The integrated reasoning section will test the ability to examine and manage complex, multiple format data and draw conclusions from them.

The GRE changed in 2011 with an overhaul in content and structure, making the test more reasoning- based. Close on its heels comes the GMAT (admission test to majority of global MBA programmes) change with the addition of a new section, aptly called ‘integrated reasoning'.

This new section replaces one of the essays and comprises 12 questions to be answered by analysing, synthesising, integrating and evaluating given data. The data to be integrated appear as maps, spreadsheets, codes, numbers, charts, texts, audios and graphs. Both multiple-choice and highlighting statements or dragging data points constitute the questions.

The new section thus tests the candidate's ability to examine and manage complex, multiple format data and draw conclusions from them. The integrated reasoning section will thus generate a measure of a candidate's decision-making skills.

What doesn't change?

The content, format and scoring of the verbal and quantitative sections remain unchanged; the argument essay also remains the same. The issue is replaced by the new section.

GMAT, in the present version itself is projected as a test that examines a range of skills that are prerequisites to participate in and benefit from a rigorous MBA curriculum. It already has a strong emphasis on reasoning. With the addition of the new integrated reasoning section, the test advances to another level of competence.

The integrated reasoning section gives students an opportunity to demonstrate decision-making skills — analysing, synthesising and evaluating data in different forms (numbers, flow charts and words to draw logical conclusions). In today's data-intense business space, effective decisions are taken by drawing intelligence and insights from various sources and information of various forms.

The introduction of such competency assessment in the business school intake stage presents a reasoned prognosis of one's candidature to the world of competitive global business.

How to prepare

The verbal and quantitative sections are not changing in content patterns and scoring, thus test aspirants can continue to prepare for these as before. One has to familiarise oneself with the new section by practising on such problem sets as well as by reading graphs, maps and accompanying texts in business publications.

Since a good number of business schools take GRE score, instead of a GMAT score, applicants can research on colleges and find out which test to take. Some students may be more comfortable with the GRE test.

Test aspirants starting preparation post-March 2012 may have to take the new GMAT administered form June 2012. Good preparation will be the key to success.

The author is Director-Academics, Semantics