5 Minutes with the GMAT: Everything You Need to Know (2021 Update)

About The GMAT Exam

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.

What Is The GMAT Used For?

The GMAT test is primarily used for admissions to more than 2,100 institutions, universities, and MBA programs worldwide which 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 schools 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,  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.

GMAT Test Review: Structure, Sections, Timing, & Scoring

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:

1. Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) 1 task | 30 minutes | scored from 0 to 6 (0.5-point increments)
There is one type of question on the AWA section:
          a) Analysis of an argument

2. Integrated Reasoning (IR) 12 questions | 30 minutes | scored from 1 to 8 (1-point increments)
There are four types of questions on the Integrated Reasoning section:
          a) Multi-source reasoning
          b) Graphic interpretation
          c) Two-part analysis
          d) Table analysis

3. Quantitative 31 questions | 62 minutes | scored from 0 to 60 (1-point increments)
There are two types of problems on the Quantitative section:
          a) Data sufficiency
          b) Problem solving

4. Verbal 36 questions | 65 minutes | scored from 0 to 60 (1-point increments)
There are three types of questions on the Verbal section:
          a) Reading comprehension
          b) Critical reasoning
          c) Sentence correction

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

GMAT Scoring & Validity

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) GMAT score and the range of scores of applicants admitted to your desired university.

If you find yourself lost in the translation of the GMAT scores into percentiles, this article explains it in a meticulous way. 

What is a Good Score?

What is a good GMAT score, and how can I get one? We are frequently asked this question, but the answer varies depending on who we speak with. Here at Apex, we want to help our clients obtain GMAT scores of 700 or above because this is where they can truly compete for top programs and be eligible for MBA scholarships. However a “good GMAT score” is determined by the applicant’s MBA program’s requirements; some programs demand a score above 650, while others require a score above 700. Selecting the programs you wish to attend and examining their MBA class profile will supply you with this knowledge and equip you with a solid foundation from which to begin your GMAT preparation.

In case you are wondering what a 700 GMAT score can do for you, here is all you need to know!

How, When, & Where Can I Take The GMAT?

How
Even though test takers are allowed to register up to six months in advance, it is recommended they register two to three months before their desired exam date. The scheduling can be done online (applicant needs to open a mba.com account) or through a phone call (applicant needs to call the GMAT Customer Service in their region). For more information visit mba.com.   

Where?
You can take the GMAT at 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.

When?
You can take the GMAT test almost anytime 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.

GMAT Exam Day FAQs

Here are the top 3 questions that clients ask us about exam day information:

What should I do if I fall sick on the exam day?

If you do not feel well come exam day you will have to make the decision as to whether or not you can take the test and perform at your best. Most people will not be able to do this, so it will be best to cancel. If you do so on the day of the exam, you will incur a loss of your full $250 exam fee. If you cancel the exam 7 days in advance you will be charged a penalty of $50. If it is the first time that you will sit the exam and you are up for sitting through a 4 hour test, this may be a good opportunity to experience the test as you have the ability to cancel the score right afterwards if you are unhappy with it. Ultimately, it is best to take the GMAT when you are feeling your best as this will result in your optimum test performance.

What can I bring with me to the test center?

You are allowed in the test center with the following:

  • GMAT approved identification
  • Appointment confirmation letter or email you received from Pearson VUE
  • Prescription eyeglasses
  • Light sweater or light non-outerwear jacket
  • Comfort items only if they were pre-approved as an accommodation received in advance

Any additional personal belongings that you bring with you such as your cell phone, bag, snacks, and earphones will need to be stored in one of the provided lockers. You may eat your snack during the breaks. Any cell phone use throughout the test time (including breaks) is prohibited.
The test center will provide you with everything that you need in order to take the test including scratch paper and a pencil.

What can I expect at the test center?

A usual test center is typically quite small. Once you arrive you will have to provide the administrator with the relevant documents and while these are being processed you will be asked to wait in the waiting area. In this area, you can still access all your personal belongings up until you are called into the testing room.

Once in the room, you will be allocated an individual exam station where you will find a computer.

Here is the full list of the GMAT Exam Day FAQs.

How Much Does The GMAT Test Cost?

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 the 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

Additional Costs Worth Considering

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?

What Top Business Schools Require Score-Wise

In order to have a clearer idea of what top business schools are looking for in an application GMAT score-wise, here is the list of Financial Times top 10 Global MBA Rankings for 2021. Also, if you want to get a better understanding of how competitive your score is, you can look at these schools’ average GMAT scores.

Financial Times Global MBA Rankings 2021  Average GMAT Score 
INSEAD 706
London School of Business 708
University of Chicago: Booth 730
Yale School of Management  720 (median)
Iese Business School  681
Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management 727
Ceibs 667
HEC Paris 690
Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business 713
Dartmouth College: Tuck  720

GMAT History & Background

Nowadays, it might be hard to imagine getting into an MBA or Master’s degree without submitting your GMAT scores. Before 1953, this was the reality for prospective business school applications.  After the creation of the GMAT in 1953, this standardized test continues to be used by nearly all business schools during the application process. 

It all began as an initiative, created by the deans of the top nine US Business Schools:

They met with Educational Testing Service (the company that develops and administers the SAT and GRE) to create a standardized admissions test that would help in predicting how a prospective  MBA student would perform in different management and business courses. As a result of this meeting, the Admission Test for Graduate Study in Business (ATGSB) was created. In 1976 the name was changed in what is now widely known as the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT). 

In the first year it was offered, ATGBS was administered to ​​2,553 students and only 50 schools received the scores – just a fraction of the number of times the GMAT is taken now. Over 250,000 exams are now administered each year, and over 2,100 business schools include the test in their admissions process.

Fun Fact. The first MBA program was offered in 1908 by Harvard Business School. However, there was no entry exam until 1954. 

GMAT Changes Over Years 

Since its creation, the GMAT has always quizzed the test-takers’ verbal and quantitative skills. However, there used to be additional sections that we no longer see today. 

The original test included the Verbal Omnibus Section which had analogies and antonyms questions. However, due to its heavy reliance on the English language, and hence putting non-native English speakers at a disadvantage, this section got removed from the exam. Some other additions and changes to the GMAT exam format are:

  • The Inclusion of the AWA Section – In 1994, the AWA section (Analytical Writing Assessment) was added to provide business schools with an evaluation of the applicant’s writing skills.
  • CAT Format – To modernize the test, the CAT (computer-based) format was implemented in 1997. The GMAT’s uniqueness is ensured due to this format’s ability to select questions based on the test taker’s previous answers. 
  • The Inclusion of the IR Section – In 2012, the Integrated Reasoning (IR) section was added. In this section, test takers are asked to evaluate data from passages, charts, and graphs. 

Online GMAT Test in the face of COVID-19

Many things have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, including the GMAT exam. After the incorporation of online solutions over the last year and a half, the official Graduate Management Admissions Council has decided to make some of these modifications permanent. Since the GMAT is now permanently available online, the GMAC has chosen to undertake significant GMAT changes that will provide greater cohesion across online and live testing platforms. These updates include standardization of exam attempts, score sending policy, and exam fees.
For more information, here is an insightful article to read. 

 

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.

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