The Graduate Management Admissions Test

The Graduate Management Admissions Test, more commonly referred to by the
acronym GMAT (pronounced G-mat) is a standardized aptitude designed to measure basic verbal, mathematical, and analytical writing skills. It is often required as a prerequisite for graduate business studies. The GMAT test is one of the selection criteria used by many business schools for admission into their MBA programs. The fee to take the test is currently US$250 ( (this cost is subject to taxes when you schedule an exam in certain countries) worldwide and scores are valid for five years from the date the test taker sits for the test.

The GMAT exam is delivered via computer in individualized workstations.  The GMAT test is administered by ACT Inc. (which develops the test questions and CAT software) and Pearson Vue (which delivers the test at testing centers worldwide). The GMAT is a computer adaptive test. This means that the multiple choice questions in the quantitative and verbal sections are adjusted to the ability level of the test taker.

Specific details on how the computer adaptive test process works can be found online at the Graduate Management Admission Council’s website. Because the computer test system will not advance to the next question without answering the current question, all questions must be answered. In cases where the answer is not known, it is therefore necessary to make an educated guess. It is also imperative that all test questions are completed. Therefore, proper pacing throughout the test is necessary.

The test consists of three main parts: the Analytical Writing Assessment, the Quantitative Section and the Verbal Section.

Part 1 ~ Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA):

The AWA consists of two separate writing tasks—Analysis of an Issue and Analysis of an Argument. Test takers are allowed 30 minutes to complete each essay. The essays are read by two readers who each mark the essay in 0.5 increments. If the two scores are within one point of each other, they are averaged. If there is more than one point difference, a third reader is asked to read the essays to provide another opinion.

The first ‘reader’ is a computer program, called ‘Intellimetric’, developed by Vantage Learning to analyse syntax, grammar and spelling. The second and third readers are human. The human readers generally look at the overall impact of the essay. Although spelling does not formally count against your score, it can bring your score down if the reader can’t understand what you are saying due to misspelled words. There are no length requirements for the essays. The readers are looking for well structured writing that flows smoothly.

Part 2 ~ Quantitative Section:
Following an optional ten-minute break, the Quantitative section test begins. This section contains 37 multiple-choice questions of two question types—Data Sufficiency and Problem Solving. Test takers are allowed a maximum of 75 minutes to complete the entire section.

Part 3 ~ Verbal Section:
After a second optional ten-minute break, the Verbal Section of the test begins. This section contains 41 multiple-choice questions of three question types—Reading Comprehension, Critical Reasoning, and Sentence Correction. Test takers are allowed a maximum of 75 minutes to complete the entire section.
Required Scores

The verbal and quantitative sections of the GMAT have scores that range from zero to 60. These raw scores are then converted to an overall “total” score that ranges from 200 to 800. Two thirds of all test takers will have a total score between 400 and 600.

Most business schools don’t publish the minimum score they require. Generally, however, top schools take in students with scores in the upper 600s. Other less prestigious schools will have average scores that may be in the 500s or less. Remember that half of all successful applicants will have scored below the median mark. Business schools also look at real work accomplishments, undergraduate performance, and references etc. when selecting candidates.