The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT)
Updated May 17, 2022
The Graduate Management Admission Test is taken by those applying for MBAs. It is often referred to as the GMAT or the GMAT CAT (computer adaptive test).
The GMAT may not always be part of the official entry requirements, but a good score on this test does give you an edge over other applicants.
Educational institutes worldwide use the GMAT as a benchmark when assessing applications. There are a limited number of spaces on MBA courses, so the GMAT is a useful tool for reducing numbers.
The global average score is 565. Any applicant scoring less than that may be rejected.
Two-thirds of those who take the GMAT achieve a score between 400 and 600, so competition to secure a spot on your chosen MBA is high. Taking as much time as you can to prepare yourself is essential if you want to score a high mark.
This article will help you prepare by:
- Explaining the format and process of the GMAT
- Offering detailed preparation techniques
Except for some remote locations across the globe, the GMAT is now entirely computer-based.
You have three and a half hours to complete the test. There are two eight-minute optional breaks, should you need to step away from your computer.
There are four sections in the test. You can choose the order in which you answer them.
Analytical Writing – This section consists of one question, and you have 30 minutes to answer. Analytical Writing tests your ability to think critically and communicate your ideas. It is one long written piece and has a score range of 0–6.
Integrated Reasoning – This section has 12 questions with a time limit of 30 minutes. It assesses how well you analyze and evaluate data. Questions include multi-source reasoning and graphics interpretation. The score range is 1–8.
Quantitative Reasoning – The first of your CAT sections, Quantitative Reasoning has 31 questions and you have 62 minutes to answer. Quantitative Reasoning assesses your ability to use your reasoning skills to draw conclusions. The score range is 6–51.
Verbal Reasoning – The second CAT section, Verbal Reasoning consists of 36 questions and has a 65-minute time limit. This section measures your understanding of written material. The questions will ask you to correct passages or statements and evaluate arguments. The score range is 6–51.
A computer adaptive test responds to your ability and produces questions it believes you can answer.
For the quantitative and verbal sections, your first question will be of medium difficulty. As you continue to answer questions, the computer will score you and alter the difficulty level as appropriate.
If you answer the first question correctly, the following questions will get more challenging. Answer the question incorrectly, and the following ones will get easier.
This pattern will continue until you have answered all your questions.
The harder the question, the more marks it is worth.
With CAT, there is no option to skip between questions or go back to check your answers. You are scored as soon as you submit your answer.
This writing task is designed to assess your ability to persuasively present a view on an issue. Analyze the argument presented and consider all perspectives to write your own persuasive piece of text.
You will be marked on how you:
- Deal with the implications of the issue
- Organize and develop your ideas
- Support and express yourself with examples
- Use written English
You will have 30 minutes to construct your response.
Only write on the subject expressed in the passage.
You can take any position on the issue, but you must support your decision with examples and reasons.
These can be:
- Your own experiences or observations
- Academic studies
- Any reading you have done on the issue
Before writing, take a few moments to plan the structure of your argument.
A volunteer fire service in a rural area requires new equipment. Some members of the community say the fire service should hold a fundraiser such as a raffle. Others believe that the people in that community should contribute to any equipment costs as their work saves lives. Others have counter-argued that if the people in the community are required to donate funds, they should also have the right to vote on whether the equipment is actually needed.
The following is a list of instructions that you need to follow:
- Step 1: Y = 0, X = 2, A = 3
- Step 2: If Y < 5 then do Steps 3 to 6, otherwise do Step 7
- Step 3: B = X + A. Replace X by A and replace A by B
- Step 4: Type B
- Step 5: Increase Y by 2
- Step 6: Go to Step 2
- Step 7: Exit
1. When Y is 4, what value of B is typed?
2. After the set of instructions is over, what is the value of Y?
1. Simone's Department Store had a sale and reduced the price of a $30 jacket by 20%. They then increased the price again by 20% of the sale price.
What is the new price of the jacket?
2. From the information given, choose an appropriate statement.
Does Mike get paid more than Ezra?
A: Suzie gets paid more than Ezra.
B: Mike makes less money than Suzie.
a) Statement A ALONE is enough, but statement B is not
b) Statement B ALONE is enough, but statement A is not
c) BOTH statements TOGETHER are enough, but NEITHER statement ALONE is
d) Statements A and B TOGETHER are NOT enough
1. A play released by a playwright gets a bad review before its first show. As a result, very few people go to the theatre to watch it. The playwright is subsequently given a smaller budget for his next production. That, too, is unsuccessful.
What can be inferred from this situation?
a) This playwright makes terrible plays
b) The general public does not pay attention to play reviews
c) Play reviewers exert an influence on play quality
d) The playwright will not write another play
2. The following questions show a sentence, of which all or part is underlined or in bold. Underneath, you will find four ways of phrasing the underlined section. The first is a repeat of the original; the following three are different. If you believe the original to be the best fit, choose Option 1. Otherwise, choose one of the other three.
The correct answer should be the most effective sentence. It needs to be:
- Without redundancy or grammatical errors.
