What is the GMAT Exam and What Should You Know? │ mba.com (2024)

If you're a graduate business degree hopeful, you've likely heard about the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT).

The GMAT exam is the premier business school admission test used to help thousands of graduate business programs make critical admissions decisions. The GMAT helps you prove your commitment toand eligibility for the MBA or business master’s degree you're applying to by demonstrating your problem-solving abilities and critical reasoning skills.

Submitting a strong GMAT score means a higher chance of acceptance and may also result in a scholarship offer to your chosen school.

Here’s everything you should knowabout the GMAT:

Why does the GMAT matter?

Business schools value the GMAT because it’s an indicator of a candidate's work ethic and readiness for a program.

As a standardized test, the GMAT exam helps business schools compare candidates from different backgrounds and regions, which is why mostschools favor the GMATover other tests.

As a globally recognized test, your GMAT score puts you on a level playing field with candidates from around the world for programs in any of 110 countries. It also allows you to compete fairly against other candidates with widely varying academic and professional backgrounds.

In a Kaplan/Manhattan Prepsurvey, 88% of business schools said that submitting a competitive admissions exam score will help your application. Business school admissions officers also explained why they still favor the GMAT:

  • ‘A good GMAT score shows us that prospective students are willing to invest time to prepare for the MBA and that they have the baseline knowledge to begin.’
  • ‘Our scholarships are based on GPA, GMAT score, and interview experience, so strong GMAT scores have a very important impact on admissions and scholarship offers.’

How does the GMAT work?

GMAT questions are based on the mathematic concepts and English-language skills you would have learned in high school. For example, you may be required to use arithmetic or elementary algebra as part of the test. The GMAT does not evaluate your job skills, motivation or interpersonal skills. It is also not designed to test your command of the English language.

You already have what it takes to achieve a good result on the GMAT. It’s essential that you understand that preparation is crucial.

GMAT is not impossibly challenging. However, it may be difficult to get a good, balanced score that truly represents your abilities without knowing what to expect by reviewing practice questions and preparing for the test conditions.

While the English and mathematics involved are not especially difficult, the GMAT is measuring your ability to reason and make complex judgments using critical thinking, analysis of information, and problem solving under timed conditions.

The GMAT has a maximum score of 805 and a minimum of 205. It lasts up to 2 hours and 15 minutes and consists of 3 sections that you can take in any order.

What is the GMAT exam structure?

1. Quantitative Reasoning

The GMATquant sectiondetermines mathematical ability and numerical literacy. This section of the exam tests your ability to reason, solve problems. It measures the skills you will use in quantitative-based subjects such as finance, accounting and managerial statistics.

The questions in this section are problem solving questions, and require common knowledge of concepts related to arithmetic and elementary algebra.

2. Verbal Reasoning

GMAT verbal evaluates reading comprehension and critical reasoning. You will be assessed on your ability to comprehend and draw inferences from written material and to evaluate arguments.

This section features a mixture of two types of multiple-choice questions:

  • Reading comprehension passages of up to 350 words are followed by a set of questions testing your ability to interpret the text, to draw inferences from it, and to identify logical relationships between elements of the content.
  • Critical reasoning measuring your ability to draw conclusions from short arguments.

3. Data Insights

This tests candidates' ability to read and interpret data in multiple formats, including table analysis and graphic interpretation.

This part of the GMAT exam is designed to mimic today’s business world that demands managers synthesize data from multiple sources to identify patterns, make decisions and solve business problems.

There are 20 multiple response questions in the Data Insights section using five different question formats:

  • Multi-source reasoning using data from multiple sources, you answer multiple choice or yes/no and true/false questions
  • Table analysis using a sortable table containing numeric data, you must determine if a set of statements are true or false
  • Graphic interpretation using a chart or graph, you find or extrapolate a value to complete fill-in-the-blank statements from a drop-down list
  • Two-part analysis using quantitative and/or verbal information, you must weigh trade-offs and make decisions with more than one variable. Possible answers are presented in a table and you should choose the correct options.
  • Data sufficiency asks you to analyze a quantitative problem, recognize which data is relevant, and determine at what point there is enough data to solve the problem.

What is computer adaptive testing

The GMAT is more than just a computerized version of a written test, it is computer adaptive. This means it automatically adapts the question you see in the above sections based on a real-time assessment of your performance as you are taking the test.

After an average difficulty starting question, the questions vary in difficulty depending on the test taker's answers.

In the computer-adaptive format, if you answer a question right, a more challenging question appears next, and if your answer is wrong, an easier one appears.

