What Is The GMAT: How To Prepare For The Test

GMAT test

A Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT™) score might just be the most important number in a business school application apart from your GPA. Your GMAT score sums you up at a glance and can make – or sink – your candidacy.

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

GMAT test definition

Maybe you want to start by getting an answer to the question, what is the GMAT, anyway? GMAT scores are the most commonly used metric to assess business school candidates. In fact, the GMAT was designed by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC™) for that express purpose. The GMAT is only used for b-school admissions.

The GMAT test includes four sections: Quantitative Reasoning, Verbal Reasoning, Analytical Writing Assessment, and Integrated Reasoning. Taking the GMAT takes up 3.5 of your hours, and you receive a cumulative score between 200-800 when you’re done. GMAT test price rings up at $250.

That might sound simple on the surface, but wrangling the GMAT can be anything but straightforward. Here’s what you need to know about the GMAT, as well as the GMAT information you need to prep for the big test, and tips you can use on setting and achieving your GMAT score goal.

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.

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 and can make up for any other 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.

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.

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?

  • 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
  • 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 (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
  • 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 typical GMAT test scores?

The GMAC gives the average total GMAT score as only 568.21 between 2018-2020, with an average Quant score of 40.38 and an average verbal score of 27.11. AWA comes in at a 4.45 average score, and IR scores sit at a current average of 4.51.

The GMAC reports that a whopping two-thirds of recent test takers scored between 400-600 on the GMAT. That’s significantly below the score you need to make it into top b-schools. 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 2020 and 2021

GMAT testing performance showed the impacts of COVID-19 in 2020 and 2021. The average GMAT score in 2020 was several points lower than that attained in 2018 or 2017.

The last few years of b-school admissions have been unique, to say the least, as COVID-19 has disrupted life on a global scale. What is the GMAT like in a post-pandemic world?

Overall, GMAT test scores have dipped in the last two years. That’s bad news for disappointed recent testers, but good news for anyone currently looking to score an excellent percentile. However, since total applications were up in 2020, lower average GMAT performances aren’t a reason to get complacent about your test prep plans and GMAT score goals.

How to prepare for GMAT success

One thing you should understand about the GMAT: the exam is a computer-adaptive test that gets more difficult as you answer more challenging questions correctly. Preparing for that kind of testing environment is serious business.

Decide on a strategy for how best to prep for the GMAT, based on your admissions goals, any previous or practice test scores, and your sense of how well you handle standardized tests. Even if you typically ace exams, the GMAT can prove a tough nut to crack. Prepare for the GMAT by planning ahead and staying realistic about your skills and self-expectations.

The best online GMAT preparation courses

You can find lots of GMAT prep courses and resources online. Which GMAT preparation courses are the best?

The answer is, any of these online test prep products purport to tell you all about the GMAT, but may not contain the specific, personalized support you really need.

Evaluate online GMAT prep resources carefully, making sure that you’re getting your money’s worth for any products you purchase. General products for a general audience might not fit your specific test prep needs.

Other considerations for GMAT preparation

Ultimately, there’s no comparison between online GMAT prep, self-study, and working with an experienced tutor. Good tutoring pretty much wins, hands-down.

The MBA Exchange offers tutoring and test prep services with a multi-decade track record of client satisfaction and success. To learn more, and connect with our experienced tutors and test prep experts, contact The MBA Exchange now, and request your free complimentary evaluation of your candidacy.


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.

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

The question of 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.

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

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.

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.