Graduate Management Admission Test

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Graduate Management Admission Test
GMAT Logo Vector.svg
Acronym GMAT
Type Computer-based standardized test
Developer / administrator Graduate Management Admission Council
Knowledge / skills tested Quantitative reasoning, verbal reasoning, integrated reasoning, analytical writing.
Purpose Admissions in graduate management programs of business schools.
Year started 1953 (1953)
Duration 3.5 hours[1]
Score / grade range Quantitative section: 0 to 60, in 1 point increments,
Verbal section: 0 to 60, in 1 point increments,
Integrated reasoning section: 1 to 8, in 1 point increments,
Analytical writing assessment: 0.0 to 6.0, in 0.5 point increments.
Total score (from verbal and quantitative sections only): 200 to 800.
Score / grade validity 5 Years
Offered Multiple times a year.
Countries / regions 600 test centers in 114 countries.[2]
Languages English
Annual number of test takers About 250,000 in a year[2]
Prerequisites / eligibility criteria No official prerequisite. Intended for bachelors degree holders and undergraduate students who are about to graduate. Fluency in English assumed.
Fee US$ 250
Scores / grades used by More than 2,100 universities/business schools in US and other countries.

The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT (/ˈmæt/ (JEE-mat))) is a computer adaptive test (CAT) intended to assess certain analytical, writing, quantitative, verbal, and reading skills in written English for use in admission to a graduate management program, such as an MBA.[3] It requires knowledge of certain grammar and knowledge of certain algebra, geometry, and arithmetic. The GMAT does not measure business knowledge or skill, nor does it measure intelligence.[4] According to the test owning company, the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), the GMAT assesses analytical writing and problem-solving abilities, while also addressing data sufficiency, logic, and critical reasoning skills that it believes to be vital to real-world business and management success.[5] It can be taken up to five times a year. Each attempt must be at least 16 days apart.[6]

GMAT is a registered trademark of the Graduate Management Admission Council. More than 5,900 programs offered by more than 2,100 universities and institutions use the GMAT exam as part of the selection criteria for their programs. Business schools use the test as a criterion for admission into a wide range of graduate management programs, including MBA, Master of Accountancy, and Master of Finance programs. The GMAT exam is administered in standardized test centers in 112 countries around the world.[5] According to a survey conducted by Kaplan Test Prep, the GMAT is still the number one choice for MBA aspirants despite the increasing acceptability of GRE scores.[7] According to GMAC, it has continually performed validity studies to statistically verify that the exam predicts success in business school programs.[8]


In 1953, the organization now called the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) began as an association of nine business schools, whose goal was to develop a standardized test to help business schools select qualified applicants. In the first year it was offered, the assessment (now known as the Graduate Management Admission Test), was taken just over 2,000 times; in recent years, it has been taken more than 230,000 times annually.[9] Initially used in admissions by 54 schools, the test is now used by more than 2,100 schools and 5,900 programs worldwide.[9] On June 5, 2012, GMAC introduced an integrated reasoning section to the exam that aims to measure a test taker’s ability to evaluate information presented in multiple formats from multiple sources.[10]


The intended purpose of the GMAT is to predict student success in graduate business programs. According to GMAC, there is a .459 correlation (21% variance) between total GMAT scores and mid-program student grades based on data it collected between 1997 and 2004.[11] Independent research has shown significantly different results. Independent research has shown that the GMAT can explain only 4.4% of the variance in final MBA GPA (Grade Point Average) while undergraduate GPA can explain 17.4% of the variance in final MBA GPA.[12] Additionally, more recent independent research has shown that the GMAT does not add predictive validity after undergraduate GPA and work experience have been considered and that even undergraduate GPA alone can be used in lieu of considering the GMAT.[13]

Format and timing[edit]

The GMAT exam consists of four sections: an analytical writing assessment, an integrated reasoning section, a quantitative section, and a verbal section.[14] Total testing time is three and a half hours, but test takers should plan for a total time of approximately four hours, with breaks. Test takers have 30 minutes for the analytical writing assessment and another 30 minutes to work through 12 questions, which often have multiple parts, on the integrated reasoning section and are given 75 minutes to work through 37 questions in the quantitative section and another 75 minutes to get through 41 questions in the verbal section.

Section Duration in minutes Number of questions
Analytical writing assessment 30 1 essay
Integrated reasoning 30 12
Quantitative 75 37
Verbal 75 41

The quantitative and verbal sections of the GMAT exam are both multiple-choice and are administered in the computer-adaptive format, adjusting to a test taker’s level of ability. At the start of the quantitative and verbal sections, test takers are presented with a question of average difficulty. As questions are answered correctly, the computer presents the test taker with increasingly difficult questions and as questions are answered incorrectly the computer presents the test taker with questions of decreasing difficulty. This process continues until test takers complete each section, at which point the computer will have an accurate assessment of their ability level in that subject area and come up with a raw score for each section.

