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Graduate Management Admission Test

Q: When GMAT® volume increases or decreases, can I expect to see a change in application volume?

A: A change in test-taking volume may or may not result in an immediate change in application volume. First, the incidence of repeat test taking has increased with the advent of computer-adaptive testing, so a change in the number of tests taken does not necessarily indicate that more or fewer people are taking the test. Second, scores are good for five years and not all test takers apply immediately after taking the test. Also, not all test takers intend to pursue MBA programs—the GMAT® exam is also required for various other business programs. A recent study showed that approximately 20% of GMAT® test scores are submitted to nonbusiness programs.

Q: Is repeat testing increasing? What types of gains can test takers expect?

A: A recent study showed that approximately 21% of GMAT® exams are taken by individuals who take the test more than one time in a given year. Within the mean score range for the GMAT® Total score, 500 to 540, approximately 28% of tests are taken by repeat testers. Great care is taken to match test takers on multiple demographic variables so as to minimize the possibility of mismatching test administrations.

Most repeat test takers test two or three times within a year. Very few test more often than that. GMAC® has a policy to prevent excessive repeat test taking. Test takers can take the GMAT® exam as many as five times within a 12-month period.

The average gain between the first test and the second test is about 30 points on the GMAT® Total score. The amount of gain varies depending on the amount of preparation undertaken by students prior to initial testing, among other things. Not all repeat test taking results in an increase—scores can also go down when the GMAT® exam is taken more than once.

Q: On the preadmission report, the test taker's raw score is presented along with a percentile. How is this percentile computed?

A: The percentile is based on three years' worth of GMAT® scores, which is used to balance out random fluctuations. When a test administration older than five years is pulled, new percentiles are not computed—the test takers' scores are presented relative to the tests taken three years prior to the date of the administration. When a test taker requests an additional score report (ASR), his or her GMAT® scores are presented relative to the current three years of tests. For instance, if a test taker took the GMAT® exam in 1998 and requested an ASR in 2002, the percentiles presented on the ASR would have been for the tests taken during the time period January 1998 through December 2000, whereas on the original preadmission report the percentiles would have been presented relative to tests taken during the time period January 1995 through December 1997.

Q: How reliable is the GMAT® exam? Do scores vary a lot from test to retest?

A: The standard error of measurement of the GMAT® Total score is 29 points—meaning that the test taker's true GMAT® Total score is within 29 points (above or below) of the score he or she received on the test. Thus, test takers with GMAT® Total scores of 580 and 600 may not be materially different in terms of their performance on the GMAT® exam. This is why GMAC® does not recommend the use of hard cutoff scores. The average reliability for the GMAT® Total score is 0.92 (1.00 is the highest possible reliability coefficient).

Q: How valid is the GMAT® exam? Does it actually predict the academic achievement of MBA students?

A: The predictive validity of the GMAT® exam has been established by analyzing the statistical relationship between GMAT® scores and first-year (or midprogram) grade point average. Analyses of the relationship between a combination of three of the GMAT® variables—Verbal, Quantitative, and AWA—and first-year (or midprogram) grade point average have been conducted at numerous schools since the inception of the GMAT® exam. The average (represented by the median) statistical relationship is +0.41 out of a possible 1.00. When undergraduate grade point average was added to the three GMAT® variables the predictive power increased to +0.47. Thus, a combination of the GMAT® variables does contribute to the prediction of how well candidates for admission might perform academically in an MBA program. Other variables such as motivation and time spent studying or otherwise engaged in learning also contribute greatly to student achievement. The GMAT® exam is an extremely useful predictive tool, yet it is only one of many tools that are necessary to make a good admissions decision.

Q: How can I keep track of candidates? We keep a file of the preadmission reports, but there must be another way.

A: Management school rosters are sent to your school on a monthly basis and quarterly rosters are sent on a quarterly basis. These rosters facilitate record-keeping by providing the test scores as well as the (self-reported) demographic information for all of the individuals that have sent score to your institution within a month or a quarter. The rosters can help to capture patterns in score sending—month over month, quarter over quarter—and can aid in the tracking of score-sending patterns year over year.

Q: How can I keep track of competitors?

A: Annually, your school is sent a multiple score report. This report lists the top 25 programs (based on volume) that receive scores from your candidates. It also indicates the number of scores that were sent to your program only.

Q: How can I know which factors are most predictive of academic success in my program?

A: Conduct a validity study. Validity studies are offered at no cost to schools that use the GMAT® exam. The study helps to validate current admissions processes and provides current and valid statistical ammunition to use when you have challenges regarding admissions criteria. See Validity Study Quick Facts/FAQs for details.

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