What is GMAT?

For students that want to take their business education to the next level, the GMAT is a crucial part of the application process. Below, we explain what GMAT is and what it’s for.

Like many students, you might be starting to think there’s more out there for you to learn, experience and accomplish. Moreover, you are thinking about the best ways to put yourself in a position for long-term success. One of the best ways to ensure your future professional success is to attend graduate school after you receive your Bachelor’s.

However, there are many moving parts to the application process. If you are a motivated business graduate, you might be considering what schools and programs best suit the goals for your career. Additionally, you should understand the importance of the GMAT in your application process.

What is GMAT? Well, it is the most widely accepted standardized test for students seeking to extend their business education. Below, we discuss what is GMAT, how it is structured and how to use your scores for graduate school.

What is GMAT for?

Developed by the Graduate Management Admission Council, the GMAT is an exam to assess a student’s prospects for graduate school success in business. With over 650 test sites across the world, the GMAT tests roughly 200,000 prospective graduate students per year.

Furthermore, the GMAT is typically a strong indicator of a students’ preparedness for the rigorous life of a graduate student. The exam tests students on a range of skills, skills they have worked to hone and improve throughout their education

Schools around the country take GMAT scores seriously. While business school aims to be a holistic education, graduate programs want to see tangible evidence students are ready to pursue a graduate degree in business. To take the test, students must first pay the $250 test fee, which is the same around the world.

You might still be wondering: What is GMAT? What kind of questions can I expect? Now, let’s talk a bit more about what kind of skills the test asks students to display.

What is GMAT: Test structure

The three and a half hour exam assesses several skills to test students’ preparedness. From literary analysis to mathematics, the exam covers a broad range of subjects and skills. All in all, four main pieces of the exam can be taken in any order:

1. Analytical Writing

What is GMAT analytical writing? I thought this was a business school exam? While English may not be your strong suit, it is increasingly important that students have sharp writing skills. On the analytical writing portion of the GMAT, students are asked to display their critical thinking and communication skills.

For example, students will complete one, 30-minute writing task in which they must analyze an argument. The argument students analyze might be related to business or some other topics. Moreover, students will not need specific knowledge of the subject before the exam.

In this section, students will construct a concise, coherent discussion on the argument in question. Using evidence from the prompt, students will form an organized response to convey their ideas and reasoning. Finally, the test is scored based on human and computer analysis on a zero to six scale.

2. Integrated Reasoning

Next, students will complete an integrated reasoning section on the GMAT. This section of the exam assesses a student’s ability to use data analysis to solve complex problems. In business, data analysis is an essential skill. Furthermore, deciding how to use that data is important for any leadership position.

In this section, there are 12 questions students must answer. Each of the 12 questions is one of four question types seen throughout the section. Lastly, each of these questions often contains other parts the student must answer.

Overall, the integrated reasoning section covers a range of skills with a focus on data analysis. Additionally, students will also be tested on their ability to evaluate information from other sources and synthesize information given to them via graphs, text or numbers.

3. Quantitative Reasoning

Similarly, the quantitative section on the GMAT tests students’ abilities to solve problems using data. Quantitative reasoning questions measure mathematical reasoning. Therefore, these sections integrate arithmetic, algebra and geometry.

In total, there are 31 multiple-choice questions in the quantitative reasoning section. Students will have 62 minutes to complete the section, which has two types of questions. For example, the students answer questions involving problem-solving and data sufficiency.

Moreover, students have a range of skills that are assessed in this section. In problem-solving, students will use logic and analytical reasoning to solve basic math problems. Conversely, a student’s ability to analyze quantitative problems where data is involved is tested with data sufficiency questions.

3. Verbal Reasoning

The last of the GMAT sections are verbal reasoning, where students must read and evaluate written material. Compared to the other sections, students are asked to display their reading comprehension skills. With three question types, verbal reasoning assesses many skills.

In this section of the GMAT, students will answer reading comprehension, critical reasoning and sentence correction questions. Additionally, students should expect to have their vocabulary tested to some extent. As with other exams, students do not need specialized knowledge of any of the reading material.

For 65 minutes, students will answer 36 multiple-choice questions. As with the quantitative reasoning section, this portion of the GMAT is scored on a 6-51 scale. Scores in these sections are then adjusted according to their difficulty.

What to do with GMAT scores?

Now that you have taken the exam, you will receive your official GMAT score. The final score will be somewhere between 200 and 800. Almost two-thirds of students score somewhere between the 400-600 range.

Once you have your scores, it is important to understand what they mean for your prospects. The higher your score is, the more options you will have for schools. For lower scores, there are still opportunities to re-take the test or apply your scores elsewhere.

Nowadays, GMAT scores are accepted widely. In some cases, GMAT scores can be used as a substitute for other exams. For example, students often convert their GRE scores into GMAT scores and vice versa. The tests are similar, but scoring is different, so it may be helpful to see where you land with GRE scoring.

There are many great tools out there. For example, our simple GRE to GMAT conversion tool.

How can I improve my GMAT score?

As with any exam, preparation is key. However, you might learn faster if you work with GMAT exam experts, like Magoosh. They've helped over 230,000 international students effectively prepare for their GMAT tests.