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What is the GMAT Exam?

One of the most stressful and confusing parts of getting into graduate school is the standardized examination process. Different schools have different exams. Medical schools require the MCAT, law schools require the LSAT, and business related programs often require the GMAT. This of course begs the question of what exactly is the GMAT and how does one manage this aspect appropriately?

The GMAT is the Graduate Management Admission Test. It is published and administered by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) and it is meant to help business schools select qualified applicants from diverse programs and backgrounds. It is currently used by more than more than 2,100 schools and 5,900 programs worldwide. Does this mean that every MBA program requires the GMAT? Not necessarily, some programs do not require a GMAT -or the school may allow for a GMAT waiver under certain circumstances.

Since it was first offered in 1953, the GMAT has gone through numerous changes as the needs of the schools who use it have evolved, and our understanding of how to assess business school candidates has improved. The current GMAT has four sections including quantitative and verbal multiple-choice sections, an integrated reasoning section, and an analytical writing assessment. The testing process usually takes around four hours with instruction and breaks. This includes 30 minutes for the analytical writing assessment and another 30 minutes for the integrated reasoning section. For anyone who remembers taking the SAT or ACT prior to entering college, it will seem very familiar.

Preparation for the GMAT can vary from simply registering and showing up, to computer assisted practice tests, to expensive classroom sessions. The benefit of these programs varies significantly depending on your test taking skills and how much exposure you had to these concepts in your undergraduate education. If you hold a business degree from a strong program, the benefits may be insignificant. But if you have a degree from a liberal arts background and little understanding of some of the basic business concepts, the benefits can be significant.

Another important question is what constitutes a "good score" on the GMAT, and how high of a score is needed to get into the program of your choice. The maximum score on the verbal and quantitative sections is 800 and the final score is an average of these two sections. In addition, the final score is assigned a percentile ranking based on how well others taking the exam that year did. So while a 750 would always be a great score, a 500 may be only average or slightly above for that year. It is also important to remember that the GMAT is only one part of the admission process. Undergraduate GPA, business experience, and personal statements are also an important part of the process.

Taking all this into account, we have to revisit the question, “should you take the GMAT?” if you are considering a graduate business education. That depends on which school you are applying to. Some universities require a GMAT score while others like Benedictine University offer a GMAT waiver under certain circumstances. If you choose to take the GMAT, it will be helpful to do a pre-test preparation, a computer assisted program or a test prep class to prevent earning a low score. Taking the GMAT will give you a feel for how prepared you will be for the topics that will be covered in your MBA program, and it may help you decide how to manage that part of your education process.

For more information on Benedictine’s GMAT requirements or to learn more about our online MBA call us at (866) 295-3104 to speak with a Program Manager.

About the Author

Jimmy Brown, Ph.D. is a senior level management consultant with eighteen years of experience leading efforts to develop and implement practical strategies for business performance improvement. Dr. Brown has held senior level consulting positions at leading firms such as Booz-Allen & Hamilton, Accenture and Hewlett-Packard.

He can be reached at or via Twitter @jimmybrownphd