Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT): The Basics

Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT): The Basics

Learn more about how to take this test for your business degree.

Students who have completed a bachelors degree and want to get a business degree at the masters degree level can apply for a Masters of Business Administration (MBA). One of the admissions factors at business schools is the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT).

While some schools request that students take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) Test, most schools require the GMAT for admittance to business degree programs. A school will use this test as part of the admissions process to help determine if a student has the aptitude to succeed in an MBA program at that college or university.

The GMAT is primarily used in the United States but is also used in other countries as part of a graduate school application for a business degree.

What Is the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT)?

This standardized test consists of a verbal section, analytical writing section and a quantitative sction. The test is computer adaptive, meaning that the test adapts to your performance while you’re taking it. You begin the test with an average score and receive questions in the middle range of difficulty. If you do well, you will receive more difficult questions, and if you are doing poorly, you will receive easier questions.

At the end of the test, your score is calculated by factoring in the number of questions you answered correctly and the level of difficulty of these questions. Unlike a paper test, you are not able to go back and change your earlier answers on this computerized exam.

What Does the GMAT Measure?

The GMAT tests your ability to reason analytically and analyzes your verbal and quantitative abilities through test sections in math, vocabulary and writing.

In the writing section, you’re required to write two essays, one involving a specific issue and the other involving an argument. You are graded on a score of 0 to 6 for each essay, based on your ability to state your points clearly, concisely and effectively. You’re expected to support your points, provide reasoning for your arguments and communicate in grammatically correct English.

The math section contains multiple-choice questions involving data sufficiency and problem solving. These questions test your knowledge of basic arithmetic, algebra and geometry and your ability to analyze a math problem. You are scored on a scale of 0 to 60 points in this section.

The verbal section of the GMAT is comprised of multiple-choice questions involving sentence correction, critical reasoning and reading comprehension and is scored from 0 to 60. You will be tested on your ability to comprehend the sentences in a passage, as well as the relationships between points in a passage, construct and analyze arguments, and identify errors in grammar or sentence structure.

Your scores are combined to produce a composite score that ranges from 200 to 800. To be accepted into a top school’s business degree program, a college student generally has to score at least a 700 on the GMAT. According to the U.S. News and World Report, the average scores at top business schools including Harvard, Stanford, Kellogg, Wharton and Tuck are all above 700. The average score, however, is around 540, and the majority of test takers earn a score between 400 and 600.

What Does the GMAT Cost?

The GMAT costs $250 within the United States as well as internationally.

When and Where Do People Take the GMAT? You can take the GMAT at testing centers on most weekdays during the year. You can take the test only once in a calendar month, up to five times per calendar year.

GMAT College Test Tips & Tactics

  • Register for the GMAT on the official GMAT website.
  • If you’re not sure of an answer, guess. You are penalized for each question you leave blank, so a random guess that could be correct is better than leaving a question unanswered.
  • What can you do if you bomb? You can cancel your scores immediately after taking the GMAT test, at the testing center, before you see what your scores would have been. Your GMAT score report will then note that your scores were canceled, but the actual scores will not be recorded.
  • Need additional help preparing to take the GMAT test? These services can help:
    • Kaplan GMAT test prep
    • The Princeton Review GMAT test prep


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