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What Is the GMAT?

by Bold Org Editorial Team
January 17, 2024
10 min read
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If you are interested in pursuing a career in business, it is crucial to know what the GMAT is to get into a school of your choice. While the application is somewhat similar to what you will experience in your undergrad years, there are some components that make it drastically different.

In business, you might hear conversations regarding the GMAT or Graduate Management Admission Test pretty frequently. In fact, any student interested in business school will have to devote quite some time preparing for it in order to obtain a stellar score.

In simple terms, the GMAT is a standardized test that plays a crucial role in the admissions process for many graduate management programs. It is easy to become overwhelmed, but our comprehensive guide will explain every crucial piece of information you need to know.

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Why the GMAT?

This computer-adaptive test now assesses skills in various areas, such as analytical writing, integrated reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and verbal reasoning. Considering that mastery in these skill sets will be accounted for in business school, this exam is a way to prove you are prepared.

Following its introduction, the GMAT aimed to provide business schools with a standardized way to evaluate applicants. Prior to that, each school had its own admission criteria, making it incredibly difficult for applicants to compare their abilities across different institutions. The GMAT reoriented the typical way of applying by bringing a level playing field, allowing schools to assess candidates based on a common set of skills and knowledge.

The GMAT evolved in conjunction with the business world, incorporating more and more advancements. The test was updated to reflect the changing demands of the industry. For example, in 2012, the integrated reasoning section was added to accurately assess a candidate's ability to analyze and interpret complex data from multiple sources, a skill highly valued in today's data-driven business environment.

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Structure of the GMAT

The GMAT is built of four different parts: Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA), Integrated Reasoning (IR), Quantitative Reasoning (QR), and Verbal Reasoning (VR). These sections are designed to assess different skills that are important for success in business school.

The primary section, AWA, prompts test takers with an argument to analyze and write a coherent essay summarizing their thoughts. This section evaluates their ability to think critically, organize ideas, and communicate effectively in writing.

Integrated Reasoning is the next section, which measures a candidate's ability to evaluate information presented in different formats, such as tables, graphs, and text passages. It evaluates their skills in data analysis, interpretation, and synthesis.

Structure of the GMAT

The Quantitative Reasoning section is mathematical, which includes problem-solving, data sufficiency, and interpretation of quantitative information. This section evaluates their ability to apply mathematical concepts to real-world business scenarios.

Finally, the Verbal Reasoning section is intended to gauge a candidate's reading comprehension, critical reasoning, and sentence correction skills. It checks how well they are able to understand and analyze written material, make logical inferences, as well as identify and correct errors in sentences.

Scoring System of the GMAT

At first glance, the GMAT scoring system can be somewhat complex. There are many different components that largely vary depending on which section you are on, which is why it's important to understand the intricacies within each.

Every part of the GMAT has a different scale attached to it. The AWA section is evaluated on a scale of 0 to 6 by two separate readers to eliminate any bias. Whereas, the IR section is scored on a scale of 1 to 8.

Both QR and VR are scored on a scale of 0 to 60. With all of these scores combined, the overall GMAT score comes out to be between 200 and 800, with the majority scoring between 400 and 600. The percentile rank is also provided, indicating the percentage of test-takers who scored lower than a particular individual.

While the exam is standardized, everyone's experience will largely differ. As discussed, the GMAT is a computer-adaptive test, so the difficulty level of the questions will vary depending on one's individual performance. For every question that is answered correctly, the following one will be slightly more challenging.

On the other hand, if a test taker answers a question incorrectly, the next question will be slightly easier. This adaptive nature of the test ensures that each test taker receives a unique set of questions tailored to their ability level.

Preparing for the GMAT

Once you have solidified the basics of the GMAT, we can delve deeper into preparation for this important exam. Adequate practice is key to performing well and obtaining a high score. The higher the percentile you achieve, the better you are doing, thus increasing your chances of getting into your desired business school.

Preparing for the GMAT transcends past simply understanding the content of the exam. It requires a smart strategy that includes studying, time management, and test day preparation. By following these steps, you can maximize your potential and perform within your target GMAT score.

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Preparing for the GMAT

Study Materials and Resources

There are a variety of study materials that echo the material discussed in class to help you prepare for the GMAT. Exposure to these resources will help you get a feel for what test day looks like. Whether it be prep books or online courses, you have full autonomy to find a method that suits your learning style. These resources provide comprehensive coverage of the exam content and offer strategies for tackling different question types.

Most GMAT test-takers opt for test prep books. They provide a detailed explanation of concepts through practice questions and full-length practice tests. Practice tests and sample questions are also essential to familiarize yourself with the test format and types of questions you will encounter.

They allow you to assess your strengths and weaknesses, identify areas that require further study, and get a sense of the time constraints you will face on the actual exam.

Time Management and Study Plans

Creating a study plan is crucial to ensure effective preparation for the GMAT. It isn't one of those exams you can take the night before or a couple of days before. Allocate sufficient time each day or week for studying and reviewing.

While formulating a time schedule, you should set realistic goals that will be easy to abide by. Separate all your requirements into manageable chunks and assign specific study tasks for each session. Reorganizing it to be smaller and easier to adjust will help you stay organized and ensure that you cover all the necessary material before test day.

In addition to just studying the content, it's also important to practice time management. The GMAT is a timed exam, meaning you can't afford to spend all your time on the questions you are unsure of. Being able to answer questions efficiently is crucial.