The GMAT can be taken once every 16 calendar days and completed no more than five times in 12 months. You can choose to take the test online or findtest centersaround the world

Why should I take the GMAT exam if it's not compulsory?

We highly recommend that you speak with the admissions team for your chosen program well ahead of the admissions deadline.

Even when the GMAT is not acompulsory partof the application process up front, admissions managers may still ask you to supply a score later in the process if your application is not as competitive as others in their applicant pool.

Also consider whether GMAT is required for your second or third choice programs if you are not able to secure a place on your first-choice program.

Register for the GMAT Now!

How much does the GMAT cost?

The GMAT exam at a test center generally costs $275, althoughprices varydepending on test center location.

How to prepare for the GMAT?

How long does it take to prepare for the GMAT?

According to the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), the owner and administrator of the GMAT, candidates can achieve a competitive score in just six weeks.

Your goal is to reach a point where you are quickly and confidently able to focus on answering each question, rather than spending time decoding what is being asked. You also want to become confident in your approach to selecting your answers as second guessing yourself will cost you valuable time on exam day.

A commonly recommended approach is to focus your preparation on your problem areas. Make sure you also pay moderate attention to your stronger areas to ensure that you don’t lose easy marks by becoming complacent and making avoidable errors. Take full, scored practice exams regularly to benchmark your process and to identify areas of strength and weakness. Replicate actual test conditions as much as you can so you don’t use a calculator or refer to your notes.

There are many helpful study tools available to help in your preparation. TheFREE GMAT™ Official Starter Kitis a sampler of 90 past exam questions and two, full-length GMAT™practice exams that match the real exam format, increase in difficulty, and help you manage your pacing.

GMAC also offers theGMAT Official Guide, whichis the only study guide that features real GMAT™ questions from past exams offered by the makers of the exam.

What is a ‘good’ GMAT score?

Your score out of 805 is based on your performance in all three sections of the exam. When you receive your score out of 805, you will also receive a percentile, which indicates how you compare to other test takers.

The definition of a good GMAT score changes from business school to business school and candidate to candidate. Ultimately, agood GMAT scoreis one that gets you into your target program.

To work out what score to aim for, look at your desired program's average GMAT score andGMAT score range.

You typically want to aim for the class average score, but you can also get accepted with a lower score if other aspects of your application – like your essays, work experience, and interview performance – are strong.

What score are business schools looking for?

Most programs do not have an explicitly stated minimum GMAT score requirement. Instead, they tend to publish an average or a range of GMAT scores achieved by their most recent class. This can provide a useful benchmark; however, they are generally looking for candidates with a well-balanced set of scores across all sections.

Don’t rule out programs even if you haven't reached your target GMAT score, especially if it is close to the published range. Your GMAT score will be one part of your application, and you may have considerable strengths in other areas. Contact the admissions team for your chosen program to seek their guidance and be prepared to retake the exam.

How is the GMAT different to the GRE?

The critical difference between theGMAT and GREis that the GMAT was created specifically for business schools, while the GRE is for a broader scope of graduate degrees. More than 7,700 business school programs worldwide accept the GMAT exam.

When should I take the GMAT?

Check the admissions deadlines for your target programs well ahead of time and work back from there, accounting for how much time you need to prepare. We recommend preparing for the GMAT at least three to six months ahead of time to give yourself the chance to achieve the score you want, or to re‑take if you want to aim for a higher score.

Your GMAT score is valid for five years. If you are currently studying, preparing for the GMAT while you are still in an academic mindset can make your life significantly easier.

Register for the GMAT exam

You can take the GMAT exam in major cities and at almost any time of the year. The test is offered worldwide at Pearson VUE test centers approved by the Graduate Management Admission Council and also online.

You canregister for the GMAT onmba.com.

Ultimately, even where the GMAT is not required, taking the GMAT will put a candidate at an advantage, providing access to top business schools globally.

"The GMAT score is important for assessing a candidate's aptitude for being able to have a successful MBA experience,” Nora Colton, director of the University College London Global Business School for Health, explains.

“The exam is designed to demonstrate essential critical thinking and reasoning skills that will be required in an MBA program and beyond.”

Register for the GMAT Now!

What is the GMAT Exam and What Should You Know? │ mba.com (2024)


What is the GMAT Exam and What Should You Know? │ mba.com? ›

The GMAT is a computer-adaptive exam: that is, questions become easier or harder as you go depending on how well you're doing. If you get answers right, the test will subsequently give you harder questions. Or, if you answer a few wrong, it will lower the difficulty level.

