GMAT test

Embarking on a journey toward an MBA or other graduate management program is a pivotal step in one’s career. Central to this path is the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), a standardized exam that assesses analytical, writing, quantitative, verbal, and reading skills in written English. Designed to predict how test takers will perform academically in MBA programs, the GMAT is a critical hurdle for prospective students aiming for admission into elite business schools worldwide.

Understanding the GMAT’s structure, scoring system, and preparation strategies is essential for those looking to ace the exam. Consequently, with its role as a gatekeeper to prestigious MBA programs, the test demands thorough preparation and a deep understanding of its complexities. This article will delve into what makes the GMAT a unique and challenging exam, offering insights into how to approach it strategically.

Understanding the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT)

The Graduate Management Admission Test, widely known as the GMAT, serves as the gateway for candidates aiming for top business schools globally. It measures analytical writing, quantitative, verbal, and integrated reasoning skills, crucial for success in graduate management programs. Recognized worldwide, the GMAT exam’s structure and scoring system are designed to assess the potential of candidates for advanced study in business and management.

Structure of the GMAT

The GMAT exam comprises four sections: Analytical Writing Assessment, Integrated Reasoning, Quantitative, and Verbal. Each section tests specific skills.

  • Analytical Writing Assessment: Evaluates critical thinking and the ability to communicate ideas.
  • Integrated Reasoning: Assesses the ability to analyze data and evaluate information presented in multiple formats.
  • Quantitative: Measures the capability to analyze data and draw conclusions using reasoning skills.
  • Verbal: Focuses on reading comprehension, critical reasoning, and sentence correction.

Scoring System

Candidates receive individual scores for the quantitative and verbal sections, which collectively determine the total score ranging from 200 to 800. Integrated reasoning and analytical writing scores are provided separately, offering a comprehensive profile of the candidate’s abilities.

Preparation Strategies

Preparation for the GMAT requires a strategic approach, emphasizing understanding concepts over memorization. Successful candidates often engage in structured study plans, utilizing official materials and practice tests to familiarize themselves with the exam’s format and time constraints. Customized preparation plans, focusing on areas of improvement, can significantly enhance a candidate’s performance.

By delving into the Graduate Management Admission Test’s structure, understanding its scoring system, and adopting effective preparation strategies, candidates can improve their chances of securing admission to prestigious MBA programs. The GMAT not only assesses current skills but also prepares individuals for the challenging environment of graduate management education, making a thorough understanding of the exam essential for success.

The Structure of the GMAT Exam

The GMAT exam consists of four sections, each designed to test different skills that are pivotal for academic success in business and management programs. It’s a computer-adaptive test, meaning the difficulty level of questions changes based on the examinee’s responses. This structure not only evaluates the candidate’s abilities in specific areas but also their test-taking strategy and stamina over the exam’s length.

  1. Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA)
  • Duration: 30 minutes
  • Task: Analysis of an Argument
  • Purpose: Measures the test taker’s critical thinking and communication skills by requiring them to analyze a given argument and evaluate its reasoning and evidence.
  1. Integrated Reasoning (IR)
  • Duration: 30 minutes
  • Questions: 12 (multi-source reasoning, graphics interpretation, two-part analysis, table analysis)
  • Purpose: Assesses the ability to evaluate information presented in multiple formats from multiple sources – skills necessary for a data-driven business environment.
  1. Quantitative Section
  • Duration: 62 minutes
  • Questions: 31 (problem-solving and data sufficiency)
  • Purpose: Test the candidate’s aptitude in understanding and analyzing quantitative information and solving problems using mathematical concepts.
  1. Verbal Section
  • Duration: 65 minutes
  • Questions: 36 (reading comprehension, critical reasoning, sentence correction)
  • Purpose: Evaluate the ability to read and understand written material, reason and evaluate arguments, and correct written material to conform to standard written English.

Each section of the GMAT is scored separately, and then these scores are integrated into a total score that ranges from 200 to 800. The total score is based on the quantitative and verbal sections only, with the AWA and IR sections receiving separate scores. Understanding the structure of the GMAT exam is crucial for effective preparation. Knowing what each section entails allows candidates to tailor their study strategies to improve in areas where they might be weaker and ensure they’re well-prepared for the exam’s format.

