What is the GMAT: scoring, format, price and more

What is GMAT

What is GMAT?

 

Everything you need to know about the test format, scoring, registration, and price as of 2020.

The Graduate Management Admissions Test, or GMAT, is an inescapable name when preparing to apply for business school. It’s a 3 hour and 7 minute multiple choice exam from the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) designed to evaluate an individual’s preparedness for an MBA. Questions are meant to examine a test-taker’s skills in mathematics, data analysis, written expression, and problem solving. A candidate’s GMAT score is used by Admission committees along with their work experience, academic performance, CV, letters of recommendation, and one or multiple interviews in order to assess if you would be a good fit for their MBA, EMBA, or Masters in Finance, Marketing, Entrepreneurship, or Business program.

 

HOW IS THE GMAT STRUCTURED

The GMAT is divided into four parts:

 

  1. A 30-minute Analytical Writing Assessment - One written task to display your ability to communicate your thoughts and formulate arguments. (scored from 0 - 6)

 

  1. A 30-minute Integrated Reasoning section - Twelve multiple-choice questions, most of which are multi-part and designed to demonstrate your capacity to interpret data. (scored from 1-8)

 

  1. A 62-minute Quantitative section - Thirty-one multiple-choice questions that will draw on your ability to reason and formulate conclusions. (scored theoretically from 0-60 but in reality a 51 is the highest score you can get even if you get all of the questions right)

 

  1. A 65-minute Verbal section - Thirty-six multiple-choice questions centered around interpreting written material and correcting texts. (again scored theoretically from 0-60 but in reality a 51 is the highest score you can get even if you get all of the questions right)

 

GMAT Test Section

# of Questions

Question Types

Time

Score

Analytical Writing Assessment

1 Topic

Analysis of Argument

30 Minutes

0 à 6

Integrated Reasoning

12 Questions

Multi-Source Reasoning
Graphics Interpretation
Two-Part Analysis
Table Analysis

30 Minutes

1 à 8

Break – 8 minutes

Quantitative

31 Questions

Data Sufficiency
Problem Solving

62 Minutes

0 à 51 (60)

Break – 8 minutes

Verbal

36 Questions

Reading Comprehension
Critical Reasoning
Sentence Correction

65 Minutes

0 à 51 (60)

Overall

   

3hrs 7 min  

200 à 800

 

Before you start the test, you can choose the order in which you will pass the different sections. The following three options of your exam’s order will be available:

 

  • Analytical Writing Assessment, Integrated Reasoning, Quantitative, Verbal (original order)
  • Verbal, Quantitative, Integrated Reasoning, Analytical Writing Assessment
  • Quantitative, Verbal, Integrated Reasoning, Analytical Writing Assessment

 

THE ANALYTICAL WRITING ASSESSMENT (AWA SECTION)

The AWA is scored separately from the other sections, meaning that it is not factored in to calculate your 200-800 point score. While the AWA is not unimportant, it isn’t considered as crucial as your scores on the Quantitative and Verbal sections. Over the last ten years of helping students at Vincia Prep, we have never seen a student rejected because of their AWA score (whereas a low overall GMAT score can quite often be a deciding factor that shuts the door to many MBA programs).  However, universities still want to see proof of a candidate’s ability to express themselves in written form. As such, you should shoot for scoring at least a 4 out of 6 on this section. In this part of the exam you will be given a paragraph that presents an argument. It will then be your job to analyse the validity of this argument. Did the author provide enough evidence? Is their line of reasoning logical? Keep in mind that you will not need in-depth knowledge of the subject matter to complete this section, nor will you need to present your own view point. What is important is your ability to break down, evaluate, and critique a text in 30 minutes.

Here is an example of an AWA question:

 

The following appeared in a memo to management at Best Bank:

In 2020, an employee named Mr. Stein was fired after an altercation at a company Christmas party. Five days later, the manager of the mergers and acquisitions division noticed that workers appeared tired and distracted. The Stein scandal clearly angered the employees.

