The Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) assesses qualitative,
verbal, analytical, and writing skills for students seeking admission to
7,000 graduate programs in business at 2,300 schools
in countries across the globe. The Graduate Management Admissions
Council (GMAC) develops and administers the test at hundreds of sites
around the world. Prospective students seeking admission to programs
such as the MBA or the master's in accounting (MAcc) typically
need to take the GMAT. A few online MAcc programs require no GMAT, but
these are rare. The weight of a GMAT score for admissions varies by
school. Applicants should recognize that the GMAT is the only piece of
the application that is truly objective and therefore is often a
high-ranking factor in admission committees' decisions.
The exam measures a test taker's skills in reasoning, critical
thinking, analysis, and making complex judgments. To perform this
evaluation, the test includes four sections: analytical writing
assessment, integrated reasoning, quantitative, and verbal. The
analytical writing section includes a single essay question. Other
sections are composed of two-part analysis questions, graphic
interpretation, data sufficiency, problem solving, reading
comprehension, and more.
Do You Need to Take the GMAT for Accounting Master's Programs?
Applicants to MAcc programs typically need to submit scores from either
the GRE or the GMAT. A few schools rely only on grades, experience, and
essays to make their decisions and offer a MAcc without the GMAT.
However, in most cases financial aid and assistantship options rely in
part on standardized test scores. Accounting students should check with
their individual schools to determine if they require GMAT scores. Some
MS in accounting degrees require no GMAT.
What Does the GMAT Look Like?
The Structure of the GMAT
The GMAT consists of four sections: analytical writing assessment,
integrated reasoning, quantitative, and verbal. The analytical writing
assessment requires students to craft an essay. The integrated reasoning
section includes two-part analysis, multi-source reasoning, graphic
interpretation, and table analysis. In the quantitative section, test
takers answer questions about data sufficiency and problem solving. The
verbal section is composed of reading comprehension, critical reasoning,
and sentence correction questions. Immediately before starting the test
at the exam center, examinees can choose the order in which to take the
four sections. Prior to arriving at the testing center, test takers
should decide on the order that makes them feel most comfortable and
Test takers may encounter experimental questions on the GMAT. These
questions do not count toward the examinee's section score or
total score. Up to 25% of questions may be experimental; the test makers
include experimental questions to help them develop new versions of the
test. Each section of the GMAT is timed, and the entire exam takes about
three hours and 30 minutes including two eight-minute breaks.
Number of Questions
Time to Complete
Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA)
Two-part analysis, multi-source reasoning, graphic interpretation,
and table analysis
Data sufficiency and problem solving
Reading comprehension, critical reasoning, and sentence correction
Examinees can take the GMAT at Pearson VUE testing centers in more than
100 countries around the world. Pearson VUE centers are independent
testing sites that administer many standardized tests. The
allows students to search by zip code for the center nearest them. The
GMAT is only available via computer to assure fairness and consistency
between exams. It is also an item-adaptive test, meaning the computer
determines the difficulty of an examinee's questions based on
previous performance. This means that by answering a difficult question
correctly, a test taker receives another more challenging question. The
multiple choice questions appear one at a time so a test taker can
neither return to a question already answered nor skip a question. This
approach means the GMAT has fewer questions, updates the score based on
all answers, and helps individualize the test, thus providing security
for the exam.
The Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) Section
In the AWA section of the GMAT, test takers demonstrate their
critical-thinking skills by finding an argument's strengths and
weaknesses. To do so, they must organize their thoughts, communicate
their ideas clearly, and evaluate an argument rigorously. These essays
should contain specific examples that support the writer's
The analytical writing assessment section contains only one question,
and test takers respond to an argument presented. They do not give their
opinion about the argument. Instead, they critique the argument by
evaluating its logic. A high-scoring essay contains fully developed
ideas arranged logically and supported with specific examples. Test
takers have 30 minutes to complete this section, and there is no minimum
or maximum word count.
