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Student Survey – Current GMAT vs GMAT Focus Edition

Student Survey – Current GMAT vs GMAT Focus Edition
A 9 min read


In the ever-evolving landscape of graduate business education, the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) has continually adapted to better serve the needs of both institutions and prospective students. However, as the world of testing changes, so too do the preferences and needs of test-takers. One such change that has recently been met with varied opinions is the introduction of the GMAT Focus edition. But what do the students truly think about it- Current GMAT vs GMAT Focus Edition.

Student Survey  - Current GMAT vs GMAT Focus Edition

In this article, we delve into the detailed findings of a recent survey conducted amongst a dedicated group of test-takers (750+), all of whom have purchased the e-GMAT course. The survey aimed to capture students’ preferences regarding whether they would opt for the traditional GMAT or the newly introduced GMAT Focus edition, while also seeking to uncover the motivations driving these preferences.

Navigating the complex matrix of choices, opinions, and motivations, we hope to present a vivid picture of student preferences in GMAT testing and elucidate the reasons behind these choices. We believe the findings provide crucial insights not only for educators and policy makers in this space but also for future test takers who are grappling with this decision. Join us as we explore the nuances of these preferences, reveal the primary motivations, and analyze the implications that this data presents.

Kindly note that the survey data discussed in this article is accurate up to July 11th, 2023. Please refer to Our Dashboard for the most recent data.

Executive Summary

Here is an executive summary of the insights from the survey (July 2023) Current GMAT vs GMAT Focus Edition:

  1. 62.4% of the 750 prospective test takers aim to take the current GMAT, while only about 7% are certain that they will take the GMAT Focus Edition. At the same time, more than 31% of the test takers are uncertain as to which test to take or they might take both.
  2. The data was divided into three primary geographies – India, the US, and ROW. The data did not observe any significant difference in preferences amongst test takers, regarding their preference with regards to taking the current GMAT.  However, in percentage terms, in July 2023, students from India are twice as likely to opt in for the GMAT Focus Edition as are students from the US.
  3. Timing is the reason that students prefer the current GMAT: 69% of the students indicated that application timing is the primary reason for them choosing the current GMAT. Similarly, only 11.5% of the students chose the current GMAT because they believe that they will fare better in it.
  4. 56% of the students who choose the GMAT focus believe that they can score higher in the Focus Edition than on the current GMAT. These students likely have come to this determination based on their evaluation of the mock test.
  5. 66% of the students who are undecided and those who plan to take both tests want to put their best foot forward by submitting the highest score possible with their application. This indicates that these students either do not have a good way to evaluate which test they will do better on or don’t know enough about the tests.

The detailed results give a lot more insights. It answers questions such as – what percentage of students aim to take both tests for the pure love of learning. How many students want to submit both scores, how many believe that prospective employers will value the GMAT Focus Score higher than that of the current GMAT etc.

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Overall Preference: Application timing is the driving factor

Overall Preference

The data gathered from about 750 e-GMAT students suggests that application timing is a critical factor in deciding which GMAT format to take. A majority of the students, around 63%, express a preference for the Current GMAT, with the GMAT Focus Edition appealing to only approximately 7%. About 20% of students are still undecided between the two formats, while 10% are willing to take both versions. Notably, when factoring in both direct and indirect interest, 37% of students display some inclination towards the GMAT Focus Edition.

Geographic Analysis:

Contrary to our initial assumptions, the data revealed that there wasn’t a significant geographical divide (61% in India, ~59.5% in the US, 67% in ROW) in the preference for the Current GMAT. We had predicted that a larger proportion of students from the U.S. would lean towards the Current GMAT, given their traditionally stronger verbal skills. However, this anticipation was not mirrored in the responses received.

Interestingly, though, when it came to preferences for the GMAT Focus Edition, there was a noticeable distinction. Students from the U.S. were half as likely to opt in for the GMAT Focus Edition (3.85% in the US, vs. 7.33% in India) as their counterparts from India. This divergence may be because of two factors:

  1. Longer study time for Indians
  2. Indians’ preference for Data Insights

Additionally, there was a higher percentage of students from the U.S. expressing uncertainty about which version of the test to take, with nearly 29% undecided compared to about 20% in India. This higher indecisiveness among the U.S. student population could indicate a greater degree of cautiousness or strategic contemplation before making a definitive choice between the two GMAT formats.

Reason for selecting a test

In this section, we’ll look into the reason as to why a particular preference was selected by students.

>> Reasons for selecting ‘Current GMAT’

Students who selected the current GMAT option over the others were presented with the following options –

  1. Application Timing: I want to apply in R1 and the Focus Edition will not be available then.
  2. B-Schools ability to interpret scores: I feel that B-schools don’t understand how to evaluate GMAT Focus scores.
  3. Current GMAT Ability: I want to maximize my strengths (SC and Geometry).
  4. B-School Acceptance : I prefer the GMAT Focus Edition, but my target schools (Harvard and Wharton) do not accept the Focus Edition?

