GMAT Focus Edition Practice Test – An Expert’s Analysis
The GMAT Focus Edition is on its way. With the release earlier this week of the 2023-2024 Official Guide and its accompanying review books, digital practice question packs for each of the test’s three sections, and, of course, the first two official practice exams, MBA hopefuls looking ahead to the October arrival of the Focus Edition have everything they need to start preparing. The new materials are also filling in our knowledge gaps regarding the Focus Edition. I took both GMAT Focus Edition practice tests to learn what this new version of the GMAT will be like. I won’t spoil any specific questions, but I will provide you with plenty of new information about question selection, scoring, and the overall testing experience.
Accessing the Practice Exams
The online home of the GMAT, mba.com, markets practice exams 1 and 2 as part of the free “GMAT Focus Official Starter Kit,” which also contains 70 separate practice questions taken from all sections of the test. As of this writing, the practice exams are not accessible from the Official Starter Kit. When you open the starter kit, there simply isn’t a tab for the practice exams. Hopefully, this will be fixed soon. For now, you can access the practice exams on mba.com. The practice exam home will open in a new tab, and when you launch one of the exams, it will open in a new window. The exam home also has a “profile” button. This is where you go to enter codes for accommodations on the practice exams (extended time, etc). There is also an “Activation Codes” tab. Presumably, this is where you enter the codes sent to you when you purchase additional practice exams, which have yet to be released.
The Test Interface
The interface for the Focus Edition does not differ noticeably from that of the current GMAT. You begin with all the same screens providing information about the delivery of the test and rules and instructions for you as the test-taker. There is a new screen that teaches you how to use the “Question Review and Edit” feature making its debut in the Focus Edition. After answering all questions in a section, you can use the Question Review and Edit screen to return to any question in the section, and you can change your answers on up to three questions in the section.
As before, you select the order of your sections before starting the test in earnest, but unlike the current GMAT, the Focus Edition lets you choose any possible order of the sections. Since there are three sections, there are 3! = 6 possible section orders. (If you thought I wouldn’t sneak a mini combinatorics lesson into this debrief, you thought wrong.)
GMAT Focus Edition Practice Test: Data Insights
On practice exam 1, I chose to tackle the new Data Insights section first, because it has been the most shrouded in mystery – until now. I was especially curious how many Data Sufficiency questions this section would have, and what these questions would be like.
On practice exam 1, my Data Insights section had 7 DS questions and 13 “Integrated Reasoning” questions. On practice exam 2, my Data Insights section had only 5 DS questions and 15 “Integrated Reasoning” questions. Here are my takeaways:
- I was surprised to encounter so few DS questions. On practice exam 2, I didn’t get my second DS question until question number 14 of 20! The test corrected for this to some degree by packing the end of the section with DS questions.
- There is some variability in the number of DS questions you may be served – time will tell how much variability.
- All DS questions are now applied questions, or what the GMAT Focus Edition Official Score Card (more on this later) calls “real contexts” questions, as opposed to “pure contexts” questions. Pure contexts questions are math for math’s sake. Real contexts questions (or what I have always called “applied questions”) use real-world scenarios as a framework for math. Many people simply call these “word problems.” This limitation of the types of DS questions existing on the GMAT is a major change – on par with the removals of geometry and Sentence Correction. Many types of potentially-challenging DS questions – those involving pure algebra, inequalities, or number properties, to name a few – are gone. About half of my DS questions were about statistics (mean, median, mode, range, standard deviation). The rest were about interest rates, overlapping sets, speed/distance/time, two-variable linear equations (applied algebra), and percent change.
As expected, the rest of the questions on the Data Insights sections matched what we see on the Integrated Reasoning section of the current GMAT.
GMAT Focus Edition Practice Test: Quantitative Reasoning
There isn’t much to report here. The quant section now comprises 23 Problem-Solving questions – no Data Sufficiency. With the exception that geometry has been removed, the content range for these questions doesn’t seem to have changed at all.
GMAT Focus Edition Practice Test: Verbal Reasoning
Prior to taking the practice exams, I expected to encounter 9 or 10 Critical Reasoning questions and 13 or 14 Reading Comprehension questions, split between four passages, on each verbal section. These are the numbers of each question type on the verbal section of the current GMAT and would add up perfectly to the Focus Edition’s verbal section total of 23 questions. I expected that the shrinking of the verbal section from 36 to 23 questions directly reflected the removal of the 13 or so Sentence Correction questions.
However, I was given 13 Critical Reasoning questions and 10 Reading Comprehension questions, split between three passages, on both verbal sections – a reversal of my expectations. If you like Critical Reasoning better than Reading Comprehension, this is great. If you prefer Reading Comprehension, then it’s time to get to work on Critical Reasoning.
GMAT Focus Edition Practice Test: Question Review and Edit
This new feature functions well. I was able to easily navigate back to any question I wanted to see again. I didn’t change any answers, because I just couldn’t bring myself to “skip” any questions on my first go-through. But in theory, the system works. Use it wisely.
Official Practice Exam Score Card
After you finish a practice exam, you are shown your Official Practice Exam Score Card, which remains accessible from the practice exam home screen every time you log in. This score card is, presumably, the same as the official score report you’ll get after taking a real GMAT Focus Edition exam – with one exception: the practice exam score card lets you open up any question from any section by clicking on its number. There will certainly be no viewing of real GMAT Focus Edition questions in official score reports for real exams.
The performance and timing information provided on the score card is extensive. A new addition is the “Time Pressure Index,” which tracks whether you stayed “on pace” through each section. If you fall behind the average time per question on a given section, your time pressure index starts going up. If you answer questions quickly, your time pressure index goes down.
(Missing only the first question produced a section score of 89.)
One noticeable difference from the Extended Score Reports (ESRs) used for the current GMAT is the absence of any information about the difficulty level of the questions. The Extended Score Report (ESR) used for the current GMAT breaks each section of the test into quarters and graphically displays, for each quarter, the average difficulty of all questions, the average difficulty of the questions you answered correctly, and the average difficulty of the questions you answered incorrectly. This information helped Apex and other prep businesses “crack the code” of the section scoring algorithms used on the GMAT. WIthout this information for the Focus Edition, cracking the code will be a challenge.
Final Thoughts On The GMAT Focus Edition Practice Exam
The GMAT Focus Edition brings significant changes, particularly the new Data Insights section and a shift towards real-world contexts for Data Sufficiency questions. Quantitative Reasoning remains familiar except for geometry’s removal, while Verbal Reasoning now includes more Critical Reasoning questions. The novel “Question Review and Edit” feature provides a chance to revise responses. Future test-takers must adapt their preparation strategies accordingly, especially focusing on the Data Insights and Critical Reasoning sections.
From what I can tell, the questions in the bank for Focus Edition practice exams 1 and 2 are all different from the questions in the banks for the current GMAT official practice exams. Even if you’ve taken all 6 official practice exams for the current GMAT, you can take these new practice exams for the Focus Edition without any “contamination” by questions you’ve seen before.
The GMAT Focus Edition is an exciting development in the world of business school admissions. We will continue to publish updates as new information comes to light.
If you are planning to take the GMAT Focus Edition, and need guidance through your journey, schedule a free consultation call with a top-scoring tutor to get your best score. Get a customized study plan and receive one-on-one instruction with Focus Tutoring.
Contributor: Elijah Mize (Apex Instructor)