GMAT Focus Edition is the latest iteration of the GMAT exam, specifically developed to enhance the test-taking experience and provide a more precise evaluation of candidates’ skills. By incorporating new features and adjusting certain aspects, the GMAT Focus Edition aims to better align with the evolving needs of business schools and employers worldwide.
In this article, we will explain all the features of the GMAT Focus Edition, the differences between the current GMAT Exam and the GMAT Focus Edition, and our views of which test version MBA applicants should take.
We have also included insights and takeaways from a recent Test Prep Summit hosted by GMAC (May/ Jun 2023), which I (Arvind) attended in Bangalore.
- What is the GMAT Focus Edition?
- GMAT Focus Edition vs current GMAT: Major Changes
- FAQs – GMAT Focus Edition
What is the GMAT Focus Edition?
Announced by GMAC in March 2023, GMAT Focus Edition is designed to be more efficient, flexible, and insightful than the current version of the GMAT. It features only three 45-minute sections, no essay, and reduced content to prep. It also lets you personalize your test-taking experience with Question Review & Edit, Select Section Order, and improved score-sending options.
Update – GMAT Focus Edition registrations are open now and testing will begin November 7, 2023.
The GMAT Focus Edition will replace the previous version of the GMAT Exam on January 31, 2024. This means, starting February 1, 2024, the only version of the GMAT available for test takers will be the GMAT Focus Edition.
Here are some of the key changes in the format of the GMAT Focus Edition as compared to the current GMAT exam:
- Number of sections: The GMAT Focus Edition has three 45-minute sections, compared to the current GMAT’s four 30-minute sections.
- Essay: The GMAT Focus Edition does not have an essay section, while the current GMAT does.
- Content: The GMAT Focus Edition covers a narrower range of content than the current GMAT. The AWA/ Essay section, Sentence Correction from the Verbal Reasoning Section, and Geometry from Quantitative Reasoning Section have been removed.
- Scoring: The GMAT Focus Edition uses a new scoring system that is more predictive of success in business school.
- Flexibility: The GMAT Focus Edition allows you to personalize your test-taking experience with Question Review & Edit, Select Section Order, and improved score-sending options.
Here is a table that summarizes the key differences between the GMAT Focus Edition and the current GMAT exam:
|Feature||GMAT Focus Edition||Current GMAT|
|Number of sections and questions||3 sections (64 questions)||4 sections (80 questions)|
|Sections||Quantitative Reasoning |
|Analytical Writing Assessment |
|Duration||2 hours and 15 minutes||3 hours and 7 minutes|
|Content||Quantitative Reasoning |
(21 questions, 45 mins)
|Quantitative Reasoning |
(31 questions, 62 mins)
(23 questions, 45 mins)
(36 questions, 65 mins)
(20 questions, 45 mins)
(1 essay, 30 mins)
Analysis of an argument
|Integrated Reasoning |
(12 questions, 30 mins)
|Scoring||205 – 805|
All 3 sections are weighted equally towards total score
|200 – 800|
Only 2 sections i.e.
Quantitative Reasoning and
Verbal Reasoning are weighted
equally towards total score
|Flexibility||Sections can be completed in order of your choosing||Sections to be completed in a choice of 3 section orders |
(as described below)
The GMAT Focus is NOT simple regrouping of questions across sections. All GMAT Focus sections have been completely redefined with new test construct (latent traits), and every single GMAT question has been recalibrated to be realigned with the new latent trait structures. Data literacy is a newly defined latent trait being introduced in GMAT Focus.
Let’s talk about the changes in detail:
GMAT Focus Edition vs current GMAT: Major Changes
Number of sections
The GMAT Focus Edition 2023 has a new format with three sections instead of four. The three sections are Quantitative Reasoning, Verbal Reasoning, and Data Insights. The Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) section has been removed.
The Quantitative Reasoning and Verbal Reasoning sections are similar to the corresponding sections on the current GMAT. However, the Verbal Reasoning section will place a greater emphasis on higher-order reasoning skills. The Data Insights section is a new section that measures a candidate’s ability to understand and interpret data.
