By Adam Hartmann
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Business students who think a thesaurus is an extinct dinosaur might want to think again Ä the format of the Graduate Management Admissions Test is now going to test writing skills.
Beginning in October, the GMAT will include two half-hour essays in addition to the seven parts of the test already in place. So, students will now have four hours to complete the test, instead of three and a half.
Timothy Patrick, director of GMAT programs for Stanley H. Kaplan Educational Centers, said a sample essay question on the new GMAT might ask students to respond to the statement, "clothes make the man." The students would then be asked to develop an opinion on the subject and write an organized, coherent essay on that statement, he said.
"This is not just a test of writing," Patrick said. "It is also a test of thinking."
He said many business students are excellent with numbers but are less fluent with language.
"They don't have a balance," Patrick said. "They can't go out and communicate the results of their analysis to other people. While they're very good with the numbers, they're not then as effective employees as they might be."
Patrick said if students want to avoid the essays, they should take the GMAT in June, which is the only remaining date before the essays will be included.
Shana Oseran, director of the Tucson branch of the Kaplan Testing Center, said students who have trouble writing may struggle with the new format.
"For someone who is strong in math but weak in verbal, this might be some area of concern for them," Oseran said.
And William Bailey, a University of Arizona communication professor, said he was not sure an impromptu essay would test ability to communicate.
He said some students who have written honors theses have received an unsatisfactory grade on the UA's Upper-Division Writing-Proficiency Exam.
"Some people do better with it, some people do worse with it," Bailey said. He also said some people can write much better if they have more time.
Gregory Northcraft, a UA management and policy professor, said he grades students' writing-proficiency exams and does not see a difference between those and the writing he sees in his classes.
He said a problem with business students' writing is that large class sizes do not allow one-on-one contact between students and the professor. He said he has two classes which have 60 students each, making individual contact difficult. <>~mid~ Northcraft also questioned whether impromptu essays accurately reflect students' abilities, but said they are a better way to test skills than mere multiple-choice tests.
<>"It's sad there isn't a more efficient means for measuring writing skills," he said. "It may put them in a situation where they don't have a chance to show their best side."
<>Pamela Perry, director of the undergraduate programs office in the College of Business and Public Administration, said she thought the business employers' criticism is intended for all students.
<>She said students must have a satisfactory score on the writing-proficiency exam or have successfully completed a writing-emphasis course before they can get into the program. Read Next Article