 

"Discuss how well reasoned you find this argument. In your discussion, be sure to analyze the line of reasoning and the use of evidence in the argument. For example, you may need to consider what questionable assumptions underlie the thinking and what alternative explanations or counterexamples might weaken the conclusion. You can also discuss what sort of evidence would strengthen or refute the argument, what changes in the argument would make it more logically sound, and what, if anything, would help you better evaluate its conclusion."

The essay will be scored by both a computer and a human grader. An average of these two scores is made for your final score. In the event that there is a big discrepancy between the two scoring systems, another human grader will read your essay and give you a final score.

 

THE INTEGRATED REASONING (IR) SECTION

In the Integrated Reasoning section your ability to consolidate multiple data sources to solve complex problems will be evaluated. You will be presented with graphics, sections of text, and figures from different sources that you must blend together to develop your response. This section contains four question types which will be combined for a total of 12 questions all together. Your score will then be put into an algorithm that will then give you a final score between 0 and 8. Some questions will require multiple responses, so use your time wisely. You only have 30 minutes to complete the IR section. As with the AWA section, the IR section is graded separately from your overall GMAT score, and therefore is generally considered to be less important. Here again, we have never had a student that was asked to retake the test due to a low score in this section ever since its creation nearly a decade ago. However, many schools do look at least look at this score so here you should aim to get at least a 5 out of 8. Furthermore, since this section is not quite as important as your overall GMAT score, you should consider doing this section, and the AWA section last.  

The four question types possible are as follows:

  1. Multi-Source Reasoning - You are presented with data in different formats from a variety of sources. You are then supposed to analyze the given data for any possible contradictions, correlations, or outliers. Be on the lookout for unnecessary information just included to throw you off.
  2. Table Analysis- Determines your ability to analyze data presented with a table. You are meant to distinguish what data is relevant or meets certain guidelines.
  3. Graphics Interpretation - You must interpret information that is presented in a graph. The selected graph could vary between multiple styles: bar chart, pie chart, scatter plot, x/y, statistical curve, etc.
  4. Two-Part Analysis - This style of question measures your ability to solve multi-part problems. You will need to be able to solve simultaneous equations, evaluate compromises, and evaluate possible relationships between two subjects.

 

THE QUANTITATIVE AND VERBAL SECTIONS ON THE GMAT

These two sections of the GMAT are the most important. They make up the computer adaptive section of the test, meaning that the questions become more difficult or easier based on the accuracy of your previous responses. Your final overall score between 200-800 points will be drawn from only these two parts of the exam, so it’s wise to dedicate a most of your study time to these two portions. Furthermore, the school rankings are partially determined by the overall GMAT score of the students that are admitted, which is why the Quant and verbal sections are more important than the IR and AWA sections which are not part of the school rankings.

In the Quantitative Reasoning section, your ability to reason mathematically, solve quantitative problems, and interpret graphs will be measured. There are two types of questions: problem solving and data sufficiency.

 

Problem Solving on the GMAT

Here you must use analytical reasoning to find the answer to quantitative problems, then you will need to select the best answer amongst five answer choices.

Example:  What is the 173rd digit to the right of the decimal point in the standard decimal expansion of 234567÷7 ?

a) 1

b) 2

c) 5

d) 8

e) 9

See the problem solving answer here. Or contact us for a full free online test and personalised analysis by our GMAT coach who has more than 10 years of experience.

 

Data Sufficiency on the GMAT 

In data sufficiency problems, you will be given a question and then two statements. Using the data provided in the statements, plus your own general knowledge, you must decide whether you have enough data in the statements to answer the question. For a complete explanation of data sufficiency questions, check out this article.

Example:

If x, y, and z are positive integers, is the sum of x and y divisible by 3?

1) The sum of x and z is divisible by 3
2) The sum of y and z is divisible by 3  

 

See the test answers hereOr contact us for a full free online test and personalised analysis by our GMAT coach who has more than 10 years of experience.

 

Verbal Reasoning section on the GMAT

In this section you will need to be able to demonstrate your understanding of any given text, to evaluate the arguments it presents, and also to correct written material in order to express an idea more effectively. You will come across the following three types of questions:

 

Reading Comprehension on the GMAT

Here you will be given a passage that comes with questions asking you to identify main ideas and supporting details, interpret the material, and then infer your own conclusion. The passage could discuss a range of topics, anything from social science, the humanities, physical science, or business.

