What is the GMAT?

Did you know?

Pro members can track their course progress and get access to exclusive downloads, quizzes and more!

Find out more

Already got an account? Log in here.

The GMAT is the abbreviation for the Graduate Management Admission Test, which plays an important role in the application process to business schools. It is a computer-based test that follows computer adaptive testing (CAT). The objective of the GMAT is to assess skills in written English such as writing, reading, verbal, analytical and quantitative, which finds application in the admission process of graduate management programs like the Master of Business Administration program, Master of Accountancy program and Master of Finance program.

The GMAT is developed and managed by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC). Over 5000 programs offered at 1500 business schools in 82 nations rely on the GMAT as a part of the selection process to their programs. Admission committees of business schools are able to assess the preparedness of the candidates for academic work at the graduate level through their GMAT scores.

What Does the GMAT Assess?

The multiple choice based test requires familiarity with specific grammar and understanding of certain geometry, arithmetic and algebra. The GMAT primarily measures an individual’s capacity to analyse and assess written matter, think critically and overcome problems. The main objective of the test is to assess an individual’s critical thinking skills. The key elements required for a great GMAT score are analysing and reasoning skills. Online learning platforms such as Udemy and Coursera offer the GMAT aspirants with the best preparatory courses and apt instructors required to crack the exam with great scores.

How is the GMAT Syllabus Broken Down?

The syllabus of the Graduate Management Assessment Test is comprised of four scored test sections. Out of these four sections, the scores of the two sections are separate and the scores of the other two sections are separate as well as combined to give a composite score. The four sections of the GMAT are as follows:

  • Analytical Writing Assessment
  • Integrated Reasoning
  • Quantitative
  • Verbal

The candidates attempting the GMAT can select the sequence in which they prefer to attempt the four test sections. The sequence of sections can be chosen at the test venue after the computer tutorial, right before the commencement of the test. There are three sequences that would be available, which are as follows:

  • Quantitative, Verbal, Integrated Reasoning, Analytical Writing Assessment 
  • Verbal, Quantitative, Integrated Reasoning, Analytical Writing Assessment
  • Analytical Writing Assessment, Integrated Reasoning, Quantitative, Verbal

The Quantitative section as well as the Verbal section of the GMAT is scored on a 0 to 60 scale. The combination of these two scores gives a composite score on a 200 to 800 scale with 10 point increments. The Integrated Reasoning section of the test is scored separately on a 1 to 8 scale with 1 point increments. The Analytical Writing Assessment section is scored separately on a 0 to 6 scale with half point increments.

Analytical Writing Assessment

The Analytical Writing Assessment section of the GMAT focuses on analysing an individual’s writing skills, critical thinking ability and communication of thoughts, such that they meet the requirements of the business schools. The score of the section is separate and does not contribute to the composite score on a 200 to 800 scale. When candidates take up the GMAT, they will be asked to write 1 essay pertaining to a given argument for which 30 minutes will be allotted. The argument will be in the form of a paragraph, similar to the Critical Reasoning questions from the Verbal section.

The evaluation of this section is carried out by an electronic system, which would assess the linguistic and structural aspects of the attempted essay that would also include relevant analysis, arrangement of ideas and syntactic variety. Evaluators with expertise in numerous subjects would evaluate the quality of the candidate’s writing and thinking, analysing, organizing, reasoning and illustrative skills.

Integrated Reasoning

This section of the test assesses an individual’s data integration ability to solve difficult problems. Business schools want students who possess good integrated reasoning skills such that they can go through a lot of data and make apt decisions. The Integrated Reasoning section is comprised of 4 types of questions with a total of 12 questions. Time duration of 30 minutes is allotted to complete this section. The speciality of this section is that many of the questions require multiple responses. A basic online calculator with limited functions will be available to solve problems. E-learning portals such as Coursera help the GMAT aspirants score more in this section with their apt courses. The 4 types of questions asked in this section of the GMAT are as follows:

Graphics Interpretations

These problems assess an individual’s capacity to understand the data in the form of line graph, pie chart, bar graph, histogram and statistical curve distribution to recognize relationships and make conclusions.

Table Analysis

This class of questions focuses on measuring an individual’s capability to arrange and analyse data in a table form, such that relevant data is determined.

Two-Part Analysis

These questions are intended to test one’s aptitude to overcome difficult problems. They measure the candidate’s ability to determine relationships between two things, answer simultaneous equations and assess trade-offs.

Multi-Source Reasoning

These types of problems assess the candidate’s capacity to scrutinize information from multiple sources such as graphics, passages and tables. After analysing data from these sources, questions are attempted carefully.  

