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GMAT Test Preparation

If you’re applying for a business school program, you will need to sit the GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) as part of the application process.

It is a computer adaptive test designed to assess your reading, analytical writing, problem solving and verbal skills.

The test can be taken at any registered test center in the U.S, and lasts for up to 4 hours. It currently costs $250, although expect to pay additional fees if you reschedule it for another date, and lose the fee altogether if you miss the exam or cancel it less than 7 days beforehand.

The Graduate Management Admission Council offers an GMAT Fee Waiver Program to those who can not afford to pay the full fee, to ensure no one is unable to attend business school due to mandatory application fees.

Please note that these fee waivers are not provided directly to students, and only offered through individual schools.

What’s in the GMAT?

The GMAT exam is made up of four sections:

  • Analytical writing (30 minutes) - here you will be asked to look at an argument, analyze it, and then write a critique of it
  • Integrated reasoning (30 minutes) - in this section you will have to evaluate data given to you from multiple sources in a variety of formats
  • Quantitative (75 minutes) - requiring knowledge of algebra, geometry and arithmetic, you be given a series of quantitative problems to solve, as well as graphic data to analyze and interpret.
  • Verbal (75 minutes) - you will be given a set of questions covering reading comprehension, critical reasoning, and sentence correction, and be asked to choose an answer from five options.

To find out more, visit the dedicated GMAT Exam Format and Timing section at mba.com.

How is the GMAT scored?

Once you have completed the exam, you will receive a score between 200 and 800. This will be based on your performance in both the quantitative and verbal sections (the other two are scored separately, and do not count toward your overall score).

You can preview your unofficial GMAT score, and take two minutes to decide whether you want to keep this score or not. Cancelled scores can be retrieved up to 60 days after your test, after which you will not be able to do so.

The average GMAT score is currently around 540.

How do I register for the GMAT?

To register for the GMAT, you can either do it online at mba.com’s registration portal, or by contacting one of the test centers near you. You will then be able to make an appointment for your exam.

The test may not be taken more than once within 31 days, even if you choose to cancel your score.

Preparing for the GMAT

Since the GMAT is such a critical factor in business school admissions, we recommend you start preparing for the exam at least three months before you plan to take the test - this can be done in a number of ways.

The first is to buy one or two self-help guides that will give you tips and advice on how to best approach the GMAT test. These often involve creating a study plan over several months, learning how to approach each section of the test, and how to excel in all sections to obtain the best possible score.

Some students choose to use an GMAT test preparation company, although these can be expensive and the quality of the tuition received can vary greatly.

If this is an option you think you might be interested in, do your research thoroughly first before signing up and handing over any money.

Good GMAT prep companies should provide published GMAT scores obtained by candidates on their course, as well as average and/or guaranteed score increases over a certain number of points.

The Economist and Kaplan Test Prep are two noteworthy sources of GMAT prep resources.

It’s also worth looking at GMAC’s comprehensive suite of preparation tools on their website, which include guides featuring actual questions from past GMAT exams. The free GMATPrep software is invaluable, as are the add-on packs such as the GMATPrep Exam Pack 1.

Since the structure of the GMAT and the type of questions asked each year tend to be consistent, taking practice tests is a great way to study for the exam, as you can familiarize yourself with the type of material that will be presented to you.

Try to complete any sample tests under time constraints, as this will help simulate what it will be like on the actual test day. It will also help you calculate how long you can realistically afford to spend on each question, and identify weaker areas where you need to do extra revision.

Don't beat yourself up if you don’t perform well in any practice tests you take - use them as a way to identify gaps in your knowledge so you can put together a strategy for revising this material and do better next time.

For further information about the GMAT exam, check out the official GMAT Handbook, which has everything you need to know about

Best of luck with your GMAT and business school application!