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The GMAT Exam: What is it and Do I Need to Take it?

It has been some years since I completed the Graduate Management Admissions Test or “GMAT” as it is generally known. At the time it was one of the required steps to complete in the MBA application process. The Graduate Management Admission Council or “GMAC” owns and administers the test throughout the world at various times of the year. Today the exam can be completed online and may be taken multiple times but a fee will be required each time.

The GMAT exam is a highly reliable predictor of expected student performance in an MBA program. It gives graduate school admissions professionals a tool to help evaluate a perspective MBA student. The purpose of the exam is to assess various analytical, writing, quantitative, verbal and reading skills. Be sensitive to the fact you must polish your grammar,algebra, geometry and general mathematics skills . What the GMAT does not explore is your business acumen nor does it measure your intelligence.

There are currently 4 parts of the GMAT exam.

Part 1: Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA): This includes constructing a written analysis in defense of a certain topic. It is scored from 1 (lowest) to 6 (highest) and is not included in the final GMAT score.

Part 2: Integrated Reasoning (IR): Evaluates the test takers ability to analyze data using various formats. Data analytics is becoming a fundamental part of any business environment so this new addition to the exam is timely and necessary.  The 12 multiple part questions are scored from 1 (lowest) to 8 (highest) and similar to the AWA are not included in the final GMAT score.

Part 3: Quantitative Section (multiple choice): Score range is 0 to 60. One of the two primary pieces of the GMAT, this part of the exam must be completed without the use of a calculator or other problem solving electronics. Do not worry, you get a wet erase pen and laminated graph paper to help you solve the problem sets. 

Part 4: Verbal Section (multiple choice): Score range is 0 to 60. The other primary piece of the GMAT, the focus here is on reading comprehension. The two types of questions test your critical reasoning skills as well as your grammar and effective communication skills. 

Unlike the past, the GMAT has transformed into a computer-adaptive format.  Questions for both the quantitative and verbal sections begin with average difficulty. As the test taker continues to answer the questions correctly the difficulty in content will increase. When questions are incorrectly answered future questions will become less difficult. The final GMAT score ranges from 200 to 800; a minimum score of 440 is needed for University admissions. The GMAC determines your final grade using a complex algorithm. 

You should ask yourself, “should I complete the GMAT?”  My answer to that, “it depends!” You must clearly define your MBA school strategy and do your homework. Universities have a differing approach to completing the MBA admissions process. Exclusions to completing the GMAT may exist. Research each school you wish to apply to and have a clear understanding of the admissions policy.

If you decide to complete the GMAT exam my recommendation is to PREPARE! There are sample questions that you can review ahead of time or for a small fee or you can use a service that provides review sessions. For the perspective MBA student out of school for some time both of these are good options.

Good luck and see you in the MBA program!

About the Author

Pete Papantos is an operations director at a Fortune 500 company.  He is responsible for the global execution of their strategic plan and driving operational excellence using lean methods.  In addition, Pete is a graduate instructor with emphasis in operations and strategic management — both in traditional and online settings.