Quantitative

The Quantitative section of the exam assesses the candidate’s mathematical reasoning abilities, efficacy of solving questions and interpretation skills pertaining to graphical data.  This section is comprised of 31 multiple choice based questions with a time limit of 62 minutes for completion. The questions are based on basic mathematical concepts such as algebra, arithmetic, geometry and number properties. This section does not permit the use of a calculator. Online portals such as Udemy help the GMAT aspirants get a better score in this section with their right courses. The Quantitative section consists of 2 types of questions, which are as follows:

Problem Solving

These types of questions assess an individual’s critical thinking ability and analytical reasoning used while solving quantitative problems. There are five answer options for each problem solving question. There are around 16 to 19 Problem Solving questions.         

Data Sufficiency

These questions assess one’s analytical ability to determine relevant data and also figure out at what point there is sufficient data to answer the question. Each question of this type comes with two statements of data. There are around 14 to 15 Data Sufficiency questions.

Verbal

The Verbal section of the test measures the candidate’s reading, comprehension, reasoning and evaluation skills with written material. The section is comprised of 36 multiple choice based questions with a time duration of 65 minutes for completion. Online learning platforms like Coursera offer the best courses to prepare for the Verbal section of the GMAT. There are 3 types of questions in this section of the GMAT, which are as follows:

Sentence Correction

This type of question is in the form of a long sentence, where the entire sentence or a part of it is underlined. Below the sentence, few options for rephrasing the underlined section of the sentence would be provided. These questions test the grammar skills of the candidate. There are approximately 14 Sentence Correction problems.

Critical Reasoning

These questions assess the skills of an individual used in creating and evaluating arguments along with framing a strategy. It comes in the form of an argument or a sequence of statements with a question pertaining to it, below which five answer options are provided. There are approximately 10 Critical Reasoning questions.

Reading Comprehension

These types of questions evaluate the candidate’s critical reading skills, capacity to recognize logical relationships between points and ability to make conclusions. A passage will be provided along with a set of few questions related to it. The Verbal section consists of approximately 12 Reading Comprehension problems.

How does the GMAT scoring work?

The GMAT is a computer based test, known as the CAT, which adapts to the individual’s performance, when the test is being taken. At the beginning of the test, the candidate is given a problem of moderate difficulty as per the computer, which assumes that the candidate has an average score. The problems get tougher as one answers more problems correctly, whereas when one gives wrong answers, the problems become easier. The GMAT score of the individual is established by an algorithm, which computes the candidate’s aptitude based on the correct and incorrect answers as well as the difficulty level of the problems attempted.

The appropriate way to get a good score requires preparation. E-learning platforms such as Udemy offer the best GMAT preparatory courses. The exam does not permit an individual to skip questions, that’s why it is imperative for the examinee to answer the questions with the right pace, such that difficult questions are answered correctly without wasting much time, so as to ensure that all questions are attempted within the time limit. The examinee must be careful enough to not leave questions unanswered as that would reduce the score.  On the other hand, wrong answers wouldn’t lead to such deductions.

Writing Score

When it comes to the Analytical Writing Assessment section of the GMAT, the score for the attempted essay is determined by both a human evaluator with expertise in subject matters as well as a computer program, where a 6 point scale with half point increments is used. The score for the Integrated Reasoning section of the test is based on the number of correctly answered questions. An 8 point scale with 1 point increments is used for this section.

Lastly, when it comes to the Quantitative and Verbal sections of the test, they are item level adaptive. Scoring in these sections is dependent on factors such as the number of questions answered, questions answered correctly and difficulty level of the questions. These two sections are scored on a 60 point scale. Their combination gives the composite score, which is based on a 200 to 800 scale with 10 point increments.

What is Considered a Good Score?

Most of the good business schools around the globe have an average GMAT score between 600 and 700. However, only the top ranking business schools have an average GMAT score of more than 700. The average GMAT score is around 550, which means that 50% of the GMAT candidates score above this level. Those who score above 600 have a chance to get into good business schools. However, it can be nerve racking for those who aspire to get into specific business schools with certain GMAT cut-off scores.

Anyone who scores considerably more than 600 has higher chances of getting admitted as well as securing a scholarship. When the score is below 600, then it is better for one to retake the exam as it is below most B-school averages. In order to get a good score in the first attempt, it is important to prepare well with the right courses offered by leading platforms such as Udemy and Coursera.

How Difficult is the Test?

The computer adaptive nature of the test makes it difficult as one cannot skip a tough problem and revert to it later. The examinee must choose an answer and then proceed further. The GMAT is developed in such a way that one must answer tough problems quickly. Moreover, the format and the types of questions will be unprecedented. Nevertheless, those who prepare well with the right instructors and courses will be able to get a good score. Udemy is one such platform which helps GMAT aspirants.

How Many Attempts are Permitted?

