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About the GMAT

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What is the GMAT?

The Graduate Management Admission Test is a computer-adaptive standardized test in mathematics and the English language for measuring aptitude to succeed academically in graduate business studies. Business schools use the test as a criteria for admission into graduate business administration programs (e.g. MBA, Master of Accountancy, etc.) principally in the United States, but also in other English-speaking countries. It is delivered via computer at various locations around the world. In those international locations where an extensive network of computers has not yet been established, the GMAT is offered either at temporary computer-based testing centers on a limited schedule or as a paper-based test (given once or twice a year) at local testing centers.

The exam measures verbal, mathematical, and analytical writing skills that the examinee has developed over a long period of time in his or her education and work. Test takers answer questions in each of the three tested areas, and there are also two optional breaks. Scores are valid for five years (at most institutions) from the date the test taker sits for the exam until the date of matriculation (i.e. acceptance, not until the date of application). The maximum score that can be achieved on the exam is 800. Over the 3 years concluding in March 2011, the mean score has been 540.4.

Navigating the various intricacies of the GMAT can be a tough and arduous process. We recommend that prospective business students taking the GMAT should prepare for the test beforehand, because the format of the GMAT may be unfamiliar to most people, and a student’s performance on the test generally improves as he becomes familiar with methods to tackle the questions. Also, since many students have trouble finishing each section within the allotted time, it is suggested that students practice writing the test under actual time constraints beforehand. We at Ivy Global are prepared to equip you with the skills and strategies needed to maximize your results. Ivy Global offers both GMAT courses and GMAT tutoring.

What is the format of the GMAT?

The GMAT is four hours long. It is composed of 2 major sections and writing samples:

  • Analytical Writing Assessment (Two essays) - 30 minutes each
  • Quantitative Section (37 questions) - 75 minutes
  • Verbal Section (41 questions) - 75 minutes

The "Total Score", composed of the quantitative and verbal sections, is exclusive of the analytical writing assessment (AWA), and ranges from 200 to 800. About two-thirds of test takers score between 400 and 600. The score distribution resembles a bell curve with a standard deviation of approximately 100 points, meaning that the test is designed for 68% of examinees to score between 400 and 600, while the median score was originally designed to be near 500.

The average score for nearly all of the top business schools, as commonly listed in popular magazines and ranking services, is in the upper 600s or low 700s. For example Harvard Business School's average is around 720 as per US News' Business School rankings.

See a list of GMAT percentile scores here.

Analytical Writing Assessment

The Analytical Writing Assessment section of the test consists of two essays. In the first, the student must analyze an argument and in the second the student must analyze an issue. Each essay must be written within 30 minutes and is scored on a scale of 06. The essay is read by two readers who each mark the essay with a grade from 06, in 0.5 point increments. If the two scores are within one point of each other, they are averaged. If there is more than one point difference, the essays are read by a third reader.

  • 0 An essay that is totally illegible or obviously not written on the assigned topic.
  • 1 An essay that is fundamentally deficient.
  • 2 An essay that is seriously flawed.
  • 3 An essay that is seriously limited.
  • 4 An essay that is merely adequate.
  • 5 An essay that is strong.
  • 6 An essay that is outstanding.

Over the 3 years concluding in March 2011, the mean score has been 4.4.


Quantitative Section

There are two types of questions: problem solving and data sufficiency. The quantitative section is scored from 0 to 60 points. Over the 3 years ending in March 2011, the mean score has been 36.2/60; scores above 50 and below 7 are rare.

Problem Solving

This tests the quantitative reasoning ability of the examinee. Problem-solving questions present multiple-choice problems in arithmetic, basic algebra, and elementary geometry. The task is to solve the problems and choose the correct answer from among five answer choices. Some problems will be plain mathematical calculations; the rest will be presented as real life word problems that will require mathematical solutions.

Data Sufficiency

This tests the quantitative reasoning ability using an unusual set of directions. The examinee is given a question with two associated statements that provide information that might be useful in answering the question. The examinee must then determine whether either statement alone is sufficient to answer the question; whether both are needed to answer the question; or whether there is not enough information given to answer the question.


Verbal Section

There are three types of questions: sentence correction, critical reasoning, and reading comprehension. The verbal section is scored from 0 to 60 points. Over the 3 years ending in March 2011, the mean has been 27.9/60; scores above 44 and below 9 are rare.

Sentence Correction

The Sentence Correction section tests a test taker's knowledge of American English grammar, usage, and style.

Sentence correction items consist of a sentence, all or part of which has been underlined, with five associated answer choices listed below the sentence. The first answer choice is exactly the same as the underlined portion of the sentence. The remaining four answer choices contain different phrasings of the underlined portion of the sentence. The test taker is instructed to choose the first answer choice if there is no flaw with that phrasing of the sentence. If there is a flaw with the original phrasing of the sentence, the test taker is instructed to choose the best of the four remaining answer choices.

Sentence Correction questions are designed to measure a test taker's proficiency in three areas: correct expression, effective expression, and proper diction. Correct expression refers to the grammar and structure of the sentence. Effective Expression refers to the clarity and concision used to express the idea. Proper Diction refers to the suitability and accuracy of the chosen words in reference to the dictionary meaning of the words and the context in which the words are presented.

Critical Reasoning

This tests logical thinking. Critical thinking items present an argument that the test taker is asked to analyze. Questions may ask test takers to draw a conclusion, to identify assumptions, or to recognize strengths or weaknesses in the argument. It presents brief statements or arguments and asks to evaluate the form or content of the statement or argument. Questions of this type ask the examinee to analyze and evaluate the reasoning in short paragraphs or passages. For some questions, all of the answer choices may conceivably be answers to the question asked. The examinee should select the best answer to the question, that is, an answer that does not require making assumptions that violate common sense standards by being implausible, redundant, irrelevant, and inconsistent.

Reading Comprehension

This tests the ability to read critically. Reading comprehension questions relate to a passage that is provided for the examinee to read. The passage can be about almost anything, and the questions about it test how well the examinee understands the passage and the information in it. As the name implies, it tests the ability of the examinee to understand the substance and logical structure of a written selection. The GMAT uses reading passages of approximately 200 to 350 words, covering topics from social sciences, biological sciences, physical sciences, and business. Each passage has three or more questions based on its content. The questions ask about the main point of the passage, about what the author specifically states, about what can be logically inferred from the passage, and about the author's attitude.



How can Ivy Global help me?

Ivy Global offers full comprehensive GMAT courses in Canada and GMAT tutoring in Canada.


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