The changes to the GMAT Focus Edition 2023 reflect the evolving needs of business schools and employers. Business schools are looking for candidates with strong quantitative and verbal reasoning skills, as well as the ability to think critically and analyze data. Employers are looking for candidates who can solve problems, communicate effectively, and make sound decisions.
The GMAT Focus Edition 2023 is a more efficient and effective way to assess a candidate’s readiness for business school. The shorter test format and the focus on higher-order reasoning skills make the GMAT Focus Edition a more accurate predictor of success in business school.
Here are some of the benefits of the new format:
- Shorter test length: The GMAT Focus Edition is 135 minutes long, compared to the current GMAT’s 3 hours and 45 minutes. This is a reduction of 75 minutes.
- More focused assessment: The GMAT Focus Edition focuses on the skills that are most important for success in business school, such as quantitative reasoning, verbal reasoning, and data interpretation. Specifically, Data Insights uses IR and Data Sufficiency question types to measure a newly calibrated digital and data literacy dimension – one of the most relevant and in-demand skills in business today.
- Improved candidate experience: The GMAT Focus Edition offers more flexibility through features such as Question Review & Edit, Improved Select Section Order and Expanded Score Preview.
- More accurate prediction: The GMAT Focus Edition is a more accurate predictor of success in business school than the current GMAT.
According to GMAC, the GMAT Focus Edition improves the candidate experience, adds differentiated value, and offers broader appeal to both candidates and schools globally.
Section order and breaks
In the current GMAT exam, test takers have 3 section order options and two optional 8-minute breaks that can be taken after completing the Verbal and Quant sections.
- Analytical Writing Assessment, Integrated Reasoning, Quantitative, Verbal (original order)
- Verbal, Quantitative, Integrated Reasoning, Analytical Writing Assessment
- Quantitative, Verbal, Integrated Reasoning, Analytical Writing Assessment
In the GMAT Focus Edition, test takers are free to choose any section order from all 6 possible combinations and there is one optional 10-minute break that can be taken after the first or the second section (DI = Data Insights)
- Verbal – Quantitative – DI
- Verbal – DI – Quantitative
- Quantitative – Verbal – DI
- Quantitative – DI – Verbal
- DI – Quantitative – Verbal
- DI – Verbal – Quantitative
If you take an optional break after the first section, you will not have the option to take another break after the second section. Break time (10 minutes) includes time to check back into the exam.
The GMAT Focus Edition is a shorter version of the GMAT, with a total test time of 2 hours and 15 minutes compared to the current GMAT’s 3 hours and 7 minutes.
The shorter test time is due to a number of factors, including the removal of the Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) section, the reduction in the number of questions per section, and the reduction in the number of sections from 4 to 3. The AWA section was a 30-minute essay section that was optional for test-takers. The removal of this section reduces the total test time by 30 minutes.
New Data Insights Section
The Data Insights section of the GMAT Focus Edition comprises 20 questions that require candidates to evaluate the relationships between various sources and types of information, including graphics, numbers, and language. The questions within this section may involve mathematical computations, data analysis, verbal reasoning, or a combination of all three. To aid candidates in their tasks, an on-screen calculator is exclusively available for use in this section.
The Data Insights section encompasses different question types, each designed to assess specific skills:
- Data Sufficiency: Tests your ability to analyze a quantitative problem and determine whether the available data is sufficient to solve it.
- Multi-Source Reasoning: Evaluates your capacity to analyze data from multiple sources and identify discrepancies or draw inferences regarding the relevance of specific data points.
- Table Analysis: Measures your proficiency in analyzing and organizing data presented in a table format.
- Graphics Interpretation: Assesses your aptitude for interpreting graphical data, making inferences, and recognizing relationships between different elements.
- Two-Part Analysis: Evaluates your ability to solve complex problems using either quantitative or verbal reasoning techniques.
Data Insights uses IR and Data Sufficiency question types to measure newly calibrated digital and data literacy dimension – one of the most relevant and in-demand skills in business today.
