The GMAT is the most widely accepted standardized test used for admission to MBA programs worldwide. It measures the fundamental skills needed to be successful in an MBA program and is meant to be predictive of graduate school success. It isn’t a business knowledge test but a reasoning exam similar to but more difficult than the SAT.
The test has four sections but only two of the sections the GMAT Math and Verbal reasoning combine to form your composite score (the one that counts for MBA admissions). It also has an essay and the integrated reasoning sections each of which do not count towards your composite score and as of 2018 have limited input into MBA admissions decisions.
The GMAT is a computer adaptive test. The algorithm selects questions based on past responses. So if you get something correct you will likely see a more difficult question. Get something wrong and you’ll see something easier. Your GMAT score isn’t only based on the % of questions you get right but also the over all difficulty of the pool of questions you answered correctly. For some, this part of the GMAT format is anxiety inducing. However, there are ways to practice the GMAT format so it becomes at least familiar if not easy breezy.
GMAT scoring is a little complicated. Here’s the quick summary. Let’s start with the most important sections, Quant and Verbal. They each get there own score out of 51 (51 being the best). Then, the individual scores are put through an algorithm and combined to a composite score out of 800 (again, 800 is the best). That composite score is the most important, although your individual quant score may also have a bit of weight. The integrated reasoning and essay scores are completely separate. The IR is scored from 1-8 the essay from 1-5.
The exam is offered 365 days a year worldwide although in some test centers availability is more limited. The GMAT can be re-taken every 16 days to a maximum 5 exams per twelve month period and 8 GMATs per lifetime (with some exceptions).
Here’s an interactive GMAT tutorial by GMAC showing the format of the exam. It’s the same one that will pop on the screen before you begin the test.
GMAT format chart with links to each of the section pages providing more in depth analysis.
|31 questions/62 minutes multiple choice. Scored from 6-51. Part of your composite score.
|36 questions/65 min. Scored from 6-51. Part of your composite score.
|12 Questions/30min. Scored from 0-8.
|Multi-Source Reasoning, Table Analysis, Graphics Interpretation, Two-Part Analysis.
|1 essay/30min. Scored from 1-5.
|Analyze an argument.
|Computer Adaptive Test.
|The CAT algorithm selects questions based on your responses and calculates your score based on the average difficulty level of questions you get right.
|Composite Score (the one that counts for admissions) derived from the Quant and Verbal scores. 0-800.
|Percentile Score compares you to the last three years of GMAT test takers. This can change over the years.
GMAT Format FAQ
How long is the GMAT?
The exam portion of the GMAT is 3 hours and 7 minutes long. The essay and IR sections are each 30 minutes long, the Quant 62 minutes long, and the Verbal 65 minutes long. With the “new” GMAT you can decide your section order so most people opt for Quant and Verbal first (IR/Essay last). So the most important part of the exam, the quant and verbal sections, is just over two hours long.
You are allowed two 8 minute breaks and there is time allotted at the beginning of each section for instructions. With breaks and instructions the GMAT is 3 hours and 29 minutes long. That said, it’s expected that you get to your GMAT appointment 30 minutes early so your GMAT exam experience will likely clock in at over four hours not including the travel time to the testing center.
No on the GMAT Quant. Yes on the Integrated Reasoning.