What Is the GMAT?
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The Graduate Management Admission Test (or GMAT as it is more commonly known) is designed to test the skills necessary for success in graduate management programs such as an MBA.
It is highly relevant to the types of problems and situations encountered in real business, and has been linked to the qualities needed for leadership success.
The GMAT is a fairly international test, used most commonly in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.
The GMAT is what is known as a power test. It aims to assess a candidate’s maximum reasoning ability and it does so using sophisticated computer algorithms, which respond to the answers a candidate has previously given.
Tests like this are known as 'computer-adaptive tests' and they are a good way of evaluating the differences between candidates, as they allow candidates to reach their maximum reasoning ability more quickly.
For example, a candidate who has successfully answered a question will be presented with a more difficult problem, to see whether they can also answer that, and this will continue until the candidate gets a problem wrong.
Once the candidate has made a mistake they will typically be presented with questions of a similar difficulty, to understand where their maximum reasoning ability lies.
Success in the GMAT depends very much on practice. You can try sample tests here. You will also find free GMAT questions and answers provided further below to help you prepare for this important test.
The GMAT is extremely widely used and is accepted by more than 6,000 business and management programs worldwide, at approximately 1,700 universities and organisations. More than 200,000 graduates take the GMAT every year.
The reason it is so widely used is because it can predict program performance. It can really help universities and employers see which candidates have the skills necessary for success.
As such it is a useful benchmark for comparing candidates, many of whom have similar academic and professional experiences.
The GMAT is a very structured test that includes four key elements: Analytical Writing Assessment, Integrated Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning and Verbal Reasoning. Each element has a time limit, which together take 3 hours 30 minutes to complete (though you should probably allow for approximately four hours in order to take some breaks). Each of these sections is explored below.
The AWA requires the candidate to read and understand a short passage that presents an argument. They must then critically evaluate this argument in an essay (time limit is typically 30 minutes). This is designed to assess a candidate’s critical thinking ability, and while the performance on the AWA section does not actually contribute to the overall GMAT score, it is still seen by universities and a poor score may harm your application.
The AWA section is awarded a score from one to six (with six being the best) and is double-marked by a computer program and an expert. This gives a high level of consistency between candidates.
To achieve a strong performance on the AWA question, it is important that you critically evaluate the argument presented. This could include considering whether any assumptions, inferences or deductions included are valid, exploring the strength of the evidence used to support the argument, identifying any weaknesses to the arguments, breaks in the logic or anywhere more information is needed.
Explain how persuasive or unpersuasive you find the argument and why, and remember to stick to the facts. Do not be tempted to offer a personal opinion on the topic, provide alternative proposals or stray from the question provided.
You will need to express yourself clearly and concisely using appropriate language and syntax. It is paramount that you are able to communicate your thoughts and ideas successfully. It can be helpful to take a few minutes to think carefully about the material and plan your answer before you begin writing. Check that you have actually answered the question, that your response is organised appropriately, and that your ideas are fully explored and developed.
The GMAT publishers provide a list of example questions here.
Integrated reasoning is highly applicable to business situations, as leaders are increasingly required to deal with large quantities of data, understand them, relate them to one another, and make decisions based on their analysis. Like the AWA, integrated reasoning does not contribute to the overall GMAT score but a poor performance in this section may damage your application.
You will need to answer 12 questions within 30 minutes. Questions are presented in four ways:
Graphics interpretation. You are required to look at and understand data presented in the form of a graph. Questions are presented as blank statements, with options selected from pull-down menus.
Two-part analysis. You will be presented with a number of potential components needed to create a solution. These are given in a table format and you will need to select one answer from each column to solve the problem.
Table analysis. You will be presented with data in a table and must organise the data to answer the question. You must select one answer for each statement; there will be a choice of two opposing answers (for example, true/false, yes/no).
Multi-source reasoning. You will be presented with two or three sources of information on a page with tabs. You will need to move between these information sources, understanding and integrating the information provided to answer the question. Questions will either be multiple-choice or a choice of two opposing answers.
To be successful, you must be able to understand and synthesize information presented in a range of formats. You need to organise information to see any relationships, connections or dependencies within the data. Identify and evaluate relevant data from different sources and combine these to solve complex problems.
This part of the test measures your quantitative reasoning ability. It is a key part of the test and will contribute towards your GMAT score.
You will be assessed on your ability to understand and interpret quantitative data, analyse and apply the information given to solve problems, and to critically evaluate the sufficiency of data.
You will need to answer 31 questions within 62 minutes. Two types of question are used:
Problem-solving. These questions assess your ability to work with numerical data to solve problems. These are multiple-choice questions and you must select the correct answer from the five possibilities presented. Some problems will be plain mathematical calculations; the rest will be presented as real-life word problems (numerical reasoning) that will require mathematical solutions.
Data sufficiency. These questions assess your ability to understand and analyse a quantitative problem and critically evaluate whether the data provided is sufficient to solve it. You will be presented with a question and two statements of data. You must determine whether either statement alone is sufficient to answer the question, whether both are needed to answer the question or whether there is not enough information given to answer the question.
To be successful, you will need to understand basic algebra, geometry, arithmetic, applied maths and data interpretation. Calculators are not permitted, so you will need to work out problems by hand.
Remember to read the instructions carefully to ensure that you understand and answer the problems correctly.
This section of the test assesses your ability to read, understand and apply written material. This section does contribute to your GMAT score.
You will need to answer 36 questions within 65 minutes. There are three types of questions:
Sentence correction. You will be presented with a question with text that is part-underlined, followed by five potential answers to correct it. One of these will be the original. Your job is to choose the best option from the choices given. This tests grammar as well as effective expression. When considering your option think about grammar, the words used, and how the sentence is put together. Look for an answer that is clear and precise, grammatically accurate and structured sensibly, with no ambiguity or unnecessary information.
