GMAT

The Graduate Management Admission Test, or GMAT, is an important part of the business school application process. The GMAT is a multiple-choice, computer-based and computer- adaptive standardized exam that is often required for admission to graduate business programs (MBA) globally.

The GMAT is developed and administered by test maker GMAC to provide business schools with common measures of applicants’ preparedness for graduate-level academic work. Business school admission committees look at your GMAT score, along with work experience, academic record, and supporting materials, to assess your readiness for the rigors of an MBA program.

What’s the takeaway? A high score on the GMAT will have a direct, positive impact on your business school application.

Importance of GMAT Exam for MBA Admissions . Business schools use and trust the GMAT exam to make admissions decisions. The GMAT exam will help you stand out during the admissions process. It is the most widely used and trusted indicator of academic success in MBA and other graduate business degree programs.

The GMAT is a Computer-Adaptive Test, or CAT. On the GMAT, the CAT actually adapts to your performance as you're taking the test.

When you begin the GMAT, the computer assumes you have an average score and gives you a question of medium difficulty. As you answer questions correctly, the computer serves up more difficult questions and increases its estimate of your ability. And vice versa, as you answer incorrectly, the computer serves up easier questions and decreases its estimate of your ability. Your score is determined by an algorithm that calculates your ability level based not only on what you got right or wrong but also on the difficulty level of the questions you answered.

GMAC’s algorithm that determines your 200 to 800 score is often misunderstood, and there are many myths surrounding “cracking” the algorithm. The best way to “beat” the algorithm is to be prepared. However, because the adaptive nature of the test doesn’t allow for “skipping” questions, you will need to pace yourself and strike a balance between spending valuable time answering difficult questions correctly and possibly running out of time before you finished the test. There are significant penalties for leaving questions unanswered at the end of the exam.

For the Analytical Writing Assessment, your essay receives a score from one human reader and a computerized program, using a holistic 6-point scale. The Integrated Reasoning section is not adaptive, but as with the Quantitative and Verbal sections, you cannot leave questions unanswered or return to previous questions. The IR section is scored on a 1 to 8 scale.

You will receive your unofficial GMAT score immediately following the test, when you will have the option to keep or cancel your score.

GMAT score scales

When considering your GMAT score goal, it’s always a good idea to look at the mean or average GMAT score of admitted applicants to the MBA programs you’re considering applying to. This will give you a good baseline

The Quantitative and Verbal sections of the GMAT are each scored from 0 to 60, with the mean score for Quantitative at 39 and the mean score for Verbal at 27. The score business schools and MBA programs pay the most attention to is the combined 200–800 score scale, where the mean score is 552.

You can use the tables below to see the relationship between scaled scores and the test-takers achieving them:

Percentile Total GMAT Score
Top 10% of all test takers 710
Top 25% of all test takers 650
Top 50% of all test takers 580
Below 50 percentile of all test takers 570

1. Develop a GMAT study plan early

MBA and business master’s applications have many components—including essays, letters of recommendations, resumes, and more—and the last thing you want is to juggle all of those while also preparing for the GMAT on a condensed timeline.

To avoid this situation, set a GMAT study plan early in your journey to business school. Did you know that you can prepare for the GMAT exam in just eight weeks? From the makers of the GMAT exam, the free Official GMAT Exam 8-Week Study Planner gives you the goals, tools, and tips you need to work toward your business school goals in as little as two months.

2. Know the test sections and consider them in your study plan

Before you formulate a study plan, it’s a best practice to ensure you know the structure of the GMAT exam. The test has four main sections:

- Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA section) - which measures your ability to think critically and communicate your ideas.

-Integrated Reasoning (IR section) - which measures your ability to analyze data and interpret information displayed in varied formats.

- Quantitative Reasoning (Quant section) - which measures your ability to reason mathematically, solve quantitative problems, and interpret graphic data.

- Verbal Reasoning (Verbal section) - which evaluates your reading comprehension skills, editing abilities, and whether you can make sense of written arguments.

-Use the free GMAT Official Starter Kit + Practice Exams 1 & 2 to get acquainted with the test and its different sections. The two free practice exams match the real exam format and increase in difficulty, just like what you’ll experience on your test day.

3. Pick your GMAT prep materials wisely

There is an abundance of test prep resources available, but choose carefully not all of these resources are created equal.

To best prepare (and simulate the real test-taking experience), we recommend using GMAT Official prep materials. Since they’re created by the makers of the GMAT, they use the same GMAT scoring algorithm as the actual test and contain real questions from past exams.