The following appeared in the editorial section of a monthly
business news magazine:
"Most companies would agree that as the risk of physical
injury occurring on the job increases, the wages paid to employees
should also increase. Hence it makes financial sense for employers
to make the workplace safer: they could thus reduce their payroll
expenses and save money."
Discuss how well reasoned you find this argument. In your discussion
be sure to analyze the line of reasoning and the use of evidence in
the argument. For example, you may need to consider what
questionable assumptions underlie the thinking and what alternative
explanations or counterexamples might weaken the conclusion.
You can also discuss what sort of evidence would strengthen or
refute the argument, what changes in the argument would make it more
logically sound, and what, if anything, would help you better
evaluate its conclusion.
The GMAT prompts contain
that examinees need to identify in their essays. Test takers can fail to
point out logical fallacies in their analyses simply because they do not
recognize these flaws in reasoning. To avoid this pitfall, study major
logical fallacies such as the straw man, non sequitur, circular
arguments, and ad hominem. Many students also fail to catch errors in
grammar, spelling, or syntax. Brush up on your writing skills before the
test, and be sure to proofread your essay before submitting it.
Plan Your Essay: To avoid submitting a poorly
organized piece, use your scratch pad to order your thoughts and
evaluate your argument before you begin typing your full answer.
Use Specific Examples: Examples bolster your
argument, and GMAT graders look for specific examples in your text.
The more specific your examples, the better support they provide.
Study with a Tutor: Prepare for the test by working
with an experienced GMAT tutor or writing tutor.
Read Sample Essays: Find examples of GMAT essays on
the internet and read and evaluate the ones that received the highest
scores to determine what elements go into creating an astute essay.
The Integrated Reasoning Section
The integrated reasoning section evaluates test takers' ability to
organize information, make judgements based on data, and combine,
manipulate, and synthesize information. In this section, examinees show
their ability to see patterns amidst excess amounts of data — an
important skill for both business school and corporate careers.
The GMAT's integrated reasoning section includes four types of
questions. The first type requires test takers to use graphics, text,
and numbers to synthesize information. The second requires reviewing and
evaluating information from various sources. For the third type of
question, examinees solve multiple problems by determining relationships
in information. The final question type requires test takers to solve
complex problems using information from many sources. Examinees need to
know how to do table analysis, graphics interpretation, multi-source
reasoning, and two-part analysis to answer these questions.
Sample Question (Graphics Interpretation)
Directions: Interpret the graph or graphical image
and select the option from a drop-down list to make the answer
Yes, test takers may use the on-screen calculator for this section but
may not bring one from home.
Common Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them
Overthinking the question is an easy pitfall for test takers. Like the
verbal section, it's not necessary to absorb all the information
in the integrated reasoning question and consider every possible
ramification of each answer choice. Select the most reasonable option
and move on. This approach keeps you from becoming overwhelmed with
Careless mistakes can prove an equally prevalent problem for test
takers. The GMAT offers no partial credit, and since you cannot change
an answer on the integrated reasoning portion, minimize errors by
rechecking your work before making your selection.
Be Aware of the Question Format: Question formats on
the integrated reasoning section differ significantly from the kinds
of questions the other sections ask. Be familiar with this
section's unique style.
Ferret out Extraneous Information: Some tricky
questions include more information than needed in order to trip up
test takers. Be aware of this and try to weed out information that is
superfluous and irrelevant.
Practice Using the On-Screen Calculator:
Integrated reasoning is the only section of the GMAT that allows test
takers to use an on-screen calculator. Familiarize yourself with how
to use it before test day.
Polish Your Graph Reading Skills: Know how to read
and interpret bar graphs, line graphs, scatter plots, and other
graphics to save time on the test.
