If you’ve been following news about graduate business education, you might have heard about the new GMAT Focus Edition (GFE) which is soon going to replace the GMAT.
In this article, we will help you better understand the differences between the two versions of the test, how they affect you as a test taker and any implications for business school admissions.
Comparison table GFE vs. GMAT
GMAT Focus Edition (New Version)
|GMAT (Current Version)|
|Availability||Registrations will open on 29 August 2023 with actual test taking beginning in Q4 2024.||Registration and test taking currently available but will be fully phased out from Q1 2024.|
|Structure||3 sections (64 questions), completed in the order of your choosing:
• Quantitative Reasoning
• Verbal Reasoning
• Data Insights
|4 sections (89 questions), completed in a choice of 3 section orders:
• Quantitative Reasoning
• Verbal Reasoning
• Integrated Reasoning
• Analytical Writing
|Duration||2 hours, 15 minutes||3 hours, 7 minutes|
|Review & Editing||
Bookmark and review as many of your answers as you want.
Change up to three responses per section.
|Total Score Scale||
All three sections are weighted equally towards your total score.
Only two sections (Quantitative Reasoning and Verbal Reasoning) are weighted towards your total score.
Send up to five score reports to programmes of your choice within 48 hours of receiving your Official Score Report.
Additional score reports are available for a fee.
Select up to five school before your exam to receive your Official Score Report at no charge.
Additional score reports are available for a fee.
|Score Validity||Scores are valid for five years.|
|Exam Attempts||Five attempts permitted in a rolling 12-month period and eight attempts in a lifetime across both exam versions.|
|Cost||GMAT Focus Edition fees will be at parity with the GMAT Exam.|
Why the GMAT is changing - a brief background
The GMAT has been around since 1954. While its core purpose – helping business schools identify their best-fit applicants – has remained constant throughout, the test itself has seen many revisions and changes in response to market trends and needs.
As the landscape of business and management has evolved over the years, so have the syllabi of many top schools, along with the way they approach candidate evaluation and admission.
Schools today realise that a strong ability to integrate and analyse data is one of the most important reasoning skills a MIM or MBA candidate can have.
For test takers, the main bugbear has always been the test duration. Not only is the GMAT a rather lengthy test (just about enough to watch the Avengers: End Game movie), it is also notorious for requiring vast amounts of preparation time. Other common complaints include the adaptive nature of the test and the inability to skip questions or go back to edit past answers.
The introduction of the GFE purports to address most of the challenges above, which should make it a welcome change to both schools and test takers.
Read on to learn more about what has changed, what hasn’t, what it means to you as a test taker and applying to INSEAD.
Test structure and components – more accurate and efficient
Thanks to innovations in their back-end analytical models, coupled with discarding certain question types, GMAC claims that the new version of the test can calibrate to the same level of accuracy with far fewer questions than in the past.
It can also afford to be more forgiving around changing answers while still preserving its accuracy, leading to a friendlier and shorter test-taking experience. Question formats that are deemed outdated will also be dropped.
The biggest change in test structure, though, is the fact that now, all three components will add equal weights to your final score, compared to only two in the current version.
As a test taker, this means that the skills you will build in your preparations will be more relevant to your target programme than before.
Test flow and question review – more flexible
Unlike the current GMAT version, GFE gives you full freedom in choosing the order in which you want to tackle the different sections, as well as question reviews and a maximum of three answer changes per segment. This gives you the chance to check back on – and correct – careless mistakes.
Scoring methodology – similar but slightly different
The first thing to note is the move from a scale of 200 – 800 to a scale of 205 – 805. This change is purely cosmetic: having a number that ends with the number five simply makes it easier to distinguish at a glance if a score is from the current GMAT or the GFE.
Do note though, that the same percentile can lead to a very different score, depending on what test you take. For example, a score of 660 on the current GMAT would place you at the 75th percentile, or better than 75% of the population.