As we can see from the above image (shared during a Test Prep Summit hosted by GMAC in India in May’23), there are only ranges specified and not absolute numbers in terms of the sub-sectional split within Data Insights. The indicative composition/ split is noted below. The composition/ split is subject to gradually change over time i.e. as more test takers take the GMAT Focus Edition.
a. Graphics Interpretation: 20-30%
b. Multi-Source Reasoning: 10-20%
c. Table Analysis: 10-20%
d. Two-Part Analysis: 10-20%
e. Data Sufficiency Analysis: 20-40%
The first 4 from the above list (a, b, c, d) are the IR components from the Current GMAT, and e (Data Sufficiency Analysis) looks like the corresponding sub-section from the Quant section of the Current GMAT.
Topics added or removed
Here are the content changes in the Quant and Verbal sections:
GMAT Verbal Section:
- The Verbal section now consists only of Reading Comprehension and Critical Reasoning questions.
- Sentence Correction questions have been removed.
- The aim is to effectively assess students’ comprehension, analysis, and reasoning abilities.
- The number of questions in the Verbal section has been reduced from 36 to 23.
GMAT Quantitative Section:
- The Quantitative section now exclusively features Problem-Solving questions.
- Data Sufficiency questions have been moved to the newly introduced Data Insights section.
- Geometry is no longer tested in the Quantitative section.
- The focus of the section is on arithmetic and algebra.
- The number of questions in the Quantitative section has been reduced to 21, all based on problem-solving.
Table Summary of Changes:
|Section||Verbal Section||Quantitative Section|
|Changes||Removal of Sentence Correction||Removal of Geometry; |
Data Sufficiency questions moved to Data Insights section
|Focus areas||Emphasis on Reading Comprehension and Critical Reasoning||Emphasis on Problem-Solving questions: arithmetic and algebra|
|Number of Questions||Reduction in the number of questions from 36 to 23||Reduction in the number of questions from 31 to 21|
Removal of Sentence Correction is a major update which, according to GMAC, aims to fairly evaluate candidates across geographies with different language (and hence sentence) dialects. We reckon that the removal of AWA/ Essay is likely due to the fact that most B-schools ask candidates to write essays as part of their applications and this skill is being tested there.
The GMAT Focus edition will take into account your performance in all 3 sections to compute your score, unlike the current GMAT which only accounts for Quantitative and Verbal sections while calculating your total score.
Here’s the new scoring system for GMAT Focus Edition
|Section||Score range||Increment scale|
|Total Score||205 – 805||10 point increments|
|Quantitative||60 – 90||1 point increments|
|Verbal||60 – 90||1 point increments|
|Data Insights||60 – 90||1 point increments|
Why the change in the scoring system?
The new scoring scale has been set in place because of 3 reasons:
- Facilitating Clear Identification: The scoring system aims to ensure that both candidates and schools can easily identify and understand the GMAT Focus Edition scores. This clarity enables efficient evaluation and comparison of candidates’ performance.
- Ensuring Fair Evaluation: The scoring system is designed to promote fairness in the assessment of candidates. It takes into account various factors, including question difficulty, to provide an accurate representation of each candidate’s abilities.
- Promoting Awareness of Score Scale Changes: The scoring system aims to drive awareness regarding any changes or recalibration in the score scale. This ensures that candidates and schools stay informed about adjustments in the scoring process and can adapt their interpretation of scores accordingly.
How does the GMAT Focus Edition Score compare to the current GMAT scores
Let’s take an example to understand the score comparison between GMAT Focus Edition and the current GMAT exam:
A candidate who achieved a score of 605 on the GMAT Focus Edition demonstrates a level of competitiveness equivalent to someone who scores 640 on the GMAT Exam, placing both of them at the 72nd percentile.
Take a look at this table to understand the comparison between current GMAT score and GMAT Focus Edition score for the same percentile score:
|Percentile Score||Current GMAT||GMAT Focus Edition|
According to GMAC, the updated scoring mechanism aims to make the score distribution to be more symmetric: bell shape curve, and to provide differentiation between the current version of the GMAT and the GMAT Focus
New and Improved Score Report
Previously, candidates had to buy an ESR (Enhanced Score Report) for $30 to get detailed information about their performance. However, the GMAT Focus now has an enhanced official score report at NO additional cost that will work similarly to an ESR. This report will provide valuable insights to help you understand your strengths and areas where you need to improve.