The Quantitative Reasoning Section
The GMAT's quantitative section tests math content knowledge and
analytical skills. Students answer questions drawn from algebra,
geometry, and arithmetic. The section also tests students' ability
to understand, analyze, and utilize data. It determines if test takers
can sort through information to determine what they need to solve a
The GMAT's quantitative section consists of 31 questions,
including problem solving and data sufficiency questions. Problem
solving questions are similar to the math questions on most exams. They
provide graphs, equations, or text questions, and there are five
multiple choice answers from which to select. Data sufficiency
questions, on the other hand, provide a question and two data sets. Test
takers choose which data set sufficiently answers the question. There
are more problem solving questions than data sufficiency questions on
Sample Question (Problem Solving)
If u > t, r > q, s > t, and t > r, which of the following must be
Directions: This data sufficiency problem consists
of a question and two statements, labeled (1) and (2), in which
certain data are given. You have to decide whether the data given in
the statements are sufficient for answering the question. Using the
data given in the statements, plus your knowledge of mathematics and
everyday facts (such as the number of days in July or the meaning of
the word counterclockwise), you must indicate whether:
Statement (1) ALONE is sufficient, but statement (2) alone is not
sufficient to answer the question asked.
Statement (2) ALONE is sufficient, but statement (1) alone is not
sufficient to answer the question asked.
BOTH statements (1) and (2) TOGETHER are sufficient to answer the
question asked, but NEITHER statement ALONE is sufficient to
answer the question asked.
EACH statement ALONE is sufficient to answer the question asked.
Statements (1) and (2) TOGETHER are NOT sufficient to answer the
question asked, and additional data specific to the problem are
Question: If a real estate agent received a
commission of 6 percent of the selling price of a certain house,
what was the selling price of the house?
(1) The selling price minus the real estate agent's commission
(2) The selling price was 250 percent of the original purchase price
(A) Statement (1) ALONE is sufficient, but statement (2) alone is
(B) Statement (2) ALONE is sufficient, but statement (1) alone is
(C) BOTH statements TOGETHER are sufficient, but NEITHER statement
ALONE is sufficient.
(D) EACH statement ALONE is sufficient.
(E) Statements (1) and (2) TOGETHER are NOT sufficient.
Students are not permitted to use a calculator in the quantitative
reasoning section of the GMAT.
Common Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them
Careless mistakes are one of the biggest pitfalls in the GMAT's
quantitative section because they can cause test takers to miss easy
questions. To avoid this, make sure you answer the question asked, solve
for the correct variable, and remember that "no" does not
mean "not sufficient" in the data sets. After selecting your
choice, review your answer carefully before submitting it. Another major
pitfall is over calculating. If you find yourself mired in a long,
tedious solution, see if there is a quicker, easier way to find the
Pace Yourself. Remember that unanswered questions get
marked wrong and count against you so make sure you complete the
entire section in the time allotted.
Estimate Intelligently. You can save time by
eliminating wildly incorrect answer choices by estimating the answer
and then work with what you have left.
Plug in Numbers. For the algebra problems, it is
sometimes easier to plug in the answer options as the variable instead
of working out the entire equation.
Simplify Calculations. You can use multiples of ten
to simplify the math problems on this section and use the process of
elimination to get close to the correct answer.
The Verbal Section
The verbal section tests a student's ability to understand,
analyze, and evaluate written information. Students must also show an
ability to craft arguments, evaluate them, and form a plan of action.
Finally, students demonstrate their knowledge and skill of English
language conventions regarding grammar and spelling.
The verbal section of the GMAT consists of 36 questions, including
reading comprehension, critical reasoning, and sentence correction
questions. Reading comprehension questions provide a short essay
followed by several multiple choice questions drawn from the text. To
answer critical reasoning questions, students choose which option best
supports the logic of a given statement. In sentence completion
questions, test takers select the best choice from the options to
logically complete the sentence provided. Sentence completion questions
tend to be the most prevalent.
Sample Question (Critical Reasoning)
The cost of producing radios in Country Q is ten percent less than
the cost of producing radios in Country Y. Even after transportation
fees and tariff charges are added, it is still cheaper for a company
to import radios from Country Q to Country Y than to produce radios
in Country Y.
The statements above, if true, best support which of the following
(A) Labor costs in Country Q are ten percent below those in
(B) Importing radios from Country Q to Country Y will eliminate
ten percent of the manufacturing jobs in Country Y.
