GMAT Section Order: You Get to Choose!

Since GMAC just announced that as of July 11th, 2017 you will be able to choose the order in which you take each section of the GMAT, I thought I would shoot off a quick blog post with some thoughts. Ready? Here goes…

First of all, they probably should have done this a long time ago. Let’s face it, it sucks having to spend the first hour of the test on sections that don’t really matter to business schools. I used to try to make the case to my students that you could view the AWA and IR as a bit of a warm-up, sort of like stretching and running in place before going for a long run. But I doubt that anyone is going to continue to do those sections first. I mean, a 10-minute warm-up would be nice but 1 hour is a little much.

My second observation is that the GRE will now have to counter this and I predict that they will eventually. GMAC experimented with test takers choosing the section order before implementing this new policy, so presumably ETS will have to do that first as well, but I’d imagine that ETS will feel the need to counter this new “user-friendly” feature of the GMAT and we’ll eventually see the same feature on the GRE.

A third observation that I just feel compelled to share is the very bizarre way in which GMAC put this new information out there. I got an email from GMAC with the subject line “Congrats on Taking Your GMAT Exam!” I was like, wtf, did I just take the exam and forget or did someone hack into my account and take the exam under my name? I was completely perplexed. I mean it did get my attention and motivated me to immediately open up the email, but after reading what the message was actually about I just thought that it was a pretty slimy and underhanded way to convey this new information. Maybe I have a higher opinion of GMAC than most, but it felt very spammy and not what I expected of the good folks at GMAC.

The last thing to mention is that obviously people will now need to strategize which section to do first, and I think that is an interesting conundrum. Again, I can’t imagine anyone doing the AWA and IR anything but last, but which section to do first, Quant or Verbal? I guess I’ll have to see how this plays out with the people I tutor, but I must say that I would personally do Quant first. I could imagine that if you are the type of person who loses focus easily and therefore has trouble with the Reading Comp passages or even the Critical Reasoning stimuli it might be better to do the Verbal first. But something about the Quant section almost feels like it serves as a bit of a warm up for the Verbal section and not the other way around, so I would opt for Quant first.

Now that I think about it, I guess there is a Verbal element to Quantitative questions, but there is not a Quantitative element to Verbal questions. And I guess if you couple that with the fact that schools care a little more about the Quant score than the Verbal one it will probably make sense for most people to do Quant before Verbal. If I had to predict I would say 80% of people will choose to do that. But again I think that for some people, especially those for whom fatigue and focus become an issue on Verbal, it may be good to tackle the Verbal section first.

In any event, this certainly gives test takers an advantage and I can already report that for the few students I have who were thinking of taking the test in the next couple of weeks, all immediately declared (upon hearing the new section order policy) that they will wait until after July 11th to take the test. And they were all very, very excited!!!


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