What Is the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT)?

The GMAT, which stands for the graduate management admission test, is a standardized test intended to measure a test taker's aptitude in mathematics, verbal skills, and analytical writing. The GMAT is most commonly used as the primary exam reviewed by business schools to gain entrance into an MBA program. The exam is generally offered by computer only; in areas of the world where computer networks are limited, the exam may be given as a paper-based test.

Key Takeaways

  • The GMAT, which stands for the Graduate Management Admission Test, is the most common test used by business schools to assess candidates.
  • The test consists of three sections: analytical writing, verbal, and quantitative.
  • Overall, the GMAT takes three-hours to complete and is out of a total of 800 points.

Understanding the GMAT

The GMAT exam consists of three sections: analytical writing assessment, verbal ability, and a quantitative section. The maximum score achievable for the GMAT is 800, and exam scores are generally valid for five years following the exam's completion. On average, the exam takes about three hours to complete.

How the Graduate Management Admission Test Is Applied

The Graduate Management Admission Council administers the exam. In addition to testing comprehension of writing and math, the GMAT is also used to assess an individual’s critical reasoning skills and logic as applicable to business and management in the real world. Starting in 2012, the exam added a section called Integrated Reasoning, which assesses an individual’s evaluation skills for dealing with information gathered from multiple sources and in new formats. This section also intends to test students in the context of working with data and technology.

More than 2,100 graduate programs and institutions around the world use the GMAT to assess applicants to their programs. The Graduate Management Admission Council has recommended that the GMAT be used as one factor among others for determining whether or not a student is accepted into a program. Furthermore, the council cautions that for some international students, the writing analysis section might show the limits of their comprehension of the English language, rather than their critical thinking and reasoning capacity.

It is not uncommon for graduate programs to use either the GMAT or the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) to assess an applicant. Due to the differences in the way the two tests are scaled, GMAT and GRE scores cannot be directly compared.

Moreover, the nature of the exams and what they test the applicants on make it inappropriate to treat both exams similarly. The Graduate Management Admission Council recommends not using a so-called cutoff score when reviewing applicants, but rather to look at their holistic application. If a cutoff score is implemented, the council suggests the institution take additional measures to show that the cutoff does not lead to discrimination based on age, sex, or ethnicity.

Requirements for the GMAT

Every year, over 200,000 individuals take the GMAT. As of 2020, it costs $275 to sign up. Due to the popular nature of the admissions test, GMATs are offered almost every day of the year and can be taken every 16 calendar days. However, the test can be taken no more than eight times total, and no more than five times in a 12-month period. Most applicants take the exam once or twice before applying.