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Even though the GMAT is complex, it has a learnable structure. While you can’t study for this test by memorizing facts, an important factor in being well-prepared for the test includes understand the type of questions you’ll be expected to answer and how problems presented in the exam can be solved. These videos offer GMAT test-taking strategies, including time management and exam preparation.

GMAT: Why is it important?

The Graduate Management Admission Test is a standardized examination used by graduate business programs to assess specific skills of prospective students and determine their potential for academic success. Students planning to obtain an MBA or related degree take the GMAT as part of the application process. More than 6,000 business programs worldwide, including top-ranked online MBA programs, use the GMAT to make admission decisions about potential graduate students. However, for those who don’t have the time or desire to take the test, there is a sizable number of online MBA programs that do not require the GMAT.

How is the GMAT taken?

The GMAT is offered year-round at testing locations throughout the United States. Specific dates vary by testing center. GMAC offers a searchable database of approved testing centers for prospective students. The GMAT is administered via individual computer workstations in a testing room. Two sections, the Quantitative and Verbal, are known as adaptive tests. The test’s algorithm evaluates each answer and selects the next series of questions based on a student’s responses and skill level.

GMAT In-Depth

GMAT Test Section What it Tests Question Types Scoring Scale Number of Questions Time Given
Integrated Reasoning Tests the candidate’s ability to synthesize information in different formats; critically evaluate information from different sources; organize information to find relationships; and manipulate data from different sources to solve problems. Table Analysis Graphics Interpretation Multi-Source Reasoning Scored on a scale of 1 to 8 in one point increments 12 30 Minutes
Analytical Writing Assessment Tests the candidate’s ability to analyze an argument; evaluate lines of reasoning; identify assumptions; and present insight into how changes in the argument could either weaken or strengthen its position. Argument Analysis Scored twice; averaged on a scale of 0 to 6 in half point increments 1 Writing Topic Subject 30 Minutes
Quantitative Tests the candidate’s ability to evaluate and analyze data and develop logical solutions to problems. Problem Solving Data Sufficiency Scored on a scale of 0 to 60 37 75 Minutes
Verbal Measures the candidate’s ability to understand and analyze written concepts; use critical reasoning to craft and evaluate arguments; and proficiently express ideas clearly and correctly. Reading Comprehension Sentence Correction Critical Reasoning Scored on a scale of 0 to 60 41 75 Minutes

How much does it cost to take the GMAT?

The basic fee to take the GMAT is $250, with an additional $50 fee for rescheduling a test and a $28 charge for each additional score report ordered.

How is it graded and what do the scores mean?

Examinees have a total of three-and-a-half hours to complete the four sections of the examination. The breakdown of times for each section is given below:

Analytical Writing Assessment – 30 minutes

Quantitative – 75 minutes

Verbal – 75 minutes

Integrated Reasoning – 30 minutes

The GMAT is administered as a computer adaptive test, meaning the test adjusts as candidates answer each question and determines the type of questions to ask as the exam progresses. The algorithm produces a score based on the number of correct and incorrect questions and the difficulty level of each question answered.

  • Section Scores.

    Each section of the test is given its own score. The Verbal and Quantitative sections each receive a raw score between 0 and 60, in one-point increments. Each essay in the Analytical Writing Assessment is scored twice on a scale of 0 to 6, in half point increments. The Integrated Reasoning section is scored on a scale of 1 to 8, in one-point increments.

  • Total Score.

    Using an undisclosed scoring system, the raw scores of the Verbal and Quantitative sections are translated into a total score that ranges between 200 and 800.

  • Percentile Score.

    Test takers receive a percentile score for each section and for the overall total. Percentile rankings represent the percentage of test takers (over a three-year average) who scored below the test taker.

How does the school use your score?

The GMAT has proven to be a reliable predictor of a student’s potential academic success in a graduate program of study, whether it’s a full-time, part-time, executive or accelerated MBA. Universities use the scores as a benchmark for candidate evaluation, though some institutions assess the scores in different ways:

  • Target Range Scores.

    Institutions will sometimes look at applications within a specific score range before reviewing individual candidates.

  • Minimum Scores.

    Institutions following this approach only require students meet a minimum score threshold to be eligible for acceptance.

  • Test Section Weight.

    Some institutions weigh particular test sections (e.g. Quantitative) more heavily than others.

  • Recent Test Scores.

    If an applicant has taken the exam multiple times, some institutions only accept the most recent rather than the highest score.

GMAT Resources

GMAC

Students can access a range of information, including details about the scoring process, tips on what institutions are looking for in candidates, and a list of programs that accept the GMAT.

Kaplan

Through Kaplan’s Test Prep, GMAT candidates can learn about the examination, take GMAT courses, and access free GMAT preparation resources.

