Guide to the GMAT

studying for GMAT
GMAT logo

GMAT stands for Graduate Management Admission Test and is used strictly to help B-schools admit applicants for their business programs. The GMAT is a multiple-choice examination with one written section. It is known as a computer-adaptive test. There are four parts to the exam: analytical writing, integrated reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and verbal reasoning. It is specifically designed to determine whether students can examine, assess, and synthesize information. It also measures student’s math skills, like algebra and geometry, as well as writing. The GMAT has been a trusted standardized exam for over 60 years, and it is used by more than 7,000 B-Schools, nationally and internationally.

Why is the GMAT Important?

Taking the GMAT and doing well gives students an advantage and opens up a world of opportunities. The GMAT provides information like a resume and transcript in the way that they showcase knowledge and ability, but also critical thinking and reasoning skills. Some business schools view it as the most important part of students’ business school applications. It highlights and identifies students as outstanding candidates for business schools (b-schools), aiding in admission. The GMAT also helps the business school review committees assess whether the applicants can perform well on the MBA coursework. The GMAT can be a lifesaver for applicants that do not have a high grade point average.

Students’ commitment to the GMAT translates to their commitment and probability for success in completing a master’s program in business. In addition to exam scores, when students take the GMAT, they also receive recommendations for programs that may be a good fit.

One fun fact is that students’ GMAT scores at a specific business school are greatly beneficial for the school. A school that has students with high averages of GMAT scores will have high rankings. Additionally, a personal advantage to students with high GMAT scores is that they can be recruited to ideal business employers.

What Does the GMAT Entail?

The graduate management admission test can be taken online or proctored at a test center. Students should consider which is a better personal fit for them. They might consider taking the test online if their schedule is busy or if their proximity to the testing sites is not ideal. If the exam is taken online, students are only able to re-test one other time. Students must register for the exam in advance either by calling or emailing, and they can cancel their exam or reschedule it any time before their appointment.

The exam can be completed in approximately three hours, and students are welcome to take the sections in any order. There are two optional breaks, for eight minutes each. It is important to note that if students go over their time on breaks, time will be subtracted from the allotted time for the following test section.

computer

The testing center lends an advantage to students for three reasons. At a testing site, if they prefer to choose the order they take each section, they can decide upon arrival. Additionally, if students require special time increases and breaks as a part of disability accommodations, that will be arranged. Finally, if students want to receive their scores immediately, the testing site is the only option for that. However, the writing score is not included. On site, within two minutes of viewing their scores, students can choose to accept their scores and receive the unofficial score report immediately. Given that there are only a couple of minutes to make a decision about scores, the Graduate Management Admission Council suggests that students decide what would be an acceptable and ideal score prior to testing day.

Approximately 20 days after taking the test, students will receive the official report via email or snail mail. Within 72 hours, if a student does not want their score sent to the schools they are applying for, they can cancel it for a fee. They can also reinstate the scores for up to five years for a fee. Students that choose to take the test in person, within the span of 12 months, have the opportunity to take the GMAT up to five times. However, students are required to wait 16 days between testing days. Scores for the GMAT are admissible for up to five years. The online test can be submitted to an unlimited number of programs, and the in-person test can be submitted to five programs.

When Do I Take the GMAT?

Experts suggest that students take the GMAT after they have considered a number of factors. Students that are currently completing their undergraduate studies may find great success in preparing for the GMAT and taking it now. Students are still in the mindset of studying and taking tests. The content, like math concepts, is likely easier to learn and recall. Additionally, school is still the main priority. Undergraduate students have more time and flexibility than working professionals, especially those that have family priorities. Lastly, GMAT scores have a five-year life. Even if students are not ready to enroll in a program, like the online MBA, their scores will wait for them.

According to e-gmat.com, all prospective students should first decide on the business schools that they want to apply to and note their application deadlines. Then students should factor in the necessary study time, as well as time for retakes if necessary. A good rule of thumb is for students to register for the GMAT two to three months before they intend to take it. While undergraduate students have flexibility, working professionals, on the other hand, may want to create a timeline of 12-18 months. That will lend flexibility to studying, taking the GMAT, and applying for the ideal program that fits their needs and expectations.

At e-GMAT, they suggest that students have their scores three months before their application deadlines. This gives time for students to focus on completing the other portions of the Master of Business Administration application process. Many programs require written essays, resume perfecting, and the acquisition of transcripts and letters of recommendation. Other programs require interviews. There is little time to fill the application requirements while trying to study for this intensive examination.