Critical reasoning. This tests your ability to evaluate written material. You will be presented with some text which you need to read and understand, and then use to answer the multiple-choice question. Five potential answers will be provided and you must decide which is the most appropriate. When considering your options, think about any assumptions or inferences within the text, the strength of any evidence provided, and the clarity and logic of the conclusion.
Reading comprehension. This tests your ability to understand a piece of text - both the explicit content and the implied content. You will be presented with a passage of text and a number of multiple-choice questions, each with five potential answers. The passage can be about almost anything, and the questions provided will test how well you have understood it. The GMAT uses reading passages of approximately 200 to 350 words. Each passage has three or more questions based on it. The questions ask about the main point of the passage, about what the author specifically states, about what can be logically inferred from the passage, and about the author's attitude or tone.
To be successful, you will need to be able to read and understand passages of text. You must be able to think critically and read materials in an analytical, evaluative manner. Make sure that you are familiar with basic grammar, and ensure that you can recognise the key elements of critical appraisal: things like inferences, assumptions, deductions and conclusions within a passage of text.
Preparation is essential for success on the GMAT. It is generally accepted that a candidate should start preparing eight to twelve weeks before the test is scheduled, though many candidates spend much longer than this.
It is advisable to study for one section of the test at a time, revising the key principles before going on to practice the associated questions and then moving on to the next section.
Ensure that you understand exactly what types of questions will be presented in each of the sections, and how to answer them. There are many practice materials available that can help you with this, including those available here.
Brush up on your basic skills. Ensure that you have the basic numerical, written, grammatical and critical skills needed for success. Practise these in your day-to-day life, for example, try to work out any quantitative problems you encounter without using a calculator.
Pacing is crucial, as each portion of the test is timed. Practice tests can help candidates determine which areas they need to focus on to complete questions within the allotted time.
The GMAT is an unusual test, as you are able to apply to take the GMAT when you would like to. This means that you can really plan and structure your preparation around your timeframes, but do wait until you are ready before you sit the test. There is no point in taking the GMAT until you have prepared fully.
While you are busy focusing on your GMAT study plan, it is easy to forget to think about self-care before the test and what you will need to take with you on the day.
There are some strict rules in place at the test center, so it is important that you don’t show up with an item that isn’t allowed.
Ensuring you have prepared thoroughly before the big day should help you to feel calm and ready to face the challenges of the test.
Below you'll find top GMAT test day tips and a GMAT exam day checklist to make sure you’re completely ready.
Spending the night before the test cramming might seem tempting, but it is unlikely to improve your result. Instead, commit to getting at least eight hours of quality sleep.
Turn off any screens or electronic devices at least 30 minutes before you plan to go to sleep – or even better, leave them outside of your bedroom altogether.
Enjoying the right foods on the morning of your exam is a great way to feel energized, alert and mentally prepared for the three-hour GMAT exam.
Even if you’re not a breakfast person, it’s vital to give your brain the energy and fuel it needs to perform well during the test. The last thing you want is the distraction of a rumbling stomach halfway through the GMAT.
If you really can’t face eating food, try a smoothie or protein shake instead. Otherwise, choose from healthy breakfast options like whole-grain cereal, eggs, porridge or toast. Try adding a few ‘brain foods’ such as flaxseed, walnuts, figs or blueberries, too.
And don’t forget to have something to drink – this will help you to avoid dehydration. Water is the best option but tea (without sugar) is also good.
Since the GMAT is designed to test your mental ability (not your memory), you should resist the urge to study or practice on the day of your GMAT test. If possible, try not to study the day before the exam either.
Some people may find this quite a nerve-wracking prospect – if this applies to you, just do one practice test the day before your actual GMAT exam. You might find it useful to do this at the same time of day that you will be taking the real test.
Find out exactly where the test center is and how long it will take you to get there. If you are planning to drive, find out whether there is an on-site parking lot, if you need coins to pay for parking and how long it will take you to walk to the test center from your car.
If you will be using public transport, make sure you choose an option that will get you to the venue with time to spare. If in doubt, aim to arrive at least an hour before your test starts.
You may wish to print out the directions to the test center, just in case your phone isn’t working on the day.
Feeling prepared and in control is one of the best ways to avoid exam-day stress. By arriving early, you will have time to collect your thoughts before entering the exam hall.
Rushing in at the last minute or panicking that you might be too late for your slot is bound to leave you feeling stressed out during the exam.
The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), the body which administers the GMAT, has several strict rules that you will need to adhere to. Make sure you stick to these to avoid having to reschedule your test or pay additional fees.
Read on to find out all of the essential and non-essential (but still nice-to-have) items you will need to take along with you on the day of your test.
Confirmation of your GMAT test appointment – You will receive written confirmation of your GMAT test appointment, either by email or post. Bringing this confirmation with you will enable you to iron out any queries or confusion that may crop up regarding your GMAT test date or time.
Photo ID – This must be both valid and approved for the GMAT. Choose from a government-issued driving license, government-issued national/state/province ID card, military ID card or an international passport.
NB: If you are taking the GMAT in a different country to your country of citizenship, you must bring your passport.
The document you choose to provide will need to show your name, written using the Roman alphabet and spelled in the same way as was recorded on your GMAT registration paperwork. It must also show your date of birth, which must be an exact match to the information provided by you during the GMAT registration process. Plus a recent photograph (which must be a good representation of your current appearance) and your signature.
If any of the four criteria above are not met by the photo ID document you provide, you will not be allowed to take the GMAT. Similarly, if the photo ID document you bring with you has expired, you will not be allowed to take the GMAT.
Information on where you want to send your GMAT test scores – As part of your GMAT exam fee, you will have the opportunity to select up to five MBA programs to submit your GMAT test scores to. This is the only chance you will have to do this free of charge, so make sure you choose your programs before sitting the exam.
Print out a list of the schools you want to submit your scores to and bring it along with you on the day. This will help you to feel calmer and more prepared.
If you later decide to send your scores to additional schools, it will cost $35 per school – so it is worth planning ahead and doing it for free.