The chart below displays the option that the students preferred –

Reasons for selecting ‘Current GMAT’
  1. Application Timing – The majority (69%) of individuals who preferred the current GMAT cited Application Timing as the primary factor as they were looking for the R1 deadline. They expressed concern that the GMAT Focus Edition may not be available when they intend to take the test. Possible inference: Had the Focus Edition been available today, it would have given the Current GMAT a run for its money.
  2. B-Schools ability to interpret scores – Additionally, 12% expressed doubts about B-Schools’ ability to evaluate scores accurately. They fear GMAC hasn’t done a great job of communicating the same to B-Schools. And neither have B-Schools come forth with much discussions on the same further raising questions and doubts on the new format. While this is not a surprise considering that the 700 equivalent GFE score of 645 does not have the same ring to it. To get a 7XX score on the GFE, students will need to score in the 99th percentile.  
  3. Current GMAT Ability – Interestingly, just about 12% of the current students feel they are strong in the current GMAT (SC, Geometry, Data Sufficiency), considering the number of resources available. This is in contrast to the students who selected GMAT Focus Edition, wherein 56% of them feel that they would do well in the new format.
  4. B-School Acceptance – 7% of students selected the Current GMAT over GMAT Focus Edition since their target B-Schools (Harvard and Wharton) does not accept the GMAT Focus Edition. Honestly, this number was a lot lower than our prediction.

>> Reasons for selecting ‘GMAT Focus Edition’

Students who selected the GMAT Focus Edition over the others were presented with the following options –

  1. Application Timing: I am applying later so the Focus Edition score should be much more relevant.
  2. Scoring Ability: I believe I can score higher on the Focus Edition than on the current GMAT
  3. Relevance to MBA (Skills): I believe that the Focus Edition evaluates skills that are more relevant to today’s MBA students
  4. Job Specific: I believe that my potential employers will prefer the Focus Edition score over that of the current GMAT
  5. B-School Acceptance: I believe that my target B-schools will look at the Focus Edition more positively than the current GMAT

The chart below displays the option that the students preferred –

Reasons for selecting 'GMAT Focus Edition’
  1. Scoring Ability – In contrast, the section on the GMAT Focus Edition revealed that 56% of respondents believed they would perform better on this test. It just seems that people who chose the GFE have either done a thorough job reviewing the test or are poor (or hate) SC and Geometry.
  2. Relevance to MBA (Skills) –This data point was very interesting. About 16% students believed that the new format is much more relevant for MBA students. While students who chose this option demonstrated that they knew both tests enough to make an educated choice, we did not expect people to choose this as the primary reason for attempting GMAT Focus.
  3. Job Specific – 9% of students feel that even their employers would prefer GMAT Focus over the current edition, indicating that they know the test inside-out.

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>> Reasons for selecting ‘Not decided yet’

Students who selected the ‘Not Decided Yet’ over the others were presented with the following options:

  1. I don’t know whether I would score higher on the current GMAT or on the Focus Edition.
  2. I don’t know which schools will accept the Focus Edition for R2.
  3. I don’t know when e-GMAT will offer the Focus Edition prep material.

The chart below displays the option that the students preferred –

Reasons for selecting ‘Not decided yet’
  1. A significant proportion of respondents (67%) were undecided about which test to take. The main reasons for their indecision were uncertainty about which test they would score higher. Most likely, many of these student have not taken the official mock test that the GMAC provides. Here is the link of you belong to this group.
  2. 20% of students had concerns about the acceptance of the GMAT Focus Edition by schools (20%). This indicates that they are inclined to take the Focus Edition but this uncertainty is holding them back
  3. Furthermore, 13% were concerned about the availability of the course material for the GMAT Focus Edition. We need to do a better job educating these students (and we are on it)

>> Reasons for selecting ‘Might take both’

Students who selected the option ‘Might Take Both’ over the others were presented with the following options :

  1. To evaluate which exam do I score higher o
  2. To provide B-schools with all the datapoints they need about my candidacy.
  3. To learn both Sentence Correction and Data Insights.

The chart below displays the option that the students preferred –

Reasons for selecting ‘Might take both’

This chart provides some interesting insights. About two thirds of students – a percentage similar to those who are undecided, plan to take both tests to maximize their scores. These students are presumably aiming for high scores and are likely looking at the GMAT to both further their candidacy and get scholarships. 

Similarly, about 20% of respondents likely plan to submit both scores to give B-schools all the datapoints that they need. Similar to the first group, these students are presumably aiming for high scores and are likely looking at the GMAT to both further their candidacy and get scholarships. 

Surprisingly, a significant 14% of the students plan to take both simply for the love of learning. They want to learn DI, SC, and Geometry

Conclusion : Current GMAT vs GMAT Focus Edition

The analysis of the survey data presented in the dashboard demonstrates that timing is a crucial factor influencing individuals’ preference for the current GMAT. A significant percentage (56%) of respondents believe they can score better on the GMAT Focus Edition. It is important to note that a relatively small proportion (15%) expressed concerns about B-Schools’ ability to evaluate scores accurately. Additionally, a portion of respondents (20%) are considering taking both tests to optimize their chances of success.

Overall, this article provides valuable insights into student preferences for the current GMAT and the GMAT Focus Edition, shedding light on the factors influencing these preferences and the motivations of undecided individuals. The findings offer significant implications for test developers, educational institutions, and test-takers alike.

Whether you plan to take the current GMAT or GMAT Focus Edition, we offer a fantastic free trial. Click here to try the same out free of charge. We can also help you create your GMAT study plan.

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