 

Example:

The Spanish conquered the Philippines in the mid-16th century, and mercantilism dominated Western European economic policy and discourse between the 16th and the late-18th centuries. Throughout the mercantilist era, European nations were acquiring colonies with the aim of winning wealth and making a profit. And because Europeans at this time believed that agriculture was the basis of wealth, the majority of labor in colonies would be focused on agriculture and/or natural resource acquisition. The secondary basis of wealth was thought to be the acquisition of precious metals (notably gold and silver); therefore, European powers also used their colonies to help in the accumulation of such metals.

 

Yet in the case of the Spanish conquest of the Philippines, a number of surprising economic trends emerged. First, it is not at all certain that the Philippines were profitable for Spain. Indeed, there was no exchange of raw materials between the Philippines and Spain. Furthermore, agriculture was not a focus of economic activity within the colony; instead, commerce was king (in the form of the bustling galleon trade), and farming and ranching produced little wealth. Even worse, because the Philippines were a significant port of trade, wealth was actually leaving Spain and Mexico for foreign lands (namely, China). Yet Spain continued to hold the Philippines, perhaps for less-obvious religious or strategic reasons.

 

Questions 1-3 refer to the passage above.

 

  1. The primary purpose of the passage is to

 

  1. dissect a confusing matter of foreign policy
  2. draw attention to an abnormality
  3. clarify an ambiguity
  4. rank economic influences
  5. provide an example of colonial hypocrisy

 

  2. The passage suggests that if non-mercantilist reasons were behind the decision to continue to hold the Philippines, then one would expect which of the following to be true?

 

  1. Spanish religious beliefs were incompatible with colonial objectives.
  2. Spain received a significant amount of gold and silver from the Philippines.
  3. The Philippines were located in a place of unique military interest.
  4. Spain had sufficient domestic natural resources so as to be indifferent to what the Philippines might otherwise have contributed.
  5. Spain had plans to move away from an agriculture-based economy.

 

  3. According to the passage, which of the following would provide the best evidence of successful mercantilist colonization?

 

  1. A colony rich in iron ore deposits
  2. A colony that gradually develops into a significant port of trade
  3. A colony that innovates a revolutionary agricultural process
  4. A colony with a vibrant religious history
  5. A colony with significant military capability

 

See the answers to the reading comprehension questions here. Or contact us for a full free online test and personalised analysis by our GMAT coach who has more than 10 years of experience.

 

Critical Reasoning on the GMAT

Here you must formulate arguments, evaluate a given argument, or develop a plan of action in response to a short reading passage. The text is usually no more than 100 words and is followed by a question that asks you which of the five answers supports or disproves an argument.

Example:

It is commonly accepted that socioeconomic status (SES) plays a role in language development. As a general rule, children of lower-SES families have less-developed vocabularies and lower language proficiency scores than do children who are raised in more advantageous situations. Yet new research suggests that SES is not the most important factor in a child’s language development—rather, it is whether parents actively talk to their toddler or not. Raising children with better language processing efficiency and stronger vocabularies has almost nothing to do with SES, then; parents simply need to talk directly to their toddlers.

 

Which of the following, if true, casts the most doubt on the effectiveness of the conclusion drawn above?

 

  1. Toddlers who watched more dialogue-heavy television did not demonstrate any gains in language development.
  2. Toddlers from lower-SES families often spend up to 500% more time in daycare centers than with their parents.
  3. Toddlers with bilingual parents tend to speak much later than their monolingual peers.
  4. Parents from higher-SES backgrounds tend to have fewer children.
  5. Toddlers from lower-SES families tend to own fewer books than do their higher-SES peers.

 

See the answer to the Critical reasoning question here. Or contact us for a full free online test and personalised analysis by our GMAT coach who has more than 10 years of experience.

 

Sentence Correction on the GMAT

These questions measure your language proficiency. A sentence will be presented with a specific part underlined. Beneath the sentence there will be five possible ways to phrase the underlined section. You must consider grammar, word choice, and overall structure to determine which answer makes the sentence more effective.