Prescription glasses/reading glasses – If you wear glasses, don’t forget to bring them with you.
Extra layers – When getting dressed on the morning of the exam, make sure that you choose something that’s both warm and comfortable. You may wish to layer up, just in case the exam venue is hot. And it’s always a good idea to take an extra sweater or jacket, just in case you get cold during the exam.
Water and snacks – During the three-hour-long GMAT test, you can take two optional eight-minute rest breaks; it is a good idea to bring some simple refreshments to re-fuel during your breaks. Remember, you will only be able to access these refreshments during your breaks.
NB: If you have a health condition or disability which may have an impact on your ability to observe this rule, you will need to complete the GMAT Exam Accommodations Request Form before booking your test appointment.
Water is the best choice for something to drink – avoid fizzy or sugary drinks. When it comes to snacks, take something nutritious and easy to eat such as a banana, apple or granola bar.
Tissues – You will only be allowed to use these during breaks – keep a pack in your locker if you have a cold or suffer from allergies.
Bringing a prohibited item to the test center could lead to confiscation, revocation of your score or even a ban from further testing for a period of up to three years. Additionally, GMAC may choose to send a notification to your preferred business schools.
Here are the things that are not allowed in your locker or on the premises. Make sure you do not have any of these with you when arriving for your test:
Weapons – Hopefully, this one is obvious. Don’t bring any weapons (or anything that could be considered a potential weapon) to your GMAT test. This includes items such as razors, clippers and pocket knives.
Books/printed GMAT resources – This includes textbooks, thesauruses and dictionaries. If you’re the type of person who keeps lots of written notes in various pockets, make sure you check there are none on your person when you are entering the building. You will immediately be disqualified from the test if you’re found to have any printed GMAT aids within the test room.
Here are the things that are allowed in your locker but must not be accessed, even during breaks:
Electronic devices. You won’t be allowed to use any electronic devices (apart from the computer you are allocated to use for your test). This includes cell phones, tablets, laptop computers, watches and pagers. If you do bring an electrical device along, you’ll have to leave it in your locker and you won’t be permitted to use it (not even during breaks) so it’s sensible to leave electrical items at home where possible. The most common reason for canceled test scores is a candidate touching their cell phone during their break.
Calculators. It’s best to leave your calculator at home – you won’t be permitted to use it at any time during the test or breaks.
Handbags, wallets and backpacks. These can be stored in your locker but you won’t be able to access them until you have completed the test (even during your breaks).
You only need basic computer skills to be able to complete the GMAT exam. Candidates only need to be able to:
- Use a mouse
- Enter responses to questions in on-screen answer boxes
- Move on to the next question
- Use a word processor function
- Understand how to access the "Help" function
Make sure you familiarise yourself with the mechanics of taking a computer-adaptive test by taking practice GMAT tests before attempting the real thing.
The verbal reasoning and quantitative reasoning sections of the GMAT are computer-adaptive. In a computer-adaptive test, if a candidate gives the correct answer to a question, the following question provided will be more difficult. If a candidate answers a question incorrectly, the following question will be easier.
As you answer more questions, the increases and decreases in difficulty will become less marked, as the algorithm becomes more efficient at determining your level of proficiency.
In a computer-adaptive test, only one question at a time is presented. Because the computer scores each question before selecting the next one, you may not skip, return to, or change your responses to previous questions at any point during the test.
The questions used in the computer-adaptive sections of the GMAT are taken from a large bank of possible questions. The specific questions you will be asked will depend entirely on your performance during the test.
The nature of the test means that your total GMAT score is based not only on how many questions you answered correctly, but also on the difficulty level of the questions you answered. So, answering higher-level questions correctly will give you a better score than someone who correctly answered the same number of lower-level questions.
At the start of the test, the candidate can decide in which order to answer the questions. The orders offered are:
- Quantitative, Verbal, Integrated Reasoning, Analytical Writing Assessment
- Analytical Writing Assessment, Integrated Reasoning, Quantitative, Verbal
- Verbal, Quantitative, Integrated Reasoning, Analytical Writing Assessment
Planning the order in which to approach the sections may help candidates feel prepared and allow time to focus on areas that need more attention.
You cannot skip questions in the GMAT; you must answer all the questions presented to you.
You will be penalized if you run out of time and fail to complete the test. There is also a penalty for giving several incorrect answers in a row, as this indicates that the candidate is guessing blindly.
Randomly guessing answers can significantly lower your scores on the GMAT exam. If you do not know the answer to a question, you should try to eliminate as many answer choices as possible and then select the answer you think is best.
Practicing GMAT sample questions such as the ones demonstrated here is one of the most effective preparation techniques and would prove beneficial when integrated into a GMAT study plan.
Now let’s take a look at some free GMAT sample questions for each of the four sections of the test.
The Integrated Reasoning section has a time allowance of 30 minutes and presents 12 questions covering four different areas:
- Two-Part Analysis
- Multi-Source Reasoning
- Table Analysis
- Graphics Interpretation
Two-part analysis questions require candidates to work out two components of a question, then answer from a series of possible answers laid out in a table.
|Supplier A||Supplier B||Number of Bandages|
A hospital wants to find a new supplier for its bandages. Supplier A makes bandages from one style of fabric, priced at 3.00 per bandage. The hospital decides to trial both types of bandage before deciding on which to use going forward. The overall budget for the trial is $10,000.
Using the table, identify exactly how many bandages the hospital needs to buy from Supplier A and Supplier B to spend the exact budget of $10,000. Place one mark in the Supplier A column and one mark in the Supplier B column.
Multi-source reasoning questions use several sources, usually displayed under tabs at the top or side of the page, which contain the information you will need to decide on your answers.
These questions are assessing your ability to extract information and make inferences from the text.
Mr and Mrs Smith are looking for a nursery for their son. Here are a series of emails sent between them:
From: Mrs Smith To: Happy Days Nursery
My husband and I are looking for flexible and reliable childcare for our son. We both work in high-pressure jobs which can involve unsociable hours so reliability is important to us.
