Achieving GMAT Greatness

The Graduate Management Admission Test, or GMAT, is designed to test quantitative and reasoning skills in applicants to business school. It's used as an admissions requirement for many different types of graduate management programs, including MBA and Master of Finance.


GMAT versus GRE

Both the GRE and the GMAT are tests you may end up taking to get into business school. A growing number of schools are now accepting the GRE as an option for testing into business school. The GRE has a 75-minute analytic section with two essays, as well as two 30-minute verbal and quantitative sections. It is a good idea to look at the business school you plan to apply to and figure out what your program requires or prefers before deciding which test to take.


What Is the Format of the GMAT?

There are four sections on the GMAT, completed in 3.5 hours: Analytical Writing, Integrated Reasoning, Verbal, and Quantitative. The quantitative and verbal sections are both computer-adaptive tests, meaning that the difficulty level of the questions changes based on your performance. You'll get 75 minutes to complete each of these If you're not familiar with CATs, check out our article on the subject before test day.

The integrated reasoning section tests your ability to analyze data and contains 12 questions that must be completed in 30 minutes. In the analytical writing section, you'll have 30 minutes to write one essay.


Quantitative Section

The quantitative section of the GMAT has two types of multiple choice questions:  data sufficiency questions and problem-solving questions. The focus is on arithmetic, elementary algebra, and commonly known types of geometry. The problem-solving section will test your ability to reason quantitatively, how you interpret graphs and evaluate information. In the data sufficiency questions, you will analyze a problem, recognize the information that is important, and then determine whether there is sufficient information to solve the problem.


Analytical Writing

The AWA section measures critical thinking and communication skills. You are presented with an argument, which is based on some type of business-related topic. No specific knowledge of the topic is necessary. You need to look at the argument, analyze the reasoning behind it, and write a critique of it. This measures your ability to formulate the right conclusion based on the information provided.


Integrated Reasoning

In this section, your reasoning skills are considered. There are four types of questions, each corresponding to a different data format you'll have to evaluate: multi-source reasoning, graphics interpretation, two-part analysis, and table analysis. Let's take these one by one.

In multi-source reasoning questions, you'll be presented with three sources of information in tabs on the computer screen. Example information sources are emails, memos, charts, etc. You'll have to look at each of these sources and answer yes/no or multiple-choice questions.

Graphics interpretation questions require you to interpret, you guessed it, graphics. You'll be asked to look at, for example, a venn diagram or a scatterplot, then complete sentences that relate to that graphic by selecting the correct option from a drop-down menu.

In two-part analysis questions, you'll be presented with a quantitative reasoning question with a two-part solution. For example, you might be presented with a data set about product sales, then asked to determine net profit at two points in time. Next, you'll see a table with two columns. Each column corresponds to one part of the solution (in example we're working with, net profit at a particular point in time), and each row is labeled with a possible answer choice. You'll have to click one radio button in each column to select the correct answer.

Table analysis questions present you with a table and several true/false questions about the data in the table. A drop down menu at the top allows you to sort the information in the table by different criteria to help you answer the questions.


Verbal Section

The verbal section of the GMAT contains three types of multiple-choice questions: reading comprehension, sentence correction, and critical reasoning.

The passages in the reading comprehensive component may relate to  biological sciences, social sciences, or business. You'll need to read carefully, then answer questions about tone, intent, content, etc.

Critical reasoning questions test your reasoning skills, including your ability to construct an argument, evaluate an argument, and evaluate a plan of action. You'll be presented with an argument—for example, "School uniforms should be required in all high schools because they put students on an equal footing and prevent distractions."—then asked to analyze strengths or weaknesses, underlying assumptions, the role of a bolded passage in the argument as a whole, etc.

Sentence correction corrections present you with a sentence, one part of which is underlined. The first answer choice will contain just the underlined bit. Select that if nothing is wrong with the sentence. The rest of the answer choices will be alternate versions of the underlined section. If there's an error, choose the appropriate corrected version.


How is the GMAT scored?

The verbal and quantitative sections are each worth 800 points, and your GMAT score is an average of these two scores. The analytical writing score (from 1-6) and integrated reasoning score (from 1-8) are reported separately. Note that scores are only good for five years.

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