On July 11, 2017, the GMAC announced that from now on the order in which the different parts of the GMAT are taken can be chosen at the beginning of the exam.

Three options will be available at the test center:

  • Analytical Writing Assessment, Integrated Reasoning, Quantitative, Verbal (original order)
  • Verbal, Quantitative, Integrated Reasoning, Analytical Writing Assessment
  • Quantitative, Verbal, Integrated Reasoning, Analytical Writing Assessment[15]

Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA)[edit]

The AWA consists of one 30-minute writing task—analysis of an argument. It is important to be able to analyze the reasoning behind a given argument and write a critique of that argument. The essay will be given two independent ratings and these ratings are averaged together to determine the test taker's AWA score. One rating is given by a computerized reading evaluation and another is given by a person at GMAC who will read and score the essay themselves without knowledge of what the computerized score was. The automated essay-scoring engine is an electronic system that evaluates more than 50 structural and linguistic features, including organization of ideas, syntactic variety, and topical analysis. If the two ratings differ by more than one point, another evaluation by an expert reader is required to resolve the discrepancy and determine the final score.[16]

The analytical writing assessment is graded on a scale of 0 (minimum) to 6 (maximum) in half-point intervals (a score of zero means the answer was gibberish or obviously not written on the assigned topic or the test taker failed to write anything at all on the AWA).

Essay score Description
1 An essay that is deficient.
2 An essay that is flawed.
3 An essay that is limited.
4 An essay that is adequate.
5 An essay that is strong.
6 An essay that is outstanding.

Integrated reasoning[edit]

Integrated Reasoning (IR) is a section introduced in June 2012 and is designed to measure a test taker’s ability to evaluate data presented in multiple formats from multiple sources. The skills being tested by the integrated reasoning section were identified in a survey of 740 management faculty worldwide as important for today’s incoming students.[17] The integrated reasoning section consists of 12 questions (which often consist of multiple parts themselves) in four different formats: graphics interpretation, two-part analysis, table analysis, and multi-source reasoning. Integrated reasoning scores range from 1 to 8. Like the Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA), this section is scored separately from the quantitative and verbal section. Performance on the IR and AWA sections do not contribute to the total GMAT score.

The integrated reasoning section includes four question types: table analysis, graphics interpretation, multi-source reasoning, and two-part analysis.[17] In the table analysis section, test takers are presented with a sortable table of information, similar to a spreadsheet, which has to be analyzed. Each question will have several statements with opposite-answer options (e.g., true/false, yes/no), and test takers click on the correct option. Graphics interpretation questions ask test takers to interpret a graph or graphical image. Each question has fill-in-the-blank statements with pull-down menus; test takers must choose the options that make the statements accurate. Multi-source reasoning questions are accompanied by two to three sources of information presented on tabbed pages. Test takers click on the tabs and examine all the relevant information, which may be a combination of text, charts, and tables to answer either traditional multiple-choice or opposite-answer (e.g., yes/no, true/false) questions. Two-part analysis questions involve two components for a solution. Possible answers are given in a table format with a column for each component and rows with possible options. Test takers have to choose one response per column.

Quantitative section[edit]

The quantitative section of the GMAT seeks to measure the ability to reason quantitatively, solve quantitative problems, interpret graphic data, and analyze and use information given in a problem. Questions require knowledge of certain algebra, geometry, and arithmetic. There are two types of quantitative questions: problem solving and data sufficiency. The use of calculators is not allowed on the quantitative section of the GMAT. Test takers must do their math work out by hand using a wet erase pen and laminated graph paper which are given to them at the testing center. Scores range from 0 to 60, although GMAC only reports scores between 6 and 51.[18]

Problem solving questions are designed to test the ability to reason quantitatively and to solve quantitative problems. Data sufficiency is a question type unique to the GMAT designed to measure the ability to understand and analyze a quantitative problem, recognize what information is relevant or irrelevant and determine at what point there is enough information to solve a problem or recognize the fact that there is insufficient information given to solve a particular problem.[19]

Verbal section[edit]

The verbal section of the GMAT exam includes the following question types: reading comprehension, critical reasoning, and sentence correction. Each question type gives five answer options from which to select. Verbal scores range from 0 to 60; however, scores below 9 or above 44 are rare.[19]

According to GMAC, the reading comprehension question type tests ability to analyze information and draw a conclusion. Reading comprehension passages can be anywhere from one to several paragraphs long.[20] According to GMAC, the critical reasoning question type assesses reasoning skills.[19][21] According to GMAC, the sentence correction question type tests grammar and effective communication skills. From the available answer options, the test taker should select the most effective construction that best expresses the intent of the sentence.[22][23]


The total GMAT score ranges from 200 to 800 and measures performance on the quantitative and verbal sections together (performance on the AWA and IR sections do not count toward the total score, those sections are scored separately). Scores are given in increments of 10 (e.g. 540, 550, 560, 570, etc.).