Example:

 

Nazi occupying powers in Eastern Europe practiced a policy of collective punishment, destroying entire villages for acts of sabotage even though all their inhabitants did not participate in them.

 

A. all their inhabitants did not participate in them

B. not all their inhabitants participated in them

C. all their inhabitants may not have participated in them

D. not all their inhabitants would have participated in them

E. all their inhabitants were not participating in them

 

See the answer to the Sentence correction question here. Or contact us for a full free online test and personalised analysis by our GMAT coach who has more than 10 years of experience.

 

 

WHAT IS A COMPUTER ADAPTIVE TEST?

A rather distinct feature of the GMAT is that the Quantitative and Verbal sections are computer adaptive, meaning that the questions adapt to your ability level. To put this in even simpler terms, the test becomes easier or more challenging based on the accuracy of your responses to previous questions. Wrong answers will lead to simpler questions, whereas correct answers will lead to tougher questions. It is impossible to go back and change a response once it has been submitted and any unanswered questions count heavily against you. The final score is determined by an algorithm that takes into account not only the accuracy of a test-taker’s responses, but also the difficulty level of the questions you managed to answer correctly.

 

WHAT IS A GOOD STRATEGY FOR THE GMAT?

Strategy and thorough preparation are both essential when taking the GMAT. Skipping questions isn’t allowed, and you shouldn’t want to skip a question because there is always a chance that you could guess the right answer (indeed, educated guessing is an important part of taking the test). The most important thing to remember is to pace yourself and to not waste too much time answering questions that you find too difficult. On average you’ll want to spend two minutes per question on the math section, one minute and five seconds per sentence correction question, two minutes per critical reasoning question, six to eight minutes per reading comprehension passage (which have three to four questions).

Leaving the exam with unanswered questions at the end can have serious consequences on your final score. The test actually penalises you twice for not completing the exam. Once for getting the questions wrong, and then a second time for not finishing. They do this because logically, you should at least try to guess the answers to the questions and if you don’t, they want to penalize you for not thinking about this properly. The computer adaptive aspect to the GMAT is an added challenge, but fortunately the skills tested by the exam can be trained and developed over time.

As stated above, since the Integrated Reasoning (IR) and Writing (AWA) sections are not considered by schools to be as important as your math and verbal scores, you should probably do the IR and AWA sections last. Over the past 5 years we’ve seen that students generally score 20 points higher on their test if they do either the math or verbal section first and leave the IR and AWA sections to the end.

The one exception to this rule is for those who are generally nervous test-takers. It helps to be honest with yourself when considering this question. While some stress is normal and can be a positive motivator, it’s never beneficial if you end up feeling panicked and unfocussed during the exam. If you happen to fit into this profile of a nervous tester, you might find it beneficial to give yourself time to ease into the test. If you start with the IR and AWA sections first, you can give yourself a little bit of time to calm down and build up confidence. After all, a successful strategy for conquering the GMAT includes not only working on the practical skills being evaluated by the exam, but also a bit of psychological preparation. If you’re feeling uncomfortably anxious right before or during the test, it’s possible that this could have a negative impact on your score.

 

HOW IS THE GMAT SCORED?

Each of the four exam sections are given a scaled score and percentile rank. However, your math and verbal score will be combined by a specific algorithm (see the below score charts) to give you an overall GMAT score.

 

Thus, upon finishing the exam, you will be given an unofficial score report that looks something like this:

 

 

Your final score for the GMAT can fall anywhere from 200-800 points, but do keep in mind that it is not a pass/fail exam. At the end of the test, you will be given a printed-out version of your unofficial score report. In the event that you are not happy with your results and have time to retake the exam at a later date, you can cancel your score and the schools you apply to will never see the results. If you are satisfied with your score, an official version with your AWA results will be mailed to you within 20 calendar days of the testing date. It should also be noted that most schools accept your unofficial score while waiting for your official score to come in the mail. Thus, if you’re short on time, you should check with the MBA programs that you’re applying to and see if they will accept the unofficial score if necessary.

 

What is a good GMAT score?