Dr. Wells walked past the nurses, examining a patient's chart.
a) Dr. Wells walked past the nurses, examining a patient's chart
b) Examining the patient's chart, Dr. Wells walked past the nurses
c) Dr. Wells walked past the nurses examining a patient's chart
d) Examining the patient's chart Dr. Wells walked past the nurses
When you are issued your GMAT scorecard, you will see your overall score and scores for each section.
The overall score is what you should pay the most attention to, as that is the score that helps with your MBA application. However, the section scores are a useful indication of your strengths and weaknesses.
The scores are calculated as follows:
Your analytical writing score is calculated by both a machine algorithm and professional human raters. If there is a large discrepancy between the human and machine scores, a second human rater will review your piece.
The integrated reasoning score is based on the number of correct answers. Some questions have multiple parts that need all to be correct for them to be counted. You do not lose marks for incorrect answers.
Quantitative and verbal sections are scored together and are item-level adaptive as they are CAT sections. Your score is dependent on three things:
- Number of answered questions
- Number of correct answers
- Question difficulty
To achieve the highest score, you need to have answered all the questions, answered them correctly, and they need to be from the difficult category.
Your total score is given before the quantitative and verbal scores are added.
Your raw score is then converted into a number in the total score range.
When it comes to your GMAT, preparation is essential. Here are some tips to help you prepare:
Before you start any practical work, you need to understand what you are doing.
Make sure you know the format of the test and the sections involved. What are the outcomes of the test, and what exactly is being assessed?
First, create your long-term goal, for example, 'I will score 720 on my GMAT in April'.
Then create smaller goals working back from your long-term goal.
Eventually, you will have a to-do list of all the necessary actions to achieve your goal. This is your study plan.
Each day or week you should know what subject you are going to study and when. Adjustments can be made as needed but do try to stick to your original study plan. The actions in that are usually more focused and ambitious.
GMAT dates fall almost every day. However, you should book your test as far ahead as you can. Doing this means that your spot is secured, and you won't have the stress or worry of missing an application deadline.
It also means that you have a confirmed date to work toward for your goal setting and study plan.
When choosing a date, use the 'looking back' approach.
If your MBA application deadline is in October, then August is the month to prepare your resume and application essay. Ideally, you want your best GMAT score ready by July.
However, you should also factor in two possible resits and the funds you'll need for those tests.
You shouldn't jump straight into a resit. Instead, take a month or two to re-prepare.
This means that your first GMAT should be sometime in March or April.
You can book your GMAT on the Pearson VUE website.
It may seem counterproductive to take mock tests before you have even studied. But by doing this, you will easily see which areas need more focus.
There are hundreds of GMAT preparation packs available, all with different price points and packages.
Compare the best prep packs. The ones that continually rate the best are:
When choosing a preparation package, consider:
- Your budget
- What type of tutoring you want – one-on-one, virtual, group classroom
- How long you need the tutoring
The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) is the governing body responsible for the GMAT.
Their website offers a whole host of resources, including practice exams and study materials.
Their starter kit is free and comes with two practice exams.
Other resources include:
- Practice questions, which start at $29.99
- Ebooks and guides, which vary from $16.99 to $392.99
- Practice tests, which start from $49.99
Depending on your learning style and the amount of time/money you have to dedicate to preparing for the GMAT, you could choose to use both the official material and prep packs, or you can choose one over the other.
This will be your saving grace during your quantitative section.
No calculators are allowed in the test, so when you practice math questions, try not to use a calculator. The sooner you can solve a sum without assistance, the better.
Time-saving is a very important skill when it comes to achieving the best scores.
As well as improving your mental math, learn how to read and understand graphs, charts and symbols.
Your current performance level and confidence will help determine how far in advance you will begin preparing.
As a guideline, you should not start any later than six months before. For example, if you plan to take your test in April, begin your prep in October.
After three months, your revision should be more targeted to the areas in which you are weakest.
As you get closer to your test date, start practicing under exam conditions.
The more familiar you are with the timeframe, the easier you will find your time management on the day of your test.
The more times you redo a test, the more questions you'll get right. This is especially important for the CAT sections.
The more questions you answer correctly, the harder they become, and the higher your score.
You don't need to be a tech pro, but understanding computers will help you in your GMAT. If you consider yourself a technophobe, spending time on your computer will remove some of that stress.
You have control over the order in which you complete the test. Do you want to get your weaker sections over with first, or do you want to build your confidence by answering your strongest areas first?
You don't lose marks for wrong answers, but you will miss out on points for unanswered questions.
If you come across a question you don't know the answer to, start the elimination process. Which answers are definitely wrong? Eliminate those options, then pick a solution that seems most reasonable.
You can buy all the preparation materials in the world and spend all hours of the day studying, but if you do not take care of yourself, you are at risk of making silly mistakes.
Ensure you are sleeping well, eating healthily, getting exercise and spending some time outside – schedule downtime into your study plan.
The day before your test, relax, do something fun and get a good night's sleep.
The GMAT is a big deal, and a lot can depend on it. But being prepared will make all the difference.
- Make a plan and stick to it
- Don't leave anything to the last minute
- Complete as many practice exams as you can
- Invest in additional tutoring and study materials
- Don’t neglect your health
- Have faith in your abilities