The GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) is a standardized entrance exam used for admission to graduate business schools conferring the degree of an MBA (a few law schools now also accept the GMAT in lieu of the LSAT). You can take the GMAT on computers at test centers as well as the GMAT Online remotely proctored at home. The GMAT consists of the following sections:
The GMAT is scored as follows:
You can select in what order the sections will appear on official in-person GMAT administrations from one of three options:
Until at least April 20, 2021, the order of the GMAT Online is fixed: Quantitative, Verbal, Integrated Reasoning. Starting sometime after April 20, students taking the GMAT Online will have the same section order options that they have on the in-person GMAT.
To accommodate students’ testing needs during and after the pandemic, GMAC is offering the remotely proctored GMAT Online as a permanent testing option. While the GMAT Online is generally similar to the traditional in-person GMAT, there are some minor differences between these tests.
Where possible, standard GMAT testing has resumed at Pearson-VUE test centers.
The GMAT is mostly used by those planning to apply to MBA programs and other business-related advanced degree programs. The GRE is accepted in lieu of the GMAT by most MBA programs, although the GMAT is still more commonly used for MBA admissions. Many Executive MBA programs accept the Executive Assessment in lieu of the GMAT.
Some students may be interested in taking the GMAT instead of the LSAT to apply to law schools, as the GMAT is accepted by a few law schools.
Most business schools accept both the GMAT and the GRE, with no stated preference for either test; however, the GMAT is more commonly used by students applying to business school.
The GMAT and GRE have many similarities: both tests include Quantitative, Verbal, and Analytical Writing sections (but until at least April 20, 2021, the GMAT Online does not have the Analytical Writing Assessment). Note that some of the question types and content are unique to each test. For example, the GMAT tests grammar, while the GRE tests vocabulary. Likewise, the GMAT Quantitative Section includes data sufficiency questions, while the GRE Quantitative Section includes quantitative comparison questions.
If you are deciding between preparing for the GMAT or GRE, we recommend that you take a timed full-length practice GMAT and a timed full-length practice GRE. Compare your scores and your overall comfort level with each test. Then prepare for and take the test on which you feel that you will eventually perform best.
You can register for the GMAT on the official website. You can take the GMAT only once within any 16-day period, no more than five times within any 12-month period, and no more than eight times in a lifetime.
You can take the GMAT Online up to two times, and each GMAT Online does count toward the annual and lifetime limits. You can schedule a GMAT Online within 16 days of an in-person GMAT.
In the U.S., the in-person GMAT costs $275 per administration, and the GMAT Online costs $250 per administration. Other potential fees include:
You can read more about GMAT fees here.
You can cancel your GMAT or GMAT Online for a partial refund if you cancel in advance of your test administration:
Following each official in-person GMAT administration, you will have two minutes to preview your unofficial scores (Verbal, Quantitative, Integrated Reasoning, and Total scores) and decide whether to accept or cancel them. You can cancel your scores at this point without a fee, but you will not receive a refund. You can also cancel your scores online within 72 hours of completing an official GMAT for a $25 fee. GMAT Online scores, however, cannot be canceled following the test.
You can read more about GMAT refunds and fees here.
The GMAT Quantitative Reasoning and Integrated Reasoning sections both include math questions. The Quantitative Reasoning section consists of 31 questions (problem solving and data sufficiency), encompassing topics drawn primarily from arithmetic, algebra, and geometry. The Integrated Reasoning section consists of 12 questions, encompassing multi-source reasoning, interpretation of graphics, two-part analysis, and table analysis.
Many students find the math tested on the GMAT to be challenging, but it is also learnable. With rigorous study of the concepts and practice applying them, all students can improve their GMAT math skills. In our experience, studying for the GMAT through one-on-one tutoring yields the best results because an experienced tutor can provide you with an individualized program tailored to your strengths and weaknesses and help you achieve your top score.
No, calculators are not allowed on the GMAT. But don’t worry—GMAT questions are written in ways that do not require lengthy computation. Make sure to practice without using a calculator so that you get used to solving problems without one.
