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GMAT: Everything you need to know

Edvoy
Edvoy
Last updated: Sep 19, 202218 min read
GMAT: Everything you need to know

GMAT Overview

GMAT is a popular admissions test for studying abroad. An acronym for “Graduate Management Aptitude Test”, it’s used by many universities worldwide to assess the ability of students who wish to go to business school or study an MBA (Master of Business Administration), or other similar graduate management programme.

Taking just over 3 hours (3 hours and 7 minutes to be exact), GMAT tests a candidate in four key fields: Analytical Writing, Quantitative Aptitude, Verbal Reasoning, and Integrated Reasoning

The GMAT generally is taken at an official test centre near you, but in light of the pandemic there is now an online version which is expected to stay. That’s good news as you can now take the GMAT from the comfort of your home!

The GMAT test shares some similarities with (and has some key differences from) the GRE exam. To learn more about the difference between GMAT and GRE, check out our article GMAT vs GRE: Which is easier?

In this comprehensive walk-through, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about the GMAT exam and direct you to other useful articles we’ve written on the GMAT.

Why should you take the GMAT?

GMAT is a major entrance test for students who wish to study an MBA (Master of Business Administration). Perfect for students with grand business ambitions, we’ve gone into detail before on the potential benefits of an MBA in our article 7 Fortune 500 CEOS with an MBA. 

Over 2300 universities and institutions that offer MBA and other business-related courses worldwide use GMAT scores to access their applicants. The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) announced that as per their data, 9 out of 10 MBA admissions are made after an assessment of the candidate's GMAT scores. 

So long story short, If you want to study MBA abroad, you should consider taking the GMAT. 

GMAT eligibility: Who can take the GMAT?

There are no set academic requirements for taking the GMAT. The question is whether you need to take it, rather than whether you can. If you’re thinking about pursuing an MBA, then it’s probably for you. 

Age wise, you must be over 18. If between 13 and 17, you’ll need consent from a parent or guardian. 

Keeping in mind that the GMAT scores are only valid for 5 years, you should make sure that you meet the eligibility requirements of your target universities before taking the test.

GMAT syllabus, question styles & sample questions 

The GMAT has four sections - analytical writing, integrated reasoning, quantitative aptitude, and verbal reasoning

All sections put together can cover around 50 topics, which we detail below. 

However rather than thinking too much about the topics, the key is to focus on the skills that are being tested i.e. your ability to analyze, quantify and reason. 

Analytical writing syllabus

In this GMAT section, you will be presented with a passage or a statement. After reading it, you will be asked to write an essay commenting on it. The topic of the passage or the statement can be virtually anything, so instead of concentrating on the topic you might get, you can try and prepare yourself to exhibit your analytical skills. You can do this by analysing the author's point of view, the presented evidence or lack thereof, and the presented arguments' strengths and weaknesses.

You will be asked to either write an argument-based essay or an issue-based essay.

If you are asked to write an argumentative essay, you need to review a passage and write an essay of about 600-800 words about its strong and weak points. Make sure to maintain logic and give proper reasoning behind your opinion. 

If you are asked to write an issue-based essay, you need to read the given statement and take a stance (either for or against). Then, you need to give your reasoning behind taking that particular stance in a logically coherent manner.

Sample question:

"Companies will actually profit by making the workplace safer for the employees. This is because the more risk for physical injury a person has while performing their daily tasks, the higher their salary demand. So, the wiser option is to invest in making the workplace safe and comfortable for employees."

  1. Discuss this argument by analysing the evidence, underlying assumptions and the line of reasoning behind the statement. Mention points that would make this argument or points that would refute it. You can also mention counterexamples to make your point.

Integrated reasoning syllabus

GMAT’s Integrated reasoning section will test your ability to look at a visual representation of data such as a graph or a table and interpret it, thereby testing your analytical and logical reasoning skills. You need to brush up on your school level math and take a few practise tests to learn how to answer the four types of questions: table analysis, two-part analysis, multi-source analysis, and graphical interpretation.

Table analysis

In this type of question, a table containing data will be shown to you —following which, you will be presented with a few multiple choice questions. 

Sample Question

The following table represents the percentage of the given city’s population that visit each type of store within that given city.

CityBeauty parlourMultiplexRestaurantsSupermarket
Chennai12%22%19%96%
Hyderabad25%34%14%92%
Vijayawada14%18%5%95%
New Delhi9%9%8%94%

Select the statement/statements that would help explain the data on the above table.

A] The proportion of people in Chennai who live near a beauty parlour is more than in New Delhi.

B] The proportion of people in Hyderabad involved in the Movie industry is greater than in Chennai, Vijayawada and New Delhi.

  • Two-part analysis:

In this section the questions are quite varied. They can be verbal, quantitative or a combination of the two. You need to read the question carefully, analyse the key information therein and then select the correct choices.

Sample question:

John is studying Physics at X university. His semester’s cumulative grade will be calculated using the following formula:

Cumulative grade = 0.6T + 0.4P

(T is his theory average, and P is his practical average.)

Select a theory average and a practical average that will give a cumulative grade between 80% and 85%.

  1. A) 48%
  2. B) 65%
  3. C) 86%
  4. D) 93%
  5. E) 100%

Multi-source reasoning

In this type of question, you will be presented with different types of data representations including verbal statements, graphs, and charts. You need to look at them and decode the presented data to answer the multiple-choice questions.

Sample question

Company’s statement:

The recent reports finding that the water system in our office premises has been contaminated with lead is truly concerning. We initially found small traces of lead in the water, but authorities assured us that they were negligible and did not pose any risk of health complications for our employees. Now, we understand that the lead levels are too high and have started to take appropriate measures to ensure the safety of all involved.

A portion of an opinionated article written on the company’s water crisis by a local journalist:

The revelation that XXX Company Limited has let its employees drink and use water contaminated by lead for months showcases the negligence of the company, the local and state authorities. Even after finding traces of lead in the water system, they chose to keep quiet. The company should have informed the employees about the lead contamination so the employees themselves can make informed decisions regarding the health risks involved.

  1. If true, which of the following statements would support the journalist's stance?
  2. A) By law, companies need not inform employees about lead contamination unless it reaches high levels as instructed by the government.
  3. B) Lead consumption risks are relatively low for adults.
  4. C) The effects of lead consumption in adults are unknown.

Graphical interpretation

In this type of question, you will be presented with a graphical representation of data such as bar graphs, pie charts, and bar charts. You need to look at them, understand the data, and answer the given questions.

Quantitative reasoning

The quantitative reasoning section in GMAT contains math-related problems in two main — problem solving and data sufficiency.

You need to have basic knowledge in highschool level math to answer questions in the quantitative section successfully. For example, skills like arithmetic, geometry, algebra, linear equations, properties of integers, ratios, exponents and roots, permutation, and combination all often come up during this section of the test. .

Problem solving

This type of question is pretty straightforward. A math problem will be put in front of you, and you need to solve the problem.

Sample question:

Triumph motors had 60 type-A lorries at the beginning of 1980, after which they retired 3 of the type A lorries and bought 4 new type-B lorries. How many years did it take for the number of type-A lorries to be less than 50 percent compared to the total number of vehicles?

A] 6

B] 7

C] 8

D] 9

E] 10

Data sufficiency

This type of quantitative question is quite interesting. A math problem will be given to you. You need to analyse the problem and decide if the given data is enough to answer the given question.

Sample question:

John made a phone call from Place A to Place B. The cost to make a call from Place A to Place B is $0.25 for the first 3 minutes and $0.10 for each additional minute. Did John talk for more than 15 minutes on the phone?

(1) The total cost was less than $4.25

(2) The total cost was greater than $2.25

Choose the best answer from the following options:

A] Statement (1) ALONE is sufficient, but statement (2) alone is not sufficient.

B] statement (2) ALONE is sufficient, but statement (1) alone is not sufficient.

C] BOTH statements TOGETHER are sufficient, but NEITHER statement ALONE is sufficient.

D] EACH statement ALONE is sufficient.

E] Statements (1) and (2) TOGETHER are NOT sufficient.

Verbal reasoning

The verbal reasoning section tests your ability to read and comprehend a given text. You should be able to draw logical conclusions and infer information after reading the text.

There are three types of verbal reasoning questions in GMAT: critical reasoning, reading comprehension, and sentence correction.

Critical reasoning

This type of question tests your ability to draw logical conclusions based on the given information. You will be given options and asked to choose a statement that logically finishes the argument, or you will be asked to choose statements that strengthen or weaken the given argument.

Sample question:

Choose the option that logically completes the following statement.

This new harvesting machine will let planters plant sugarcane plants with a gap of 20 inches from each other instead of the usual 40 inches. Though this method of planting will yield individual sugarcane plants that will yield less produce, we will double our overall profit because ________.

A] the plants are closer together, forming a dense plantation. So, we don't have to invest in costly shading and weeding procedures.

B] the plants will be close together, and so they will grow tall.

C] with a greater number of plants, we'll need more fertiliser.

D] by planting the plants closer together, we'll plant more plants per acre. More plants will result in more produce, in turn resulting in more profit.

  • Reading comprehension:

As the name suggests, this section in GMAT tests your ability to read and comprehend, that is, understand the given passage. It’s similar to the reading comprehension questions you answered in school grammar tests. After reading the passage, you need to answer the MCQs asked based on it.

Sample question:

Read the following passage and answer the question.

While there is no plan for converting a state economy into a free one, the United Kingdom's experience since 1979 indicates that privatisation, in which government businesses are sold to private firms, is one method that works. The combined borrowings and losses of state-owned enterprises had reached about £3 billion per year by 1979. The government has reduced its borrowings and losses by selling several of these businesses, gaining almost £34 billion in the process, and now receiving tax payments from the newly privatised firms. The government has been able to repay 12.5 percent of the net national debt during a two-year period, in addition to a significantly better general economy.

In reality, privatisation has not only saved particular sectors and a whole economy on the verge of collapse, but it has also improved overall performance. Employee productivity has increased by 20% at British Airways and British Gas, for example. Labour unrest that was prevalent in the 1970s and early 1980s has all but vanished at Associated British Ports. There is no longer a telephone installation waiting list at British Telecom, as there was before privatisation.

Employees in privatised sectors were given the option to purchase shares in their own firms, contributing to increased productivity. They reacted well to the shares offered, with 89 percent of eligible employees purchasing shares at British Aerospace, 90 percent at Associated British Ports, and 92 percent at British Telecom. People who have a personal interest in something think about it, care about it and strive to see it succeed. The new employee-owners at the National Freight Consortium were so worried about the company's earnings that they pushed their union to reduce its pay expectations during wage talks.

Some economists believe that handing out free shares would speed up the privatisation process. Nonetheless, they overlook Thomas Paine's observation that "what we get too cheaply, we regard too lightly." Employees and other people must make their own choices to purchase for owners, businesses, and nations to reap the wide-ranging advantages of individual ownership. They must also devote some of their own resources to the decision.

Question:

What statements out of the given options can be inferred from the above passage?

A] Individual ownership of shares is important, yet it is possibly hazardous.

B] It follows Thomas Paine's prescription for company ownership in its broadest terms.

C] It was initially planned to feature some free stock giveaways.

D] Even if privatisation has failed in other nations, it has been successful in this one.

E] It is moving at a slower pace than some economists believe is required.

  • Sentence correction:

This section will check your English language proficiency. You will be asked to find out or correct the grammatical or structural mistakes in a given sentence or passage.

Sample question:

Replace the underlined phrase by choosing a suitable option.

Unlike most other dismissal wage systems that require employees to stay and work until their last scheduled day to collect, employees at the production company can collect their dismissal wage even if they get a new job before they are terminated. 

A] the last day to collect, employees at the production company are eligible for its dismissal wage

B] the last day they are supposed to collect, employees are eligible for the production company’s dismissal wage

C] their last day to collect, the production company offers its dismissal wage to employees

D] their last day in order to collect, the production company’s dismissal is available to employees

E] the last scheduled day to collect their dismissal wage, the production company’s dismissal wage is available to workers

GMAT Pattern & structure

Before we look at the breakdown of the GMAT pattern, we need to understand that GMAT is a computer adaptive test (CAT).

So, what is a computer adaptive test, and how does it work?

CAT is the feature that distinguishes GMAT from other exams. The quantitative and verbal sections' difficulty levels are adjusted automatically depending on the candidate's performance throughout the test. At the start, each applicant is given an average difficulty question. The second question will be more difficult if you answer the first question correctly. The second question will be simpler if your first response is wrong.

The goal is to evaluate the candidate's level of skill properly. The more difficult questions you answer, the better your overall score will be. It's essential to remember that this kind of assessment is only used in the two sections: quantitative reasoning and verbal reasoning.

Now, on to the breakdown of the GMAT exam pattern:

SectionNumber of questionsDuration
Analytical writing assessment1 question30 minutes
Integrated reasoning12 questions20 minutes
Optional break8 minutes
Quantitative reasoning31 questions62 minutes
Optional break8 minutes
Verbal reasoning36 questions65 minutes

GMAT preparation tips

You’ve come to the right place for the best GMAT preparation tips! We’ve written a full ultimate guide to mastering the GMAT exam, which you should check out as soon as you can!

For the time being though, here are the highlights: 

  • Purchase a GMAT study guide. 
  • Get to know the format.
  • Become familiar with Computer Adaptive Testing (CAT). 
  • Give yourself lots of time to prepare. We’d recommend starting preparation at least 3 months before the test. 
  • Take it one section at a time
  • Take GMAT mock tests.
  • Test yourself against the clock.
  • Practice reviewing your work quickly.
  • Get familiar with using an on screen calculator.
  1. When should you take the GMAT?

Ideally, you should sit your GMAT test at least 12 months before the programme you wish to apply for commences.

Given that it takes at least 3 months to prepare for, we’d recommend doing it anytime you can spare the study time! 

GMAT registration: How to apply for the GMAT

You can apply for the GMAT by visiting the official GMAT exam website. You need to apply and register at least 2-3 months in advance to ensure that you get the exam date of your choice.

Follow these steps to register for the GMAT:

Step 1: Go to the official GMAT website

Step 2: Create an account by entering basic details such as name, Email ID, and password.

Step 3: Complete your profile by entering your personal details, such as your home address, along with your academic and work history.

Note: You don't have to fill out all the details in one sitting. You can save, take a break, and come back to fill out the rest.

Step 4: Go through all the entered information and submit it.

Step 5: Choose your preferred test centre, date and time slot.

Step 6: Pay the GMAT testing fee online using your debit or credit card. 

And, you are done!

You can cancel or reschedule your booked GMAT test slot through the website. 

GMAT Online vs test centre

You can take the GMAT either at a test centre or online from the comfort of your home. You need to understand the difference between both before choosing the method that works best for you. Here’s a quick breakdown of the difference between the GMAT online and the test centre version. 

Test centreOnline 
Slot availability Depends on your test centre’s operating time and booking availability.Available all the time.
Permitted retakes You can retake 5 times in 12 months.You can only retake the test once.
Exam rough work resourcesThe exam invigilator will give you one 5-page laminated whiteboard and two markers.You can use your own paper for doing your rough work. An online whiteboard will also be available.
Sending scores to universitiesYou can send your GMAT scores directly to 5 universities for free. You will be charged for each additional university.You can send your GMAT online scores to as many universities as you please for free.


Note: Check with your target universities to see if they accept GMAT Online scores before deciding to take it.

GMAT fees

The GMAT test costs $250 in 2021, though this can vary slightly depending on your location. You can reschedule the exam as late as 7 days before your test by paying a $50 rescheduling charge. 

If you want to reschedule when you only have less than 7 days before the booked slot, you will have to pay a rescheduling charge of $250. 

If you cancel the exam before 7 days of the test date, you will receive an $80 refund.

GMAT results and scores

Within 20-days after taking your test, you will receive an email stating that your scores are available for your view. 

Total GMAT scores range from 200 to 800. Just over 60% of test takers score between 400 and 600. Verbal and Quantitative scores range from 0 to 60. 

Note that there is no negative marking in GMAT.

It’s important to know that each business school or MBA course will have different score requirements for the GMAT, so it’s best to check with them before you sit your exam. 

 Each section in the GMAT has different methods of scoring. 

Analytical writing:

This essay will be first graded by a computer and then by a human examiner. The average of these two scores will be your final score. A second human examiner will double-check the response to determine the final score if the two scores differ significantly.

Integrated reasoning:

The scoring system of this section is pretty straightforward. You will receive one mark for each correct answer.

Note: Remember that the scores of the above two sections will not be considered for your overall GMAT score. 

Quantitative reasoning and verbal reasoning:

These two sections in GMAT fall under CAT (computer adaptive testing), meaning that their scores depend on three factors: Total number of questions you’ve answered, number of questions you’ve answered correctly, and the level of difficulty. 

As you successfully answer many questions, increasing the difficulty level with each question, your score will rise.

The total sum of these two sections is your overall score. 

When and how can you retake the GMAT?

If you are not happy with your results, you always have the option to retake the test because you can repeat the GMAT exam 5 times in a year and 8 times in total. But you need to have a 16-day gap between subsequent attempts. So, you need to plan in advance to make sure that you'll have enough time to retake the test (if needed) and submit the score to your target university before the deadline.

FAQs

1. What is the purpose of the GMAT exam?

Most international universities have GMAT as a mandatory requirement for students who apply for MBA or other business-related courses because the test serves as a standard guide using which universities can assess their applicants’ skills.

2. Is GMAT only for MBA admission assessment?

No. Though the test is primarily used in MBA admissions, some universities also ask students who apply for other business-related courses to take the GMAT. 

3. How many times can you take the GMAT?

You can take the GMAT five times in a year and 8 times in total.

4. What is GMAT’s syllabus?

The GMAT's syllabus is almost similar to Highschool mathematics and English. We've covered this in detail above.

4. Can I use a calculator while taking the GMAT?

You cannot bring your own calculator while taking the GMAT, but an onscreen calculator will be available for your use.

5. Can I bring a plain piece of paper to do calculations while taking the GMAT?

You cannot bring your own piece of plain paper to do calculations, but you will be provided with a personal work board to do calculations. 

6. What to bring to the GMAT testing centre on the day of the test?

You need to take your ID card and your exam hall ticket while going to take your GMAT. But no personal items will be allowed inside the exam hall.

7. Universities in which countries accept GMAT scores?

Universities in around 110 countries, including top study destinations like the US, accept GMAT scores.

8. At what age can I take the GMAT?

There is no specific age requirement you need to satisfy to take the GMAT. If you are 13 to 18 years old, you need a parent or a legal guardian’s permission letter to take the test.

9. How long is the GMAT score valid?

GMAT scores are valid for 5 years after taking the test.

10. Is GMAT an online or an offline test?

GMAT has always been an in-centre test. But in light of the current COVID-19 pandemic, GMAC introduced the GMAT online test that applicants can take from home. This online test is expected to stay. 

11. Is GMAT required to apply for an MBA degree in Canada?

Most universities in Canada offering business-related courses, including MBA, require their applicants to take the GMAT.

We hope that we've given you a clear understanding of the GMAT, and we know that with a bit of preparation, you will do great! If you have any more doubts or questions about GMAT or studying abroad in general, book a free virtual consultation with one of our education experts.

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