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What Is the GMAT?

The GMAT is a business school entrance exam that lasts nearly 3 1/2 hours, and includes the following four components:

  • An analytical writing assessment, which measures critical thinking and communication skills.

  • An integrated reasoning section, which shows how well students can analyze data and interpret information displayed in varied formats.

  • A quantitative reasoning section, which determines whether students have strong mathematical abilities and numerical literacy.

  • A verbal reasoning section, which evaluates reading comprehension skills, editing abilities and whether someone can make sense of written arguments.

Test-takers have the freedom to choose how they start the exam, beginning with the quantitative, verbal or writing section. The Graduate Management Admission Council is a non-profit organization that administers and designs the GMAT

The GMAT is consciously designed to assess skills that are most relevant for business school. It's a test of applied reasoning. It's not just about knowing stuff; it's about what you can do with your knowledge and how you can apply that in a thoughtful way during business school. It hits closer to what businesspeople do on a daily basis.

What Are Typical GMAT Test Scores?

GMAT test-takers who complete the test should expect to receive five scores, including section scores for analytical writing, integrated reasoning, quantitative reasoning and verbal reasoning, plus a total score, which is based upon performance on the verbal and quantitative sections.

Scores range from 0 to 6 on the analytical writing assessment, which is graded in half-point increments, and extend from 1 to 8 on the integrated reasoning section, which has eight possible scores, all of which are whole numbers. Both the quantitative reasoning and verbal reasoning sections have a minimum score of 0 and a maximum score of 60, but scores below 6 and above 51 are rare. Total GMAT scores range from a low of 200 to a high of 800 and are reported in 10-point intervals. These total scores are based on both the accuracy of a test-taker's answers to questions on the verbal and quantitative sections of the GMAT and the difficulty level of the questions that a test-taker answered.

The average overall GMAT score between January 2015 and December 2017 was 561.27 out of 800. A score of 590 surpassed the performance of 52% of test-takers during that time frame, and scores of 760 or above corresponded to the 99th percentile among all test-takers for that time period.

How Does the Computer-Adaptive Format of the GMAT Work?

The quantitative and verbal reasoning sections of the GMAT each begin with a question of average difficulty. Then, the questions continuously vary in difficulty, depending on a test-taker's accuracy, experts say. So, if the test-taker gets a question right, a harder question usually appears next.

But if a question is answered incorrectly, the next one is typically an easier question. By the end of the test, the computer calculates a score based on whether the test-taker was able to accurately respond to tough questions.

How Is the GMAT Different From the GRE?

Experts say one important distinction between the GMAT and GRE is that the GMAT was specifically created with business chools in mind, while the latter was designed for more general use across multiple types of graduate schools.

MBA admissions consultants say the GRE's verbal section is generally tougher than the verbal portion on the GMAT, while the quantitative section on the GMAT is usually harder than the portion on the GRE.

How Do I Register for the GMAT?

Most students can register for the GMAT online by creating an account on, a website that GMAC runs, and then scheduling an appointment through the web scheduling system. However, students with disabilities who would like accommodations should fill out an accommodation request form before scheduling their test appointment.

Where and How Often Is the GMAT Offered?

There are GMAT test centers all over the world and throughout the U.S. Test-takers can identify convenient test centers on the "Find a Test Center" portion of the website. The GMAT may be taken once every 16 calendar days, and it can be completed no more than five times during a 12-month time period. GMAT test-takers have a lifetime limit on how many times they can take the test, with a maximum of eight attempts permitted.

How Much Does It Cost to Take the GMAT?

Prices for the test vary depending on the test location.

When Should I Take the GMAT?

Our recommendation is that a test taker should schedule their test at least three to four months in advance of their first application deadline. 

What Skills Are Tested on the Integrated Reasoning Section of the GMAT?

The integrated reasoning section is designed to assess an applicant's data analysis and problem-solving skills – two skill sets that are important to many employers of MBA graduates.

The IR section – developed with input from business schools and corporate recruiters – specifically measures real-world skills relevant in today's job market, including synthesizing data from multiple sources, organizing data to see relationships and making judgments based on the same.

Why Do Business Schools Use the GMAT?

Experts say business schools use GMAT scores to gauge whether prospective MBA students have the skills necessary to excel in rigorous courses.

They want to prove ahead of time that a candidate will actually get through their entire program, and so the GMAT helps them make that decision with some level of confidence.

How Can I Set a Target GMAT Score?

Business school applicants should aim to meet or exceed the average GMAT score at their target grad business programs, and they should also attempt to beat the average GMAT score among B-school applicants from their region.

How Long Should I Study for the GMAT?

Experts say that, in general, an MBA applicant's performance on the GMAT is correlated with the number of hours he or she spent preparing for the exam, but there is no hard-and-fast rule about how much prep time is necessary since that will vary by student.

GMAC survey data collected in 2016 showed that GMAT test-takers with scores between 600 and 690 spent a median total of 80 hours, while those with scores above 700 used a median total of 90 hours.

The amount of time to spend on test prep depends on an applicant's comfort level with logic exams and how ambitious the target score is.

MBA applicants often find the GMAT more challenging than previous standardized tests they have taken due to the emphasis on reasoning skills rather than knowledge of a specific academic subject.

Which GMAT Test-Prep Methods Should I Use?

Experts warn that preparing for the GMAT depneds on one's own requires discipline.

Some applicants can manage with self-study but we find that a class, or even better, a private tutor, helps to keep students on track and reinforce the study schedule. At Raena Learning, we offer private tutors to help the students achieve their targeted goal.

When Does It Make Sense to Retake the GMAT?

Experts say B-school applicants who are unsatisfied with their current GMAT score and are convinced they can do better often benefit from a retake.Nervousness or inadequate test preparation could explain why the score is not as high as expected on the first try, experts suggest.

How Can I Improve My GMAT Score?

Business school hopefuls who want to raise their GMAT scores should first reflect on whether they are setting realistic expectations and if achieving their target score is actually required for admission. 

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