What is the GMAT? Why should I take it?
GMAT stands for Graduate Management Admission Test. The GMAT is a standardized test that has traditionally been required to apply for many MBA courses and other graduate masters programs around the world, though many business schools have made the exam optional for admission to MBAs.
The GMAT is still useful in that it assesses the skills that are central to success in a rigorous academic course and in a business management career. The GMAT assesses analytical, writing, quantitative, verbal and reading skills in written English. A high GMAT score indicates strong management aptitude, but it’s not the only criteria used by MBA admissions teams and corporate recruiters to assess a recruit’s potential.
How does the GMAT work?
The GMAT is delivered entirely on a computer, which is designed to ensure consistency and fairness. It also enables the exam to be delivered around the world on almost any day of the year; the GMAT is available only at specific test centers around across the globe that uphold certain standards.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, the GMAT’s administrator, the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) launched an online exam, a remote and proctored version of the test center version. Students now have the option to take the traditional or the online option.
The GMAT exam has four sections:
- An analytical writing assessment. This measures your ability to think critically and communicate your ideas.
- An integrated reasoning component. This gauges how well you can analyze data and evaluate information that’s presented across different formats.
- A quantitative reasoning section. This measures the ability assess data and draw conclusions using your reasoning skills.
- A verbal reasoning assessment. This is about reading and understanding written material, in addition to evaluating arguments and correcting the material so it conforms to standard written English.
In total the GMAT takes just under 3.5 hours to complete, including two optional breaks. The integrated reasoning section and analytical writing components last 75 minutes. The verbal and quantitative sections are 30 minutes each. These two sections consist solely of multiple-choice questions, which are computer adaptive, meaning the test tailors itself in real time to your ability level. So if you get one question right, the next question will usually be more difficult.
How is the GMAT scored?
After test-takers complete the GMAT, they will be given a score of between 200 and 800, which is based on their performance in the verbal and quantitative portions of the test. The analytical writing and integrated reasoning sections are graded separately, on a scale of 1-6 and 1-8, respectively.
On test day, candidates can choose to have their GMAT scores automatically sent to up to five business schools, but they must make the choice before taking the test. You can send the results to as many schools as you wish, for a fee, as long as the scores are no longer than five years old.
You will receive an unofficial score immediately following the exam, but only for the quantitative and verbal sections. Your full, official score is available within 20 days of the exam and includes the analytical writing and integrated reasoning elements. Students can also re-take the test to improve their score after 16 days, up to a maximum of five times in any calendar year and eight times in a lifetime.
What GMAT score do I need to get into an MBA program?
It depends. Some MBA programs have minimum score requirements, which they publish. Also, many business schools will provide information, such as the median GMAT score of accepted students, from which you can determine your competitiveness. You can find some of this information on individual business school profiles at FIND MBA.
GMAC claims that two-thirds of test-takers score somewhere between 400 and 600. To get into the most selective business schools, you will probably need to score much higher. The top ranked schools have average GMAT scores above 700. However, candidates can offset a lower score if some other element of their candidacy is exceptional. Ultimately, MBA admissions teams look at all parts of the application holistically before making their choices.
Are there alternatives to the GMAT for MBA admission?
Yes. The vast majority of top business schools will accept a Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) score in lieu of a GMAT score. The GRE is another computer-adaptive test that is used when candidates apply to masters-level programs of many disciplines, not just business and management. While the GRE has gained widespread acceptance, some schools still prefer candidates to submit the GMAT. (Read: Choosing Between GMAT and GRE)
Additionally, some business schools have their own admissions test and others will accept the Executive Assessment (EA) as an alternative to the GMAT. Increasingly, schools have removed admissions tests of any kind from their application requirements. But submitting a high score can still help prospective students to secure a competitive MBA place.
Can I retake the GMAT?