What Is The GMAT And How Do You Take It?

The GMAT, or Graduate Management Admissions Test, is the most commonly taken test for admissions into MBA and other graduate Business programs. Test scores, work experience, and essays are the most important factors for admission into most MBA programs.

Structure of the Test

The GMAT consists of 4 sections.

  • One 30-minute essay
  • A 30-minute Integrated Reasoning section with 12 questions.
  • A 75-minute Quantitative (Math) section with 37 questions.
  • A 75-minutes Verbal section with 41 questions.

Nine of the math questions and 11 of the verbal questions are “experimental,” meaning that they have no impact on your final score. The experimental questions are not identified as such and can appear anywhere within their respective sections.

There are short breaks after the Integrated Reason section and the Quantitative section.

Test Scoring

The GMAT is best known for its 200-800 score which is a composite of the Math and Verbal scores.

Math and Verbal scores themselves theoretically range from 0 to 60. There have been no reliable reports of scores below 7 or above 51 for either of these subscores. That the Graduate Admissions Management Council (GMAC) continues to claim in all their literature that the range is from 0 to 60 is one of the great absurdities of standardized testing.

The essay, which is scored on a scale of 0 to 6, and the integrated reasoning, which is scored on a scale of 1 to 8, have at most a marginal impact on admissions decisions.

You will receive your unofficial scores, except for the essay score, as soon as you complete the test. Your official scores, which rarely differ from your unofficial scores, and your essay score will be sent to you and any schools you indicated when you took the test within 20 days of your completion of the test.

Adaptive Testing

The GMAT is a Computer Adaptive Test (or CAT). This has several important effects on both the format of the test and on basic strategy.

  • The test is entirely done on computer. You will be given a pad of laminated paper to write any notes on (along with special pens and an eraser).
  • You are continuously scored as you take the test. At the beginning of each section, you are assumed to be an “average” test taker and are given a question of the appropriate difficulty. If you get the question right, your score goes up, and the next question becomes more difficult. If you miss a question, your score goes down, and the next question becomes easier.
  • Because the difficulty of each question is determined by your performance on preceding questions, you can’t go back and change your answers, and you can’t skip questions.
  • The earliest questions have a larger impact on your score, so you should be extra careful to get those right.
  • Leaving questions blank or guessing on too many questions in a row will also hurt your score. Pace yourself so that you have time to answer every question, and ideally have time to work on almost every question.
  • If you are in a time crunch and will need to guess on some questions, try to alternate between working on a question then guessing on one rather than guessing on several in a row.

Test Dates

The GMAT is available year round at a variety of testing centers. Weekend dates are particularly popular, so you’ll want to make sure to sign up well in advance if you need a weekend date.

Generally, it’s a good idea to allow for 3-6 months of preparation for your GMAT, depending on how much improvement you need to achieve your target score.

The test fee is $250. You can reschedule your test date for a $50 fee more than 7 calendar days before the test date. If you wait until 7 days before or less, rescheduling costs the same as signing up for the test in the first place ($250).

Finally, you must wait 16 days after taking the test to retake the GMAT, and you may take it no more than five times in a 12-month period and eight times total.

Noodle Pro Dan Edmonds has 20 years of tutoring experience. He has led R&D for two major test prep companies, written or contributed to innumerable test prep and admissions books, trained or mentored hundreds of tutors, and worked with thousands of students.