How many wrong answers for 700 GMAT? ›

In conclusion, how many mistakes can you afford to achieve a 700+? As a general rule, we recommend no more than 8-10 mistakes in Verbal (out of 36 questions) and 6-8 mistakes in Quant (out of 31 questions). With those numbers, you are very likely to achieve at least a 700.

How important is GMAT for MBA? ›

Business schools look at your GMAT score to ensure that you can keep up with their academic program. Here, your score is used to evaluate whether you have the necessary quantitative, verbal, and critical thinking skills to complete the coursework, which includes subjects like finance, economics, and strategy.

What GMAT do I need for MBA? ›

The average GMAT score was 660 in 2022, but you may need at least a 720 for some top MBA programs. Jane Nam is a staff writer for BestColleges' Data Center. Before her work on higher education data trends, Jane was a news writer and the managing editor for an academic journal.

Is 750 GMAT good enough? ›

A good GMAT score is 615+ on the new GMAT and 645+ on the old GMAT. A great GMAT score is 685+ on the new GMAT and 720+ on the old. This makes strong GMAT prep essential and worth the time and energy; good GMAT scores are essential if you want to get into a top MBA program. And a great score will make you stand out!

Is 590 a bad GMAT score? ›

To score higher than half of all test takers, you need a Total Score above 600. To score among the top 25 percent of test takers, you'd need to score about 660. To be among the most competitive class—the top 10 percent of test takers— you'd want to aim for a score around 710 or higher.

How rare is 770 on the GMAT? ›

A 770 GMAT score falls in the 99th percentile. Meaning only 1% of all test takers receive this score.

Can I get an MBA without GMAT? ›

The GMAT® may or may not be required for the Full-Time MBA, Executive MBA, and Flexible Executive EMBA, dependant on individual applicants' prior academic grades and work experience. The Executive MBA Program does not require GMAT scores for most program applicants.

Does GPA or GMAT matter more for MBA? ›

Having a good undergraduate grade point average is certainly an important factor that admissions committees consider; however, GPA isn't the whole story. A strong GMAT score and evidence of relevant work experience is also very important.

What GMAT score do I need for Harvard? ›


Harvard school has admitted students with a GMAT range of 500 to 600.

Has anyone scored 800 in GMAT? ›

To earn a perfect score, you must correctly answer all the counted questions in each section. That's not easy — but it is possible. According to the Graduate Management Admissions Council, fewer than 50 people out of more than 200,000 people who took the previous GMAT exam each year scored a perfect 800.

How much does the GMAT cost? ›

The cost of the GMAT also depends on whether you want to take it online or at a testing center. In the United States, the online exam costs $300 USD and the test center version costs $275.

Do employers ask for GMAT scores? ›

#1: Many employers value GMAT exam scores

Nonetheless, a strong showing on the GMAT exam helps to signal to your potential employer that you have the problem-solving skills required to work in demanding consulting or finance roles.

Will a 750 GMAT get me into Harvard? ›

Key takeaways. GMAT is crucial for acceptance into the Harvard business school's MBA program. A score between the range of 750 and 800 will set you on the right track for acceptance into Harvard.

Is 580 a bad GMAT score? ›

Scores above 700 are generally considered strong and those below 600 are considered very weak. The following table showcases different possible combinations of scores on the Verbal and Quantitative sections and the overall GMAT score corresponding to each combination.

Is the GMAT harder than the LSAT? ›

As mentioned above, the single biggest difference between LSAT and GMAT (or EA) questions is that the LSAT questions are, on average, wordier and more difficult. But if you skim through the questions in an LSAT Critical Reasoning section, you'll find some question styles that rarely appear on the GMAT or EA.

How many questions can you miss to get a 700 on GMAT? ›

Looking at the above table, we quickly notice that we can miss a fair number of Quant and Verbal questions and score 700 on the GMAT. In our Balanced scenario, we can miss 8/28 Quant and 8/30 Verbal questions.

How many questions can you get wrong on the GMAT and still get a 750? ›

But on the GMAT, you can miss 30-35 percent of the questions and still score in the 680 to 720 range. And even if you're aiming for a 730 to 750 (i.e., stratospheric!) score, you can still miss about 15-25 percent of the questions.

How hard is it to get 700 on GMAT? ›

The GMAT is a difficult test, and preparing for it is very time intensive. If you are serious about getting a 700 GMAT score or higher, you will realistically need to study for more than 300 hours.

How many people score 700 on GMAT? ›

With over 300,000 people taking the GMAT every year, figures suggest that approximately 10% of students manage to receive a score of 700 or higher. For most, this high result feels far from attainable.


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