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by Vault Education Editors | June 25, 2009


The GMAT is the Graduate ManagementAdmission Test, a standardized test used by business schools as a measure of anapplicant's academic ability. Schools require applicants to take the GMAT andsubmit their scores in order to be considered for admission to MBA and otherbusiness-oriented degree programs. The GMAT is a computerized test;administered six days a week, 52 weeks a year (except holidays), it can betaken virtually anytime. However, it can only be taken once per month and 5times per year. The cost to take the exam is $225.


The Computerized GMAT CAT


The GMAT is offered ONLY oncomputer, which means that you do not use a pencil and paper to answer testquestions. Instead, you will sit in front of a computer screen at an officialtesting center and take the GMAT in its CAT (Computer Adaptive Test) form. Thebasic features of the CAT format are as follows:


You will see only one question onthe screen at a time. Therefore, you may not skip around in a section andanswer questions in the order that you please. Once you answer a question, youare not allowed to return to it, but you must answer one question in order tomove to the next.


The test is designed to adapt toyour personal ability by giving you questions that reflect how well you haveanswered previous questions. Test questions are not pre-set in advance.Instead, as you take the test, new questions are generated for you based on howwell you are doing. The test begins with a question of average difficulty. Ifyou answer it correctly, you will receive a slightly harder second question. Ifyou do not, you will receive a slightly easier second question. Your thirdquestion, in turn, will be based on your response to the second question andits difficulty level. In this way, the computer zeros in on your ability leveland assigns you a corresponding score.


Due to the GMAT's computer adaptiveformat, scores are not determined solely by the number of correct answers.Correct responses to difficult questions are worth more than correct responsesto easy questions. Therefore, in order to score well you must be able to answerthe more difficult questions correctly.


No matter your ability level, theCAT presents you with a fair mix of questions for the content areas within agiven section. For example, in the math section, all test-takers receive roughlythe same mix of arithmetic, algebra and geometry questions.


Prior to the exam, there will be acomputer tutorial designed to help you become familiar with computerizedtesting. You will be allowed as much time as you need to review thecomputerized format and practice entering in answers.


GMAT Format


Section 1: You will be asked to compose two 30-minute essays. Thefirst essay will ask you to analyze a given argument. The second essay will askyou to analyze a given issue. This section is called the Analytical WritingAssessment (the AWA).


Section 2: You will be given 75 minutes to answer 37 multiple-choicequantitative questions. These questions come in two forms: (a) Problem Solvingquestions which ask you to solve a variety of arithmetic, algebraic andgeometric math problems; and (b) Data Sufficiency questions which ask you todecide whether or not you are given sufficient information to solve a givenmath problem.


Section 3: You will be given 75 minutes to answer 41 multiple-choiceverbal questions. These questions come in three forms: (a) Sentence Correctionquestions ask you to choose the most grammatically accurate way of expressing agiven sentence; (b) Critical Reasoning questions ask you to assess the logic ofshort arguments; and (c) Reading Comprehension questions ask you to read shortpassages (up to 350 words each) and answer content, inference, and applicationquestions based on the information presented.


The timed-portion of the GMAT lasts3.5 hours. You are allowed a five-minute break between each section. Note: theGMAT does not include any questions that test your business knowledge. It isdesigned solely to measure your writing, quantitative, and verbal ability.


GMAT Scoring


After taking the GMAT, you willreceive both quantitative (Section 2) and verbal (Section 3) subscores. Eachsubscore ranges from 0 to 60. These subscores are then combined into an overallscore, which ranges from 200 to 800--this is what is typically considered your "GMATscore." You will also receive a separate score, ranging from 0 to 6, onthe AWA essay portion of the exam (Section 1). Your scores are accompanied by apercentile ranking that tells you how you did in relation to everyone else whotook the test. If you score in the 85th percentile, this means that 85 percentof all GMAT test-takers scored at or below your level.


The median overall GMAT score isapproximately 520. However, to be considered for top business schools, you willgenerally need a score of at least 600. In fact, according to the 2004 U.S. News business school rankings, 10of the 15 business schools report that their average GMAT scores are in the700+ range.


Scores are reported to youimmediately. After completing the GMAT, you are given the option of eitherviewing or canceling your scores. If you think that you did not do very well,you may cancel your scores (without seeing them!) and they will not be reportedto any business schools, although the business schools will be notified of thecancellation on future score reports. Keep in mind, however, that once youcancel your scores, you will not be able to view them. Also, you will not berefunded your test registration fee. Your AWA essay-writing score is determinedseparately (graded by ETS writing professionals and a software program calledRobo-reader) and mailed to you approximately two weeks after the test. The testfee covers reporting of these scores to five schools, and additional scorereports can be purchased for $28.


Your GMAT Next Steps


Don't delay the GMAT until you areready to submit b-school applications. Plan. Prepare. Practice. The averageGMAT study time is 2-4 months!


Learn more about the exam and aboutways to prepare at


Sign up for the official test bycalling 1-800-GMAT-NOW, or by going to the official GMAT website at


Formore b-school and GMAT insight from the experts at ManhattanGMAT, check out ourMBA Resources


Tofind a free ManhattanGMAT event in your area, visit our website



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