MBA, MBA Preparation

GMAT 101: Everything You Need To Know

August 15 2023 By The MBA Exchange
Select viewing preference

Scoring high on the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT™) is a critical goal for aspiring business school applicants. Preparing for the GMAT can be a daunting task, but it’s essential for strengthening your application.

Your GMAT score is a vital component of your business school application, often as significant as your GPA. A strong GMAT score can greatly enhance your candidacy. Are you ready to achieve your GMAT goal? This guide will help you navigate through the GMAT landscape, providing you with essential information and preparation strategies.

Understanding the GMAT Exam

The GMAT, developed by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC™), is designed to assess the skills necessary for success in business school. The test evaluates candidates on math, language, and problem-solving abilities. The GMAT test includes four sections. After you complete the exam, your score represents your capabilities in each of these key areas.

You receive a cumulative GMAT score ranging between 200-800. GMAT percentiles give you concrete information on how your score compares to other test-takers. GMAT scores continue to be the most commonly used metric to determine admissibility. 

Structure of the GMAT

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. What is the GMAT made up of? Let’s review.

  1. Quantitative Reasoning
    • Assesses mathematical and data analysis skills.
    • Consists of 31 questions to be completed in 62 minutes.
    • Scores range from 6 to 51 in 1-point increments.
  2. Verbal Reasoning
    • Evaluates your ability to read and understand written material, as well as to correct and improve texts.
    • Includes 36 questions to be answered in 65 minutes.
    • Scores range from 6 to 51 in 1-point increments.
  3. Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA)
    • Requires you to write an essay analyzing an argument.
    • You have 30 minutes to complete one essay.
    • Scores range from 0 to 6 in 0.5-point increments.
  4. Integrated Reasoning (IR)
    • Measures your ability to evaluate data presented in various formats.
    • Consists of 12 questions to be answered in 30 minutes.
    • Scores range from 1 to 8 in 1-point increments.

GMAT Percentiles

Your GMAT score isn’t as simple as a single score. There are percentiles to reckon with, as well. Your GMAT score is complemented by a percentile ranking, indicating how you perform relative to other test-takers. For instance, 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.

When to Take the GMAT

The GMAT is available throughout the year at various testing centers. The test takes approximately 3.5 hours and costs $250. Your scores are valid for five years and can be sent to schools for up to ten years.

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.

There’s no limit to how many times you can take or retake the GMAT. 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 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. You should know that GMAT average growth in b-school admissions is definitely on the rise. Every year, we see a significant increase in average GMAT score at many top-tier MBA programs. 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? Then let’s talk GMAT prep.

GMAT Preparation Strategies

Preparing for the GMAT requires a strategic approach. Here are some in-depth strategies to ensure you’re ready to excel:

Understand Your Weaknesses

Identifying your weaknesses is the first step in any successful preparation plan. Use diagnostic tests to pinpoint areas that need improvement. Once you know your weak spots, you can focus your efforts more effectively.

  • Take a Diagnostic Test: Start with a practice test to understand your baseline.
  • Analyze Your Results: Look for patterns in the types of questions you miss.
  • Create a Study Plan: Allocate more time to areas where you score lower.

Use Comprehensive Resources

Taking advantage of a variety of study materials can significantly boost your preparation. Utilize books, online courses, practice tests, and tutoring services to cover all aspects of the GMAT.

  • Test Prep Courses: Enroll in a GMAT prep course for structured guidance.
  • Practice Tests: Regularly take full-length practice tests to build endurance and track progress.
  • GMAT Prep Books: Invest in reputable GMAT prep books for comprehensive content review and practice questions.
  • Tutoring Services: Consider hiring a GMAT tutor if you need personalized instruction. The MBA Exchange offers top-notch GMAT tutoring and prep support.
  • Official GMAT Website: Use the official GMAT website for practice questions and test information.
  • GMAT Forums: Join forums like GMAT Club to connect with other test-takers and share tips.

Plan Your Study Schedule

Effective time management is crucial for GMAT preparation. Create a realistic study schedule that fits into your daily routine without causing burnout.

  • Set a Timeline: Determine how many weeks or months you have until your test date.
  • Daily Study Goals: Break down your study plan into daily tasks to make it manageable.
  • Consistent Study Times: Study at the same time each day to build a routine.

Practice with Realistic Conditions

Simulating the test environment can help you become more comfortable with the test format and timing.

  • Timed Practice Tests: Take practice tests under timed conditions to mimic the actual test day.
  • Quiet Environment: Ensure you practice in a quiet space free from distractions.
  • Break Management: Practice taking breaks as you would on the actual test day to maintain focus.

Focus on Test-Taking Strategies

Developing strong test-taking strategies can make a significant difference on test day.

  • Pacing: Learn to pace yourself to avoid spending too much time on difficult questions.
  • Elimination Techniques: Use the process of elimination to narrow down answer choices.
  • Guessing Strategically: Make educated guesses when necessary, and move on to save time.


Achieving a high GMAT score is a crucial step toward securing a place in a top business school. By understanding the test structure, knowing what scores to aim for, and preparing effectively, you can enhance your candidacy. Utilize resources like The MBA Exchange to maximize your chances of success. Prepare thoroughly, stay focused, and you’ll be ready to excel on the GMAT.