Magoosh

This online test preparation company offers a variety of information, test questions, lesson videos, and tutoring support to prospective GMAT candidates.

Manhattan Prep

This tutoring organization provides both paid and free GMAT testing resources, including challenge problems, practice tests, tutorials, forums, and a blog.

MBA

MBA serves as the official site of the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), the sponsoring body responsible for administering the examination. This website offers a range of information about the GMAT, including a breakdown of each test section and a portal to register for the exam.

Preparing for the GMAT

While students may have encountered myriad tips about studying, preparation generally falls into three categories: self-study with test prep materials; formal GMAT test preparation courses; and one-on-one tutoring. Which path a student takes depends on individual needs and understanding the approach that will work best for them; in many cases, this includes a blend of preparation options.

  • Self-study.

    Individuals studying on their own can use materials such as the Official Guide for GMAT Review and practice tests to prepare for the GMAT.

  • Test prep courses

    A variety of companies offer preparation courses, including Kaplan and The Princeton Review. Courses vary in length, but typically include a set number of live instruction hours, practice examinations, and access to other testing resources.

  • Private tutoring

    Private tutoring can supplement self-study, allowing students to receive assistance in areas where they need the most help.

No matter the test prep type, the most significant key to success is starting early, between three and six months before attempting the examination. Below is a short checklist of steps to take to begin prepping for the GMAT.

1
Register with MBA.com.

Stay up-to-date about the GMAT and receive official GMAT information.

2
Download GMATPrep Software.

Offered by GMAC, this free test prep software provides a suite of resources.

3
Download and read the GMAT Handbook.

The handbook provides insight into everything a test taker wants to know, ranging from question types to the process for receiving accommodations.

4
Take a practice test.

Use the practice test to get a baseline assessment of your skills and where to concentrate studying.

5
Develop a study plan

Create a plan and study calendar that fits your lifestyle and studying needs.

GMAT Study Hacks

No, you can’t really hack the GMAT, but there are some tips and tricks that can help you take control of your GMAT experience.

  • Think far ahead.

    The GMAT is a difficult but learnable examination. Test takers need to create a measured and organized plan of test preparation attack. After selecting a test date, work backwards and realistically assess how much time can be devoted to studying each week.

  • Create your own question set.

    The Official Guide for GMAT Review, available online from MBA.com, allows users to build their own question sets based on problems from previous exams. This tool helps users to develop a mix of questions and associated difficulty levels and is a great way to become familiar with each question format.

  • Aim for consistency.

    The number of hours invested in GMAT test preparation doesn’t necessarily dictate your exam readiness. The goal should be quality over quantity, which comes from a consistent approach to studying. Maximize time by finding the time of day that allows for the most productivity and study at that time every day, including weekends. It’s also important to find an environment where distractions and interruptions are eliminated.

  • Learn how to make an educated guess.

    It may be impossible to know the correct answer to every question, but it is possible to eliminate two or three answers that are simply wrong. While reviewing questions, practice learning how to eliminate answers and rank the remaining options by their potential to be correct.

  • Don’t spend time on what you know.

    Attack your weaknesses in a pragmatic manner. If you’re comfortable with sentence correction, but struggling with critical reasoning, spend more time with critical reasoning, but don’t avoid sentence correction questions.

  • Set timing goals.

    Because uncompleted questions can lower your overall score, running out of time should be of central concern. During the preparation process, use timed practice tests to get a sense of how long each section actually takes and focus on speeding up in your strongest areas.

  • Don’t relearn the English language.

    The Sentence Correction section typically tests basic grammatical skills, especially those with concrete rules and patterns. Instead of reading a grammar book, review the Official GMAT Guide for GMAT Review and acclimate to the types of questions in the section. Sentence Correction questions typically include subject-verb agreement, idioms, pronoun reference, parallelism, and modifiers.

  • Practice some mental math hacks.

    While math may feel pretty easy when using a calculator, they aren’t allowed during the actual exam. Test takers are required to do basic math in their heads during the test, so reviewing concepts such as fractions, percents and problem solving by factoring can be very useful. Learning some math hacks can help, but practicing and taking advantage of doing mental math at every opportunity (think calculating a grocery shopping total or figuring out the tip on a bill) will go a long way.

  • Break the 100-hour barrier.

    According to data from GMAC, test takers that studied at least 107 hours scored between 600 and 690 on the 2014 GMAT, while those who studied at least 121 or more hours scored 700 and better. Breaking 100 hours doesn’t automatically mean you will get a higher score, but the odds will be more in your favor.

  • Forget about the essay.

    No, not literally, but the essay is often viewed as the least important part of the GMAT. The five-paragraph method learned during grade school can be quite successful. A breakdown of this approach is given below:

    Paragraph 1/Introduction:

    Identify the argument’s flaws and set up a transition to the second paragraph.