Could you please let us know your availability and opening hours?
From: Happy Days Nursery To: Mrs Smith
Hello Mrs Smith,
Here at Happy Days, we pride ourselves on creating a warm and safe environment for our charges. Our fees are very competitive and I’m pleased to say that we do have several spaces available so your son could join us immediately. We offer a 10% discount if you sign up within 24 hours of receiving this email.
From: Mrs Smith To: Happy Days Nursery
We are glad to hear that our son would be in a comfortable environment and I’m sure that you do prioritize safety. The discount is good, it brings the cost down into our budget of $36 a day.
Our main concern, however, is accommodating our long and sometimes unsociable working hours, would this be possible at Happy Days Nursery?
Does the content of the emails support the inferences as stated?
Answer 'yes' or 'no' for each.
- Mr & Mrs Smith are willing to pay more than they’d like to guarantee flexible childcare.
- Happy Days Nursery has a standard charge of $39 per child per day.
- Happy Days Nursery has a good reputation and is very popular with parents.
For these, you will be presented with a table containing a large quantity of data. You will be expected to use this data to determine whether three statements are true.
The question below is for illustrative purposes, the table you will see in your test will have a lot more data.
|Name||Last Eruption Date||Height of Volcano (m)||Location||Amount of Lava Produced (cu mi)|
|Volcano A||1712||6,450||Central America||2.4|
|Volcano F||1815||4,220||Central America||3.1|
|Volcano G||1683||6,462||Central America||5.0|
Statement 1: In the 17th century, all the volcanoes that erupted were over 5,000 m tall.
Statement 2: Volcanoes in Central America produce larger amounts of lava than other countries.
Statement 3: The amount of lava produced by volcanoes over 5,000 m is always greater than for those less high.
You will need to choose between ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ for each.
The graph shows the favorite subjects of children in Class 5a St Andrews School.
a) The subject that is liked 25% more by boys is ___________.
b) PE is liked by roughly ______ percent of the children in the class.
The Analytical Writing Assessment segment of the GMAT has a time allowance of 30 minutes in which the candidate will be expected to write a short essay.
After being presented with an essay prompt, the test taker uses written communication skills to provide analysis and critique of the text.
The prompts will usually be around four to five sentences in length and will present an idea or theory accompanied by supporting evidence. The candidate must then critique the structure of the argument without commenting on the topic itself or trying to suggest alternative theories (points will be deducted for this).
In a recent poll, 10% more residents said that they watch movies about historical events than was the case in a poll conducted two years ago. During these past two years, the number of people visiting our city’s history museums has increased by a similar percentage. Since the funding that supports movie production, where history movies are made, is now being threatened with severe cuts, we can expect that attendance at our city’s history museums will also decrease. Thus some of the city’s funds for maintaining historical artifacts should be reallocated to the movie industry.
Since a nearby shop, Dress for Less, opened selling discounted clothing, existing clothing shop, Glamorous, has seen a decrease in footfall of around 20%. The best way to increase sales at Glamorous is to reduce their prices to lower than those of Dress for Less until footfall returns to previous levels. The increased footfall will drive up sales, improving takings and then prices can be raised again.
Following the success of our premium and most expensive line of salted caramel cake in a recent taste test and the consequent increase in sales, we should shift our business focus to producing additional lines of premium cake rather than our lower-priced, ordinary cakes. With an economic crisis looming, when consumers can no longer buy major luxury items, such as cars, they will still want to indulge in small luxuries, such as expensive cakes.
To create your answer, you will need to:
- Analyze the line of reasoning and the evidence used in the argument.
- Consider whether assumptions made within the argument are questionable.
- Discuss how to make the argument more logically sound.
- Consider what information would make it easier to evaluate.
- Decide whether the argument is persuasive.
Be sure to plan out your response before writing, explain your ideas clearly and concisely using an introduction, main argument and conclusion, and remain focused on the question.
The Verbal Reasoning part of the test is made up of 36 multiple-choice questions in total, consisting of approximately:
The time allowance for this section of the GMAT is 65 minutes.
These questions are about evaluating arguments. You might be asked to identify which of the answer options strengthen or weaken the argument you have been given, or identify assumptions that are being made.
An avid video gamer is statistically more likely to suffer from insomnia than a person who enjoys reading but does not play video games as a habit. It is clear that reading just before bedtime contributes to a more restful night’s sleep, whereas playing video games before bedtime has the opposite effect.
Which of the following, if true, most seriously weakens the above argument?
A. Listening to music before bedtime contributes to restful sleep more than reading does.
B. Insomnia is more common among people who play video games before bed than among people who do not.
C. Engaging in a bedtime activity that is mentally stimulating often interferes with a person’s ability to fall asleep.
D. People who enjoy reading typically like to listen to music just before bedtime.
E. Reading quietly is more conducive to restful sleep than a noisy environment.
Question 2 – Sentence Correction
Here you will be presented with a short paragraph of text, part of it underlined. You will need to identify whether a change needs to be made to the underlined portion to improve grammar or clarity.
Female pheasants are quite plain compared to the adult male pheasant's attractive markings: a colorful plumage, extra-long tail and decorative wattles.
A. the adult male pheasant's
B. those of adult males, their
C. the adult male, which has
D. adult male pheasants'
E. adult males, whose
Question 3 – Reading Comprehension
For the reading comprehension section of the test, the candidate will be presented with a passage of between 250 and 350 words about a subject such as the social sciences, business or humanities. They will then be asked a series of multiple-choice questions about the text to show understanding and analysis.
You may be asked to identify:
- The primary purpose of the passage
- Whether the passage supports or criticizes a certain argument
- Topics that the passage does or does not cover
- The author’s intention/viewpoint
- Inferences that the author is making
Made up of 31 multiple-choice questions and with a time allowance of 62 minutes, the Quantitative Reasoning section of the GMAT is split into two areas:
- Data Sufficiency
These are usually math-based questions that will test your problem-solving ability.