(C) The tariff on a radio imported from Country Q to Country Y is
less than ten percent of the cost of manufacturing the radio in
(D) The fee for transporting a radio from Country Q to Country Y
is more than ten percent of the cost of manufacturing the radio in
(E) It takes ten percent less time to manufacture a radio in
Country Q than it does in Country Y.
Directions: This question presents a sentence, part
of which or all of which is underlined. Beneath the sentence you
will find five ways of phrasing the underlined part. The first of
these repeats the original; the other four are different. If you
think the original is best, choose the first answer; otherwise
choose one of the others.
This question tests correctness and effectiveness of expression. In
choosing your answer, follow the requirements of standard written
English; that is, pay attention to grammar, choice of words, and
sentence construction. Choose the answer that produces the most
effective sentence; this answer should be clear and exact, without
awkwardness, ambiguity, redundancy, or grammatical error.
Question: While larger banks can afford to maintain
their own data-processing operations, many smaller regional and
community banks are finding that the cost associated with upgrading
data-processing equipment and with the development and maintenance
of new products and technical staff are prohibitive.
Some students prepare for the GMAT by using the wrong test prep
materials. The GMAC puts out the only official study guides so these
materials should come first — all of other study prep aids are
supplementary. Select materials from recognized brands such as Kaplan,
Magoosh, or the Princeton Review to assure the content is high quality.
Stick with materials prepared especially for the GMAT.
Avoid spending too much time trying to memorize formulas and vocabulary.
Instead, focus on reading comprehension and problem solving skills.
Take Notes: Instead of reading passively, use your
scratch pad to take notes while you are perusing the essay so you
remain engaged with the text.
Look for the Main Idea: You are more likely to answer
challenging questions if you understand the overall concept of the
essay instead of reading it for minor subpoints.
Use the Process of Elimination: If you are not
absolutely sure of the answer, eliminate the incorrect choices and try
to find ones to disprove among the remaining options.
Simplify the Vocabulary: When you run into complex or
unfamiliar words, try replacing them with simple, everyday ones to
make sure you understand the question.
How is the GMAT Scored?
The official score report includes scores for the quantitative, verbal,
analytical writing, and integrated reasoning sections as well as a total
score. Each section contains a standard score and a percentile ranking.
Total scores vary between 200 and 800 with two-thirds of test takers
scoring between 400 and 600. The verbal and quantitative reasoning
scores range from 0 to 60. These sections are graded on a fixed scale,
and unanswered questions count against the test taker.
The GMAT uses two independent ratings to score the analytical writing
section based on the quality of the essay's ideas, how those ideas
are structured, the relevance of supporting examples, and correct use of
grammar and sentence structure. Test takers whose first language is not
English receive a fair and sensitive assessment from the graders. The
integrated reasoning section receives a score of 1-8 in single digit
intervals. To be considered correct, test takers must mark each answer
in a sequence correctly — there is no partial credit.
The GMAT provides a percentile rank, which refers to the number of test
takers you outscored. For example, if you score in the 78th percentile,
you outscored 78% of the examinees who take the GMAT. Students receive a
percentile rank for each section of the test and one overall. Percentile
scores can vary from year to year depending on how the previous
year's examinees performed. Schools can see both the standard
score and the percentile rank of each applicant who submits the GRE.
Registering for the GMAT starts with
creating a account on gmac.com. Once
registered, test takers receive helpful information, study tips,
practice questions, and information about business school. The
lets test takers enter the appropriate zip code to search for a nearby
testing center. Test takers can cancel or reschedule the GMAT online if
necessary. Rescheduling costs $60, and cancellations provide an $80
refund only if processed more than seven days before the scheduled test.
Additional fees apply for rescheduling or cancelling a test less than
seven days prior to the exam date.
When Should You Take the GMAT?
Test takers can register for the GMAT at any time during the year. A
good rule of thumb, is to take the exam two months before the first
application is due since schools need time to receive the scores.
How Much Does the GMAT Cost?
The GMAT costs $250 no matter where in the world the student takes it,
but refund policies vary by country.
