What is the GMAT and what are its constituents?

The GMAT is a standardized test for admission to top global MBA programs in the United States, Europe, and Asia. The test consists of multiple-choice questions across four areas – Quant (mathematics-related questions), Verbal (questions related to understanding correct grammar usage, ability to read, and ability to understand reasoning in the English language), Integrated Reasoning (questions related to interpreting basic statistics, graphs, and charts) and Analytical Writing (writing a short essay on a given topic).

The test is 3.5 hours long, costs $250 to take once, and can be taken only once in a calendar month.

What does the GMAT test?

The GMAT tests basic skills that will form the basis of education in a Master’s or MBA program. Basic mathematical manipulation and problem-solving, the ability to read, write, and discuss in English, and also the ability to interpret numbers graphically are really the fundamental skills that will lead to success at the Master’s level.

The test consists of four sections, the further components of which are as below.

What is the GMAT:: Section 1 – Quantitative 


The Quantitative section of the GMAT tests ability along multiple mathematics topics – Number Systems, Percentages, Work, Time/Speed/Distance, Sets, Ratios, Statistics, Geometry, Permutations and Combinations, Algebra, and Probability. GMAT Quant questions fall under two categories – Problem Solving and Data Sufficiency. The Quant section consists of 37 questions overall, to be answered in 75 minutes.

Problem Solving questions have short question stems followed by five answer choices, only one of which is correct.

Example of a GMAT Quant Problem Solving Question

If the integer 3 is one of the roots of the equation x^2 – 9x + 18 = 0, then what is the value of the other root?

(a) 0   (b) 3   (c) 4   (d) 5   (e) 6

Data Sufficiency questions, on the other hand, concern themselves with determining if the information given in a particular question is sufficient for answering it.

Example of a GMAT Quant Data Sufficiency Question

If x is an integer, is x>0?

(1) x^2 > 0

(2) x^3 > 0

(a) statement 1 alone is sufficient, but statement 2 alone is not sufficient to answer the question

(b) statement 2 alone is sufficient, but statement 1 alone is not sufficient to answer the question

(c) both statements taken together are sufficient to answer the question, but neither statement alone is sufficient

(d) each statement alone is sufficient

(e) statements 1 and 2 together are not sufficient, and additional data is needed to answer the question

What is the GMAT:: Section 2 – Verbal

Verbal questions on the GMAT belong to one of three varieties.

GMAT Sentence Correction questions:

Involve a sentence with an underlined portion. Test-takers must determine if the underlined portion is grammatically and stylistically correct, or if one of the given options would be a better substitute.

Example GMAT Sentence Correction Question: 

Microsoft has recently introduced a new line of products that they felt would better cater to market demands.

(a) they felt would better cater to market demands

(b) it felt would better cater to market demands

(c) it felt would better cater to market demand

(d) they felt would be better catering to market demands

(e) it felt would be better cater to the demands of the market

GMAT Critical Reasoning questions:

These questions are based on verbal logical reasoning. GMAT-takers read 3-4 lines that form the situation for the question, and then must choose from among one of the options depending on the question asked.

Example GMAT Critical Reasoning question: 

Children who are formally schooled receive twice the amount of instruction and training in core academic subjects like Mathematics as compared with children who are home-schooled. Yet, home-schooled typically tend to do better in high-school Mathematics tests and have SAT Math scores that are 20 points higher on average than those of formally schooled children.

Which of the options below helps to resolve the paradox in the stimulus above?

(a) Some children who are extraordinarily bright are home-schooled by their parents instead of being formally schooled

(b) The quality of teaching in some formal schools is suspect and may be below the standards of even home-schooling

(c) The parents of formally-schooled children tend to be richer on average than the parents of home-schooled children

(d) Formally-schooled children tend to do better than home-schooled children on verbal reasoning tests

(e) Home-schooling allows children to focus disproportionately on Mathematics rather than also spend time studying other mandatory subjects that formally-schooled students need to study

GMAT Reading Comprehension questions:

GMAT-takers read short (25-30 lines) or long (45+ lines) passages and answer 3-5 questions based on each passage. The passage topics are drawn from diverse areas like science, history, art, and business.

What is the GMAT:: Section 3 and 4 – AWA and IR

The Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) and Integrated Reasoning (IR) sections test writing and data interpretation skills respectively. The AWA section requires GMAT-takers to critically analyze the shortcomings in a given stimulus and type out their response in a 30-minute period. The IR section requires GMAT-takers to answer 12 questions based on topics like interpreting charts and tables in a 30-minute period.

What is a CBT and what does adaptive scoring mean?

A CBT is simply a Computer-Based Test, as distinct from a paper-based ones. The GMAT is only offered in CBT form, which means you must get used to staring at a computer screen for 3.5 hours almost on the trot (though there are very short breaks available between sections). The GMAT is also an adaptive test, which means that every successive question is drawn from a large pool based on whether you got the previous question right or wrong. The test therefore ‘adapts’ to the ability of the test-taker.

How is the GMAT scored?

With every GMAT score report, the test-taker actually receives three different scores.

Score 1 (out of 800): This is the actual ‘GMAT score’ that is used by MBA programs and Master’s programs to determine the candidate’s competitiveness. The Verbal and Quant sections are separately scored out of 51 each, assigned a percentile performance, and a final combined score based on the performance in these sections and marked out of 800 is determined. This score is available to the GMAT-taker immediately after finishing the exam and choosing to view the score. The test-taker can also choose to cancel the score after taking the exam (without viewing it), in which case the particular attempt will appear on subsequent score reports and note that the score for the particular attempt was cancelled.

Score 2 – AWA (out of 6, half-point increments): The AWA score points to the test-taker’s ability to articulate an argument and analyze a given point of view in written English. AWA scores are not looked upon as major factors in MBA admissions, but could pose a worry, especially for top schools, if below 4.5/6.0. Higher GMAT scores (say even a 6.0/6.0) will not attract any significant credit towards the test-taker. The AWA score is not available immediately after taking the test and follows later.

Score 3 – IR (out of 8, one-point increments): The IR score is again more of a hygiene factor. A perfect IR score will not attract any significant credit, but a poor score (4 or less) could pose a worry, especially for top schools. The IR score is available with the 800 score immediately after taking the GMAT.

How can I register for the GMAT? What is the fee?

You need to register for the test on the GMAC website. Be aware that there are only a limited number of slots available at each testing center, so remember to book your slot well in advance. The fee is $250.

What is the best way to prepare for the GMAT?

Different people take different approaches to study for the GMAT. Some people use the GMAT Official Guide, the Official Guide Verbal Supplement, and the Official Guide Quantitative Supplement as their main study materials. Some others opt for a formal GMAT coaching program. Test-takers who feel they would benefit from the personalized and customized nature of a 1-to-1 GMAT coaching program opt for that. Whatever the method you choose, ensure that you give the test the hard work and preparation that it deserves. Typically GMAT preparation time ranges from 8-12 weeks.

Take the FREE GMAT Practice test


Take the FREE GMAT practice test, to know Quant and Verbal question tyes, level of difficulty and format of the GMAT exam. Time yourself as per the instructions of the test and get a headstart to know what the GMAT is all about.

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