If d > c, a > e, b > c and c > a, which of the following must be true?
1. d > b
2. b > e
3. d > a
A. 1 only
B. 2 only
C. 1 and 3
D. 2 and 3
Is x > 9?
1. x > 8
2. x > 7
Which, if any, of the two answer options are enough to answer the question.
A. 1 is enough, 2 is not
B. 2 is enough, 1 is not
C. You need both statements
D. 1 is enough alone and 2 is enough alone
E. You can’t answer the question
During the GMAT, pacing is critical because there is a severe penalty for not completing the exam. Both the time and number of questions that remain in the section are displayed on the screen during the exam. There are 31 Quantitative questions and 36 Verbal questions. If a question is too time-consuming or if you don’t know the answer, make an educated guess by first eliminating the answers you know to be wrong, before moving on. Make sure you complete each section of the test.
The overall GMAT score ranges from a minimum of 200 to a maximum of 800 and is scored in increments of 10. The score distribution resembles a bell curve with a standard deviation of approximately 100 points.
About two-thirds of test-takers score between 400 and 600, and the average GMAT score is 561.
The scores required will vary between business schools, so ensure you know what score you are aiming for before taking the test.
Most business schools publish the average and median score of their latest intake, which can give you an indication of the score that you will need for admission.
Each section to the GMAT is scored separately:
- Quantitative – This has a scaled score from 0 to 60; it is extremely unusual for students to score above 51 or below 6.
- Verbal – Again, a scaled score from 0 to 60 with students very rarely scoring above 51 or below 6.
- Integrated Reasoning (IR) – Scored on a scale of 1 to 8.
- Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) – Scored on a scale of 0 to 6, in half-point increments (2.5, 3, 3.5 and so on).
A candidate’s overall (or cumulative) score is calculated using just their scores from the Quantitative and Verbal sections. This is the score that students will most often refer to and is the one that admissions committees will use as their main consideration.
As mentioned above, the Integrated Reasoning and Analytical Writing Assessment tests are not included in the overall score. These tests are not adaptive and are scored differently to the Quantitative and Verbal tests:
In the Integrated Reasoning section, there are 12 questions, two to four of which are experimental and do not count towards the final score. The order and difficulty level of the questions is random. The candidate receives a raw score for the number of non-experimental questions they answer correctly, which is then scaled to a score from 0 to 8.
The Analytical Writing Assessment test is scored independently at least twice. One rating is done by a computer and another by a human assessor, and the two scores are averaged. If there is more than one point between the two separate scores, the test is evaluated a third time by an expert reader.
Candidates' GMAT scores are determined by:
- The number of questions answered;
- Whether the questions have been answered correctly or incorrectly;
- The level of difficulty and other statistical characteristics of each question.
The questions in an adaptive test are weighted according to their difficulty and other statistical properties, not according to their position in the test.
Note that most international MBA providers only evaluate the quantitative section of the GMAT when considering candidate applications. This is because the quantitative section of the GMAT is generally considered to be the most difficult.
The percentile ranking is used to show the percentage of other test-takers that you outperformed. So, if you are ranked in the 90th percentile, this shows that you scored better in the test than 90% of the other students who sat it.
Your overall GMAT score will be translated into a GMAT percentile, as will your score for each of the four subsections. The GMAT percentile helps admissions committees to see how your score compares to those in the most recent cohort of test-takers.
Although useful, percentile rankings can be quite vague. They place you among every other person who has sat the GMAT exam and cannot give you an indication of how well others applying to the same school as you are likely to perform.
They can, however, help you set realistic goals and work towards giving yourself a competitive edge. The following shows the score margins of the higher-ranking percentiles:
Scores in the 90th percentile (achievers in the top 10%):
- Overall – 710 and above
- Quantitative – 51 and above
- Verbal – 40 and above
- Integrated Reasoning – 8
- Analytical Writing – 6
Scores in the 75th percentile (achievers in the top 25%):
- Overall – 650 to 700
- Quantitative – 48 to 50
- Verbal – 35 to 39
- Integrated Reasoning – 7
- Analytical Writing – 5.5
GMAT percentiles are recalculated every summer by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC). The recalculation is based on data from the previous three years of test results.
Therefore, while your GMAT score will remain the same (although you can choose to retake the test), your percentile ranking may go up or down depending on the most recent GMAT percentile calculation. As average GMAT scores are generally increasing every year, GMAT percentiles have largely shifted down year on year.
Remember that your overall GMAT percentile is based only on your scores in the Verbal and Quantitative sections. Schools will have access to your percentiles for each section, but will mainly be looking at your overall GMAT percentile.
There are two types of GMAT score reports – unofficial and official.
As soon as you have completed the exam you will be able to see your scores for the Quantitative, Verbal and Integrated Reasoning sections, along with your total score. You will have two minutes to decide whether to accept the score or cancel it and retake another time.
If you choose to accept your score, you will be given a print-out of your Unofficial GMAT Score Report before leaving the test center. At this stage, you will not have a score for your Analytical Writing Assessment.
This score report cannot be used in your applications. If you change your mind, you can cancel your score within 72 hours of the exam’s scheduled start time, for a fee of $25. Admissions committees will not be able to see any canceled scores.
If you change your mind about a canceled score you have the opportunity to reinstate it within four years and 11 months of taking the GMAT.
If you choose to accept your score, you will receive an Official GMAT Score Report within 20 calendar days of sitting the exam. This will include:
- The scores given in your unofficial score report
- Your Analytical Writing Assessment score
- Your GMAT Percentile Ranking
The Official GMAT Score Report also includes the background information you provided when you set up your GMAT profile and reportable scores from any other GMAT exams you have sat in the past five years. Admissions committees will consider the highest score out of any provided on the report.