The e-GMAT team provides a formula to determine the number of hours necessary to prepare. They take the students’ target GMAT score and subtract from it the students’ current score. That number is then multiplied by hours of effort and a confidence-building time factor. A step-by-step calculation can be done on their website, but typically, students will study for 90-120 hours in total. Many students do that in three to four months.

There is a fee to take the GMAT, so Kaplan suggests that students adequately prepare for the examination and take the exam at the right time to avoid repeated costs. Recently the cost of the GMAT has increased.

How Do I Prepare for the GMAT?

preparing for the GMAT

There are multiple resources to prepare students to take the GMAT. Many test prep websites have programs. The mba.com, Princeton Review, and Kaplan are a few websites to begin with. Mba.com has GMAT guides, practice questions, and over four official adapted practice exams. Kaplan offers instructor-led courses as well as a study plan. The Princeton Review has online and in-person courses as well as private tutoring. Courses range in price, and some of them have money-back guarantees if students do not receive a higher score the next time that they take the GMAT. If you are on the go you can always use GMAT Prep apps on both Android and IOS app stores. These apps are free and have in app purchases.

Knowing the make-up of the test is a good starting place. Both the writing and the integrated reasoning segments are 30 minutes long. In the writing section, students will look at one question and analyze an argument. The integrated section asks 12 questions that focus on interpreting graphics, analyzing tables, multi-source reasoning, and two-part analysis. The final two parts are just over 60 minutes each. The quantitative reasoning part contains 31 questions of data sufficiency and problem solving. Lastly, the verbal reasoning part is made of 36 questions requiring reading comprehension, critical reasoning, and sentence correction. It is suggested that students decide on the order they want to complete the exam upon arrival.

How Do I Succeed at Taking the GMAT?

#SuccessOnPurpose! Prepare! According to the experts at Kaplan, successful students spend several hours studying for the GMAT. Once students know their ideal score and are repeatedly scoring in their desired range, they should be ready to take the official test. The consistent advice across preparation platforms is to create a plan and even develop a studying routine or habit. Once students have a plan that is relevant to their schedule, goals, and effective studying method, they will experience results.

Additionally, having a healthy mindset and outlook on taking the test can go a long way. Earning a competitive score is attainable for those that are gifted and those that plan well. Even in times of mistakes, low scores, or other failures, those setbacks can be the set up for success. It goes back to perspective.

When things seem daunting, holding a defeated posture will not lend to the greatest amounts of success. Students should also SMART goals. SMART goals are specific. Some students may need to set goals for each section of the exam or goals of mastering specific concepts. Goals should be measurable so students know how to determine when they have attained it or made progress. Goals should be attainable, not so far of a reach that it is more of a dream than a goal. Smart goals are relevant and in alignment with the GMAT, in this case. Lastly, goals have a time frame. Students that are preparing for the GMAT should set goals at the beginning of the preparation process so that if their timeline needs to be extended, it can be done. Lastly, students should remember that they can come back to their SMART goals and make adjustments.

Study for the GMAT

students studying

U.S. News and World Report has six suggestions for success with the GMAT. They suggest that students take the graduate management admission test as early as they can and as often as they can. Students can take it as early as their sophomore and junior years of undergrad. When students take the test for the first time, it can give them a starting place for where they are, help them see where they need to go, and help them determine what it will take to get to their ideal score. Additionally, students should take economics and statistics prior to taking the GMAT. Those courses give language and content awareness for the topics discussed on the test. The third piece of advice they give is to pay sufficient attention to the verbal section of the exam because communication is a key element of the MBA curriculum. The fourth suggestion is for students to spend lots of time studying the data sufficiency questions. Unfortunately, this type of question is not as common as standardized tests, so students have to condition their minds to process this type of question. These GMAT questions are in the format of one question and two statements, but it is not easy to determine the correct answer response.

Because the exam is completed online and is a computer adaptive test, the next suggestion is to become familiar with this type of exam through GMAT preparation websites and GMAT computer courses. This is the type of test that gives harder questions as you answer the previous questions correctly. It is also timed, and students take it while under video surveillance. Some students feel pressure in this type of environment. So, to reiterate, practice is necessary. The final advice given by U.S. News and World Report is to give attention to the first 10 questions of each section on the GMAT. All of the questions matter, but the beginning questions are worth the most points. Doing well on those questions ultimately lowers students’ chances of having lower scores. While paying attention to the first 10 questions is important, balancing out the time on the entire exam is important so that all questions get answered. There is a penalty to leaving questions unanswered.

