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The GMAT test: what it is and how to prepare for it

Here’s everything you need to know about the GMAT test for the MBA application, including costs, how to prepare and which business schools accept it

    Joy Hunter's avatar

    Joy Hunter

    Student content curator
    May 25 2021
    THE/WSJ Business School Report


    If you’re considering doing an MBA or a master’s in business, you will probably have to take a test like the GMAT as part of your business school application.

    Established more than 60 years ago by the Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC), the GMAT is the only admissions test designed specifically for graduate business and management programmes.

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    The GMAT tests your logic and reasoning skills and provides a standardised way for business schools to assess their MBA and master’s candidates, who often have a diverse level of qualifications and experience.

    Who accepts the GMAT?

    The GMAT is the most widely used exam for graduate business school admissions. It is accepted by more than 7,000 business schools and universities around the world. You can use this list to check whether your potential institution accepts the GMAT.

    Is the GMAT taken online or in person?

    You can choose to take the GMAT online at home or in a test centre. If you take the test online, the cost is US$250, and you are permitted to retake the test once. You will also have a live proctor you can speak to at any point throughout the exam.

    If you choose to take the GMAT at a test centre, the cost will depend on your location, but you’ll have the option to retake the test up to five times in a rolling 12-month period. Use this search tool to find your nearest test centre.

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    How is the GMAT test structured?

    The GMAT test has four main parts and takes about three and half hours to complete, including two optional eight-minute breaks.

    Test section

    Time limit / number of questions

    Question types

    Score range

    Analytical writing assessment

    30 minutes
    1 essay question

    Analysis of an argument

    (in 0.5-point increments)

    Integrated reasoning

    30 minutes
    12 questions

    Graphics interpretation, table analysis, multi-source reasoning, Two-part analysis

    (in 1-point increments)

    Quantitative reasoning

    62 minutes
    31 multiple-choice questions

    Data sufficiency, problem-solving

    (in 1-point increments)

    Verbal reasoning

    65 minutes
    36 multiple-choice questions

    Reading comprehension, critical reasoning, sentence correction

    (in 1-point increments)


    How should you prepare for the GMAT?

    The best way to prepare for the GMAT test is to practise, practise and practise. This is a hefty test designed to examine your academic reasoning, so it’s crucial to familiarise yourself with the styles of questions that may come up and put in the hours to work on any areas you may be struggling with.

    It is also well worth doing some timed tests as part of your preparation to give you a clear idea of how long you’ll have on each section. Brushing up on your mental arithmetic skills is also a recommended way to save time during the exam.

    The GMAT website provides an official range of free tools to help you prepare for the test, including an eight-week study planner, a comprehensive test handbook, starter kit and practice quizzes.

    What is a good score on the GMAT?

    A good score on the GMAT test depends somewhat on the competitiveness of the programme you’re applying for, so it’s best to check the website of the business school you’re applying to see what they consider a strong score.

    That said, a score of 650-690 (out of a total 800) would be considered good by most top business schools, while a score of 700 or more would be considered excellent. As with every test, the higher your score, the more impressed the admissions teams will be with your application, so it’s best to aim high and set yourself a target score to work towards as you prepare.

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