Preparing for the GMAT

Preparing for the GMAT requires a strategic approach to mastering the diverse sections of the exam. Ultimately, success hinges not only on understanding the content but also on mastering test-taking strategies.

  1. Develop a Study Schedule: Allocate sufficient time for each section, ensuring balanced preparation. Candidates should start studying at least three months before the exam to familiarize themselves with the exam format and identify areas for improvement.
  2. Utilize Official Resources: The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) offers official guides and practice questions that mirror the exam’s structure and content. These resources provide invaluable insights into the types of questions to expect.
  3. Engage in Practice Tests: Regular practice tests help candidates gauge their preparedness and adjust their study strategies accordingly. They simulate the exam’s timing and pressure, building stamina and time management skills.
  4. Focus on Weak Areas: Through practice tests and study, identify and spend extra time on weaker areas. Tailored study materials, such as online courses or tutoring, can offer targeted improvements in these sections.
  5. Master Time Management: The ability to manage time effectively is crucial for completing each section within the allotted timeframe. Practice pacing strategies to ensure that every question receives adequate attention without spending too much time on any single problem.
  6. Enhance Critical Thinking and Analytical Skills: Beyond just learning concepts, candidates must develop their analytical thinking and problem-solving skills. Engaging in puzzles, reading complex texts, and analyzing data can help improve these abilities.
  7. Seek Feedback: Constructive feedback from peers, tutors, or online forums can provide new perspectives and tips for enhancing performance. It’s also beneficial in identifying common mistakes to avoid.

Adhering to these strategies, candidates can optimize their study efforts, increasing their chances of achieving a high score on the GMAT.

Following the outline for efficient GMAT preparation strategies, selecting the right prep course becomes a crucial step. These courses offer structured study plans, comprehensive materials, and practice tests that mirror the actual exam. Below, various popular GMAT prep courses are reviewed, helping candidates make an informed decision.

Manhattan Prep GMAT

Manhattan Prep stands out for its rigorous curriculum and is favored by students aiming for top-percentile scores. The course offers:

  • Live classes with expert instructors.
  • Extensive practice questions and tests.
  • Interactive online platform.
    Students appreciate the in-depth material and the flexibility of self-paced or guided study options.

Kaplan GMAT Prep

Kaplan is known for its comprehensive resources and adaptive learning technology. The course features:

  • Live and on-demand instruction.
  • A vast Qbank with over 5,000 practice questions.
  • Adaptive practice tests that simulate the real GMAT experience.
    Kaplan’s higher score guarantee provides additional confidence for students.

Magoosh GMAT

Magoosh appeals to students looking for affordability without sacrificing quality. The online course includes:

  • Video lessons covering all GMAT sections.
  • Practice questions with video explanations.
  • Customizable study schedules.
    Magoosh is recognized for its flexible, self-paced learning environment and excellent customer support.

Target Test Prep GMAT

Target Test Prep takes a focused approach, especially in the quantitative section, offering:

  • A high volume of quantitative practice questions.
  • Clear, concise lessons designed to master complex concepts.
  • Analytical tools to track progress.
    This prep course is admired for its targeted approach and detailed analytical sections, aiding students in pinpointing and improving their weak areas.

Choosing the right GMAT prep course depends on individual learning styles, budget, and score goals. Each of these courses provides unique features and resources, ensuring candidates can find a match that best suits their preparation needs, aligning with the strategies highlighted earlier for optimizing GMAT scores.

Taking the GMAT: What to Expect on Exam Day

Optimizing GMAT preparation efforts paves the way for what to anticipate on the exam day, ensuring a smoother experience for test-takers. Understanding what happens can significantly reduce test day anxiety, allowing individuals to focus on showcasing their analytical and critical thinking skills, which are paramount for success in graduate management programs.

Arrival and Check-in Process

Upon arrival at the test center, test-takers must present valid identification, typically a government-issued photo ID, which must match the name under which they registered. The check-in process involves digital photographing, fingerprinting, and the collection of a digital signature to ensure test security and integrity. Consequently, these measures are crucial for maintaining the credibility of the examination process.

Test Environment

Test centers are designed to provide a standardized testing environment. Test-takers are assigned to individual workstations in a room with minimal distractions. Personal belongings are not allowed in the testing room, with lockers usually provided for storage.