Because it takes time to learn all of the underlying math, reading, logic, grammar, and writing concepts and to practice applying them on timed practice tests, we recommend that students prepare for the GMAT with study sessions, tutoring, and timed practice testing multiple times per week for several months.
When you plan your preparation schedule, also keep in mind that you may want to retake the GMAT. We recommend that most students begin preparing for the GMAT up to a year in advance of their application deadlines. This approach gives students ample time to prepare for the test and retake it if necessary, while allowing for sufficient time to finish the other components of business school applications.
Studying for the GMAT typically takes more than 30 days. Preparing for the GMAT requires significant time and a serious commitment. With more than 30 years of experience, Advantage Testing has determined that it takes most students several months of rigorous preparation to substantially improve their GMAT scores.
If you are preparing for the GMAT in a condensed time frame, focus on taking full-length practice tests and official problem sets. Use as many of the official practice materials as you can. Be sure to carefully review each test and problem set, paying close attention to every question that you answered incorrectly and every question on which you had to guess.
No, you should not skip any questions on the GMAT. Both the Quantitative and Verbal sections are computer-adaptive—the computer will present questions of varying difficulty depending on your prior responses. Therefore, you cannot skip difficult questions. In addition, note that questions cannot be returned to after they are answered.
There is a severe penalty for not finishing the test, so be sure to answer every question in a timely fashion. You should always keep track of time remaining so that if you have unanswered questions remaining when your time is almost up, you can complete the section with random guessing in the last minute or so.
While it is not bad to take the GMAT several times, you should note that a small minority of schools will ask you how many times you took it, and an even smaller minority will ask you how you did on each test. Nonetheless, we advise our students to expect to retake the GMAT at least once. You can take the in-person GMAT only once within any 16-day period, no more than five times within any 12-month period, and no more than eight times in a lifetime. You can take the GMAT Online twice and it does contribute toward the annual and lifetime limits. Canceled test scores do count toward these limits.
You should wait to take the GMAT for the first time until you feel confident and have taken multiple full-length practice tests. You should retake the GMAT if you feel that you can score significantly higher with additional preparation. Most students need to prepare for the GMAT with study sessions, tutoring, and timed practice testing multiple times each week for several months before taking their first official test.
The GMAT is a computer-adaptive test. While there are no wrong-answer penalties per se, the computer will present different questions depending on your prior responses. An accurate response to a question will generally, but not necessarily, result in a more difficult question. For example, in the Quantitative Reasoning section, because several topics are being tested, a correct answer on an arithmetic question might lead to a more difficult arithmetic question or a relatively easier geometry question.
Questions cannot be skipped or returned to after they are answered. There is a severe penalty for not finishing the test, so be sure to answer every question in a timely fashion and to always keep track of time remaining so that you can complete the section in the last minute if you have not already done so.
While it is technically possible for your official GMAT score to differ from the unofficial scores (Verbal, Quantitative, Integrated Reasoning, and Total scores) you earn at the test site, such discrepancies rarely occur. Your unofficial score is typically accurate. The main thing that will change when you receive your official score is that you will also receive your Analytical Writing Assessment score.
Following each official in-person GMAT administration, you will have two minutes to preview your unofficial scores (Verbal, Quantitative, Integrated Reasoning, and Total scores) and decide whether to accept or cancel them. If two minutes pass before you make a selection, your score will be canceled. Due to these time constraints, we recommend that you have a target score in mind before you take an official in-person test.
If you decide to accept your scores at the test site, you can cancel them online within 72 hours for a $25 fee. For a fee, canceled scores from the prior four years and 11 months can be reinstated. If you have fast-approaching application deadlines, keep in mind that it can take up to 20 days for a score reinstatement to be processed.
Note that canceled test administrations will not be indicated in any way on score reports sent to schools. However, the online Score Report visible only to you indicates canceled tests with a “C” in place of the score. Canceled test sittings are counted toward the testing limits, including the lifetime limit of eight tests.
GMAT Online scores cannot be canceled.