Not sure which Official GMAT Prep resource is right for you? Take our quiz to get matched to your personalized GMAT prep plan!

4. Identify your GMAT weaknesses (and work on them)

Figuring out which skills need the most attention is critical to your overall prep strategy. We recommend using the GMAT Official Guide Series to gauge your abilities and pinpoint your weak areas. Analyze your results, and from there create a customized, targeted study plan to brush up on the areas where you need to strengthen your skills in order to reach your goals.

And remember to be realistic with yourself scoring a 700 or higher on the GMAT isn’t always a reality. Take the GMAT™ Mini Quiz for an instant estimated score range and get a sense for what’s an achievable goal for yourself.

5. Keep track of time as part of your GMAT prep

Because you have limited time, pacing yourself is paramount to your GMAT success. If you know the Verbal section will be challenging for you, for example, refine your verbal skills but also make sure you can execute on them quickly.

Once you’ve practiced enough and understand the concepts, start keeping track of time so you can train yourself to efficiently problem solve. You’ll need to pace yourself as you work through the four timed sections on practice exams.

You can score and pace yourself against the same algorithm that'll be used on exam day by adding Practice Exams 3 & 4 to your prep after completing the free exams 1 & 2. That’s four full-length practice exams with performance metrics for less than US$50!

6. Don’t stay stuck on a GMAT question

Remember, there’s a penalty for not completing each section of the test, and with each unanswered question, your score could decrease.

Don’t fall into the trap of worrying whether you are answering every question correctly. Do your best, obviously, but stick to a pacing strategy. Don’t invest more than two and a half minutes on any one question. If you’re stumped, make a strategic guess. That brings us to our next point.

7. Use process of elimination on the GMAT exam

Don’t waste precious time when you come across questions where you’re unsure of the answer. When in doubt, rule out the wrong answers to get closer to the correct answer. Select the best of the remaining choices and move on to the next question.

Just in case you run out of time (despite your best pacing plan), figure out a “guessing strategy” in advance to avoid unnecessary GMAT score deductions.

8. Practice visual literacy during GMAT prep

We’ve established that time management is a critical GMAT test-taking strategy. Looking for one simple way to increase your efficiency? Master visual literacy, or the ability to read symbols, charts, and tables.

This type of visual data is commonly featured in the GMAT, so learning how to interpret it quickly is a critical skill. In the GMAT Quant section of the exam, you may even encounter non-standard mathematical notations (or symbols specific to a problem), so it’s important you are comfortable with visuals and can remain unflustered.

9. Improve your mental math as part of your study plan

Mental math is a time-saving tool you’ll want in your arsenal when it comes to the quantitative section.

As you’re practicing, resist the urge to reach for your calculator every chance you get. Instead, practice doing calculations in your head. You won’t have a calculator for the real Quant section of the GMAT test, so honing your mental math skills is a must.

10. Push your limits with Advanced Questions

Do you have your eyes set on earning a seat in one of the world’s leading MBA or business master’s programs? You can increase your odds dramatically with an elite GMAT exam score. To push the upper limits of what you’re capable of, there’s no better resource than the GMAT Official Advanced Questions.

Get instant access to 300 hand-picked hard GMAT questions, all from past exams. You’ll also get access to an Online Question Bank that allows you create customized practice sets. This is the best choice for those who aspire to earn a high GMAT score—the kind that can get you that MBA or business master’s acceptance letter you’ve been dreaming about.

As you navigate through your graduate business degree journey, make sure you have the resources you need to succeed. With the help of mba.com, receive exclusive content, GMAT prep materials, and the tools you need for each step along the way. To get started, create an mba.com account today!

TWherever in the world you're taking the test, the GMAT exam fee will be the same: $250. Most people register for the GMAT online and pay this $250 registration fee with a credit card. The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) accepts Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or JCB.

The GMAT contains four distinct section types, although you’ll use the same critical thinking and analysis skills throughout the test, just like you will during your MBA coursework.

The content on the GMAT is broken down into four scored test sections, two of which are scored separately, and two of which are scored separately but are also combined to generate your composite score:

-Analytical Writing Assessment

-Integrated Reasoning

Quantitative

Verbal

GMAT test takers are able to choose the order in which they take GMAT test sections. You will choose your section order at the test center following the computer tutorial and just before you begin your test. There are three orders you will be able to choose from:

1. Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA), Integrated Reasoning (IR), Quantitative, Verbal

2. Verbal, Quantitative, Integrated Reasoning, Analytical Writing Assessment

3. Quantitative, Verbal, Integrated Reasoning, Analytical Writing Assessment

The Analytical Writing Assessment section of the GMAT is scored separately from 0 to 6 in half-point increments. The Integrated Reasoning section is also scored separately on 1–8 scale, in one-point increments. The Quantitative and Verbal sections each have a scaled score of 0–60. They are then combined to generate a score on the 200–800 scale, with 10-point increments, you’re probably most familiar with. Your score on the 200–800 scale, in 10-point increments, reflects the level of difficulty of the questions you answered correctly using a proprietary GMAC algorithm.