Earlier candidates could retake the exam after a period of 31 days. However, at present, the retake period has been reduced to 16 days. This way the candidates are able to retake the GMAT within a shorter duration of time, allowing them to alter their study patterns and schedules, thereby leading to better performance. However, only 5 attempts can be made within a 12 month duration. GMAC has planned the number of attempts in such a manner that the candidates can carefully retrospect as to why they were not able to achieve their desired score and determine how much preparation time will be required to achieve it.

What is the Duration of the Test?

The current duration of the GMAT is 3.5 hours, which earlier used to be 4 hours. There have been changes made in the Quantitative and Verbal sections along with the tutorial screens. Candidates who understand the test’s structure and maintain the right pace will likely complete the test within the allotted time.

When Should You Take the GMAT?

The choice exclusively depends upon the situation of the individual, whether the individual wants to go to a business school in the upcoming admission session or at some later point of time, as the GMAT is valid for five years. One must know that the application process for many business programs such as the MBA takes place in rounds. Hence, apt planning is required to ensure that the application rounds go smoothly. The GMAT aspirants must dedicate a minimum of 2 months or 120 hours for preparation. Test takers can benefit from the GMAT courses offered by Coursera, which ensure better results.

What is the Cost of the Test?

The cost to take up the GMAT is $275 in the United States and Canada. There are additional services offered by GMAC for the GMAT, which have varying charges. It costs $30 for the enhanced score report, $35 for the additional score report, $25 to cancel score online after attempting the test, $50 to reinstate score and $45 for Analytical Writing Assessment essay rescoring.

The cost for rescheduling 60 days before the appointment is $50. The cost for rescheduling between 15 to 60 days is $100 and the cost is $150, when there are lesser than 15 days left. Test takers who cancel the appointment more than 60 days in advance will get a refund of $100 and those who cancel between 15 and 60 days will get a refund of $75. Whereas, candidates who cancel the appointment in lesser than 15 days will get a refund of $50.

GMAC offers up to 10 fee waivers to each school during a 12 month duration to assist the economically disadvantaged test takers. The schools can decide, whether the fee waivers are a part of their program or only meant to the help test takers. Candidates are able to avail the fee waiver with the help of a code, which can be used during the online registration. The fee waiver code covers the total cost for the GMAT and must be used before the expiration date.

Who is Eligible to Register for the GMAT?

The candidates must fulfil certain eligibility criteria in order to take up the GMAT. These are as follows:

Age Limit

The minimum age limit fixed by GMAC for the GMAT is 18 years. Candidates belonging to the age group of 13 to 17 years would need a permission letter from their parents or guardians in order to take up the test. However, there is no upper age limit set by GMAC for the test takers. Moreover, an overwhelming number of candidates who take up the GMAT each year are more than 30 years old.

Educational Qualification

Those who want to apply for the test must have basic educational qualification. They must possess a degree from a recognised institution, college or university. However, candidates with work experience are preferred by the top ranking business schools. Moreover, candidates who are in the final semester or final year of their undergraduate program are eligible to take up the GMAT.

Nationality

Candidates across the globe take up the GMAT. The guidelines for the test set by GMAC are the same for all the test takers, irrespective of their nationality. However, certain rules differ based on the country and the test centre, such as the type of identity proof that needs to be produced at the test centre.

Work Experience

World’s top ranking business schools prefer candidates with a minimum of 3 years of work experience in the industry. The admission commission would assess the work experience of the candidate during the application process and determine its relevance to the prospective business domain. There are some exceptions, where business schools select fresher candidates with impressive profiles. However, one does not need to have work experience to take up the GMAT.

Language of Instruction

The GMAT is given in English in all the test centres across the world. Non-native speakers of English with limited proficiency have a tough time attempting the Analytical Writing Assessment and Verbal sections of the exam. Most business schools ask candidates to take up English language proficiency tests along with the GMAT such as TOEFL and IELTS. Through apt courses offered by Coursera and Udemy, candidates can score well in these tests.

GMAT Preparation Tips

The GMAT score is used by the admission committee to determine the resilience of the candidate for a graduate program. Therefore, test takers focus on getting the best possible score. Few preparation tips are as follows:

  • To maintain a steady pace during the GMAT, timed practice tests can be taken so that one is familiar with the procedure and is able to reduce stress.
  • Conditioning yourself to solve mathematical problems mentally without a calculator can be conducive in scoring well in the Quantitative section.
  • Candidates should learn how to analyse tables, charts and imaginary symbols, which are commonly used in the test.
  • Test takers can write all the pros and cons in a book, which would come in handy during preparation.
  • Take mock tests on a regular basis so that one gets mentally prepared for the GMAT.
  • Candidates should emphasize on answers they are confident about and guess answers if they are not sure about it.
  • Keep a book with important preparation questions and their solutions.
  • Improve essay writing by working upon structure, vocabulary, grammar, punctuation, style and conclusion.