The Official GMAT Score Report is the one sent to your chosen schools or programs. On the report sent to you, any scores you have canceled in the past will be indicated with a ‘C’. They will not be seen by the business school.
For a fee of $30, you can also choose to purchase an Enhanced Score Report which provides you with a more detailed breakdown of your results and how you performed in the exam, including:
- Overall GMAT score and percentile
- Scores for each section and information on your time management
- Your level of accuracy during the test
- Your average time to answer questions, both correctly and incorrectly
- The average difficulty level of questions answered
If you have performed well in the GMAT, the ESR may not be relevant to you. However, if you are thinking about retaking the exam, it could give you valuable insight into your strengths and weaknesses – and help you to focus your test preparation on the areas that need most work.
The role of the GMAT is to allow postgraduate institutions to assess the suitability of applicants with a standardized measuring tool.
You’ll be one of many candidates seeking entry onto your chosen program. Your competition will all have different backgrounds, levels of experience and career goals.
It’s therefore important that business schools have a means of benchmarking applicants against each other. Your GMAT score will play a significant role in this, along with your GPA.
It’s important to note, however, that your GMAT score is only one part of your application and will be considered in context alongside other parts of your application, such as your:
- Admissions essay
- Letters of recommendation
Every school will assess applications through its own set of standards.
So, whilst it’s likely to be very significant, the importance of your GMAT score will be relative to the program for which you are applying and how your application presents as a whole.
Unfortunately, there is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to defining a good GMAT score.
Different schools have different expectations and a GMAT score that secures entry to an Ivy League business school will vary from a school ranking in the top 100.
Some schools may focus solely on your overall score, whilst others may place greater emphasis on either your quantitative or verbal score. It will all depend on your chosen school and the program for which you are applying.
Although it’s impossible to give a definitive answer to what is a good GMAT score, understanding average scores can help you benchmark your current performance:
The average GMAT score is around 561
Two-thirds of candidates that sit the GMAT achieve an overall score of between 400 and 600
For the top 10 US business schools, the average scores sit in the low 700s
Many of the top 50 schools consider 650 a strong score
Overall scores in the high 700s are considered exceptional and are rare
Of the Verbal and Quantitative sections, most test-takers achieve higher scores in the latter:
An average range for scores on the Quantitative section sits between 36 and 45, though above 45 is not uncommon
For Verbal, 29 to 35 is considered an average benchmark
The Integrated Reasoning and Analytical Writing sections of your GMAT are generally considered less important, but a good score in each is around 5 and 4 respectively.
All that said, a good GMAT score is essentially one that gets you into your school of choice, so you’ll want to aim above the average mark for your chosen institution.
Most business schools make the scores of the previous intake publicly available, so do your research when setting your target scores.
As discussed, there is no definitive answer to what is a good GMAT score, and the best score for you is one that gets you into your school of choice. To figure out what that is, you’ll need to do your research.
Start by looking into programs of interest and shortlisting your target and safety schools. Once you’ve finalized your choices, check the admissions criteria of each. Some may state a minimum GMAT score, whilst others may be vaguer on this point.
If you can’t find course-specific entry requirements, check to see if the school published the GMAT scores of its most recent intake. This won’t give you program particulars, but it will give you a pretty good idea of average standards.
For a broader picture, you can also consult the US News & World Report, which publishes average scores for many US schools.
It’s also a good idea to approach the admissions departments of your chosen schools. They may be able to provide more detail on the desired GMAT score, as well as offering guidance on the weight it carries in the admissions process. This will help you understand how strong your application is as a whole, and just how important your GMAT score is.
By this point, you should have a good idea of a strong benchmark score, so take a practice GMAT exam to see how your current performance compares. To give yourself the best chance of entry, you’ll want to set your target scores above average, but it’s important to be realistic.
Check the application deadlines and ask yourself if you have enough time to implement a GMAT study plan that will allow you to improve enough.
Once you’re confident you have an achievable target, and that the strength of your entire application is on par with the requirements of your chosen program, you’ve found the right GMAT score for you.
The main expense associated with the GMAT is the registration fee for sitting the exam itself. This must be paid in advance and currently stands at $250 for US candidates.
You can register for the GMAT online and pay with either a credit or debit card, with all major card types accepted. You can also register and pay over the phone; this comes with a service fee and each call made will incur an additional cost of $10.
Alternative payment methods include money orders, personal checks and cashier’s checks, which can be sent by mail. If using this form of payment, you must ensure funds are drawn on a US bank and that your check arrives in enough time before your test date to allow for processing.
If sitting the GMAT outside of the US, it’s important to note the recent changes made to the registration fees in European countries. In April 2019, GMAC applied an additional 285.
The changes also allow for fees to be paid in pounds sterling or Euros depending on the country:
- Candidates sitting the GMAT in the UK will now pay £225
- In countries where the Euro is the official currency, the GMAT cost is now €250
- Candidates in European countries with their own official currencies will pay $285
- The GMAT cost for countries outside of both the US and Europe remains $250
For non-US locations, you must also account for any local taxes that may be applicable.
As well as the cost of registration, there are several additional GMAT fees that candidates should be aware of, detailed below.
If you need to make changes to your exam date, you can do so for an additional fee. The amount you pay will depend on how far in advance the changes are made. GMAC calculate this on a three-tier system.
To reschedule your exam, the following fees apply:
- 60 days or more in advance: $50
- Between 15 and 60 days in advance: $100
- Between one and 14 days in advance: $150
If you choose to cancel your GMAT exam, you’ll be given the following refund on your registration fee:
- 60 days or more in advance: $100
- Between 15 and 60 days in advance: $75
- Between one and 14 days in advance: $50
No changes are permitted within 24 hours of your exam time and candidates who fail to attend will not be refunded any of their GMAT registration fee.
Cancellation and rescheduling fees in Europe are charged in local currency. If taking your GMAT in a European location, check the specific pricing rules for your test center.
Regardless of where you take your GMAT exam, you can appoint a maximum of five business schools to which your score will be sent free of charge.
