GMAT 101

The GMAT is the Graduate Management Admission Test, a standardized test used by business schools as a measure of an applicant’s academic ability. Schools require applicants to take the GMAT and submit their scores in order to be considered for admission to M.B.A. and other business-oriented degree programs. The GMA T is a computerized test; administered six days a week, 52 weeks a year (except holidays), it can be taken virtually anytime. However, it can only be taken once per month and 5 times per year. The cost to take the exam is $225.

The Computerized GMAT CAT

The GMAT is offered ONLY on computer, which means that you do not use a pencil and paper to answer test questions. Instead, you will sit in front of a computer screen at an official testing center and take the GMAT in its CAT (Computer Adaptive Test) form. The basic features of the CAT format are as follows:

Ø You will see only one question on the screen at a time. Therefore, you may not skip around in a section and answer questions in the order that you please. Once you answer a question, you are not allowed to return to it, but you must answer one question in order to move to the next.

Ø The test is designed to adapt to your personal ability by giving you questions that reflect how well you have answered previous questions. Test questions are not pre-set in advance. Instead, as you take the test, new questions are generated for you based on how well you are doing. The test begins with a question of average difficulty. If you answer it correctly, you will receive a slightly harder second question. If you do not, you will receive a slightly easier second question. Your third question, in turn, will be based on your response to the second question and its difficulty level. In this way, the computer zeros in on your ability level and assigns you a corresponding score.

Ø Due to the GMAT’s computer adaptive format, scores are not determined solely by the number of correct answers. Correct responses to difficult questions are worth more than correct responses to easy questions. Therefore, in order to score well you must be able to answer the more difficult questions correctly.

Ø No matter your ability level, the CAT presents you with a fair mix of questions for the content areas within a given section. For example, in the math section, all test-takers receive roughly the same mix of arithmetic, algebra, and geometry questions.

Ø Prior to the exam, there will be a computer tutorial designed to help you become familiar with computerized testing. You will be allowed as much time as you need to review the computerized format and practice entering in answers.

GMAT Format

Ø Section 1: You will be asked to compose two 30-minute essays. The first essay will ask you to analyze a given argument. The second essay will ask you to analyze a given issue. This section is called the Analytical Writing Assessment (the AWA).

Ø Section 2: You will be given 75 minutes to answer 37 multiple-choice quantitative questions. These questions come in two forms: (a) Problem Solving questions which ask you to solve a variety of arithmetic, algebraic, and geometric math problems and (b) Data Sufficiency questions which ask you to decide whether or not you are given sufficient information to solve a given math problem.

Ø Section 3: You will be given 75 minutes to answer 41 multiple-choice verbal questions. These questions come in three forms: (a) Sentence Correction questions which ask you to choose the most grammatically accurate way of expressing a given sentence, (b) Critical Reasoning questions which ask you to assess the logic of short arguments, and (c) Reading Comprehension questions which ask you to read short passages (up to 350 words each) and answer content, inference, and application questions based on the information presented.

The timed-portion of the GMAT lasts 3.5 hours. You are allowed a 5-minute break between each section. Note: the GMAT does not include any questions that test your business knowledge. It is designed solely to measure your writing, quantitative, and verbal ability.
GMAT Scoring

Ø After taking the GMAT, you will receive both quantitative (Section 2) and verbal (Section 3) subscores. Each subscore ranges from 0 to 60. These subscores are then combined into an overall score, which ranges from 200 to 800—this is what is typically considered your “GMAT score.” You will also receive a separate score, ranging from 0 to 6, on the AWA essay portion of the exam (Section 1). Your scores are accompanied by a percentile ranking that tells you how you did in relation to everyone else who took the test. If you score in the 85th percentile, this means that 85 percent of all GMAT test-takers scored at or below your level.

Ø The median overall GMAT score is approximately 520. However, to be considered for top business schools, you will generally need a score of at least 600. In fact, according to the 2004 U.S. News business school rankings, 10 of the 15 business schools report that their average GMAT scores are in the 700+ range.

Ø Scores are reported to you immediately. After completing the GMAT, you are given the option of either viewing or canceling your scores. If you think that you did not do very well, you may cancel your scores (without seeing them!) and they will not be reported to any business schools, although the business schools will be notified of the cancellation on future score reports. Keep in mind, however, that once you cancel your scores, you will not be able to view them. Also, you will not be refunded your test registration fee. Your AWA essay-writing score is determined separately (graded by ETS writing professionals and a software program called Robo-reader) and mailed to you approximately two weeks after the test. The test fee covers reporting of these scores to five schools, and additional score reports can be purchased for $28.