The GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) is a 3-1/2 hour standardized exam designed to predict how test-takers will perform academically in MBA (Masters in Business Administration) programs. GMAT scores are used by graduate business schools to make admission decisions.
You might also see the GMAT referred to as the “GMAT CAT “; the acronym CAT stands for “Computer Adaptive Test.” The GMAT is administered only by computer now, except in certain locations outside North America, where the test is referred to as the “paper-based” GMAT. (Since you’re reading this on the Web, no doubt the GMAT CAT is available where you are.). According to GMAT Survey Sixty-six percent of the test-takers had U.S. addresses at the time of registration in TY 2000, which increased to 68% of test takers in TY 2004. The next largest concentrations in both testing years came from Asia and Western Europe, with approximately 12% and 7% of the test-taker population, respectively.
Who Conducts The Test?
The GMAT is the brainchild of the GMAC (Graduate Management Admission Council), which determines what kinds of skills the GMAT should measure — and how it should measure them.
The Graduate Management Admission Council (R) GMAC,based in McLean, Va., is a non-profit education organization of leading graduate business schools worldwide, dedicated to creating access to and disseminating information about graduate management education. The GMAT exam was created in 1954 and remains the first and only standardized test specifically designed for graduate business and management programs.
Pearson VUE, the company now administering the GMAT through its global network of test centers, is providing an increased level of service to test takers and schools. People receive their official scores faster through Pearson VUE’s online score-reporting system. This system also allows admissions offices to more efficiently obtain scores for their applicants and gain a deeper understanding of how they stack up with their competition.
ACT now manages the development of the GMAT. ACT is responsible for the development of GMAT questions, construction of item pools, implementation of test specifications, scoring of the Analytical Writing Assessment essays, and working with GMAC to strengthen the exam’s capacity to remain in step with the evolving needs of business schools.
All-round-the-year. Unlike other exams, you can choose your own date and time for taking the GMAT! The test is administered five-days-a-week (Monday through Friday), twice-a-day.September to December is the high season for GMAT, so in case you intend to take the test during this period, you need to register very early (say 90 days in advance) to get a date of your choice. Otherwise, registering at least 15 days in advance is mandatory. The test lasts roughly four hours, and most centers offer two slots: 9 A.M. and 2 P.M.
There is no formula for acceptance of applications for B- schools. Though the policies vary from school to school all B schools are committed to evaluating the whole package an applicant presents. For instance, Chicago has accepted applicants with GMAT scores in the 300s; Darden one year rejected five out of six applicants with perfect GMATs.
GMAT Score –These scores are rarely the sole determining factor for admission, but don’t take them too lightly, either. A good GMAT score does not necessarily help one get admission, but a poor one can more often than not mar one’s chances of selection in a good B- school. At top schools, one competes against people with very high scores, and many of them don’t get in. So should aim to get a GMAT score within 50 points of a school’s average.
Work experience – What admissions committees are looking for here is evidence that the applicant has made progress in his career, taken on increasing responsibility, and demonstrated leadership. Strong communications skills and a proven ability to work well in groups are also important. Highlight these experiences throughout your application. B-Schools want candidates who have demonstrated an ability to work well in group setting. More often than not, work experience provides individuals an opportunity to work in teams, and demonstrate team work and people skills. You don’t necessarily have to work for Goldman Sachs or Andersen Consulting to get into a good school (although it certainly couldn’t hurt). You simply need to demonstrate that you have good organizational skills and leadership abilities. A prior history of leading teams by an applicant at work is considered a very important factor by all B-schools.
Recommendations: Almost every school will want to see recommendations from people that have seen your work and know your abilities. Choose your recommenders carefully — a big name won’t help you as much as a thoughtful, positive letter from someone who knows your work well. B-schools want to see how your supervisors evaluate your work and what kind of potential for leadership they think you have.
Essays: These are one the most important components of the application package. Examples are:
Harvard University: Describe a situation in which you failed and explain why it happened.
Stanford University: What course you would pursue if getting an MBA did not exist as an option?
In the essays, the applicant has to clearly articulate one’s career goals, potential for success in high-level management, and the ability to handle the academic challenges of the institution. Only your essays can convey the important facets of your work experience and the attractive aspects of your personality. Without nailing the essays, no matter how high your GMAT score is or how high your college GPA is, you will never be admitted to a top business school. More so with business schools which absolutely require that you clearly demonstrate your ambition, confidence, maturity, passion, creativity, and career-focus. You can only communicate these qualities through your essays.
Academic record: Schools also pay attention to applicant’s academic performance. The overall difficulty of applicant’s course load and the school’s reputation will also likely be factored in. Unfortunately, one can’t go back and change the transcripts, so what can be done to overcome a less-than-stellar college career? Strong GMATs and solid work experience might be enough, but essays are very powerful tools here. As the essays can help an applicant you discuss circumstances that might have affected your GPA — perhaps you had to work your way through school, experienced a personal tragedy (steer clear of whining here, just talk about how the experience changed you), or were just young and too focused on having a great time instead of paying attention on academics.
What is a Computer-Adaptive test?
In a computer-adaptive test, the computer screen displays one question at a time, which is chosen from a very large pool of questions categorized by content and difficulty. The first question is always of a medium difficulty, and each subsequent question is determined by your responses to all the previous questions. In other words, the CAT adjusts itself to your ability level – you’ll get few questions that are either too easy or too difficult for you.
Each question in the GMAT CAT has five answer options, and you are required to select one of these five as the correct answer by clicking on it. A subsequent question is displayed on the screen only after you have answered the previous question, so you cannot skip a question. You cannot also go back to a previously answered question to change your answer. Thus, if you guess a correct answer or answer a question incorrectly by mistake, your answers to subsequent questions will lead you back to questions that are at the appropriate level of difficulty for you.
The test has three distinct sections : Analytical Writing Ability (AWA), Quantitative, and Verbal. The Quantitative section has two types of questions, Problem Solving and Data Sufficiency, mingled throughout the section. The Verbal Section has three types : Sentence Correction, Critical Reasoning, and Reading Comprehension; here too, the questions of each type appear in no set sequence. There are a total of 78 questions, 37 in Quantitative (Including 9 Experimental Questions) and 41 in Verbal. These have to be done in 75 minutes each.
The analytical writing sections of the test measure the ability to think critically and communicate complex ideas through writing. There are two 30 minute essays—1 task is to analyze an issue; the other is to analyze an argument.
Analysis of Issue: Students are required to present their perspective/opinion on an issue.
Analysis of Argument: Students are required to analyze a given argument.
The quantitative sections of the test measure basic mathematical skills and understanding of elementary concepts, and the ability to reason quantitatively, solve quantitative problems, and interpret graphic data. This 75 minute section contains 37 multiple-choice questions (with 5 answer choices per question) of either two question types, Data Sufficiency or Problem Solving.
The verbal sections of the test measure the ability to understand and evaluate what is read and to recognize the basic conventions of standard written English. This 75 minute section contains 41 multiple choice questions (with 5 answer choices per question) of any of three question types, Reading Comprehension, Critical Reasoning and Sentence Correction.
The following table gives out the format of the GMAT-CAT:
The Analytical Writing section is always the first section followed by the Quantitative Section and then the Verbal Section.
The GMAT score is for a total of 800. The score is based on a combination of the Quantitative and Verbal sections and will be in a range of 200-800.