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All you need to know about the GMAT test

What is the GMAT®?

  • The GMAT is a standardized test used by admissions officers of MBA and specialized Masters programs, and some PhD programs, to assess if you have the foundations for success in that program.
  • Test scores act as a benchmark to admissions committees who are comparing the credentials of candidates from widely varying backgrounds and with different levels and areas of experience.
  • Getting a strong GMAT score will increase your chances of getting into the MBA, Masters, or PhD program of your choice.

The new GMAT timing: As of April 2018, the GMAT has been decreased by 30 minutes, meaning the total exam time will now be 3 and a half hours long. The Verbal and Quant sections will be slightly shorter with fewer questions. Whereas, the Analytical Writing and Integrated Reasoning sections will not be affected, and the scoring will take the same format.

The GMAT Overview

Subjects covered: General verbal, mathematical, and integrated reasoning
Type of Test: Computer Adaptive Test (CAT)

Section Analytical Writing Assessment Integrated Reasoning Quantitative Verbal
Time 30 minutes 30 minutes 62 minutes 65 minutes
Format Essay 12 Multiple-choice questions 31 Multiple-choice questions 36 Multiple-choice questions
Question Types
  • Analysis of an Argument
  • Graphics Interpretation
  • Two-Part Analysis
  • Table Analysis
  • Multi-Source Reasoning
  • Problem Solving
  • Data Sufficiency
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Sentence Correction
  • Critical Reasoning

What Does the GMAT Test?

The GMAT measures general verbal, mathematical, and analytical writing skills. It also evaluates analytical skills and features both multiple-choice and essay questions. It is not a test of specific subject knowledge, nor does it assess business competence. The GMAT is taken as a Computer Adaptive Test (CAT) in most parts of the world.

Why is the Test Important?

Because there are many components in MBA and Graduate school applications – forms, essays and personal statements, undergrad transcripts, letters of recommendation and more – and because many of these are subjective, it is difficult to compare applicants from just those things alone. GMAT scores provide a common benchmark for every applicant and allow admissions committees to compare the credentials of candidates from widely varying backgrounds and with different levels and area of experience.

You can increase your chances of admittance to the MBA or Masters program of your choice with a high GMAT score. More than 250,000 people take the GMAT each year — so ensure you prepare thoroughly to beat the competition!

Taking an important test like the GMAT will never be stress-free, but it can be far less stressful with the correct approach and proper preparation. Our mission at Kaplan is to break everything about the GMAT down to exactly what you need to know to test confidently and score higher. If you’re looking to succeed on the GMAT, you’re in the right place.

You can take the GMAT® in most countries around the world, all throughout the year. Because the GMAT is a computerized test, there are no set test dates – simply make an appointment at a local testing center on a day that best suits you!

How do I register to take the GMAT?

You must register for the exam via the Graduate Management Admissions Council – the official creators of the test! – visit to locate your nearest testing center and schedule your exam

Is there a fee to take the GMAT?

Yes. The cost to take the exam, or “appointment fee”, is US$250, plus any applicable local taxes .The Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC) accepts most major credit cards.

To re-sit the exam, simply follow the same procedures. Note that you are only allowed to take the GMAT once every 16 days, and only 5 times per year.

Can I choose which GMAT scores my schools see?

No. Every time you take the GMAT, your score is recorded and schools will see all of your scores (not just the most recent) from the previous 5 years should you choose to send them your score report.

GMAT® scores, which are valid for five years, are used by business schools and grad schools as a common benchmark to compare candidates for admission.

Believe it or not, you will actually receive four scores on the GMAT.

  • An overall score, ranging from 200 to 800
  • A math subscore, ranging from 0 to 60
  • A verbal subscore, ranging from 0 to 60
  • A score for the Analytical Writing Assessment, ranging from 0 to 6

GMAT Percentile Rank

Each of these scores will be accompanied by a percentile rank. The percentile rank indicates the volume of test takers who scored lower than you on the test. The higher the percentile rank, the better you did. For example, a percentile rank of 70 means you did better than 70% of test takers. This number shows exactly where you fell compared to other GMAT candidates.

The GMAT Essays

Each essay in the Analytical Writing Assessment is given a separate grade on a 0-6 scale by two different graders – a human and a computer called the “e-rater”. These grades are assigned holistically using all aspects of the essay’s content, style, and grammar. If the two grades agree, that score will be assigned. If the two scores are markedly different, then a third scorer (human) will read the essay to determine its final grade.

How long must I wait to get my GMAT score?

You can view your “unofficial” GMAT scores at the end of the exam prior to making a decision to accept or cancel, giving you more certainty and control of how your application and GMAT scores are received by schools. You will then get your “official” score 21 days later.

Here’s how it works:

  • If you accept your scores: The official report will be sent to the schools selected.
  • If you cancel your scores: You can cancel your score right after you take the exam at the test center (for free), or within 72 hours of taking the exam ($25 fee). No cancelled scores will be sent to selected schools. Only you will know if you cancel your scores.
  • To reinstate your canceled scores: You can reinstate your score online if your exam date is on or after January 1, 2014, up to four years and 11 months after the exam date($50 fee. After it is reinstated it will be sent to your selected schools at no additional charge.