Above this, $35 will be charged for each additional score report requested. Again, this cost will differ in Europe and you should check the rules relating to your test center location.
After completing your GMAT exam, you’ll see an unofficial overview of your scores and will be given a limited time frame in which to decide whether to keep or cancel them.
If you choose to cancel your scores at this point, you won’t be charged, but keep in mind that you'll need to pay the full $250 registration fee to take the test again.
On leaving the test center, you have 72 hours to cancel your scores at a cost of **50.
You may also request a rescore of your analytical writing assessment if you feel you have been unfairly marked. This will cost you $45.
Candidates who wish to receive greater detail about their exam performance can order an Enhanced Score Report for a payment of $30.
As well as the fees associated with the exam itself, you must consider the cost of solid preparation. This can vary greatly depending on your preferred method of learning and the approach you choose to take.
There are various official resources available for self-study, from textbooks and practice question packs costing around 360.
If you prefer guided tuition, training providers such as Kaplan offer a range of courses, with prices starting at 2,500 for one-to-one tuition.
Achieving a competitive score on your GMAT exam will increase your chances of being accepted to your business school of choice. Without proper planning, it can be an expensive process, particularly if you take the test more than once.
With that in mind, here are some key tips on how to keep your GMAT cost down.
- Plan ahead when booking your test date to avoid any changes. Choose a test center location, date and time that you’re confident your schedule will allow. Once booked, block it out in your diary with sufficient time either side so as not to make any overlapping commitments. Rescheduling and cancellation fees are easily avoidable with proper planning.
- Make use of free and second-hand materials in your GMAT preparation. The costs associated with your study will undoubtedly be your biggest outlay, especially if opting for guided tuition. Purchasing second-hand GMAT prep books and accessing free study resources can help keep this expense down. That said, it’s important not to compromise here. If you think you need professional support to reach your target score, then it’s ultimately worth the cost.
- Set specific target scores and stick to them. Knowing what you want or need to achieve before you sit the exam will eliminate indecision over whether to cancel or keep your scores. If you don’t set yourself a specific goal, you could potentially add $75 to your GMAT cost unnecessarily.
- Know where your applications are going in advance. As mentioned, you can send your GMAT scores to five schools free of charge, though you must list these on the day of your exam. If you choose to send reports after you’ve left the test center, you’ll pay 175 for five reports, so be prepared and make the most of what’s included.
- Check if you’re eligible for a GMAT fee waiver. Whilst these are not given to individuals directly, GMAC does offer exam vouchers that allow business schools to cover part or all of the GMAT cost for those who would otherwise be unable to sit the exam. The schools themselves are responsible for the selection process, so check with your chosen institutions as to what’s available, whether you qualify and how to go about submitting a GMAT fee waiver application.
- Consider a GMAT gift voucher. It may not be the most exciting gift but if you’re struggling to cover your GMAT cost you could ask a family member or friend to help by buying you a voucher. These are available in 100 and $250 values, though they can only be used towards your registration fee.
- Have a strong GMAT study plan in place. If you don’t achieve your target score on your first go, you’ll pay $250 each time you register to sit the exam again. The best way to avoid this is to give yourself every chance of success the first time around with a well-structured and comprehensive study program.
If you are unhappy with your GMAT test results, you will be permitted to either cancel your score or retake the test. You will need to wait a minimum of 16 days before retaking.
You can take the test up to five times within a rolling 12-month period. You may only take it a maximum of eight times during your lifetime.
When taking the GMAT test, you will be able to review your GMAT test score before deciding whether you wish to submit it to your chosen business school or whether you wish to cancel.
If you achieve a score that is above the average test result for your chosen learning provider, you may wish to submit it to them before attempting to improve your score by retaking the test.
Around 20% of GMAT tests are retakes, so it's not unusual for candidates to retake this test. In fact, many business schools will treat candidates who have chosen to retake the test favorably, as it shows a dedication and willingness to put in the effort to improve their performance.
Business schools will see every score from the last five years on your score report (except canceled scores), but the good news is that they will usually focus on your highest score.
In some cases, they might choose to look at the highest score within each section. It is a good idea to check the local policy adopted by the school(s) you are applying to.
Taking the test a second or third time may be beneficial, as you may feel more relaxed and prepared. But you should carefully consider whether a retake is worth the extra time and money.
The bottom line is, it doesn’t matter how many times you take the GMAT test as long as you feel there is a benefit to doing it. If you feel you are unlikely to improve your score, or you don’t think you will be able to put in enough study time, it is probably best not to retake.
Some things to think about before making your decision:
- Test scores usually range between 200 and 800
- Around 65% of test-takers achieve a score between 400 and 600
- The average GMAT score is 561
- 27% of candidates achieve a score of over 650, while just 12% score 700 or above and only 1% score more than 760
Your score will include a percentile rank to show how your performance compared with that of other people taking the test.
It is a good idea to find out the average result for applicants to your chosen business school or learning provider before taking the test.
Many people who score below 600 will choose to retake the exam. According to the website mba.com, candidates scoring below 500 in their first attempt were more likely to see a significant improvement to their test score the next time they took the test (than candidates scoring over 500 in their first attempt).
Candidates with an initial score between 600 and 640 could expect to see a moderate improvement, whereas candidates scoring 700 or above were least likely to see any improvement.
If your initial test score is above the average score for people applying to your chosen learning provider, it is not usually necessary to retake it. However, some exceptions may apply, depending on your circumstances:
You are applying to study at a top-15 MBA provider and feel confident that you can improve your score by 20 points or more. In this scenario, achieving a higher score could provide you with a competitive edge during the selection process.
Your score for the Verbal section was low and you do not have any experience of working within an English-speaking environment. In these circumstances, settling for your first score may leave schools concerned about your ability to take part in the selection process for joining the program, or whether you will be able to add value to group discussions during learning sessions.