    Paragraph 2:

    Elaborate on the argument’s largest flaw, provide examples, and demonstrate why that flaw is a weakness.

    Paragraphs 3 and 4: 

    Build on paragraph 2.

    Paragraph 5:

    Offer insight on how the argument can be strengthened and use the conclusion to provide a final evaluation of the argument.

GMAT Study Plan

Students hoping to score a 700 or above need to ensure they are organized and focused, with a certain amount of time set aside each day for studying. The GMAT is a grueling, nearly four-hour examination that will exhaust even the most prepared and intelligent test taker. The following three-month study plan will help get students on the path to test preparation success.

  Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
W1

Intro to GMAT Review Official Guide for GMAT Review (OG)

Introduction to Problem Solving (PS) and Reading Comprehension questions

Introduction to Critical Reasoning (CR) and Data Sufficiency questions (DS)

Introduction to Sentence Correction (SC) questions

Introduction to Integrated Reasoning (IR) questions

GMAT Practice Test

GMAT Practice Test #1

W2

Review GMAT Practice Test #1

CR questions

Review CR questions

CR questions

Review CR questions

CR questions

Review CR questions

W3

SC questions

Review SC questions

SC questions

Review SC questions

SC questions

Review SC questions

RC questions

W4

Review RC questions

RC questions

Review RC questions

RC questions

Review RC questions

Comprehensive review of CR, SC, and CR questions

Break

W5

PS questions

Review PS questions

PS questions

Review PS questions

PS questions

Review PS questions

DS questions

W6

Review DS questions

DS questions

Review DS questions

DS questions

Review DS questions

IR questions

Review IR questions

W7

IR questions

Review IR questions

IR questions

Review IR questions

GMAT Practice Test Prep: Review Sections and Weakest Areas

GMAT Practice Test Prep: Review Sections and Weakest Areas

GMAT Practice Test #2

W8

Review GMAT Practice Test #2

CR review

SC review

RC review

PS review

DS review

IR review

W9

Practice Test #3

Review Practice Test #3

SC questions

DS questions and SC review

RC questions and DS review

IR questions and RC review

CR questions and IR review

W10

GMAT Prep Review: All Sections and Weakest Areas

GMAT Prep Review: All Sections and Weakest areas

Verbal review

Verbal review

Quantitative review

Quantitative review

GMAT Practice Test #4

W11

Review GMAT Practice Test #4

Review GMAT Practice Test #4

Analytical Writing Assessment practice

Analytical Writing Assessment practice

GMAT Prep review

GMAT Prep review

GMAT Practice Test #5

W12

Review GMAT Practice Test #5

GMAT Practice Test #6

Review GMAT Practice Test #6

TEST DAY

     

Tutoring

Some examinees choose to rely solely on self-study during GMAT prep, while others use GMAT courses to better their chances. A third option is private tutoring, which affords candidates the opportunity to gain individualized attention and customized instruction. The market for GMAT tutors varies greatly, but they are typically sourced individually or through commercial test preparation companies.

Some of the most important things to consider for any prospective tutor include:

Experience

First, what score did they receive on the GMAT? Secondly, how long have they worked specifically with GMAT students? Tutors should be knowledgeable about the exam and have demonstrable success helping students score well.

Instruction Type

Some larger tutoring companies take all students through the same type of curriculum. While this style may fit the needs of most students, those looking for one-on-one instruction should ensure their instructor is able to create an individualized plan of study.

Cost

It’s no secret—tutoring is expensive. Costs vary widely in private tutoring, with rates ranging from $20 to upwards of $200 per hour. If going with an individual, be sure to negotiate rates. If selecting a commercial company, be ready for the sticker shock: most will charge $150 or more per hour. Many will offer hourly packages, reducing the cost if buying time in bulk.

GMAT Prep and Study Resources

GMAT Hacks: books, articles, study tips and more

peerTransfer Blog: Top 5 things to avoid when studying for the GMAT

The Wire: GMAT Hacks, Mental Math

GMAT Practice Tests

The GMAT can be intimidating, so fully understanding the type of questions asked on the examination is vital. Practice tests can help test takers develop the confidence needed to focus and the skills needed to succeed. It’s also important to use the best questions possible during test preparation: third-party companies such as Kaplan and Princeton Review can only offer questions that are similar to the actual test. Official test prep materials provide questions from previous exams.

Registered users of MBA.com have access to the official GMATPrep Software, which utilizes the same technology used by the real GMAT and provides scoring. Some of the best features include:

90 Questions, comprised of 45 Verbal, 15 Integrated Reasoning, and 30 Quantitative, with answers and explanations

Two full-length practice tests, including answers

Online tools to build a customized practice test

Ability to purchase additional examinations or questions

Test preparation guide

Math review section

Practice tests should be used smartly; taking 40 tests in preparation may not be the best avenue for success. Below is a checklist of things to consider to efficiently and effectively prepare for the examination.

