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What is the GMAT Exam? Format, Costs and GMAT Scores

Many students interested in graduate Business studies discover that GMAT is often one of the application requirements for their favourite programmes. But what is GMAT, and why do so many universities see it as an important assessment of their potential students, especially those applying to MBAs or similar Business Masters?

Let’s find out!

What is GMAT?

The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) is an examination — available both online and at official test centres — used to assess the skills of students applying for a Business degree at the graduate level. The GMAT exam is a common admission requirement for MBA programmes and other Business-related Master’s degrees.

GMAT is a computer adaptive test (CAT), which means that some of the exam sections adapt their difficulty based on your previous answers. In other words, if you reply correctly to the first question(s), the next ones will be harder. If you get them wrong, the next ones will be easier.

The main skills tested during the GMAT are:

  • English knowledge
  • Math skills
  • Analytical skills

GMAT exam format

The GMAT consists of 4 main sections:

  • Analytical Writing Assessment
  • Integrated Reasoning
  • Quantitative Reasoning
  • Verbal Reasoning

These sections can be taken in 3 different orders; you’ll receive all the details at the start of your exam when you can make a choice. There are also two optional 8-minute breaks you can take. In total, the GMAT exam takes around 3 hours and 30 minutes to complete.

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Now, let’s take a closer look at each GMAT section:

Analytical Writing Assessment

  • Time: 30 minutes

This section examines how well you can think critically and share your ideas in a way that’s easily understandable by others.

You will read an argument on a certain subject. Afterwards, you’ll need to write a critique or assessment of that argument. Keep in mind the goal isn’t sharing your thoughts on the subject but rather expressing how well (or not) the argument was structured. You should use examples to support your ideas and reasons.

Integrated Reasoning

  • Time: 30 minutes

This section examines how well you can analyse data and understand the information displayed in different formats (e.g. text, graphics, charts) and coming from different sources.

You will answer 12 questions in total, which can be grouped into 4 categories based on the skills they assess:

  • Multi-Source Reasoning: determine if data is relevant, highlight differences
  • Table Analysis: work with data (sort, analyse, filter)
  • Graphics Interpretation: find connections or insights in a graphic
  • Two-Part Analysis: solve complex problems, analyse trade-offs and compromises

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Quantitative Reasoning

  • Time: 62 minutes

This section examines how well you can analyse data but also looks at your ability to draw logical conclusions based on the information provided.

You will answer 31 multiple-choice questions in total. These will test your basic arithmetic, algebra and geometry knowledge and reasoning skills.

Verbal Reasoning

  • Time: 65 minutes

This section examines your English reading and understanding skills, as well as your abilities to correct common mistakes in written materials.

You will answer 36 multiple-choice questions in total. These will test how well you can understand the main and secondary ideas of texts, how well you understand what is implied, and if you can identify weak or flawed arguments as well as errors in English grammar and sentence structure.

Online GMAT exam

The GMAT examination can also be taken online, from the comfort of your home. Up until now, this online alternative had a few limitations:

  • You couldn’t select the order of the exam sections
  • The optional breaks were not included
  • The Analytics Writing Assessment section wasn’t included

But good news! From 20 May 2021, all these limitations will be removed, and you’ll be able to have the same GMAT experience as you would at a test centre.

How much does the GMAT exam cost?

The cost of the GMAT examination depends on the exam type (test-centre vs online) and the country in which you’ll take the examination.

Here are a few examples of fees for the standard GMAT exam available at test centres worldwide:

  • GMAT in the US: 275 USD
  • GMAT in the UK: 225 GBP
  • GMAT in Australia: 250 USD
  • GMAT in Germany: 250 EUR
  • GMAT in Norway: 285 USD

Check out GMAT costs in other locations.

The online GMAT exam has a fixed price of 250 USD. The only countries from which you cannot take the online exam are: China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, and Sudan.

GMAT exam preparation

It is recommended to start preparing for the GMAT test at least 6 months in advance. Take each section one by one and understand its format, requirements, and possible challenges. You should also review basic Math skills and English knowledge.

Luckily, the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) that provides the GMAT exam also offers a lot of useful materials for future test takers:

Check out other tips and tricks as well as practice suggestions from GMAC.

GMAT exam scores

The scores for the GMAT examination range between 200 and 800, and they are valid for 5 years; this applies to both the standard and the online GMAT exam.

You’ll receive an unofficial score report immediately after your exam. This will show you the results for 3 out of 4 sections: Quantitative, Verbal, Integrated Reasoning, and the overall scores.

You’ll have 2 minutes to decide if you accept these scores or if you cancel them and plan to retake the exam. If you don’t select any option, scores are automatically CANCELED.

The purpose of this unofficial score report is to figure out if you’re close to the results needed for your Business school application. If the initial results are promising, accept them, and you’ll receive the full official report (including the missing Analytics Writing Assessment section) in up to 3 weeks (21 days) after taking the GMAT exam.

It’s good to know that you can:

  • cancel the scores in the first 72 hours after the exam, even if you accept them initially
  • reinstate your scores after cancelling them initially for an additional fee of 50–60 USD; this can be done in the first 4 years and 11 months after taking the GMAT exam

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What is a good GMAT score?

To give you a general idea, according to GMAC data, around 2/3 of test-takers score between 400 and 600. Some (MBA) experts seem to agree that scores between 650–740 are good, and anything over 740 is great.

But the truth is, a good GMAT score is a score that allows you to apply and be accepted by your favourite Business school. It’s that simple. So, before preparing and registering for the GMAT exam, check out what’s the minimum score required for your university application.

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