5 Minutes with the GMAT: Everything You Need to Know

5 Minutes with the GMAT: Everything You Need to Know (and nothing you don’t)

Scoring, Timing, Sections, Purpose, Costs, & more

If you are reading this, you are probably well on the way to pursuing a high-quality master’s program from a prestigious business school. First things first: you will need to take the GMAT to fulfill your application requirements. Furthermore, you will have to perform well on it, especially if your grades from college/university aren’t strong.


The General Management Admissions Test (GMAT) is considered the most trusted, proven, and well-understood predictor of academic success for MBA programs. The exam is crafted and administered by the General Management Admissions Council (GMAC) to measure a candidate’s verbal, mathematical, integrated reasoning, and analytical writing skills. You can also register for the GMAT through their official portal or browse through some practice questions here.

The GMAT test is a multiple-choice, computer adaptive test (CAT) – this means that an algorithm selects each following question based on the test taker’s ability level and performance on previous questions. If you are new to this concept, the most important feature to understand is that when you answer a question correctly, the following question will be even more challenging. Conversely, if you answer a question incorrectly, it will give you an easier one next.


The GMAT test is primarily used for admissions to more than 2,100 institutions, universities, and MBA programs worldwide that offer business and management disciplines. Keep in mind that many business schools screen applicants based on a range of criteria, but GMAT scores are among the most important screening metrics used. Others include undergraduate GPA, work and other relevant experience, application essays, recommendation letters, and personal interviews. Strong GMAT results are necessary, but certainly not sufficient to gain admission to the best MBA and business oriented grad school programs like Masters of Finance (MFin), Masters of Accounting (MAcct), Masters of Business Administration (MBA), Juris Doctor & Masters of Business Administration (JD-MBA) and PhDs in all these disciplines. Remember also that, while the GMAT is important, it’s certainly not a measure of who you are as a person and is one part of a many faceted application. 

An investment of time and resources into the right GMAT preparation program or plan will result in a higher score on the test, which has a direct correlation with your admissions success, and will have a positive impact on your business school experience and future professional career.


The GMAT test consists of four sections with categorized problems aiming to assess a different skill set. Each part differs in terms of score range and the number and types of problems:

  • Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) 1 task | 30 minutes | scored from 0 to 6 (0.5-point increments)
  • Integrated Reasoning (IR) 12 questions | 30 minutes | scored from 1 to 8 (1-point increments)
  • Quantitative 31 questions | 62 minutes | scored from 0 to 60 (1-point increments)
  • Verbal 36 questions | 65 minutes | scored from 0 to 60 (1-point increments)

There are several other factors worth mentioning:

    • The total score of the GMAT ranges from 200 to 800 in increments of 10.
    • Despite the official scoring guides, the maximum you can score on the Quantitative and Verbal Reasoning sections is 51.
    • The test taker can opt for two breaks totaling 16 minutes (8 minutes each).
    • The total time to take the GMAT test is 3 hours and 23 minutes including the two breaks.
    • GMAT test takers can choose the order of sections when taking the exam:
  • AWA » IR » first break » Quantitative » second break » Verbal
  • Verbal » first break » Quantitative » second break » IR » AWA
  • Quantitative » first break » Verbal » second break » IR » AWA


While you’ll get your unofficial score when you complete your exam (for all sections besides the AWA Writing), you and your designated schools will receive your official GMAT score within 20 calendar days of the exam, and it will be valid for the following five years. In order to determine what score will be good for you, you should consider both the average (mean) score and the range of scores of applicants admitted to your desired university.


How & Where?

You can take the GMAT in one of the 600+ physical test centers worldwide (official list available here). The test is administered on a computer, via a platform used worldwide: Pearson VUE. The GMAT is available only at designated Pearson VUE test centers, thus assuring each candidate the exact same experience as all other test takers around the world.


You can take the GMAT test almost anytime that you want, depending on the availability of dates into the test center(s) you have chosen. However, there are some requirements regarding re-taking the exam. You can do so once every 16 days, up to five times within any continuous rolling 12-month period (365 days), and up to eight total times.

Online GMAT Test in the face of COVID-19

As of mid-June 2020, at this article’s writing, you should know that the GMAC is offering an online version of the GMAT test in the face of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Some of its key point of differences compared to the original version are:

  • It excludes the AWA section.
  • The exam’s duration is 2h and 45minutes, excluding one single 5-minute break.
  • You can use a physical or an online whiteboard.
  • You can send your score report for free to an unlimited number of schools.
  • Can be scheduled anytime, 24 hours a day.
  • The online GMAT costs $200 and has reschedule and cancellation fees waived.

You can learn more about the online GMAT test here.


The cost to sit the GMAT exam is $250. This includes sending your results to up to five schools of your choice. All additional score reports past the first five schools require a $35 fee per institution.

Rescheduling & Cancellation of your GMAT appointment

In the face of the global COVID-19 pandemic, at this article’s writing, the GMAC has temporarily waived all exam cancellation, reschedule & score reinstatement fees for GMAT test-center based appointments

Regular Rescheduling fees:

  • $50 if requested more than 60 days prior to appointment
  • $100 if requested 15 to 60 days prior to appointment
  • $150 if requested 1 to 14 days prior to appointment

Regular Cancellation fees:

  • $150 with a $100 refund if requested more than 60 days prior to appointment
  • $175 with a $75 refund if requested 15 to 60 days prior to appointment
  • $200 with a $50 refund if requested 1 to 14 days prior to appointment


Apart from the test fee, there are other costs that you may want to consider. GMAC advises people preparing for the exam to utilize the GMAT Official Guide (as do we) alongside other learning aids as additional materials. Please note that the Official Guide is a great resource for problems, but the explanations leave something to be desired, so using only the Official Guide is not recommended.

A large percentage of test takers who wish to score in the 90th percentile or higher (700+) on the GMAT invest in private GMAT preparation as a personalized means to achieving long-term career success. Our firm, Apex GMAT, specializes in offering private, customized GMAT preparation and admissions consulting. We focus on individual learning and a holistic coaching environment where we tackle not only the fundamentals, but the underlying structure and complexity of the GMAT. We do this not just to get you a good score, but to prepare you for your Masters/MBA program and career beyond by focusing on universal critical thinking skills, cognitive heuristics, emotional and behavioral aspects of learning and high stakes performance, and other learning techniques that can be applied widely over the course of a lifetime. We take pride in exactly this personalized approach as a means for every candidate to utilize their strengths better, focus on their weaknesses, and overcome test anxiety through an exclusively designed GMAT curriculum.

A lot of people try to save money on the GMAT preparation process. When you consider that a top MBA can lead to millions of dollars of extra earnings over the course of a lifetime, it makes sense to invest in GMAT preparation. Learn more about this subject with our instructors Mike and Jaymes, here: Why is GMAT Prep so Expensive?

That’s it! Thanks for sticking with us to the end of this GMAT test crash course! If you are looking for a more comprehensive version diving deeper into what the GMAT has in store for you, feel free to check out our GMAT 101 guide.

by Apex GMAT

Contributor: Ilia Dobrev

June 20, 2020

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *