The Basics of the GMAT
If you’re looking to pursue an MBA, the first order of business will be to start preparing for the GMAT.
Luckily, Ilana Kowarski, a reporter at US News, recently put together a comprehensive guide on anything and everything you need to know about the standardized exam. Below are a few highlights from the guide.
WHAT IS THE GMAT?
The GMAT is the standardized entrance exams for business schools.
The exam covers four main sections, according to GMAC, which administers the exam:
- Analytical Writing Assessment—Measures your ability to think critically and to communicate your ideas.
- Integrated Reasoning—Measures your ability to analyze data and evaluate information presented in multiple formats.
- Quantitative Reasoning—Measures your ability to analyze data and draw conclusions using reasoning skills.
- Verbal Reasoning—measures your ability to read and understand written material, to evaluate arguments and to correct written material to conform to standard written English.
“The GMAT is consciously designed to assess skills that are most relevant for business school,” Vineet Chhabra, senior director of product management at GMAC, tells US News. “It’s a test of applied reasoning. It’s not just about knowing stuff; it’s about what you can do with your knowledge and how you can apply that in a thoughtful way during business school. It hits closer to what business people do on a daily basis.”
Your total GMAT score will range from 200 to 800, with individual scores on your Analytical Writing Assessment, Integrated Reasoning, and Quantitative and Verbal Reasoning.
According to GMAC, two-thirds of test-takers score between 400 and 600. However, if you’re looking to get into a top b-school, you’ll need to score higher than that.
At Harvard Business School, the average total GMAT score for its Class of 2020 falls between 610–800.
The GMAT is computer-adaptive. That means the exam tailors itself in difficulty as you’re taking the exam.
According to GMAC, “this feature allows the exam to assess your potential with a higher degree of precision and deliver scores that business schools trust.”
That also means you’ll get your score by the time you finish the exam.
WHEN TO TAKE THE EXAM
Experts recommend applicants take the GMAT at least three to four months prior to their first application deadline.
“This will allow you some buffer room should you need to take the test again to aim for a higher score,” Lindsay Badeaux, a senior assistant director of admissions at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business and an MBA admissions counselor at the IvyWise admissions consulting firm, tells US News.
If you don’t score as highly as you planned, you can always retake the GMAT. In fact, most test-takers do take the exam more than once.
“Applicants almost always know whether a test score is an accurate reflection of their aptitude versus an over- or underperformance,” Stacy Blackman tells US News. “Put your best foot forward, even if it means a retake to better align the score with one’s potential and previous diagnostic exams.”