How Many Times Can You Take the GMAT?
Test takers can retake the GMAT once every 16 days but no more than five
times in 12 calendar months or eight times in a lifetime.
How Should You Prepare for the GMAT?
At-Home Study Methods
Students can take advantage of a variety of at-home study methods to
prepare for the GMAT.
Printed Study Guides: MBA.com offers official printed
study guides for the GMAT, but students can find study guides from
other sources both online and in bookstores.
Flashcards: Available in both digital and analog
formats, flashcards help students learn vocabulary and practice math
facts. Flashcards are appropriate for individual and group study
Private Tutoring: Companies like Kaplan offer
one-on-one tutoring with experienced GMAT tutors. Some students also
find private tutors through general online tutoring platforms.
Studying Apps: Downloadable apps filled with practice
questions, videos, and digital flashcards can help students study on
Online Practice Tests: Students can take online
practice tests to get a feel for what the exam is like. Some practice
tests are free while others charge a fee.
GMAT Prep Courses
Private companies such as Kaplan and the Princeton Review provide
in-person and online GMAT preparation courses designed to help test
takers improve their scores. The cost of these courses can range from
around $150 to more than $1,000. Some companies provide free courses
online, although these are not typically as comprehensive. Most courses
— especially in-person ones — operate on a set schedule, but
a few are self-paced. Prep courses can include practice questions,
adaptive tests, and videos.
Studying Tips for the GMAT
Invest Time in Preparing: Make use of books,
software, blogs, tutors, and online courses that can help you be fully
prepared to score well on the exam.
Learn to Guess Strategically: Develop strategies to
use that increase your chances of choosing well when you aren't
sure of the correct answer to a question.
Take Practice Tests on the Computer: Since the GMAT
is a computerized exam, be sure to practice using a computer and not
just with books or papers.
Focus on the Fundamentals: The questions you can
answer correctly without hesitation, not the most complex questions,
tend to determine your score on the GMAT.
Work on Your Pacing: The GMAT is a timed test, so
answering questions correctly within the appropriate time frame is a
key skill to performing well on the exam.
Private educational companies offer a variety of resources to help test
takers study for the GMAT.
The official site of the GMAT, MBA.com provides all the information
test takers need on the exam, including how to register and how to
PrepScholar GMAT Blog:
PrepScholar GMAT is a test preparation program that includes, among
many other resources, a blog of free information helpful to preparing
for the exam.
Manhattan Prep offers study tools, events, live classes, on-demand
courses, and a blog with articles designed to help those studying for
the GMAT. Some of their resources are free.
Optimized for Android, iPhone, and desktop, these digital cards let
you study important concepts of grammar or math on the go.
What Should You Expect on Test Day?
On the day of the exam, test takers should arrive 30 minutes before
their scheduled time to present a valid ID and sign the testing
agreement. Friends and family may not stay at the center or communicate
with an examinee. The test begins as soon as a test taker sits down at
the computer and lasts just under 3 hours and 30 minutes. Test takers
can take advantage of two optional eight-minute breaks and may ask for
additional restroom breaks—although the clock does not stop for these.
The proctor will provide scratch paper, and any test taker who needs
more can raise a hand to ask for it.
To prevent cheating and to secure privacy, GMAT testing centers take
security seriously. Test takers can expect to produce a valid ID and
pose for a digital photograph. They also have to sign the GMAT
Non-Disclosure Agreement in which they state they understand and will
abide by the rules of the GMAT. Most importantly, testing center staff
will scan each test taker's hands using a palm vein reader, which
is a biometric device that assures each person has a single GMAT record.
What Should You Bring with You?
Valid ID: Test takers must present legible,
current identification such as a passport, government-issued
driver's license, government-issued identity card, or a
Names of Programs You Wish to Send Your GMAT Score To:
On the day of the exam, test takers select which schools should
receive their GMAT scores, so a written list is handy to have.
Appointment Confirmation Number: It's
helpful to bring a copy of the confirmation email or letter, but
examinees can still take the test without it as long as they have
An Extra Layer of Clothing: A cardigan, sweater,
or light jacket can help a test taker stay comfortable and focused
in case the testing room is chilly.