Your score for the Quantitative section was low and your education history shows that you did not perform well in quantitative learning topics during your school or college education – for example, calculus, statistics or economics. If this is the case, learning providers may be concerned as to whether you will be able to meet the demands of the MBA curriculum.
If you retake the test for a second time and achieve the same score, you might be tempted to try again for a third time and see what happens.
Although business schools will admire that you are committed to investing time, money and effort into improving your score, unless you put the work into improving your performance, there is little benefit to achieving the same or a very similar score for a third time.
This will be viewed differently to taking the test three times and improving your score significantly each time.
There are a few scenarios where it is likely to be beneficial to retake the test. For example:
- You were unable to complete a section in full during the first test, due to time management
- You received a below-average score during your first test and have done better in previous practice tests
- You did not perform well due to illness or personal issues on the day
- You found the test process overwhelming or difficult and feel you would perform better now that you know what to expect
- You have the time to continue studying and feel you could improve with a little more work
Taking the GMAT exam is time-consuming. The actual test itself takes 3.5 hours to complete, with two optional eight-minute rest breaks. This doesn’t take into account the amount of time you will need to invest in preparing for the test.
If you have decided that you want to retake the GMAT, make sure that you put an effective strategy in place to improve your performance. Consider the deadline for retaking the test and decide whether you will be able to put in the extra study time.
Reconsider your learning resources and think about engaging the services of a personal tutor or business coach.
Consider whether you are struggling with the subject matter or the techniques and strategies needed to score highly in the test.
As outlined above, you will need to wait at least 16 days before re-attempting the test.
The basic cost to take the GMAT test is currently **30.
Canceling your score immediately after the test is free but you will also incur a charge of 50 for reinstating old scores, so it's important to think about this before you take the test.
For more on the full costs of taking the GMAT test, see our comprehensive article.
Upon completing the GMAT test, you will be presented with an unofficial GMAT score. This will be broken down into sections: Quantitative, Verbal, Integrated Reasoning and total. You will have a limited time-frame of two minutes to decide whether you want to accept or cancel your score.
This means that it is important to be prepared to make this decision before you sit the GMAT exam. Here are some tips to help you decide when to cancel your score:
- Don’t cancel your first attempt unless it is very low. If you receive a disappointing first score, you might be tempted to cancel, but it may be beneficial to leave the score in place for your next retake. This will show your chosen business schools how much you have improved. And, if you later decide not to retake, you will still be able to send your application.
- Know your target score. During your preparation for the test, set yourself a realistic target score and, if you do not achieve this, consider canceling your score.
- Research your chosen business school. Find out about the admission preferences and policies of the schools you plan to apply for – some will prefer to see the score you achieved in every GMAT sitting, whereas others will be happy to see your best overall score.
Even if you decide to accept your scores at the test center, you will still have the chance to cancel your score up to 72 hours following completion of the test. This can be actioned online; however, as mentioned above, there is a fee for cancellation outside of the test (and reinstatement) and it may take 24 hours for the system to be updated.
Canceling your score means that your results will not be shared with any of the schools you have chosen to apply to. At the test center, you will not receive a print-out of your unofficial scores and you will be unable to access your official score report.
Taking the test more than once won’t harm your application as long as you are making solid improvements with each attempt. After all, showing that you are willing to persevere to achieve a better score will be a useful trait to succeed within the business sector.
Make sure you practice all sections of the test. Whilst it is certainly important to work hard on improving knowledge and skills within your areas of weakness, don’t forget to refine your strengths as well.
The best way to prepare yourself for the GMAT test is to complete as many practice tests as you can. As well as increasing your familiarity with the types of questions you will need to answer, this will also help you to improve your time management skills.
Being able to work quickly and accurately is an important part of performing well in the GMAT test.
To achieve a good score in the GMAT test, you will need to have both stamina and pace. Try not to spend more than three minutes on each question. If you are not even close to answering the question at the end of the three minutes, choose an answer and move on to the next one.
Try not to dwell on your past scores or experiences. Although you might not have achieved the score you wanted in your previous tests, retaking means that you will be better prepared for success.
If you’re hoping to study at a business school, taking the GMAT test is an important way to get your MBA journey off to a good start. This means it is vital to ensure you are fully prepared on the day.
When it comes to preparation, avoid revising or cramming on the morning of the test (or even the day before if possible). Chances are, you will know the date of your GMAT appointment well in advance, so you should have plenty of time to ensure you are ready without putting yourself under unnecessary extra stress or pressure in the hours leading up to the test.
Using the checklist outlined above, spend some time the day before your test preparing the items you will need to take with you, especially the essential documents required for GMAT. Remember, it’s vital that you take an acceptable form of photo-ID – you won’t be allowed to take the test without this.
Before leaving, check through your bag and pockets to make sure you are not carrying any of the prohibited items.
Plan your journey to the test venue and arrive early. This will give you adequate time to get your bearings, find the restrooms and put your belongings into your locker.
The key things to remember when it comes to GMAT scoring are:
- Your total score is based on the Verbal and Quantitative sections only. This will be the main consideration for any admissions committees.
- Your GMAT score will not change but your GMAT Percentile Ranking may go up or down.
- You can choose to cancel your GMAT score and retake the test, and schools will not be able to see any canceled scores.
- Schools will consider the highest score out of any included in your Official GMAT Score Report.
Taking the GMAT exam is, without a doubt, a costly process, but for those looking to gain entry into a good business school, it’s also an unavoidable exercise.
To provide you with an example summary, if you were to take the test once, without any changes to your schedule or additional report requests, you’ll pay $250 plus the cost of your study resources.
However, if you sat the exam twice, requested an enhanced score report in between to better assess areas for improvement and asked for an additional two score reports to be sent to schools, you’ll be looking at an expense of $600 plus materials.
Ultimately, the best way to keep your GMAT cost down is to commit to the process with a clear study program. Avoid any unnecessary expenses by setting realistic target scores, planning your business school applications and scheduling your test date well in advance.