If you experienced unusual difficulty with your in-person test and your score is significantly below your typical practice test score or your target score, you should certainly consider canceling your GMAT score (but GMAT Online scores cannot be canceled). The in-person GMAT does not provide a score choice option; cancellation is the only opportunity to exclude a score from your official score report (though many business schools indicate they will consider only the highest score). Keep in mind that it is normal for your official test score to be slightly lower than your practice test scores.
You will be able to preview your unofficial multiple-choice scores (Verbal, Quantitative, Integrated Reasoning, and Total scores) at the test site immediately after finishing your GMAT. Your official scores will become available within 20 calendar days of your GMAT administration. Your official scores will also include your Analytical Writing score.
Until at least April 20, 2021, GMAT Online scores will be available for you to view and send to schools about a week after taking the test. Starting sometime after April 20, you will be able to view your unofficial GMAT Online score immediately following your exam.
A 730 is a good GMAT score for most business school applicants. For students taking the GMAT between January 2015 and December 2018, a score of 730 was at the 96th percentile. However, a 730 is around the average score for many leading business schools (e.g., the mean GMAT score of UChicago Booth’s Class of 2021 was 730).
When setting goals, you should take into account the mean and 75th percentile scores at the schools to which you are planning to apply, your practice test scores, and the other strengths of your business school application. For example, if your score is above the 75th percentile of students admitted to your top-choice business school, you can feel confident that you have a “good” score. To determine what GMAT score you will need to present a strong application, you can look up the relevant score statistics on the websites of the schools to which you are applying or on national ranking sites.
While you can study for the GMAT on your own or in a class, our experience indicates that one-on-one tutoring provides the most effective preparation for achieving a high score on the GMAT. An excellent tutor will be able to determine and address your individual strengths and weaknesses and tailor a preparation plan that will enable you to achieve your best score.
However you choose to prepare for the GMAT, be sure to study the underlying concepts on all of the sections of the test and then practice taking as many timed, full-length practice tests as possible. Taking practice tests is a key element to any preparation plan because you will gain experience and confidence completing questions under timed conditions, become familiar with the logistics of the official test, and develop the stamina needed to complete a full test to the best of your abilities.
Harvard Business School requires that you submit either a GMAT or GRE score when you apply. For the HBS Class of 2021, 80% of the class submitted GMAT scores, while 20% of the class submitted GRE scores. The median GMAT score was 730 (42 Verbal, 48 Quantitative). The median Verbal and Quantitative GRE scores were both 163.
There is no single GMAT score that will guarantee or preclude admission to Harvard Business School. While the GMAT factors heavily in admissions decisions, HBS evaluates your entire application and will consider your standardized test scores, undergraduate curriculum's rigor, undergraduate GPA, application essays, letters of recommendation, interview, and work experience. Students admitted to HBS score very high on the GMAT. The median GMAT score of students enrolled in the HBS class of 2021 was 730 (96th percentile overall).
Note that you can take the GRE as an alternative to the GMAT for admission to HBS. 20% of the class of 2021 used the GRE to apply to HBS, with mean Verbal and Quantitative scores of 163.
While you should always strive to perform to the best of your ability on the GMAT, keep in mind that perfect scores are rare. Very few people score a perfect 800 on the GMAT. For students taking the GMAT between January 2015 and December 2018, scores of 760 and above were at the 99th percentile. Scores of 800 represent a tiny fraction of the top percentile of GMAT scores.
A 640 may be a good GMAT score for some business school applicants. For students taking the GMAT between January 2015 and December 2018, a score of 640 was at the 68th percentile. A 640 is below the average score for many leading business schools (e.g., the mean GMAT score of the MIT Sloan class of 2021 was 727).
Keep in mind that GMAT scores should not be considered “good” or “bad” in themselves, but only relative to your goals. When setting goals, you should take into account the mean and 75th percentile scores at the schools to which you hope to apply, your practice test scores, and the other strengths of your business school application. For example, if your score is above the 75th percentile of students admitted to your top-choice business school, you can feel confident that you have a “good” score.
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