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The GMAT

The GMAT has a long-standing history as the required exam for admission to an MBA program. Along with the GRE, the GMAT business schools use it as a predictive measure of an applicant’s possibility for success in an academically demanding program. 

The Random Nature of the GMAT CAT Test

By its very nature, the GMAT test is inherently random. It selects questions for you to answer from a large database, based on whether or not you answered the previous questions correctly. It does this to determine the degree of difficulty within which you will be most challenged. For this very reason, you are not allowed to skip questions and return to them later.

The GMAT test also relies on a complex algorithm to determine which type of question to ask next. For example, on the quantitative section of the test, you might be asked a problem solving question, followed by a data sufficiency problem, followed by two more problem solving questions. You can count on seeing groups of questions randomly interspersed within each test section.
The Structure of the GMAT Test

Here is a basic outline of what you can expect to see on the test:

GRE Section Number of Questions Description Time Allotted
Analytical Writing 1 Writing Prompt Analysis of the logic of an argument. 30 minutes
Integrated Reasoning 12 Questions Interpretation of tables, graphs and written format questions. 30 minutes
Quantitative 37 Questions Multiple choice questions on Data Sufficiency, Problem Solving. 75 minutes
Verbal  41 Questions Multiple choice questions in Reading comprehension, Critical Reasoning & Sentence Correction.  75 minutes
Maximum Total Time 3 hours, 30 minutes

GMAT Scoring

Analytical Writing
The analytical writing portion of the test is graded on a scale of 0 to 6, ranging in half-point increments. Each essay is scored twice, once by an expert reader and again by an automated essay-scoring machine, which is capable of recognizing and assessing upwards of 50 structural and linguistic features of writing. The two scores are then averaged to determine the final score. Essay Readers are trained to be sensitive to those who speak English as a second language. When grading an essay, readers consider the following:
  • The overall quality of an argument
  • One’s ability to organize, develop and present an idea
  • Supportive reasoning for the argument
  • Capabilities in written English
Integrated reasoning (IR)
Integrated Reasoning scores are made on a scale of 1 to 8 in single-digit increments. Questions are designed to determine an individual’s capacity to use data holistically to solve complicated problems. Therefore, test-takers must answer all components of each question correctly in order to receive credit for that question. This is a recent addition to the GMAT test, added June 5. 2012. 
Quantitative
Scores for the Quantitative section range from 0 to 60. Average scores for this section are between 7 and 50. Unofficial scores on this section are available immediately after completing the test. 
Verbal
Like the Quantitative section, the Verbal section is scored from 0 to 60. Scores between 9 and 44 are most common. Unofficial scores on this section are available immediately after completing the test.
Total Scores
Total scores for the GMAT range between 200 and 800, 200 being the lowest possible and 800 the highest. Average scores fall between 200 and 400, with top business school admitting applicants with scores of 600+ and 700+. Official scores are available online and sent out by mail approximately 20 days after examination.*

*All GMAT scores are valid for 5 years. 

Preparing for the GMAT Test

Preparation for the test is highly recommended. While for some, it is possible to receive a decent score without preparation, it is unlikely that you would receive a high score without studying beforehand.

The official GMAT ® Exam provides free access to prep software as well as printable practice tests. These can be used to brush up on information, identify their weaknesses and perfect their test-taking strategies. GMAT prep material is also offered by a variety of providers. 

If self-study isn’t your thing, you can also enroll in a GMAT Prep course, either online or in classroom.

You can take the GMAT as many times as you would like, though all scores will be reported when applying for MBA programs. GMAT testing sessions are available throughout the year at local testing centers.

GMAT® Exam Prep
Enroll for the GMAT
The Official GMAT® Exam Handbook


Last updated: 05 Jun 2014

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