What Should You Leave at Home?
Study Notes/Books: The GMAT is not an open-notes
or open-book exam. Students must leave all study tools outside the
testing room, preferably at home or in the car.
Your Own Scratch Paper: Because scratch paper
from home could contain notes or other aids, the GMAT provides
scratch paper for examinees at the test site.
Your Own Calculator: During the integrated
reasoning portion of the GMAT, the test proctor provides examinees
with an on-screen calculator. Otherwise, using a calculator is
Watches, Cell Phones, and Other Electronic Devices:
Because these items could give test takers access to notes,
websites, or other information that offers an unfair advantage,
they are prohibited.
Leading Up to Test Day
Get a full night of rest.
Studies have shown
that lack of sleep can affect cognitive performance and test
Wear appropriate clothes.
that test takers who wear comfortable, weather-appropriate clothes
improve their understanding.
everything you need
the night before, including sharpened pencils, your photo ID, and
your appointment confirmation. This lets you avoid a frantic
search before leaving for the test.
Cram for a test the night before.
students perform better when they maintain a regular study
Stay up late. Even if you are studying or relaxing, staying up late can
interfere with your natural sleep cycles, limiting brain-boosting
Forget to exercise.
Just 20 minutes of exercise
before an exam can boost your score. You don't need a killer
workout, just a good jog, walk, or cardio session.
Neglect to bring some healthy snacks with you to the test center.
You can grab a handful of nuts or a protein bar
during a scheduled break.
Miss taking your ADHD medication.
that taking prescription medication for ADHD enhances test scores,
so make sure you are following your doctor's orders about
Accommodations for Test Takers with Disabilities or Health-Associated
Examinees who meet the Pearson VUE requirements may qualify for
accommodations by submitting a request and documentation 16-20 days
before they plan to register for the test. Accommodations are available
for ADHD, learning and cognitive disabilities, physical and systemic
disabilities, psychological disabilities, and sensory disabilities. Test
takers who need more information about qualifications and how to apply
for testing accommodations can find it
GMAT's official website.
Preview Your Test Scores
Once test takers complete the exam, they are allowed to preview their
unofficial scores before leaving the test center. Examinees can choose
to report or cancel their scores. You can elect to cancel your scores if
you believe you can do better on a subsequent test. The testing program
gives test takers two minutes to make their selections before
automatically cancelling the scores. Students who choose to report a
score but change their minds within 72 hours can still cancel the score
for a fee of $25 by going online. Cancelled scores do not show up on a
score report, but a test taker can choose to reinstate a cancelled score
for up to four years and 11 months after testing.
GMAT Enhanced Score Report
The GMAT Enhanced Score Report contains a detailed analysis of the
examinee's performance by pacing, focus areas, and question type
so students may improve their results on the next attempt. Key features
of the report include overall section performance ranking, percentage of
questions correctly answered, and a customized summary report assessing
strengths and weaknesses. Students may access the report for up to five
years by using the GMAT's official website, and the report costs
Submitting Your Scores
When Will You Get Your Official Scores?
Within 20 days of the test, you will receive an email with a link to
your official scores. Those who do not have access to email should
contact Pearson VUE for assistance.
How Do You Submit Your Scores to Schools?
On the day you take the GMAT, you may choose five schools to send your
score report to. To send scores to more than five schools, you must pay
an extra fee. Once you have chosen your score recipients, you cannot
What Scores Will Schools See If You Take the Test More Than Once?
Test takers can select to keep or cancel their scores after completing
the GMAT. Business schools do not see cancelled test scores. For a fee,
test takers can elect to reinstate cancelled scores from up to four
years and 11 months ago.
How Long Will Your Scores Be Valid?
GMAT scores are valid for five years, but test takers can request
reports for up to ten years. Scores over ten years old are no longer
available. To see scores under five years old, test takers log in to
their accounts at
request scores between five and ten years old, students must submit a
request and pay a fee.