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GMAT Overview

The Graduate Management Admission Test® (GMAT®) is a standardized assessment—delivered in English—that helps business schools assess the qualifications of applicants for advanced study in business and management.  Schools use the test as one predictor of academic performance in an MBA or other graduate management program.

What the GMAT Measures

The GMAT measures basic verbal, mathematical, and analytical writing skills that you have developed over a long period of time in your education and work.  It does NOT measure:

  • your knowledge of business
  • your job skills
  • specific content in your undergraduate or first university course work
  • your abilities in any other specific subject area
  • subjective qualities—such as motivation, creativity, and interpersonal skills

Format and Timing

The GMAT consists of three main parts, the Analytical Writing Assessment, Quantitative section, and Verbal section. 

Analytical Writing Assessment

You begin the GMAT with the Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA).  The AWA consists of two separate writing tasks—Analysis of an Issue and Analysis of an Argument.  You are allowed 30 minutes to complete each one. 

Quantitative Section

Following an optional five-minute break, you begin the Quantitative Section of the GMAT.  This section contains 37 multiple-choice questions of two question types—Data Sufficiency and Problem Solving.  You will be allowed a maximum of 75 minutes to complete the entire section.

Verbal Section

After a second optional five-minute break, you begin the Verbal Section of the GMAT.  This section contains 41 multiple choice questions of three question types—Reading Comprehension, Critical Reasoning, and Sentence Correction.  You are allowed a maximum of 75 minutes to complete the entire section.  

Computer-Adaptive Format

The Graduate Management Admission Test® (GMAT®) consists of four separately timed sections. Each of the first two sections consists of an analytical writing task; the remaining two sections (Quantitative and Verbal) consist of multiple-choice questions delivered in a computer-adaptive format. Questions in these sections are dynamically selected as you take the test. Therefore, your test will be unique, and the multiple-choice questions will adjust to your ability level.

How Does It Work?

For each multiple-choice section of the GMAT, there is a large pool of potential questions ranging from a low to high level of difficulty. Each section of the test starts with a question of moderate difficulty. If you answer the first question correctly, the computer will give you a harder question next. If you answer the first question incorrectly, your next question will be easier. This process will continue until you complete the section, at which point the computer will have an accurate assessment of your ability level in that subject area.

In a computer-adaptive test, only one question at a time is presented. Because the computer scores each question before selecting the next one, you may not skip, return to, or change your responses to previous questions.

What If You Make a Mistake or Guess?

If you answer a question incorrectly by mistake or correctly by randomly guessing, your answers to subsequent questions will lead you back to questions that are at the appropriate level of difficulty for you.

Random guessing can significantly lower your scores. So, if you do not know the answer to a question, you should try to eliminate as many answer choices as possible and then select the answer you think is best.

How Is Your Score Determined?

Your score is determined by:

  • the number of questions you answer
  • whether you answer the questions correctly or incorrectly
  • the level of difficulty and other statistical characteristics of each question

The questions in an adaptive test are weighted according to their difficulty and other statistical properties, not according to their position in the test.

Are All Questions Counted?

Every test contains trial multiple-choice questions needed for pretesting of GMAT questions prior to their actual use in a real examination. These questions are not identified and appear in different locations within the test. You should, therefore, do your best on all questions. Answers to trial questions are not counted in the scoring of your test.

What Computer Skills Do You Need?

You need only minimal computer skills to complete the GMAT. You can download Free GMAT Tutorials Software to familiarize yourself with the mechanics of taking a computer-adaptive test. The tutorials cover such topics as:

  • using a mouse
  • entering responses
  • moving on to the next question
  • using the word processor
  • accessing the Help function

Before the day of your test, review the testing tools covered in the tutorials. Although you will be able to use a Help function during the test, the time spent doing so will count against the time allotted for completing a test section.

Understanding Your GMAT Scores

The Graduate Management Admission Test® (GMAT®) yields four scores—Verbal, Quantitative, Total, and Analytical Writing Assessment. Each of these scores is reported on a fixed scale and will appear on the official GMAT score reports that you and your designated score recipients (schools) receive.

Your Score Report

Score reports include your three most recent scores from tests you have taken in the last five years and the following background information you may have provided during GMAT registration or on the day of the test: country of citizenship; gender; date of birth; Social Security number; telephone number; undergraduate institution, grade point average (GPA), major, and date of graduation; intended graduate study; and the highest level of education attained. 

Total, Verbal, and Quantitative Scores

Total GMAT scores range from 200 to 800. Two-thirds of test takers score between 400 and 600.

The Verbal and Quantitative scores range from 0 to 60. Scores below 9 and above 44 for the Verbal section or below 7 and above 50 for the Quantitative section are rare. Both scores are on a fixed scale and can be compared across any GMAT administration.

The Verbal and Quantitative scores measure different things and cannot be compared to each other.

Analytical Writing Assessment Score

The Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) score is an average of the ratings given to the Analysis of an Issue and the Analysis of an Argument sections.

Each response is given two independent ratings. Once both essays have been scored, the scores are averaged to provide an overall score. Scores for the AWA can range from 0 to 6 in half-point intervals.

Writing scores are computed separately from the scores for the multiple-choice sections of the test and have no effect on the Verbal, Quantitative, or Total scores.

How AWA Is Scored

Each of your essays in the AWA section will be given two, independent ratings, one of which may be performed by E-rater®. E-rater is an electronic system that evaluates more than 50 structural and linguistic features, including organization of ideas, syntactic variety, and topical analysis.

If the two ratings differ by more than one point, another evaluation by an expert reader is required to resolve the discrepancy and determine the final score. E-rater and independent readers agree, on average, 87% to 94% of the time.

College and university faculty members trained as readers for the AWA will consider:

  • the overall quality of your ideas about the issue and argument presented
  • your overall ability to organize, develop, and express those ideas
  • the relevant supporting reasons and examples you used
  • your ability to control the elements of standard written English

In considering the elements of standard written English, readers are trained to be sensitive and fair in evaluating the responses of examinees whose first language is not English.

When Are GMAT Scores Available?

Unofficial scores from the Verbal and Quantitative multiple-choice sections, along with the Total score, are available immediately after you complete the test.

Official GMAT score reports, which include the AWA score, will be mailed to you and your designated score report recipients (schools) approximately two weeks after the test.

How Long Are Score Reports Kept?

Official GMAT score results are kept on file for 20 years. Most schools will not accept scores that are more than five years old. At your request, score reports for tests taken 15 to 20 years ago are still available for reporting.

Reliability of Your Scores

It is important to know that test scores are not precise measures. The scores actually obtained on any given occasion are an approximation of your true performance. If you take the GMAT more than once, you probably will not receive the same scores each time. Most test takers who repeat the GMAT gain, on average, approximately 30 points in their GMAT Total score the second time they take the test. Subsequent gains are, on average, much smaller.

Reliability indicates the degree to which you would keep the same score if you were to take the test more than once. The average reliability for the GMAT Total score is .92. Perfect reliability is 1.00. Therefore, the reliability of your GMAT score is very high.

Examinee Score Interpretation Guide

For further information about your scores, contact ETS-GMAT Customer Service to request a copy of the GMAT Examinee Score Interpretation Guide.

Cracking the GMAT with Sample Tests on CD-ROM
Cracking the GMAT with Sample Tests on CD-ROM


Kaplan GMAT 2007 with CD-ROM



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