  • Take an initial test

    Before embarking on a study plan, take a practice test to get a baseline of your strengths and better inform future studying plans.

  • Make it count

    As much as possible, simulate test day environments when taking practice tests. Don’t stop to review questions and answers, use a timer, and take the proper number of breaks.

  • Use computer adaptive tests.

    Using a non-adaptive test will only get you so far. Be sure to take advantage of computer adaptive practice tests to acclimate to the ebb and flow of question difficulty.

  • Review your performance.

    With each practice test, pay attention to where you struggled and succeeded. Apply what you learned during the question review process to future study sessions and practice tests.

  • Look for patterns.

    Keep an eye out for how GMAT question types fall into patterns so you can quickly recall the best strategies for tackling those problems.

  • Take a final practice test

    Prior to the actual exam, take one more practice test as a way of doing a final run through of each section before diving in to the real thing.

Resources for practice tests:

Test Day: Tips and Tricks to Tackle the GMAT

Knowing what to expect before test day can help ease jitters and save time and effort at the testing center. Test day is highly structured and organized, with rules and regulations each test taker must follow. It’s recommended you arrive at least 30 minutes prior to the test, as there is an admission and check-in process.

  • Admission

    Examinees must bring GMAT-approved identification, a list of programs where scores should be sent, and an appointment confirmation. Approved forms of identification include passports, driver’s licenses, military ID cards, and permanent resident/green cards.

  • Verify Identity

    The test administrator will take a photograph, digital signature, and either a fingerprint or palm reader biometric reading.

  • Sign Agreement

    Examinees must read and sign the GMAT Examination Testing Rule Agreement prior to the test.

  • Begin the Test

    After confirming identity and registration, candidates are allowed to sit for the examination.

What to bring

Most testing centers provide small lockers where belongings can be stored. Only a handful of items are allowed into the testing room:

  • Identification

  • Locker key

  • Light jacket or sweater

  • Prescription eyeglasses

  • Pre-approved testing accommodation items

What not to bring

MBA.com provides a comprehensive list of prohibited items.

During breaks.

During the breaks, examinees must leave the testing room but remain in the testing center (e.g. lobby or locker area). Items such as water, food, tobacco products (testing center discretion) or pre-approved comfort items (e.g. tissues) are allowed. Candidates arriving late from the break will have time deducted from the next section of the exam.

After the examination

Candidates are given an unofficial GMAT score (Verbal, Quantitative, Integrated Reasoning, and Total Score) at the end of the examination, at which point they have two minutes to accept or cancel the score. A printed copy of the unofficial score will be available at the front desk of the testing center. Examinees who choose to reinstate a canceled score may do so within 60 days for a $100 fee.

Disability Accommodations and Services on Test Day

Individuals with disabilities are allowed to request reasonable test accommodations from GMAT. These will be reviewed and considered on a case-by-case basis.

A Variety of Accommodations Are Available

A range of testing accommodations is available, depending on the specific disability. The potential list of accommodations include:

  • Additional/extended rest breaks

  • Wheelchair accessibility

  • Additional time for testing (50 percent or 100 percent more time)

  • Trackball mouse

  • Clearance to bring a medical device to the testing center

  • Readers

  • Two-day testing appointment

  • Sign language interpreter

  • Screen reading software

Disability Requests Must Be Documented.

Test candidates must provide more than a diagnosis to qualify for GMAT accommodations. To be considered, documentation must include:

  • Existence of the disability or impairment that limits major life activities

  • Impact of the disability or impairment and how it affects the test taker’s ability to take the GMAT under regular conditions

  • Reasons why the requested accommodations are appropriate for that disability

Accommodation Requests Must Be Reasonable.

Accommodations are designed to specifically address a learning disability that impacts an examinee’s ability to take the GMAT examination under normal conditions. Test takers must provide evidence that the requested accommodation is needed to address a current and specific limitation.

Accommodation Requests Should Be Made Early.

Because reviews are done on a case-by-case basis in the order they are received, it’s important to submit a request as early as possible. GMAT estimates the average turnaround time is between seven to 10 business days, but rendering a decision could take up to four weeks.

Take The Necessary Steps To Request Accommodations.

GMAC has outlined the steps required to submit a request for testing accommodations. These include:

1 Register with GMAT and create a GMAT profile

2 Read the Supplemental Test Takers with Disabilities document

3 Complete the GMAT Test Accommodations Request Form

4 Obtain supporting documentation from a qualified evaluator, based on the disability type:

5 Submit all required documentation to one to GMAC

Disability Testing Resources List