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About the GMAT and GMAT Preparation

The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) is a standardized examination used to evaluate graduate business school applicants in the United States and other countries for business school preparedness.

The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) is a standardized examination used to evaluate graduate business school applicants in the United States and other countries for business school preparedness. The GMAT is accepted by over 7,000 programs in more than 2,300 graduate business schools and is administered to nearly 260,000 students annually. The exam itself is owned by the Graduate Management Admission Council, a "global, non-profit association of leading graduate business schools," and is administered by Pearson VUE.

GMAT Sections

The GMAT consists of four sections: quantitative, verbal, analytical writing assessment and integrated reasoning. In the analytical writing assessment, test-takers must compose an essay that breaks down a given argument. The essay task is strictly analytical rather than argumentative; students should not include their own opinions of the featured subject. Integrated reasoning questions require students to combine data from a variety of graphical, verbal, and numerical sources, using both verbal and quantitative reasoning capabilities. The quantitative section is rooted around problem-solving, quantitative reasoning, and interpretation of tables and graphs, harnessing fundamental arithmetic, algebra, and geometry. The verbal section focuses on comprehension and assessment of written texts as well as some vocabulary. Basic knowledge of the English language is assumed, but students do not need to be overtly familiar with the particular subjects that appear in test passages in order to optimally answer the questions. The best way to familiarize yourself with the test is to take a few free GMAT practice questions on the Manhattan Review website. A full practice test is also available.

Traditional GMAT Structure

Until July of 2017, every administration of the GMAT used the same structure, and this traditional section order continues to remain a valid option for test-takers. The analytical writing assessment is administered at the beginning of the test; students have 30 minutes to compose an essay in which they break down the argument presented in a single textual passage. The integrated reasoning section is the next section of the exam; it includes 12 multi-part questions over 30 minutes. Answer choices for many of these questions are binary (e.g. true/false or yes/no), but some types of integrated reasoning questions consist of three or four answer options. The quantitative section, 37 multiple-choice questions in 75 minutes, is the third segment of the exam to be administered. The GMAT finishes with the verbal section, which is 41 multiple-choice questions over 75 minutes. Total testing time is 210 minutes (3 and a half hours). Students are permitted to take 8-minute breaks before each of the last two sections, but they are not required to do so.

2017 and 2018 GMAT Changes

Since July of 2017, students have been allowed to pick any one of three exam structures when they begin the test. The first option is the original section order described in the preceding paragraph. The other two possibilities are verbal, quantitative, integrated reasoning, and analytical writing; and quantitative, verbal, integrated reasoning, and analytical writing. As of April 16, 2018, the GMAT will be reduced by 30 minutes, mostly through a smaller number of questions on the verbal and quantitative sections. The new quantitative section will be 31 questions in 62 minutes (6 fewer questions and 13 fewer minutes), while the new verbal section will be 36 questions in 65 minutes (5 fewer questions and 10 fewer minutes). Students will now be allowed to view the required video tutorial online at home, which further reduces test time by about 7 minutes.  

GMAT Administration

All students will take the GMAT entirely on a test center computer (the GMAT paper test is actually no longer available). The computer is used to write the essay for the analytical writing evaluation, and it also presents questions and records answers for all of the other portions. The computerized GMAT demands only the most basic computer skills, such as familiarity with tabs and drop-down menus. The computer calculates raw scores for the multiple-choice sections, which are then turned into total scores. Essays are graded by qualified and trained college professors from several academic disciplines, and also by a computerized scoring program. Computer adaptation is a feature of the quantitative and verbal sections of the GMAT, in order to control for slight differentiations in test difficulty level and guarantee that each administration is as fair as possible.

GMAT Scoring

It’s important to note that each of the GMAT's four sections is scored separately. Test-takers receive a total score that is based on the quantitative and verbal portions only, individual scores for each section, and a percentile ranking that compares their performance to other students from the past three years. The total score is the most widely used number in business school class profiles and in everyday discussion of the GMAT. Many admissions consultants profess that the GMAT scores most relevant to business school acceptance are the composite scores and the quantitative scores, which combined may account for as much as 25% of admissions decisions. In most cases, the GMAT is a more significant factor in business school applications than undergraduate GPA.

