You’ve completed your undergraduate studies, obtained some work experience, and are now asking yourself “What’s next?” If the answer to that question includes attending graduate school, then this article is for you.
Whether you’ve started your search for a graduate program or not, you will notice that most institutions require you to submit scores of graduate standardized tests. There are many tests, and one of them is the GMAT!
What is the GMAT?
The Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) is a standardized test which aims at measuring the reasoning abilities of potential graduate students, such as individuals who want to attend an MBA program.
It achieves this goal through its powerful computer algorithms which present you with real-world business problems and settings to assess your skills. The GMAT is a “computer adaptive test”, which means that the level of difficulty of the questions increases whenever you answer it correctly.
This pattern continues until you make a mistake, and then you are presented with a question of similar or lower difficulty.
Why should you take the GMAT?
GMAT is an internationally recognized test, most commonly used in admission processes for graduate institutions in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, and other countries. Its importance is demonstrated in the fact that many institutions will not even consider applicants who do not present their GMAT scores in their applications.
The reasoning behind this is that GMAT scores will set you apart from your competition, who might have similar backgrounds. Graduate schools usually set a threshold for the scores that the applicants must meet, and the higher the score, the better are your chances of being admitted into renowned universities.
Where can you take the GMAT?
The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) is the owner and administrator of the GMAT test. That means that if you want to take the test, you have to register through the GMAC system and make the appointment on a GMAC approved testing center.
Luckily, the GMAT is available in approximately 110 countries, which means testing centers and appointments are highly available. It is recommended that the test be taken before application deadlines by graduate schools, so you have enough time to prepare and evaluate yourself.
What is the structure of the GMAT?
The GMAT is comprised of four distinctive parts, each measuring a different reasoning skill. These are the Analytical Writing Assessment, Integrated Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, and Verbal Reasoning.
Analytical Writing Assessment
The Analytical Writing Assessment is typically the first part of the GMAT test. The candidate is given 30 minutes to read and analyze a text and then write an essay based on it.
Through this essay, you are given a chance to express your critical thinking and writing abilities, by presenting your own arguments on the text that you read.
The essay needs to be clear and concise, not stray from the topic of the text, and be persuasive in the arguments.
This part of the GMAT is evaluated by a computer program at first, and then again by a human expert. This ensures that its evaluation is impartial and correct. The score varies from 1 to 6, with 6 being the maximum.
Despite the fact that the Analytical Writing Assessment score is not included in the final score of the GMAT, it doesn’t make it less important because low scores will hurt your chances of being admitted into the program of your choice.
With data becoming increasingly more available and important in managerial decision making, the GMAC recently introduced the Integrated Reasoning section in the GMAT. This section measures your ability to understand, analyze, and make decisions based on the data you are presented with. Ranging from a variety of presentations, from graphs to tables, you will have to organize the data and interpret it in a logical sense.
You are provided with an on-screen calculator which you can use for any problems requiring mathematical computations. The Integrated Reasoning section is 30 minutes long, with 12 questions, the scores of which will not be included in the final GMAT score, but are equally important in your assessment for admission.
The Quantitative Reasoning section is one of the most important parts of the GMAT. It measures your mathematical and problem solving skills by asking you to apply different math concepts such as arithmetic, algebra, geometry, data interpretation and so on.
You will not be allowed a calculator for this section, which means you have to compute everything on your own.
This section is made up of Problem Solving questions which provide you with a real world problem or mathematical information, and you have to solve it through applying various math concepts.
In addition, the Data Sufficiency part of this section presents you with different pieces of information and you have to evaluate whether they are sufficient or insufficient to solve a certain problem.
Practice is very important in this section, as the Quantitative Reasoning section makes up the bulk of your scores, and is heavily valued by graduate schools.
To complete this section, you are allowed 75 minutes for 37 questions, which indicates that accuracy as well as speed are desired to successfully pass it.
The last section of the GMAT is another 75-minute Verbal Reasoning part with 41 questions. This section tests your ability to understand, analyze, and correct written text and sentences. It is made up of the Sentence Correction part in which you will be presented with a sentence which might or might not be structured incorrectly.
Your job is to identify any mistakes in that structure and then choose from the given options the correct version of the sentence. The other part is Critical Reading which evaluates your critical thinking and reasoning skills. In this part you are presented with different arguments and you have to make any inferences for and assess the strength, logic, and flow of that argument by selecting any of the multiple answers given to you.
The last part of this section is the Verbal Comprehension part, which if you’ve ever taken the TOEFL test, will be familiar. In this part, you will be given passages of text, and unlike the TOEFL, the text will be more structurally complex. Your task will be to read the passages, analyze them, and then answer various multiple choice questions about them.
Similar to the Quantitative Reasoning section, the Verbal Reasoning section is included in your GMAT scores and is one which will be heavily evaluated by graduate school admissions.
How is the GMAT scored?
Immediately after completing the test, you will get unofficial scores for Integrated, Quantitative, and Verbal Reasoning sections. After 20 calendar days, you will get instructions on how to access your official scores, which will be the ones you send to the graduate schools you are applying to.
The total scores are based on your Quantitative and Verbal Reasoning sections and are scored from 200 to 800 points, with most people scoring between 400 and 600 points.
In addition to the points, you will also be able to see your ranking in comparison with previous GMAT test takers, so if you have 570 points, that means you are in the 50th percentile, and have scored better than 50% of GMAT test takers.
How to prepare for the GMAT?
If you’re aspiring to attend graduate school, where you will gain and strengthen skills as well as open new doors for your career, the GMAT will be one of the most important tests you will take. Because of its importance, preparation is key!
There is an array of resources out there which will help you obtain higher and better scores, ranging from books, to in-person tutoring, to online courses, but you need to choose wisely. Many sites will claim to generate meaningful results, but the place you decide to trust with your future needs to be credible and verifiable.