Easier Tests? No, says GMAC

Changing demographics help account for uptick in scores.

DESPITE RISING SCORES, the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) is not getting any easier, according to a white paper distributed in June by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC). The paper indicates that changing demographics largely explain a trend of higher scores.

According to the paper, the test is used by more than 6,500 business programs worldwide to assess the 200,000 candidates who submit scores as part of their applications. The white paper notes that, in recent years, “the average GMAT exam score of the admitted class at leading graduate business programs has risen, raising questions about the integrity of GMAT exam scores and whether the GMAT exam is getting easier.”

To determine if GMAT scores had risen or remained stable, GMAC researchers compared scores across five demographic dimensions: citizenship, residence status in the country of citizenship, gender, undergraduate study major, and age. The organization pulled data from testing years 2011 to 2015 for the eight countries that account for 80 percent of global testing volumes. These include the United States, Canada, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, China, India, and South Korea.

Once average scores were calculated for each segment and testing year, the organization calculated a new average score for 2016 candidates, using the distribution of candidates across the same five dimensions. The conclusion? That “shifts in underlying candidate demographics have had a small, but predictable, impact on calculated average scores.”

The paper also notes the effect of the recently introduced score preview feature, which allows test takers to choose which scores a school can see. This means a greater number of higher scores are being reported, while lower ones are canceled. Candidates with lower scores may “decide to target different programs, retake the exam, or opt out of the application process altogether,” the report suggests.

The paper predicts that the cycle of rising scores eventually will break. In the meantime, it suggests, business schools will need to “effectively communicate the role that standardized assessments like the GMAT exam play in admissions.”

Find the report at www.gmac.com/market-intelligence-and-research/market-research/research-report-series.aspx.

This article originally appeared in BizEd's September/October 2017 print issue. If you have comments or feedback on its content, please contact us at [email protected].