Time Management and Study Plans

As you practice with sample questions and practice tests, pay attention to the time it takes you to complete each question and section. Set a timer to make sure you can account for your initial and final attempt. This will help you develop a sense of pacing and ensure that you can complete the exam within the allotted time.

Registering for the GMAT

The registration process is pretty straightforward and can be easily navigated on the official GMAT website.

Registering for the GMAT is an exciting and important step towards pursuing your business education. Once you fully comprehend the necessary requirements included in the registration process, you can ensure a smooth and hassle-free experience.

How to Register

To register for the GMAT, you first must create an account on the official GMAT website. Input the preliminary personal information regarding your identity and then proceed to select a test date and location that is convenient for you.

Creating your personal account on the website is a fairly easy process that should only prompt basic personal information such as your name, contact details, and educational background. Double-check all the information provided to make sure that it is reflective of accurate information to avoid any issues during the registration process.

After you have created your account, you will be asked to pick a test date and location. Consider choosing a date that allows you enough time to prepare adequately for the exam. Think about your current commitments, study schedule, and any upcoming application deadlines before settling on a date.

When selecting a test location, try to find the one that is closest to you. Consider factors such as proximity to your home or workplace, transportation options, and the availability of parking. By picking a test center that is easily accessible, you can minimize stress on the day of the exam.

Once all of these details are finalized, you will be asked to pay the examination fee to complete your registration. The GMAT exam fee might change, so it's essential to check the current cost on the official website. This fee covers the test administration and the sending of your scores to up to five business schools or programs. Additional score reporting to schools beyond the initial five incurs an additional fee.

How to Register

The GMAT exam fee covers various aspects of the test administration process. It includes the cost of creating and maintaining the test centers, developing and updating the exam content, as well as the delivery of your scores to the business schools or programs of your choice.

When paying the examination fee, it is important to keep in mind that the fee is non-refundable. Therefore, you must be confident in your decision to take the GMAT before completing the registration process.

Taking the GMAT

After dedicating hours to studying for the GMAT, it can be both exciting and nerve-wracking. Yet, knowing what's to come on test day can help alleviate some of that stress.

What to Expect on Test Day

At the testing center, you will need to bring all of your required identification documents in order to take the exam. After checking in, you will be assigned a workstation and provided with the necessary materials. The test is administered on a computer and will be proctored to ensure a fair testing environment.

Every section of the GMAT is timed, so you must stay within the allocated time frame. Familiarize yourself with the format and instructions for each section so that you can navigate through the test efficiently. Make sure to pace yourself and manage your time effectively.

As long as you have everything you need, you are all set to take the exam! Regardless of the outcome, you should be proud of the hard work that got you here. Just focus on trying your best and remembering everything you have learned.

Interpreting Your GMAT Score

Upon completion of the GMAT, you will shortly thereafter receive your score report. It can be a little confusing at first, so here are some tips to understand how GMAT scores are calculated. Furthermore, we will explore what constitutes a good GMAT score to better help you interpret your performance.

How GMAT Scores are Calculated

The GMAT score is based on the number of questions answered correctly and the difficulty level of those questions. Both correct and incorrect responses influence your score. The computer-adaptive nature of the test ensures that each question carries a different weight in determining your final score.

What Is a Good GMAT Score?

A good GMAT score is truly contingent on the business schools or programs you are applying to. Highly competitive programs may have higher average GMAT scores, whereas others might be a little more lenient.

Conduct some thorough research on the average GMAT scores of your target schools to see where you stand. A higher score can increase your chances of admission and often enhance your eligibility for scholarships and financial aid.

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Retaking the GMAT

If you feel that your GMAT score is not reflective of your hard work and find sections where you can improve, you may be eager to retake the exam. Understanding when to jump to this decision might help you navigate it. The policies, limitations, and strategies for improving your score can help you come to an informed conclusion.

When Should You Consider a Retake?

There are several factors to consider when deciding whether to retake the GMAT. First, figure out your target schools' average scores, your personal goals, and the amount of time and effort required for improvement. If you are confident in your abilities to significantly boost your score through focused preparation, a retake may be worth your while.

Policies and Limitations for Retakes

The GMAT has set rules in place in regard to retakes. Typically, these include the time frame between exams, the maximum number of attempts, and how scores will be reported to schools. Familiarize yourself with these guidelines before making a decision.

Strategies for Improving Your Score

If none of the limitations are enough to discourage you from taking it, formulating a new strategy is essential. Identify the areas in which you could improve and focus on those for targeted practice. Switch up your study method by adding additional materials and resources to fill knowledge gaps. Analyze your previous test performance to identify patterns and adjust your study plan accordingly.

What is a Good GMAT Score

Frequently Asked Questions About the GMAT

By now, you should have a good understanding of the GMAT. However, some common questions might still linger in your mind. Let's address a few of the most frequently asked questions about the GMAT.

Can I use a calculator on the GMAT?

No, the GMAT does not allow the use of calculators during the test. The examination is designed to assess your analytical and problem-solving abilities without relying on external tools. Test-takers are expected to perform all mathematical problems by hand, but rest assured the exam doesn't have too many difficult problems.

How often is the GMAT offered?

The GMAT is offered throughout the year. Test dates are available on a first-come, first-served basis. It's essential to plan ahead and register early to secure your desired test date and location.

What is the difference between the GMAT and the GRE?

While both the GMAT and the GRE (Graduate Record Examination) are accepted by many business schools, there are some differences between the two tests. The main distinction lies in their focus. The GMAT primarily assesses skills relevant to business and management programs, while the GRE evaluates broader academic abilities.

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