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Who's Afraid of Integrated Reasoning? 48,000 Prospective B-School Students


The number of people who took the GMAT in the 12 months ending last June fell by 48,000, or 17 percent, from the year before, according to new data (PDF). That steep drop may sound like more air hissing out of the MBA bubble, at least to those who subscribe to the theory that business schools are over-swelled. For those who have been paying attention, the drop in test takers was apparent from a long way off. It has little to do with demand for MBAs in the job market.

The Graduate Management Admission Council, which publishes the GMAT, introduced a revamped version of the test in June 2012, adding a section on Integrated Reasoning. The new test—not the job market—is responsible for the lower numbers, wrote GMAC spokeswoman Tracey Briggs in an e-mail: “Traditionally, there is an increase in testing volume before you change a standardized test as test takers opt for the familiar over the unfamiliar at transition time.”

Data from other graduate exams appear to bear her out. About 18 percent fewer candidates (PDF) took the GRE in the year after a revised test was introduced in August 2011. The number of test takers for the GED dropped even more precipitously when a new test was introduced in 2002.

Some other nuggets from the GMAC data: Test takers in the U.S. were especially apt to take a pass on the new test, with 22 percent fewer taking the exam last year. Women made up 42.5 percent of test takers, down slightly from the previous year. The average score for all test takers was 546.

That last number is curious: It’s two points lower than in the previous year, but two points higher than the year ending June 2011. All that angst over the revised exam appears to have been misplaced.

Clark is a reporter for Bloomberg Businessweek covering small business and entrepreneurship.

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