The Graduate Management Admissions Test

The Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) is a standardized test that's used to determine a student's potential for success in graduate business studies. The GMAT is used by many top business schools around the world, often as a key criterion for admission into an MBA program.

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The GMAT is, like most assessment tests, designed to test skills, not knowledge. Those who take the test are asked to display the verbal, mathematical and analytical writing skills they have developed through education and other work. While you should still carefully prepare for the test, know that the GMAT doesn't test or measure:

  • Knowledge of business
  • Job skills
  • Content learned in university or college
  • Subjective qualities or "soft skills," such as motivation, creativity, leadership or other interpersonal skills

Sections and Scoring

There are three sections to the GMAT: an analytical writing assessment, a quantitative section and a verbal section.

The Analytical Writing Assessment

This section has two separate writing tasks assigned, and each is allotted 30 minutes. The first section is called Analysis of an Issue, and you're required to analyze an essay and present a point of view with an explanation for your reasoning. The second section, Analysis of an Argument, is also timed at 30 minutes. It is a mirror of the first section, in that you're presented with an argument and are required to critique it in essay format. The assignment doesn't test any previous knowledge of the subject matter, only your ability to analyze what is presented.

The Quantitative Section

The quantitative section is allotted 75 minutes and tests basic skills in mathematics and your ability to think in quantitative terms and interpret data sets. It consists of 37 multiple choice questions divided into two types: problem solving and data sufficiency. These two sets are mingled throughout the test section, and require basic knowledge of arithmetic, algebra and geometry.

The Verbal Section

This section tests your ability to read and comprehend written English. The structure allows for 75 minutes in which to complete 41 multiple choice questions. You're tested on your ability to understand material presented to you in passages from subjects such as the social sciences, sciences or business related areas. Each passage is approximately 300 to 400 words, and will examine your ability to:

  • understand individual sentences
  • make inferences from statements and arguments
  • understand logical connections between points and concepts in passages.


You'll be scored on each individual section and on your total points. Each score is reported on a fixed scale. Scores will also be reported for your entire school in a "percentages below" report, which indicates how many of your school's scores were below the national average for the GMAT.

For the verbal and quantitative sections of the test, you can obtain a provisional and unofficial score right away - however, this may not be the same as the official score you receive. In some cases, your checked score may register as "delayed," if there are extenuating circumstances that interrupt the reporting.

You can also choose to not report your score, in which case it will show up as a "+++". There are other reasons that the score may register in this fashion, including mis-timings, or the fact that the test taker didn't respond to the questions.

GMAT scores are kept for 20 years, though schools are not likely to accept any that are older than five years.

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