Students may think that the way to high scores on the GMAT is to spend an incredible amount of time practicing as many questions as possible. They may think that they should figure out how to compute and solve the questions as fast as they can because it is a timed test. Maybe they think they should know how many questions to solve correctly. E-gmat.com does not think that any of these are the key to success. They believe that because the test measures students’ knowledge and application of concepts, that they should gain the skill set of applying concepts to solve questions.

Scores for the GMAT

The Graduate Management Admission Test is scored on a scale of 200-800 using a Graduate Management Admission Council algorithm. Highly ranked and accredited programs request scores over 700. According to Kaplan, the average score is 552. The average score for the quantitative section is 39, 4.4 for the analytical writing, and 4.2 for integrated reasoning. Master of Business Administration programs are looking for the combined verbal and quantitative scores. The number of points per question is based on the level of difficulty, and the number of difficult questions answered correctly is reflected in the overall score. Additionally, there are two additional scores for the analytical writing assessment and the integrated reasoning section. Writing scores are given in the range of zero to six. Reasoning scores are measured from one to eight.

Once students gain proficiency and accuracy of medium and hard questions, their percentile ranking goes up. Students get an overall score in the sections of the GMAT, but they also score in a percentile. For example, in a particular section, when a student scores in the 50th percentile, that means they are scoring in that section better than 50% of all students testing. Students want to score better than 80% or 90% of all students. Students that score above 700 are testing better than 90% of others. Focusing on improvement in the percentile is a good goal for the improvement of scores.

What to Avoid

GMAT mistakes

There are many suggestions for how to be successful on the GMAT. There are also some things that students should avoid doing, and there are things that are considered mistakes. Students should avoid studying without a plan. Without a plan, students can repeat the same errors on the test day and in studying. A mistake students make is not focusing on their weaknesses. Unfortunately, when students have really high scores in some sections and really low scores in others, it presents a red flag. Students should also avoid preparing for the GMAT without using the online computerized adaptive practice tests. If students go on the GMAC website, they can find the Official GMAT Prep Software, and there are two full-length tests available. Another mistake is waiting until the last minute to study and trying to cram the material. Cramming may not help students to do well. Lastly, there are some things to avoid on the day of the test. Students should avoid rushing through questions, trying to beat the system by attempting to answer only the difficult questions, and skipping questions.

Do Online MBA Programs Need the GMAT?

The GMAT is highly recommended, whether business schools require it or not. Many schools require the GMAT, or the requirement can also be fulfilled with GRE scores. Schools that waive GMAT scores expect applicants to have a grade point average of over a 3.0 coupled with professional career experience. Taking the GMAT and earning high scores can open doors for scholarships, fellowships, jobs, and internships. If the schools that students are applying for do not require them to take the GMAT, students should consider whether the risk of taking the exam outweighs the potential benefits.

Action Plans

  1. Students should decide on the business schools they want to apply to. Students can choose five schools to receive their official report. After testing day, if they want to send their scores to additional schools, there is a fee. Questions to consider are:
    · When am I applying for an online MBA?
    · Does the school I want to apply to require a GMAT score?
    · What is my purpose for taking the GMAT?
  2. Students should create a timeline that includes when to study for the GMAT, when to take the GMAT, and when to apply for the online MBA.
  3. Students should take the sample GMAT for the first time. Questions to consider are:
    · What is my current score?
    · What is the average score of admitted applicants at my desired school?
    · What is my ideal score?
  4. Students should set SMART goals and choose to have a positive outlook on preparing for the GMAT. Questions to consider:
    · What do I think it will take to reach my desired score?
    · What are my areas of improvement?
  5. Students should decide on a study plan. Questions to consider are:
    · Where can I study?
    · What will be my routine?
    · How much studying is necessary?
    · What is the length of time to spend studying per study session?
  6. Students should decide on the resources that would be most helpful for preparing for the GMAT. Questions to consider are:
    · What is my preferred style of learning?
    · Do I have a preferred company to work with?
    · What is my budget for testing preparation resources?
  7. Students should decide whether to take the GMAT online or at a testing site. Questions to consider:
    · Do I need accommodations?
    · Do I want to take the optional breaks?
    · Do I want my test results immediately?
    · Do I need the convenience of testing in my own controlled environment?
    · Do I foresee needing to retake the exam?
    · What is the score I am willing to accept when my test is complete?
  8. Students should prepare well for the testing day. Things to consider are:
    · Get good rest before the exam.
    · Arrive early to the testing site.
    · Bring proper identification.
    · Leave food, drinks, and gum at home.

Related Resources:

Guide to an Economics Online MBA