Breaking Down the GMAT: What You Need To Know

January 31 2023 By The MBA Exchange
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Are you ready to take the GMAT? Scoring high on the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT™) is a key goal of business school applicants. Apart from your GPA, your GMAT score might just be the most important number in your b-school application.

Your GMAT score sums you up at a glance and can make – or sink – your candidacy. What’s your percentile? Are you ready to meet your GMAT goal?

Mystified by GMAT jargon, or worried about GMAT prep? Scratch your head no more. The crack team of experienced b-school admissions consultants and GMAT prep experts at The MBA Exchange are ready to clear up your concerns and confusion. Get your real-deal, feet-on-the-floor information about the GMAT exam here and now.

GMAT test definition

Let’s start with the fundamental question: what is the GMAT, anyway?

The GMAT was designed by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC™) for the express purpose of assessing business school candidates. The GMAT is only used for b-school admissions, and GMAT scores continue to be the most commonly used metric to determine admissibility.

What is the GMAT?

The GMAT exam is designed to assess MBA applicants on the full range of math, language, and problem-solving skills needed to compete in today’s complex business world.

The GMAT test includes four sections: Quantitative Reasoning, Verbal Reasoning, Analytical Writing Assessment and Integrated Reasoning.

You receive a cumulative score between 200-800 when you’re done. GMAT percentiles give you concrete information on how your score compares to other test-takers’.

Why take the GMAT test?

Why take the GMAT? Because you want to go to b-school! The only other reason would be a perverse personal love of standardized testing.

A strong GMAT score boosts your candidacy in the eyes of adcoms. A good score can also make up for any deficiencies in your application materials, like a lower GPA or less prestigious work history. You might need a good GMAT score to serve as a tentpole for your applications.

And, even if you’ve got the whole package pretty much put together, a high GMAT percentile could still be what you need to put you over the top.

How important is the GMAT for admission?

Depending on other strengths and weaknesses in your application materials, your GMAT score goal might be one of the key elements of your candidacy.

Your GMAT score makes a big difference in the eyes of business school admissions professionals. Top GMAT scores rise quickly! That’s definitely where you want to be. And, a low GMAT score can become an obstacle that impedes your candidacy from moving forward.

When is the GMAT offered?

GMAT testing appointments are available at any time, you just have to reserve your spot at a convenient testing center.

Taking the GMAT takes up 3.5 of your hours. GMAT test price rings up at $250.

Plan out the best testing and retesting chronology for your approaching application deadlines! Getting your GMAT score lined up before admissions deadlines is a must. Many applicants prefer to have time to retest, as well, in case of a less than stellar initial performance.

What are the different GMAT sections?

The GMAT isn’t just one long test. The GMAT is broken up into separate sections, each of which poses unique challenges to test takers. Learn more about the GMAT, and you’ll be better prepared to earn the top score you need.

What is the GMAT made up of?

Quantitative Reasoning

The Quantitative Reasoning portion assesses your skills with math, data, and utilizing reasoning to draw conclusions, with 62 minutes given to you to answer as many as possible of 31 questions, scored between 6-51 in 1-point increments

Verbal Reasoning

The Verbal Reasoning section asks you to evaluate written arguments and correct text to written English standards, giving you 65 minutes to handle as many as possible of the 36 questions, scored between 6-51 in 1-point increments

The Analytical Writing Assessment

The Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) challenges you to communicate your own complex critical ideas and analysis, with 30 minutes allocated for one essay question, and scoring from 0-6 in 0.5-point increments

Integrated Reasoning (IR)

The Integrated Reasoning (IR) portion presents data in multiple formats, measuring your data analysis capabilities, with 30 minutes for 12 questions, and scoring from 1-8 in 1-point increments

What are GMAT percentiles?

Your GMAT score isn’t as simple as a single number. Your Percentile Ranking shows how you score in comparison to others. You receive a ranking for each of the subsections of your score.

Your GMAT score may not change, but, over time, your Percentile Ranking can, as other high-scoring testers shift the curve. GMAT percentiles from 2021 aren’t guaranteed to remain stable forever!

In 2022-23, a GMAT score of 730 gets you into the 96th percentile, while you need a 710 to score within the 90th percentile. That means that, if you receive a Percentile Ranking of 96%, you’ve scored better than 96% of currently-ranked test-takers.

What are typical GMAT test scores?

According to GMAC, the mean GMAT score between 2019-2021 was just 574.51.

Figure out exactly what is the GMAT average at your target schools, and you’ll have a good sense of where your GMAT score goal should be for you to make it through to interviews.

The performance of GMAT test takers between 2021 and 2022

GMAC records GMAT scores of test-takers between January 2019 and December 2021 with a mean of 574.51, an average Verbal score of 27.51, an average Quant score of 41.3, an average AWA of 4.43 and an average IR score of 4.65.

However, you should know that GMAT average growth in b-school admissions is definitely on the rise as we head into 2023. 2021-2022 saw significant increases in average GMAT score at many top-tier MBA programs. 11 b-schools broke school records in 2022 alone!

That means that, in order to achieve MBA admissions success, you need to come out at the top of the pack when it comes to your GMAT score. Are you ready to see how you stack up?


What is the GMAT comprised of and how long is it?

The GMAT comprises four sections (Quantitative, Verbal, Integrated Reasoning, Analytical Writing), and you test for 3.5 hours. The GMAT exam fee is $250, including unlimited score sending.

What is the range of possible GMAT scores?

A GMAT score can range between 200-800 points in total. You also receive percentile rankings for several parts of the GMAT exam.

What is a “good” GMAT score?

What is a good GMAT score depends on your target goals. Generally, a score over 700 can compete, and a score of 730 or above gets you solidly into the “good” range.

For how long is my GMAT score valid?

GMAT scores are valid for up to five years after testing, and available for reporting for ten years.

Is there a limit to how many times I can take the GMAT?

No, there’s no limit to how many times you can take or retake the GMAT. In fact, retesting is often a good idea! You might even want to plan on it, spacing out your testing appointments to leave plenty of time. You learn more about the GMAT every time you take the test.

Schools get a report that contains all of your uncanceled scores, but adcoms only seriously pay attention to your highest score.

What is the best method of preparation for the GMAT exam?

Don’t panic! Prepare for the GMAT exam with your eyes open, taking your weaknesses and study time needs seriously.

Learn more about the GMAT, and the best way for you to prepare for GMAT exam success, by discussing your situation with the test prep and MBA admissions consulting experts at The MBA Exchange now. Check out our blog on other tips and tricks for how to crack the GMAT exam.