Detailed instructions and rules for about this are available on page 13 of the GMAT Handbook .

What’s the Average GMAT Score?

Although the average score among all test-takers worldwide is approximately 540, the average GMAT score of students accepted to good business or grad schools is much higher than this.

What you consider a good score will depend on your own expectations and goals. But keep in mind that leading programs consider a score of at least 600 as competitive. Information on average GMAT scores at different schools is readily available, and many schools list this information on their website.

Research the schools on your list. Find out what their average GMAT scores are and then develop a preparation plan to achieve your target score.

The table below illustrates some average GMAT scores amongst leading business schools:


Business School Country FT 2016*
Global Ranking
GMAT Score
INSTEAD France/Singapore 1 703
Harvard Business School U.S.A. 2 772
London Business School U.K. 3 695
University of Pennsylvania: Wharton U.S.A. 4 725
Stanford University GSB U.S.A. 5 732
Columbia Business School U.S.A. 6 716
The University of California at Berkeley: Haas U.S.A. 7 714
University of Chicago: Booth U.S.A. 8 723
MIT: Sloan U.S.A. 9 713
University of Cambridge: Judge U.K. 10 690

GMAT® Quantitative Section

Section type: 2nd section, Quantitative (Math) section

Time allocated: 75 minutes

Number of questions: 37

Content: Arithmetic, algebra, and geometry – all of high school level

Furthermore, the content in this section should not be worrying as it is not especially difficult. However, you cannot use a calculator – so it is wise to practice your mental arithmetic!

The key to success on this area of the GMAT is learning the question types, which are likely to be different to ones you may have seen before on other tests. These consist of Problem Solving and Data Sufficiency.

GMAT Problem Solving Questions

Problem Solving is a classic question type on standardized tests. You are presented with a question and given five possible answer choices. Some questions will contain diagrams which may be drawn to scale—meaning you can “eyeball” them to estimate measurements and size relationships. Others won’t. Regardless, all the questions will indicate clearly which is the case.

GMAT Data Sufficiency Questions

Data Sufficiency problems consist of a question and two statements of data. Your task is to determine whether the two statements provide sufficient data with which to answer the question.

GMAT® Verbal Section

Section Type: 3rd and final section, verbal section- critical reasoning, sentence correction, reading comprehension
Time allocated: 75 minutes
Number of questions: 41
Type of questions: Multiple Choice

GMAT Critical Reasoning Questions

Critical Reasoning questions test your analytical skills. You will be presented with a short piece of text where a writer makes an assertion or states a point of view and then tries to support it, and a question relating to the text. You must then find the answer choice that strengthens or weakens the argument. In addition, you may also be asked to find an assumption that the argument makes or to make an inference yourself.

Before looking at the answer choices, think about the steps you need to take in order to answer successfully:

  • Understand the structure of the argument
  • Identify the conclusion, what evidence is there to support this? What assumptions are made to reach the conclusion?

GMAT Sentence Correction Questions

This section tests your knowledge of written English. You will first be shown a sentence, which may be very long and contorted, along with sections of the sentence that will be underlined. Your task is to find the most grammatically correct version of the underlined section among the answer choices.

For each sentence correction question, read the original sentence carefully before looking at the answers. If you spot an error, you can eliminate Choice (A) immediately, because Choice (A) always restates the language of the original. You may be able to instinctively “hear” whether the sentence is correct by using the intuitive “ear” that you’ve developed by speaking and reading English.

GMAT Reading Comprehension Questions

In this section of the test, it is not necessary to memorize all the information. In order to succeed, start off by casually scanning the text to get a ‘feel’ for key concepts and to understand what the author is trying to achieve. You can then start over and study the passage carefully before answering the questions.


GMAT® Analytical Writing Assessment

Analytical Writing Assessment

Section Type: Essay

Time Allocated: 30 minutes per essay

Subject: Analysis of an argument

Specialised knowledge is not required to answer these questions, you are being tested on your ability to communicate your thoughts and ideas clearly and concisely, and express yourself in an effective manner.

Analysis of an Argument Essay

The Analysis of an Argument question presents a short piece of text (usually 4 or 5 sentences) which makes an assertion or states a point of view or theory, and then gives evidence to support it. When you see the argument, you should ask the following:

  1. What’s the conclusion?
  2. What evidence is used to support the conclusion?
  3. Does the writer make assumptions in moving from evidence to conclusion, and if so, what are they?
  4. Is the argument persuasive?
  5. What would make the argument stronger or weaker? (e.g. additional evidence, change in line of reasoning)

GMAT Essay Scores

Each essay on the GMAT will be graded from 0-6, rounded off if necessary to the nearest half-point. The essays will be graded by two graders – one human and one computerized grader called the “E-rater”. If they disagree, a third grader (human!) will be called in to make the final decision.

Essay Writing on Computer

Your GMAT test is taken on a computer, the software provided will have simple word-processing tools such as cut and paste – however, there is no spell check function, so you must remember to check your work carefully. You will not be penalized for a couple of typos but you will receive a score penalty for a succession of badly-formed sentences or consistently poor grammar. Both US and UK English spellings of words are accepted.



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