What Is the GMAT? (With Steps to Prepare for the Test)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published July 22, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

To enter graduate degree programs with a focus on management, many universities require you to pass a graduate management admission test (GMAT). This graduate admissions entrance exam measures your knowledge in multiple areas, such as verbal reasoning, analytical writing, and quantitative reasoning. Learning more about the GMAT and what it's necessary before taking this test may help you pass it easily and start your post-graduate studies quicker.

In this article, we discuss what the GMAT is, describe the content you can find in the exam, explain why schools use this admissions test, review a guide on what to do before taking it, and share some helpful tips.

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What is the GMAT?

The graduate management admission test is an examination required by many universities to apply for a master's degree program with a focus on management. This test aims to measure a candidate's abilities in algebra, arithmetic, geometry, word problems, and data interpretation. The exam doesn't measure your business knowledge or skills, as it doesn't include questions related to this topic. Usually, the higher your score on this test, the higher your chances of getting admitted by the university, as it represents the most important admission criteria. Typically, universities consider your candidacy if you score 500 and above on the GMAT.

Although this test is mandatory in many schools, some master's degree programs don't require it. It's beneficial for you to check the program's website and review its prerequisites before applying for a program. You can take this test not more than five times within a year and not more than once within a month. This is a fully computerized exam you can take virtually from any location worldwide. The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) developed this examination, and it determines its content and how it appears on the test.

Read more: How to Get an MBA (With Skills and Career Options)

What content can you find on the test?

GMAC has more than 200 member universities around the world. These universities usually include the test in their prerequisites for master's degree programs, such as an MBA or MMI (Master of Management of Innovation). If you're applying for graduate studies in business schools, it's crucial for you to know the type of content the GMAT includes. Here's a list of the typical sections this examination includes:

Verbal reasoning

This section contains 41 multiple-choice questions that measure your critical thinking skills, reading comprehension, and sentence correction skills. This section aims to evaluate your proficiency in writing, grammar, prioritizing decisions, and accurately reviewing documents, which are vital in business. You have 75 minutes to complete this section.

Integrated reasoning

This section contains 12 multiple-choice questions that measure your graph and table analysis skills and multi-source reasoning abilities. This section aims to assess your ability to read and interpret graphs effectively and your proficiency in obtaining information from charts, e-mails, memos, news articles, and raw data. You have 30 minutes to complete this section.

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Quantitative reasoning

This section contains 37 multiple-choice questions measuring your problem-solving skills, mathematics abilities, and proficiency in analyzing graphic data. This section aims to evaluate your math skills and how you use your memory to make effective decisions. You have 75 minutes to complete this section, and you cannot use a calculator.

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Analytical writing assessment

This section requires you to write an essay on a provided topic. It aims to evaluate your abilities to analyze, reflect, and argue about a topic. The assessment also tests your logical reasoning and evaluates how you create thoughtful arguments. First, an examiner usually reviews this section, and then a computerized system evaluates your essay. Both can grade your writing assessment, and if their scores differ, an expert might re-evaluate your essay and provide a final score. You have 30 minutes to complete this section.

Read more: 10 Test-Taking Strategies to Score Well on an Exam

Why schools use GMAT

Universities may require this test and a minimum score for admission to a master's degree program because they want to be sure they're receiving qualified students. They also want to use their educational resources on candidates that seem to be business leaders or are successful professionals within different industries. To do this, some master's degree programs require you to score a minimum of 500 or 600 points on the tests before considering your application. This test provides a university with an overview of your educational background, but it doesn't disclose your work experience or business skills.

Using this test, educational organizations can also create data they can analyze and compare to historical information collected from previous students who have successfully finished their program. This enables them to reduce the dropout rate or create mechanisms such as interviews, which they can use to better evaluate the candidate before accepting their application. Some universities may consider this test a source of anxiety that can fail to provide accurate information on a student's skills and experience. That's why sometimes they ask for letters of recommendation from business managers or experts in certain industries.

How to prepare for your test

Follow these steps to prepare for your graduate management admission test:

1. Understand how the system grades your test

Knowing how the system evaluates your test is crucial, as this knowledge may enable you to focus on specific areas of the exam. The computerized system combines your sub-scores from the verbal and quantitative reasoning sections and then rates the combined score on a scale of 200-800 points. The other two sections also receive a score of 200-800 each. Then, the system averages all your scores and provides you with an overall mark. You can also see a percentile ranking next to your sub-scores and your overall mark on your score report.

2. Take a mock test

A diagnostic test can help you evaluate your strengths and weak points. You can take this type of test for free on websites that offer preparation courses or programs. This can also help you know how much time you require to take the entire test or each section. It can also allow you to practise completing the math section without a calculator.

3. Take a preparation course

Taking a prep course can increase your opportunities to pass the test and get a high score that may improve your application. These types of courses can also provide you with a mentor that can give you insights and useful tips to build a strategy for answering the test. You can take an online or an in-person course, but it's a good idea to evaluate its content before purchasing it.

Usually, a good course takes up to 350 hours to prepare you for this examination. You can divide this time into 20 weeks or more, according to your availability. Studying daily is a good idea, as this can provide better results. By doing this, you can avoid reading or reviewing the same content several times.

Tips on what to do before the test

Here are some tips you can consider before taking this test:

  • Make a nutritious breakfast: This test usually lasts 3.5 hours and requires focus and energy. Having a substantial breakfast may give you the energy and nutrients your body needs to stay focused.

  • Check the score you need: Before taking the exam, check the minimum score requirements on the websites of your chosen programs. As you're competing with other candidates, try to obtain a score that's higher than the minimum to increase your chances of getting admitted.

  • Practise making a quick decision: After getting your score, you have two minutes to accept or decline the score that's valid for five years, so it's crucial for you to practise your reasoning process before making a choice. You can meet with a professor from the master's degree program you're applying for and ask for advice.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions, or organizations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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