The mean score for Verbal is 27, while the mean score for Quantitative is 39. The mean is 4.4 for Analytical Writing and 4.2 for Integrated Reasoning. The score that MBA programs weigh most heavily for admission is your combined Verbal and Quantitative scores. Here, the GMAT applies its algorithm to your Verbal and Quantitative scores, converting them to the familiar 200–800 scale, where the mean score is 552. See more on how the GMAT is scored below.

ANALYTICAL WRITING ASSESSMENT (AWA)

Number of questions: One timed task: “Analysis of an Argument”

Number of minutes to complete AWA: 30 minutes

Score range: 0 to 6

The Analytical Writing Assessment, or “essay” section, helps business schools analyze your writing skills. It is scored separately, and your AWA score is not used to generate your 200–800 point score. Essays are scored by a human grader and a computer grading system, and the two scores are averaged for your final score. If the ratings differ significantly, then another human reads and scores your essay.

For your writing task, you’ll be presented with a brief argument similar to a paragraph you would find in a Critical Reasoning question on the Verbal section. You are not asked to present your own point of view on the topic; instead you’re tasked with critiquing the author's argument, analyzing the soundness of the author’s evidence and reasoning.

When scoring this section, essay graders are looking for whether you can clearly identify and insightfully analyze parts of the argument, develop and organize your ideas thoughtfully and logically, and connect your statements with clear transitions.

INTEGRATED REASONING (IR)

Number of questions: Multi-Source Reasoning questions Graphics Interpretation questions Two-Part Analysis questions Table Analysis questions 12 total questions (many with multiple parts)

Number of minutes to complete IR: 30 minutes

Score range: 1 to 8

QUANTITATIVE

Number of questions: 14–15 Data Sufficiency questions 16–19 Problem Solving questions 31 total questions

Number of minutes to complete Quantities: 62 minutes

Score range: 0 to 60

The GMAT Quantitative section is designed to test your content and analytical knowledge of basic math concepts, including arithmetic and number properties, algebra, and geometry. The section consists of two question types:

DATA SUFFICIENCY

Data Sufficiency questions consist of a question and two statements of data. Your task is to determine whether the statements provide sufficient data to answer the question. This question type requires you to quickly identify what information you would need to solve the problem and to efficiently eliminate answer choices.

PROBLEM SOLVING

Problem Solving is a classic standardized test question type. You'll be presented with a question and five possible answer choices. Problem Solving questions use high school–level math up to algebra and plane geometry to test your critical thinking skills.

VERBAL

12 Reading Comprehension questions (approx.) 10 Critical Reasoning questions (approx.) 14 Sentence Correction questions (approx.) 36 total questions

Time: 65 minutes

Score Range: 0 to 60

The GMAT Verbal section is designed to test your command of standard written English, your skill in analyzing arguments, and your ability to read critically. You will see three question types in this section:

CRITICAL REASONING

Critical Reasoning questions test the skills involved in making and evaluating arguments, as well as formulating a plan of action. You will be presented with a short argument or a series of statements and a question relating to it. Succeeding on Critical Reasoning questions requires understanding the structure of arguments and rigorous logical analysis of the connections between evidence and conclusions.

SENTENCE CORRECTION

In GMAT Sentence Correction, you will typically face long and involved sentences. A part—or all—of the sentence will be underlined, and you will be asked to find the best version of the underlined section out of the original or one of four alternatives. The sentence may contain no errors, or it may contain one, two, or more errors.

READING COMPREHENSION

These questions test your critical reading skills, more specifically, your ability to summarize the main idea, differentiate between ideas stated specifically and those implied by the author, make inferences based on information in a text, analyze the logical structure of a passage, and deduce the author's tone and attitude about a topic. You will be presented with an academic reading passage on a topic related to business, social science, biological science, or physical science and asked 3–4 questions about that text.

1. GMAT Official Guide 2021

2. Manhattan Prep GMAT Strategy Guide Set

3. Kaplan GMAT Complete 2020

4. Power Score verbal trilogy Bible

5. Verities Prep Complete GMAT Course

6. GMAT for dummies 2020

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