GMAT Overview

GMAT Overview

The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) is a computer-adaptive standardized test in mathematics and English that is used by graduate business school admissions committees. The test is taken on a computer at various locations around the world. The fee to take the test is $250.

The exam is intended to measure verbal, mathematical, and analytical writing skills that the candidate has developed over a long period of time in his or her education and work. Test takers answer questions in each of these three areas. The test takes about four hours to complete.

Scores are valid for five years from the date the test taker sits the exam until the date of matriculation. The maximum score that can be achieved on the exam is 800. Over the three years ending in March 2011, the average score was 540.4.



The GMAT exam is administered year-round and on demand at test centers around the world. If you’re interested in scheduling an appointment to take the exam, the first step is to register for the test at



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Beat the GMAT: The largest MBA social network in the world.
GMAT Club: An interactive community that provides up-to-date information on the Business School Application Process.
Knewton GMAT Blog: Knewton’s adaptive learning platform GMAT blog. GMAT information and the site where you will register for the exam.



1. Your GMAT score is self-reported on most business school applications, so admissions teams will focus on your highest test score.
2. Many recommend aiming to take the test at least twice from the start.
3. Your GMAT Score carries for five years.
4. provides two free official GMAT practice tests.
5. We recommend two to three months of prep.
6. More schools are now accepting GRE, although all things being equal the GMAT is still preferred.



1. Go To The Source
Many religions have holy books, right? The Official Guides from the GMAC, in their orange, purple and green splendor, are the holy books of the GMAT religion. Every other book, as good as it may be, is just commentary. Only the Official Guides contain problems retired from the real GMAT. Thus, your efforts must be centered on the Official Guides.

The other “holy” source is GMAT Prep, the free practice-test software that you should download from This software has its drawbacks, but it also has two unique benefits: it uses the real GMAT algorithm, and even more importantly, it contains retired GMAT problems, many of which aren’t in the Official Guides. There are two tests offered on this software; you should consider ”˜saving’ at least one of them for later in your preparation to use as a measuring stick.

2. Build Up, Not Down
How you do on the GMAT is determined by your floor ”“ the level of problem that you can absolutely, positively get right every time, without hesitation or anxiety. So you should spend more time truly mastering the easier problems. And by “mastering,” I mean ensuring that you can do the problem, not only correctly, but also quickly, easily and confidently under tough exam conditions. By “mastering,” I mean knowing everything there is to know about the problem ”“ the underlying principles, the subtle application of those principles, the embedded tricks and traps. Once you have built this knowledge and skill, then progress upwards.

3. Turn Enemies Into Friends
Should you play to your strengths or attack your weaknesses? Ideally, you’ll do both. But if you have to choose, especially early on ”“ pick the weaknesses. Let’s say you’re a genius on Critical Reasoning, but you’re terrible at Sentence Correction. Which should you work on? The Sentence Correction. Why? Because the test is adaptive. If SC is weighing your performance down, you’ll never get the really hard CR problems. You’ll never get a chance to prove just how brilliant you are with CR.

4. Mix It Up
Don’t limit yourself to topic-based work and practice tests. Topic-based drills are indispensable, but they give you a crutch ”“ you already know what kind of problem you’re facing. In contrast, the GMAT throws you problems in random order by content area. So you need to develop your eye: your ability to recognize patterns, perceive key traits, classify problems and bring relevant strategies to bear. In this regard, practice tests would seem to help you here ”“ and they do. But you can’t, or shouldn’t, take a practice test every day. You can burn yourself out all too easily.

What should you do? Short drills of mixed-topic problems from the Official Guides. The GMAC has already done the prep work for you ”“ they’ve jumbled up the problems by topic but arranged them in order of difficulty. So do 5-10 problems in a row. Don’t skip any. Treat the exercise “as if” you were taking the GMAT. And then spend double the time afterwards reviewing and mastering each problem. You can do this kind of drill every day, especially as you get closer to the real exam ”“ and your GMAT muscles will grow strong.

5. Know What You Know
It’s two weeks to the exam. You’ve done a ton of work, and your head is kind of swimming. Stop making your head swim. Start reviewing and redoing problems.

At this point, it’s much less important to cram new stuff into your brain than it is to organize and strengthen what’s already in there. Don’t worry about trying to cover everything under the sun. Instead, go for depth over breadth. Force yourself to revisit problems you “think” you know. You’ll be surprised at what you don’t really know.
With these principles in hand, you’ll be well-equipped to study for the GMAT in order to put your best foot forward on test day. But bear in mind that nothing will replace good old-fashioned elbow grease ”“ statistics from GMAC show that the amount of time spent studying, both in terms of hours and weeks, correlates positively to performance on the test (100+ hours and 8+ weeks for the best average results, if you’re curious). Let’s call this Tip #6 ”“ there aren’t any shortcuts to success on the GMAT!