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What You Need to Know About the GMAT

Do you want to get accepted into an MBA program at a reputable business school? Then you will need to get familiar with the GMAT exam. In this post, we will explore what the Graduate Management Admission Test is, what it reveals to business schools about candidates, how it is constructed, and what you need to know in order to successfully prepare yourself to achieve a high score.

What Is the GMAT?

According to the Graduate Management Admission Council, the developers of the GMAT, the exam is "the most trusted, proven and well-understood predictor of academic success." This standardized test has been refined over the years by business schools to enable them to effectively compare candidates and project the best performers in their respective programs.

The GMAT is used today by more than 6,000 business programs in 2,100 schools and universities in 114 countries. It is the product of decades of peer-reviewed research, including hundreds of validity studies just in the past decade. As a reliable predictor of academic success in business schools, the GMAT is impressive and peerless.

What Does the Exam Test and How Is It Scored?

As a prospective business student, you might imagine that this exam tests for the aptitudes and skills that are important in the business school academic environment, as well as in professional business environments. It assesses analytical, problem-solving, critical thinking, writing, data sufficiency and logic skills.

The test produces a composite score ranging from 200 to 800 in 10-point increments, with a mean of 561.27 (2014-2017), as well as scores for each of the four sections:

  1. 62-minute Quantitative section (scores range from 6 to 51, mean of 39.93)
  2. 65-minute Verbal section (scores range from 6 to 51, mean of 27.04)
  3. 30-minute Analytical Writing Assessment (scores range from 0 to 6, but do not count toward the overall composite GMAT score, mean of 4.48)
  4. 30-minute Integrated Reasoning section (scores range from 1 to 8, mean of 4.29)

Total test time, including two optional eight-minute breaks, is just under 3.5 hours.

The GMAT Verbal and Quantitative sections use Computer Adaptive Testing. In this format, each question answered correctly or incorrectly helps to determine which questions will follow. One of the main objectives of this format is to determine knowledge and proficiency for certain questions or content areas for each test-taker. Some may be completely familiar or proficient, while others are partially familiar or proficient. A result of this format is that any two people who take the exam will not see identical sets of questions, but if they are of comparable abilities, they should achieve similar scores.

A Quick Word on the GRE

More than 1,200 business schools now accept GRE scores in lieu of GMAT scores. The GRE differs from the GMAT in that it has traditionally been used in the admissions process for graduate programs in disciplines including public administration, psychology and English, while the GMAT was exclusively for business school admissions. For that reason, the GRE has a heavier emphasis on the English verbal component, and the GMAT has a more challenging quantitative section.

UNCW and the GMAT (or GRE)

For the MBA and EMBA programs, UNCW requires a GMAT score above 500 or an equivalent GRE. The requirement is waived for candidates with five or more years of managerial work experience, candidates with an undergraduate GPA of 3.2 or higher, or candidates who have completed an advanced degree (graduate level or above) involving some quantitative coursework.

Select Your Own Sequence

In 2017, GMAT implemented a new feature called Select Section Order, which lets you choose the order in which you will complete the GMAT exam sections. Three options are available:

  1. Analytical Writing Assessment → Integrated Reasoning → break → Quantitative → break → Verbal
  2. Verbal → break → Quantitative → break → Integrated Reasoning → Analytical Writing Assessment
  3. Quantitative → break → Verbal → break → Integrated Reasoning → Analytical Writing Assessment

This choice puts everyone on a level playing field. All test-takers now have the option to choose whether they want to begin with a writing assessment, verbal test or quantitative test. In addition, each test-taker can begin with what they feel is the most or least challenging section. Regardless of the sequence you choose, you have the option to take an eight-minute break between test sections. Or you could keep your momentum going and plow through.

Prior to this change, with just one section order, some test-takers could get off to a more confident start than others. Putting everyone at ease for such an important exam is a fair and sensible approach GMAT deemed worth implementing.

Exam Results Are Immediately Available

Prior to July of 2017, GMAT test-takers had to fill out a series of questions to update their profiles after completing the exam. GMAC has removed this step, so test-takers can now find out their scores immediately after finishing the exam. Instead of providing profile information on the day of the exam, you can now update your profile ahead of time on the GMAT website.

Recognizing all of the work that went into creating and refining the GMAT should add to your appreciation of what the exam does for business schools, and ultimately, the students who attend.

Learn more about UNCW's online MBA programs.


The Princeton Review: What Is the GMAT?

GMAT: New GMAT Exam Feature Gives You Greater Control and Flexibility

BusinessBecause: Changes to the GMAT - Here's What You Need to Know

The Princeton Review: GMAT vs GRE: Which Test Is Right for You?

GMAC: GMAT Exam Structure

GMAC: What Your GMAT Percentile Ranking Means

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