The Graduate Management Admission’s Council (GMAC), a non-profit organisation of leading graduate management schools, has released a 26-page white paper entitled “The GMAT Exam Is Not Getting Easier: The Fallacy of Score Increases and the Impact of Score Preview.” In it, the organisation answers the question: “how relevant is the test considering that the average GMAT score of those admitted to leading graduate business programmes has risen?” by comparing historical data from the GMAT against current scoring.
GMAC decided to publish the white paper to show schools and candidates that the GMAT is adhering to high standards, Rebecca Loades, GMAC Director of Product Management, told Clear Admit.
While there may be some fluctuation in scores due to demographics, the scoring itself isn’t changing—a 600 last year is the same as a 600 three years ago and a 600 from this year.
Ultimately, the study found that both the profile of test takers and the score preview feature—rather than the exam itself—account for the average score increase at the leading programmes.
Changing GMAT demographics
GMAC studied the GMAT scores of citizens from eight countries—the United States, Canada, China, United Kingdom, France, Germany, India and South Korea. The researchers found that average exam scores have remained fairly constant, and that the difference in scoring was actually more due to the change in the demographics of test takers.
For example, “women typically have a lower average total score than men (542 vs. 560),” according to the report. So, if more women take the exam average scores can be expected to decrease. On the other hand, younger candidates “typically tend to score higher.” So, an increase in the number of relatively young test-takers would make the average GMAT score appear to increase. Considering these differences, researchers had to recalculate the average 2016 GMAT score using the same demographics as the historical scores to determine if the GMAT exam had actually gotten easier.
In the end, the researchers concluded that:
GMAT score performance has therefore not changed, but what has changed are the profiles of GMAT examinees. Changes in the underlying candidate demographics have therefore had a small and predictable impact on calculated average scores.
GMAT exam score preview
Another variable that researchers considered in exploring shifting GMAT scores was the score preview feature. Debuted in 2014, this feature allows candidates to preview their score and decide whether to keep or cancel it.
The second research question asked if top-tier programmes are cherry picking the best candidates or they are simply seeing fewer lower scores as candidates withhold their applications.
GMAC researchers stated:
Analysis indicates that the score preview feature of the GMAT, which enables candidates to select the exam scores they want a school to see and cancel scores they don’t want to share with schools, is contributing to perceptions of score increases. Lower scores are removed from the pool through cancellation and an increased number of higher scores are reported to schools, a phenomenon common across all three groups of programmes analysed.
Check out: Understanding the GMAT Scoring Algorithm
Don’t let the high score hype discourage you
In conclusion, while researchers discovered that the GMAT has not gotten any easier, it remains that schools are seeing higher average GMAT scores, which could have an adverse impact on candidates. As the average scores of enrolled students creep upward, some applicants may be discouraged and either target different programmes or continue to retake their GMAT exam until they reach their desired score.
It’s for that reason that Loades, the GMAC Director of Product Management, warns students against getting swept away in the high-score hype:
Your GMAT score is only one part of your application packet and what defines you as a business school candidate. Before you place all your focus on your GMAT score, talk to the programmes where you’re applying and try to understand what they’re looking for. Then, think about how you can demonstrate why you’re the best fit for that school or programme. I would hate for a candidate to opt out of applying to a programme where they would be a phenomenal match because they didn’t think they fit the GMAT score profile.
As for schools, they can work to address this by increasing the transparency of their admissions processes. Loades encourages schools to publish the full range of their GMAT scores and not just the average because a single number can be misleading.
Source: Clear Admit
Check out: Why Business Schools Require GMAT Scores