The score distribution conforms to a bell curve with a standard deviation of approximately 100 points, meaning that 68% of examinees score between 440 and 640.[19] More precisely, the mean score is 551.94 with a standard deviation of 120.88 points.[24]

The final score is not based solely on the last question the examinee answers (i.e. the level of difficulty of questions reached through the computer adaptive presentation of questions). The algorithm used to build a score is more complicated than that. The examinee can make a mistake and answer incorrectly and the computer will recognize that item as an anomaly. If the examinee misses the first question his score will not necessarily fall in the bottom half of the range.[25]

After previewing his/her unofficial GMAT score, a GMAT test taker has two minutes to decide whether to keep or cancel the GMAT score. A cancelled score can be retrieved within 60 days for a fee of $100. After 60 days a cancelled score is not retrievable.[26]

Scheduling and preparing for the exam[edit]

Test takers may register for the GMAT either online at or by calling one of the test centers.[27] To schedule an exam, an appointment must be made at one of the designated test centers. The GMAT may not be taken more than once within 16 days, even if the scores are canceled. Official GMAT exam study materials are available on the online store and through third-party vendors. The cost of the exam is $250. All applicants are required to present valid ID when taking the test.[28] Upon completion of the test, test takers have the option of canceling or reporting their scores. As of July 2014, test takers were allowed to view their score before making this decision.[29]

There are test preparation companies that offer GMAT courses.[30] Many test preparation companies have gone on record stating noteworthy GMAT results, including average or guaranteed score increases over 90 points.[31][32][33] Other available test preparation resources include university text books, GMAT preparation books, sample tests, and free web resources.[34]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "GMAT Exam Format and Timing". The Official GMAT Web Site. 
  2. ^ a b "GMAC Statistics". 
  3. ^ "The GMAT Advantage". 
  4. ^ Martz, Geoff; Robinson, Adam (2009). The Princeton Review: Cracking the GMAT, 2010 Edition. New York: Random House. pp. 11–12. ISBN 978-0-375-42925-5. 
  5. ^ a b "Learn About the GMAT Exam". Graduate Management Admission Council(GMAC). 
  6. ^ "GMAT Exam Policies". GMAC. Retrieved March 8, 2016. 
  7. ^ Alison Damast (April 26, 2012). "Study: Few MBA Applicants Consider Taking the GRE". Businessweek. Retrieved July 12, 2014. 
  8. ^ "Validity, Reliability and Fairness". Graduate Management Admission Council(GMAC). 
  9. ^ a b "GMAC Statistics Video". Graduate Management Admission Council. 
  10. ^ "GMAT Prep: Online and On Campus – About the GMAT". Regents of the University of Minnesota. Retrieved March 23, 2016. 
  11. ^ "GMAT Validity Study Summary Report for 1997 to 2004". Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC). 
  12. ^ Bedsole, Charles B. (December 2013). "Apples to Apples?: Comparing the Predictive Validity of the GMAT and GRE for Business Schools and Building a Better Admissions Formula" (PDF). University of Georgia. 
  13. ^ Pratt, William R. (2015). "Predicting MBA Student Success and Streamlining the Admissions Process". Journal of Education for Business. 
  14. ^ "GMAT Adds New Thinking Cap". New York Times. 
  15. ^ "GMAT changes order of sections.". GMAT-Workshop. 
  16. ^ "How to use the Analytical Writing Assessment Score". Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC). 
  17. ^ a b "The GMAT gets put to the Test". Business Week. 
  18. ^ Lawrence, Rudner. "Demystifying the GMAT: Scale Scores" (PDF). GMAC. Retrieved 25 June 2012. 
  19. ^ a b c d "Understanding Your Score Report". 
  20. ^ "Sample Reading Comprehension Question". Graduate Management Admission Council. Retrieved March 23, 2016. 
  21. ^ "Sample Critical Reasoning Question". Graduate Management Admission Council. Retrieved March 23, 2016. 
  22. ^ "Idioms, Sentence Correction, and the GMAT Exam". The Official GMAT Blog. 
  23. ^ "Sample Sentence Correction Question". The Official GMAT Web Site. 
  24. ^ "What Your Percentile Ranking Means". 
  25. ^ Talento-Miller, Eileen. "The CAT in the GMAT". Graduate Management Admission Council. Retrieved November 26, 2014. 
  26. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  27. ^ "Scheduling Information". Graduate Management Admission Council(GMAC). 
  28. ^ "Presenting proper Identification". 
  29. ^ "Preview Your GMAT Score". Graduate Management Admission Council. Retrieved January 15, 2015. 
  30. ^ GMAT courses
  31. ^ "GMAT". Optimus Prep. Retrieved May 30, 2014. 
  32. ^ "Testmasters Score Increase Guarantees". Testmasters. Retrieved May 30, 2014. 
  33. ^ "Shawn Berry's GMAT Preparation". Shawn Berry. Retrieved May 30, 2014. 
  34. ^ "Prepare Candidates for the GMAT® Exam & the Classroom". Graduate Management Admission Council. Retrieved November 26, 2014. 

External links[edit]