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Detailed Overview of the GMAT

GMAT stands for Graduate Management Admission Test. This standardized test is required for admission at over 1,000 business schools worldwide. GMAT scores have proven to be a reliable measure of some developed skills that are important in business studies at the graduate level. Business schools use GMAT scores to objectively compare applicants, and to predict how those students will perform in their graduate business program (at least in the first year). Although your GMAT score is only one portion of your application, it’s often used to reduce the size of the applicant pool and is the single factor that all business school applicants will have in common. A high score will almost guarantee you acceptance in a lower-ranked school, as well as serious consideration at a higher ranked school (especially if you have some work experience). A high score might also mean a scholarship or an internship in fields that use GMAT scores to screen applicants.

According to the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), the makers of the test, "The GMAT® exam measures basic verbal, mathematical, and analytical writing skills that you have developed over a long period of time in your education and work. It does NOT measure your knowledge of business, your job skills, specific content in your undergraduate or first university course work, or your abilities in any other specific subject area.”

The test is administered using Computer-Adaptive Testing (CAT), as opposed to a paper-and-pencil test. There are many features of CAT that are different from paper-and-pencil testing, but the test is calibrated so that test-takers should receive approximately the same score using CAT as they would on a paper-and-pencil test. The paper test had been offered overseas but not since Pearson VUE took over test administration.

The GMAT is given in English, and consists of the following four separately timed sections: One Analytical Writing task (AW), Integrated Reasoning, Quantitative (math), and Verbal. The AW section is always first, followed by Integrated Reasoning, Quantitative, and then Verbal. An optional break of 8 minutes is allowed before and after the Quantitative Section.

  • Analytical Writing Assessment 1 essay, 30 minutes; the essay asks for an analysis of an argument.
  • Integrated Reasoning Section 12 multiple-choice questions, 30 minutes; four question types: Graphics Interpretation, Two-Part Analysis, Table Analysis, and Multi-Source Reasoning.
  • Quantitative Section 31 multiple-choice questions, 62 minutes; two question types: Problem Solving and Data Sufficiency
  • Verbal Section 36 multiple-choice questions, 65 minutes; three question types: Reading Comprehension, Critical Reasoning, and Sentence Correction.

You may elect to take the GMAT in one of three possible orders:

  • Analytical Writing Assessment, Integrated Reasoning, Quantitative, Verbal
  • Verbal, Quantitative, Integrated Reasoning, Analytical Writing Assessment
  • Quantitative, Verbal, Integrated Reasoning, Analytical Writing Assessment

The choice of order is up to you based on your strengths and preferences. The first order above (AWA, IR, Q, V) is the conventional order that used to be required of all students.