Option to review and modify answers
At present, the GMAT does not permit candidates to modify their answers once they have been submitted. However, in GMAT Focus Edition, you have the flexibility to jump to any question for review. Moreover, you can review any question multiple times, giving you the opportunity to refine your responses. Within a section, you can make up to three changes to your answers.
For instance, you can change one question three times, or change three questions once, or even change one question twice and two questions once. After making alterations, the exam algorithm will re-evaluate your overall ability level and make minor adjustments to your score, ensuring a fair assessment of your performance.
According to the GMAC, these revisions are aimed at empowering candidates to optimize their test-taking strategies. While these modifications offer increased flexibility, the impact on the computer adaptability of the test is yet to be determined. It will be interesting to observe how these changes influence the adaptive nature of the exam. The GMAT Focus Edition brings a fresh perspective to the test experience, providing candidates with more control and opportunities to refine their performance.
This brings us to the next section on frequently asked questions about GMAT Focus including whether the GMAT Focus Edition is adaptive in nature or not, what aspects will remain similar to the current GMAT, when the GMAT Focus Edition will launch and whether you should take the GMAT Focus Edition or the current GMAT exam.
FAQs – GMAT Focus Edition
Is GMAT Focus adaptive in nature?
The GMAT Focus is an adaptive exam, utilizing a question-adaptive format similar to the current GMAT. Following the response to each question, the exam selects the subsequent question based on the candidate’s performance up to that point. This advanced adaptive algorithm enables the test to precisely determine a tailored score for each individual, enhancing the accuracy of the assessment process. However, this dynamic nature of the exam can be more demanding for test takers, as they must respond to each question presented and are unable to modify their answers afterward in the current GMAT exam.
GMAC has introduced an innovative feature that sets the GMAT Focus apart. Despite maintaining its question-adaptive nature, candidates are now given the flexibility to modify up to three responses per section. This development is primarily aimed at alleviating the stress associated with the testing experience, demonstrating GMAC’s commitment to enhancing the overall experience for all test-takers. We commend GMAC for its proactive approach to addressing the needs of candidates and striving to create a more favorable testing environment.
What aspects of the GMAT Focus Edition will remain similar to the current GMAT?
The following aspects will remain the same in both the current GMAT and the GMAT Focus Edition:
|GMAT Focus Edition||Current GMAT Exam|
|Acceptance||7,700+ programs at over 2,400 schools worldwide|
|Delivery Methods||Online or at a Test Center (7 Days a Week)*|
|Test Design||Question Adaptive|
|Attempts||Five attempts in a rolling 12-month period and eight attempts in a lifetime**|
|Accommodations||Additional testing time, breaks, and access to other resources|
|Fees||GMAT Focus Edition fees will be at parity with the current GMAT exam***|
When will GMAT Focus Edition launch?
GMAT Focus Edition registration will begin on August 29, 2023 and testing will begin starting November 7, 2023.
GMAT Focus Edition vs current GMAT: Which test should you take?
The new GMAT Focus is scheduled to be launched in the fourth quarter of 2023, specifically after October. For individuals aiming to complete their GMAT requirements within 2023, it is advisable to opt for the legacy GMAT.
If you intend to commence your preparation soon but have not yet decided which exam to take, it is recommended to initiate your studies by focusing on the question types and content areas that are common to both versions of the GMAT.
However, if your study plans are set to begin in 2024, it is advisable to take the new GMAT Focus exam to align with the latest format and content updates.
Will my current GMAT score be valid after the GMAT Focus Edition is launched?
Rest assured, there is no need for concern. GMAT scores remain valid for a duration of five years from the date of the test. Business schools have not discontinued the existing exam; rather, they have expanded their acceptance criteria to include the new GMAT Focus Edition. As long as your scores are within the valid timeframe, which applies to all these exam formats, business schools will consider and accept them without any issues.