However, the same performance on the GFE would net you a score of “only” 605. Rest assured that it is not your performance, but only the score that has changed. In other words, a 605 on the GFE is “equivalent” to a 660 on the current GMAT.
This is likely to confuse many test takers, who might even think that the GFE is more difficult because it takes a better performance to achieve a comparable score. This is not the case! Most top schools look at percentiles together with the raw scores, so as long as you are hitting the desired percentile, the final score value does not matter much at all.
Score sending – more flexible
In the current GMAT version, candidates need to select up to five schools before attempting the test, and are allowed to decide whether or not to send their scores out after completing the test. Schools that receive scores will also receive a comprehensive score report that includes the candidate’s entire history of scores.
With the GFE, candidates will be allowed to select schools only after seeing their scores. This should reduce pressure on candidates (in theory, at least) since you need not worry that one of your shortlisted top schools is going to see a subpar score. You can simply choose your recipient schools according to the scores you have.
If you decide not to add any schools to the list, your score will be cancelled by default. More importantly, candidates will have the power to choose which scores in their history to send. This means that schools receiving your score cannot tell how many attempts you have taken unless you choose to let them know.
For business schools, knowing a candidate’s history can be useful in our evaluation: for instance, a history of steady improvement could showcase commitment and potential.
Do note though that this policy does not apply to scores that have been cancelled due to technical issues or policy violations. If your test score was cancelled because of a policy violation (such as checking your phone during an online test), any school you choose to receive your score will know that you had such a cancelled score in your past.
What hasn’t changed?
Although the GFE features many changes, some things remain the same, and it is also important to keep track of these.
The policies around re-attempts have not changed. There is a minimum 16-day window between attempts, and a maximum of five attempts per calendar year. The lifetime limit of eight attempts is also unchanged.
These restrictions apply to both the current GMAT and the GFE, meaning that if you have attempted the current GMAT seven times so far, you are allowed only a single attempt of either the GMAT or the GFE before reaching your lifetime limit.
Similarly, if you complete the GMAT today, you have to wait for a minimum of 16 days before taking either another GMAT or the GFE.
Delivery platform and security
The GFE will still be available via test centres and online, so candidates continue to enjoy the same level of flexibility around scheduling their tests.
It should come as no surprise that GMAC invests heavily into test security, i.e., the prevention of cheating or dishonest attempts, as well as the protection of its questions. This has not changed, and in the latter case might even be enhanced, with new algorithms that further restrict how often a question is exposed to the public.
How will the GFE affect admissions?
INSEAD, like many top business schools, is prepared to accept GFE scores right off the bat, so there is no worry that your new GFE score is going to be unrecognised or devalued compared to the GMAT.
On the other hand, it also isn’t going to give you any sort of inherent advantage to have a GFE score as opposed to the current GMAT score. Some adaptation will be needed by the admissions teams to match requirements to the new scoring scale, but since the percentiles are clearly mapped by GMAC, there should be little disruption.
For the GFE, INSEAD recommends a 60th percentile on the Verbal component, and a 66th percentile on both the Quantitative and Data Insights components, which corresponds with raw scores of 80, 80, and 77 respectively. Do note that this is not a required minimum score, but a recommended range.
If you have already been preparing for the GMAT, continue doing so and take the GMAT while it is still around, if you wish.
Otherwise, keep up your preparations and take the GFE when it becomes available: the only determining factor here should be how ready you feel. If you haven’t started preparing yet, it might be a good idea to train specifically for the GFE.
Also, always keep in mind that the GMAT remains just one part of an application to INSEAD.
As much as we recommend certain scores on the GMAT to demonstrate your academic ability, there will always be other elements you should work on in order to demonstrate your eligibility and fit with us, or any other business school out there.
While you work toward conquering the GMAT, you probably also will need advice or guidance on everything else in your application. INSEAD is here to help!
Just join one of our many events which cover a variety of topics from admission tips to career development, and alumni sharing, for different perspectives on what the INSEAD experience truly means. On top of that, our global recruitment team is always nearby and ready to have a chat with you.