That depends on what school you want to get into and who your competition is. If you want to get into a top 20 business school the average GMAT score is around a 720. However, this necessarily mean that you have to score a 720 on the GMAT to get into a top school because your competition might be be scoring a 720. For example, there are fewer women candidates that apply to MBA programs than male candidates. From what we've seen over the last 10 years, this makes it so women can often gain admission to schools with a GMAT score 20 point below what an equally qualified male candidate would need. In addition, if you're coming from an under represented country or background you can also get away with having a lower GMAT score. For example, we recently had a candidate get into a top 5 business school with a 560 on the GMAT due to her unique background.

Percentile

Total GMAT Score*

Top 10% of all test takers

710

Top 27% of all test takers

650

Top 45% of all test takers

600

Below 50th percentile of all test takers

570

The above percentiles were made available by GMAC for test takers between 2015-2018

 

WHEN SHOULD I REGISTER FOR THE GMAT?

For GMAT registration, September to December is the busy season since the second round of most Fall deadlines for MBA programs are in December and January. Generally speaking, you don’t want to apply later after the second round. The exam can be taken any day of the week in most places (including Sunday) and in theory, you can register anytime 24 hours prior to the exam. However, since there are limited places for each testing session, you will want to register at least a month in advance during the off season and at least two months in advance during the high season. You can take the GMAT once every 16 days, up to five times within a year and up to eight times total. 

 

HOW MUCH DOES THE GMAT COST?

For the moment, registration for the GMAT costs $275 in the US and 250€ in Europe

 

How long is the GMAT Valid?

Your GMAT scores are valid for 5 years. Thus, if you just finished school or you’re in between jobs it would be a good idea for you to study for the test now because you can use the results years later.

 

HOW DO I REGISTER FOR THE GMAT?

To register you’ll need to follow the following steps:

 

  1. Step 1: Sign up on www.mba.com/exams.
  2. Step 2: Start the GMAT registration process.
  3. Step 3: Enter your personal information.
  4. Step 4: Enter optional information.
  5. Step 5: Verify Your Profile.
  6. Step 6: Find a GMAT center near you using their testing center finder
  7. Step 7: Schedule your GMAT exam
  8. Step 8: Pay the GMAT registration fee

 

One of the annoying points about registering for the GMAT is that they don’t tell you where the testing centers are until after you create your account and start the registration process. To find other testing centers in France, Belgium, and England you can look at our article about GMAT testing centers . In Paris you can take that GMAT at one of the locations:

 

IBS GLOBAL

42-52 Rue de l'Aqueduc

75010 Paris

Paris, France

Phone:

+33 1 42 80 38 39

Pearson Professional Centres-Paris, France

15 rue Henri Rol-Tanguy

TERRA NOVA II Building

5th Floor

93100 Montreuil

Paris, France

Phone:

+33 1 43 62 30 90

 

Furthermore, our previous students have told us that the testing center in Montreuil is calmer and generally nicer so if you’re taking the test in Paris, you should try to enroll there.

 

 

Can I postpone or cancel my GMAT exam after I register?

Yes, you can postpone or cancel your exam after you register for the GMAT. If you postpone your exam you will have to pay a fee between $50 and $150 in most places in the world. If you cancel you’ll have to pay between $150 and $200. The exact fees are shown below. However, in France, there is the a retraction law that states that you can get a refund within 14 days of making any purchase without a contract. In the past several years we have had students successfully get a full refund after using this law even though they were initially told they would be charged a fee.

 

Reschedule Fee Tiers:

  • 1 to 14 days prior to appointment: $150
  • 15 to 60 days prior to appointment: $100
  • More than 60 days prior to appointment: $50

Cancel Fee Tiers:

  • Within 24 hours of appointment: $275 (no refund)
  • 1 to 14 days prior to appointment: $200 ($50 refund)
  • 15 to 60 days prior to appointment: $175 ($75 refund)
  • More than 60 days prior to appointment: $150 ($100 refund)

 

How long does it take to get your GMAT results?

After you take the test, you’ll immediately see your score out of 800 and the testing center will print out your unofficial report card. This is report is accepted by most schools until they receive your official report which generally takes two to 3 weeks to arrive. If you don’t like your score, you can cancel it and the school’s you apply to will never see the results (since 2015).

 

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