursday, October 12, 2023
By Nick Harland
Photo by iStock/FatCamera
Major changes to the GMAT and GRE exams were announced this year. Here’s what they mean for you.
  • The GMAT and GRE graduate admissions tests will both be getting significantly shorter. The GMAT also announced a number of other important changes to its exam.
  • These changes were made for several reasons, including reducing test-taker fatigue, better replicating the content of MBA programs, and helping schools identify scholarship candidates.
  • Initially, nothing much will change for students. But this could affect the way you prepare for your admissions exam in the future.

The way you apply for an MBA is changing.

In March 2023, the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) announced the release of the new GMAT Focus Edition; a shortened and optimized version of the current exam. It is expected to fully replace the GMAT in early 2024. A few months later, Educational Testing Service (ETS) revealed they would be shortening their GRE test by almost 50 percent. Both updated exams are set to open to candidates this year.

If you’re thinking of applying to business school, then this is significant news. But why are MBA entrance exams getting shorter, and what does this mean for you? Let’s first take a look at the changes in more detail.

How the GMAT and GRE Are Changing

Changes to the GRE

The GRE, a general-purpose graduate admissions test that business schools have increasingly accepted alongside the GMAT in recent years, is getting shorter, and you’ll get your results quicker than before. Here’s a summary of the main changes.

  • Test time reduced by 50 percent. The old GRE took almost four hours to complete. The new GRE will take less than two hours.
  • One question removed, one section removed. The Analyze an Argument question has been removed. An unscored section that ETS used for research purposes has also been removed.
  • Remaining sections shortened. The remaining sections in the GRE—Quantitative Reasoning, Verbal Reasoning, and Analytical Writing—have all been shortened.
  • Break eliminated. Candidates will no longer have a break in the middle of the test.
  • Results delivered faster. It will now take eight to 10 days for test-takers to get results, instead of the old wait time of 10 to 15 days.

According to Rohit Sharma, senior vice president of global education at ETS, a shorter GRE does not mean it will be any less valuable for students. “As long as it is still with the same level of reliability and validity that we’ve been known for, [and] is able to accurately reflect somebody’s readiness for graduate-level studies,” he says, “then the test could be of any length.”

Changes to the GMAT

Out of the two entrance exams, the GMAT—a business school-specific admissions test—will be seeing the biggest changes. Here are some of the new features in the Focus Edition:

  • Test time reduced by nearly an hour. The total time of the exam will be reduced from three hours and seven minutes to two hours and 15 minutes. The test will also have three sections instead of four.
  • Analytical Writing Assessment removed. The Analytical Writing Assessment will no longer appear in the Focus Edition.
  • New section added. The Integrated Reasoning section of the old GMAT has been revamped and renamed Data Insights. This section measures candidates’ data literacy skills.
  • New features added. Students will be able to choose the order in which they take the GMAT, bookmark questions they’re unsure about, and edit up to three of their responses in each section.
  • Delayed score reporting enabled. Rather than choosing their b-schools before taking the GMAT, candidates will now be able to choose the schools they send their score to after taking the exam.

Manish Dharia is the director of product development at GMAC. He says the changes to the GMAT were made with students in mind. “These new and improved features of the GMAT Focus Edition will put test-takers in the driver’s seat, reduce exam-day pressure, and provide them with greater confidence in their decision to pursue business education.”

The Reasoning Behind These Changes

These changes are some of the most significant in a number of years. So why have they been made now, and within a few months of each other?

Reducing test-taker stress and fatigue was certainly one reason behind the GRE’s changes, according to Sharma. “Test-taking is a stressful experience for many people,” he says. “And we want to make sure that as much as possible, we are able to reduce that. A shorter test means shorter time actually spent in the test. And that obviously is a better experience for the test-taker.”

Both exams have been designed to reflect the content of MBA programs.

For GMAC’s part, Dharia says they wanted to “make the testing experience as efficient as possible” while putting “as much control and flexibility in the hands of the test-takers as possible.”

Additionally, both exams have been designed to reflect the content of MBA programs. For instance, the Data Insights section in the GMAT is very similar to the kind of data analysis and interpretation you would be doing in an MBA, as well as in real-world business scenarios.

GMAC also says their new test will help schools identify scholarship candidates while still continuing to act as an indicator of candidate readiness. “[We wanted] to provide the best insights to the test-takers on their strengths and areas for improvement,” adds Dharia.

What Do These Changes Mean for You?

Initially, nothing much will change for students.

Although the GRE is now much shorter, the exam content will remain the same. “If you had been preparing for the GRE before we announced the changes, there was actually no difference [for] the test taker,” says Sharma. He adds that the GRE is “still measuring the same attributes or skills that we were measuring before.”

Meanwhile, the GMAT will be releasing a new set of exam prep materials to help students study for the Focus Edition. Although it is expected to replace the current GMAT in early 2024, Dharia says that they “expect all schools who are currently receiving the GMAT scores will continue to accept GMAT Focus scores when the Focus Edition becomes the only GMAT exam early next year.”

While you don’t necessarily need to take the GMAT or GRE to get into business school anymore, it seems fair to say that you would benefit from taking the tests.

Given that some business schools have waived the requirement for a GMAT or GRE, it’s reasonable to ask if it’s still worth taking either test. But according to Sharma, the GRE can give you skills that will benefit you both during and after your MBA.

“It has definitely been designed from the perspective of graduate studies readiness,” he says. “But the skills that it measures are also equally important for the work that people will do after they finish their studies, or even during their studies.”

So while it’s true that you don’t necessarily need to take the GMAT or GRE to get into business school anymore, it seems fair to say that you would benefit from taking the tests. This is the first step of your MBA journey, and it remains just as important as the ones that will follow.

Updated October 13, 2023, to clarify to GRE changes.

Nick Harland
Freelance Higher Education Writer
The views expressed by contributors to AACSB Insights do not represent an official position of AACSB, unless clearly stated.
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