The GMAT total score ranges from 200 to 800, to which the verbal and quantitative sections add to an amount that is roughly equal. The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) does not disclose the conversion formula, but some evidence reveals that the verbal score might be given slightly more weight. Scores are based on the number of correct answers in these sections and the level of difficulty associated with each question. Students receive unofficial scores, which are determined by computer, immediately after finishing the exam. According to GMAC, two-thirds of all test-takers score between 400 and 600, and the median total score is approximately 550. A score of 700 is in the 88th percentile, and a score of 750 is in the 98th percentile.

Integrated Reasoning Scores

Believe it or not, Integrated reasoning scores do not count toward the total GMAT score. IR scores are unique and reported on a scale of 1 to 8 in one-point increments. Scores for the integrated reasoning section are determined from the number of correct answers, and each part of a multi-step problem must be answered correctly in order to receive credit. GMAC reports the mean GMAT integrated reasoning score as 4.23, with a score of 7 in the 82nd percentile and a perfect score of 8 in the 93rd percentile.

Verbal and Quantitative Scores

Students receive verbal and quantitative section scores of 0 to 60 each. These are referred to by GMAC as "scaled scores," and they are evaluated by a computer-adaptive algorithm that accounts for the difficulty level of each question (or more precisely, the probability that a student at a specific score level will answer that question correctly). The number of right answers that correspond to a particular scaled score will therefore differ (25 correct answers, for example, may produce a scaled score between 28 and 30). GMAC data reveals that high verbal scores are far less common than high quantitative scores. Though scores for both sections are given within the same range, the mean quantitative score is about 39, while the median verbal score is slightly below 27. A verbal score of 46 is in the 99th percentile of all test-takers, but a 46 quantitative score is only in the 60th percentile. Verbal scores below 9 and above 44 are characterized as "rare" by GMAC, as are quantitative scores below 7 and above 50.

Analytical Writing Assessment Scores

The analytical writing is scored on a scale 1 to 6 in half-point increments. The essay is evaluated by a human grader as well as by a software program. If these two scores differ by more than one point, a second human grader is brought in to offer an additional assessment. GMAC indicates that the median analytical writing score is 4.44, with 5.5 representing the 80th percentile and 6.0 the 89th. Analytical writing scores do not factor into the total GMAT score.

GMAT Strategy

True success on the GMAT relies on more than just superior content knowledge. Although it is clearly vital to have as much mastery of the skills evaluated on the GMAT's four areas as possible, students must be able to demonstrate these skills within the constraints of the test. By the time exam day rolls around, prospective graduate students should be absolutely familiar with the structure of the test, the directions for each portion, and the types of exercises generally included in each section of the exam. Rigorous daily practice with GMAT materials (both official and unofficial) will cultivate this familiarity. It is also crucial that test-takers learn to manage their time effectively, and if necessary, allow for educated guesses on very challenging questions. Strategic approaches to the GMAT can easily make quite a difference in student scores and business school admission prospects.

The value of physical comfort on exam day should not be underestimated. Students should make sure that they are getting the adequate amount of rest in the days leading up to the exam, and nutrition is also a meaningful aspect of physical well-being. When taking the GMAT, comfortable clothing is advised over business attire. Physical health, comfort, and vigor can go a long way toward reducing stress, building confidence, and improving cognitive function while undergoing the tiresome task of completing a lengthy and difficult examination. Test-takers should be familiar with the physical location of their test's administration as well as the general traffic conditions at the time of day they have chosen, to ensure that they arrive at the test center on time.

Studying for the GMAT is an investment of energy, time, and determination. While there is nothing more thrilling than gaining admittance to the school of your dreams, adequate preparation for the exam can’t be overlooked and must be considered carefully. Become ready by growing familiar with the test and knowing your weaknesses, so you can ultimately turn them into strengths. To find out about the GMAT preparation options with Manhattan Review, please check out this website or directly fill out this form to receive further information.

About Manhattan Review:
Manhattan Review is an international test prep firm that mainly offers preparation for admissions tests needed to apply to US-based universities and schools, such as the GMAT, GRE, LSAT, SAT, ACT, SSAT, ISEE, and TOEFL. Founded in 1999 by Dr. Joern Meissner, an internationally renowned business school professor, the company helps students gain entrance to their desired degree programs by working to improve their admission test scores. Headquartered in New York City, Manhattan Review operates in many cities worldwide, including Singapore, Hong Kong, Hyderabad, and London.

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