Exam Structure and Breaks

The GMAT exam consists of four sections: Analytical Writing Assessment, Integrated Reasoning, Quantitative, and Verbal. Test-takers manage their time across these sections, starting with a total of three and a half hours of testing time, including two optional eight-minute breaks. The break periods are strategically placed after the Integrated Reasoning and Quantitative sections.

Rules and Regulations

Strict rules apply during the GMAT to maintain test fairness. Talking to other test-takers, accessing notes or electronic devices, and leaving the test center premises are prohibited during breaks or at any time before the exam concludes. Violation of these rules may result in the cancellation of scores.

After the Exam

Immediately after completing the exam, test-takers will receive unofficial scores for the Quantitative and Verbal sections. The official scores, including the Analytical Writing Assessment and Integrated Reasoning scores, are sent within three weeks via email and are available through the official GMAT website.

By knowing what to expect on exam day, individuals can navigate the logistical and procedural aspects confidently. It allows them to concentrate on performing their best on the critical components of the GMAT. This knowledge complements their rigorous preparation strategies, whether through self-study or engaging with popular GMAT prep course providers like Manhattan Prep, Kaplan, Magoosh, and Target Test Prep.

Advantages of a High GMAT Score

Achieving a high GMAT score significantly enhances an applicant’s prospects in the competitive world of graduate management education. This advancement is not just about meeting the eligibility criteria; it’s about standing out in a pool of potential candidates.

  1. Increased Admission Chances at Top Business Schools: Prestigious institutions, renowned for their rigorous selection process, often consider a high GMAT score as an indicator of a candidate’s potential success in their programs. Higher scores set applicants apart, making them more attractive to elite business schools.
  2. Scholarship Opportunities: Many business schools and financial aid organizations use GMAT scores as a criterion for awarding scholarships. A stellar score can therefore not only secure a place in a desired program but also significantly reduce financial burdens.
  3. Better Job Prospects Post-Graduation: Recruiters and employers in competitive industries view high GMAT scores as evidence of strong analytical and problem-solving abilities—skills highly valued in the business world. Graduates from top-tier programs, often entered with high GMAT scores, tend to have better job offers and higher starting salaries.
  4. Access to Exclusive Alumni Networks: Admission into top business schools, facilitated by high GMAT scores, offers access to an extensive and influential alumni network. These connections can provide invaluable resources, mentorship, and opportunities that aid in a graduate’s career progression.
  5. Personal Confidence and Preparedness: The rigorous preparation required to achieve a high GMAT score equips candidates with a solid foundation in the skills needed for business school success. This preparation boosts confidence and ensures that students are ready to face the challenges of their graduate programs.

In essence, a high GMAT score opens doors to numerous opportunities, from admission into prestigious MBA programs and scholarship awards to fruitful career paths and expansive networks.


Mastering the GMAT is a crucial step for those aiming to excel in the competitive world of graduate management education. The benefits of a high score extend far beyond admission into top-tier programs. They include substantial scholarship opportunities, improved job prospects, and a powerful network of alumni. It’s clear that the effort and resources invested in preparing for the GMAT can significantly influence one’s academic and professional journey. As candidates navigate their preparation, they’re not just studying for a test; they’re laying the groundwork for their future success.


  • What is the GMAT exam?
    The GMAT exam is a standardized test specifically designed to assess critical skills needed for graduate management programs. It serves as an important criterion for admission into business schools globally.
  • Why is the GMAT exam important for business school admissions?
    The GMAT exam is crucial for business school admissions because it evaluates analytical writing, quantitative, verbal, and integrated reasoning skills. High scores can significantly boost a candidate's chance of admission into top programs.
  • What are the key benefits of achieving a high GMAT score?
    Achieving a high GMAT score offers several benefits, including increased chances of admission to prestigious business schools, eligibility for scholarships, better job prospects, access to valuable alumni networks, enhanced personal confidence, and superior career preparedness.
  • What should I expect on GMAT exam day?
    On GMAT exam day, expect a structured testing procedure including a check-in process, identity verification, and specific rules for the test duration. Candidates should prepare to tackle different sections under timed conditions.
  • Can a high GMAT score influence my future career path?
    Yes, a high GMAT score can have a substantial influence on your future career path by opening doors to elite business schools and companies, offering networking opportunities, and providing a competitive edge in the job market.


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