What is GMAT? - Everything you need to know.

Updated: Jul 22

You may have come across the term GMAT while seeking a suitable school or program of study. Left wondering what the GMAT exam is all about? Here is a full detail of what you need to know about the GMAT test, history, the purpose, structure, grading system, timeline, cost, validity, and more.

What is the GMAT?

The GMAT in full is the Graduate Management Admission Test. This is a computer-based examination served in English that is aimed at testing critical thinking and reasoning abilities.

The GMAT exam is administered and developed by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC). The exam is a computer-adaptive, multi-choice, and standardised test. It is taken globally in 114 countries in over 600 test centers across the globe. The exam is used for over 6,000 programs in over 2,100 universities.

Historically, the GMAT examination was first administered in 1954. The administering body, GMAC came into operation a year before the first test. Before 1976, the test was called Admission Test for Graduate Study in Business (ATGSB).

Purpose of the GMAT Exam

From its full meaning, the GMAT is used for admitting students into business and management programs. The test measures skills and competencies that are needed for business and management studies. The test administrator, GMAC is a global association of leading graduate business schools. The exam is the major criteria used for over 90% of MBA admissions over the world. More than 7,000 graduate management and business programs rely on the GMAT exam for their admissions globally. GMAT is then an important test for any MBA or business and management-related program aspirant.

The GMAT Exam Structure

There are four basic sections of the GMAT exam. These sections are;

Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA).

This is the essay part of the GMAT exam. It is aimed at testing the writing skills of the examination taker. The assessment consists of a critiquing task. A brief argument similar to a critical reasoning question will be presented.The student will be asked to critique the point of view and opinion of the author. You will be required to justify or analyse the author’s argument.

The analytical assessment is timed 30 minutes and it is scored separately. The test is scored from 0-6. It is scored by both human graders and the computer. When there are too many variations in the grading of the computer and the human grader, another grader is given to score.

The assessment is targeted at how well the examinee can clearly organise thoughts and ideas after analysing the argument.

The Integrated Reasoning (IR)

The integrated reasoning session is a multi-choice type of testing. It is graded from 1-8. This section is made up of 12 questions for 30 minutes.

The questions are divided into four different types;

· Graphic Interpretation

· Multi-Source Reasoning questions

· Table Analysis questions

· Two-Part Analysis questions

This section tests the ability of the examinee to interpret data. The questions are usually filled with information in different forms, graphical, table, and multi-source.

The Quantitative Analysis

The quantitative section is composed of 31 questions to be completed in 62 minutes. The test is graded from 0 to 60. The questions are mathematical.

The questions are divided into two sections:

· Problem Solving questions (14 - 15)

· Data sufficiency questions (16 - 19)

This GMAT section takes into account the examinee’s knowledge of mathematics. The areas tested include geometry, algebra, arithmetic, and number properties.

Verbal Analysis

The verbal analysis in the GMAT exam is composed of 36 questions to be answered in 65 minutes. The grading is from 0 to 60.

Questions of this section can be divided into three parts:

· 14 Sentence Correction questions

· 12 Reading Comprehension questions

· 10 Critical Reasoning questions

The verbal questions test the basic command of written English, critical reasoning, reading, and analysis of arguments.

The sentence correction questions in GMAT require you to supply the best version of an underlined part of a sentence out of four options.

The reading comprehension mainly consists of a text of several paragraphs to be read and followed by 3 or 4 questions.

Finally, the critical reasoning questions are with a short argument and a question on it.

GMAT Exam Sections and Timeline

GMAT Section



Analytical Writing Assessment

30 Minutes


Integrated Reasoning

30 Minutes



62 Minutes



65 Minutes


Optional Break

16 Minutes


Total time

3 Hours 23 M


The whole GMAT exam takes a little over 3 hours, precisely 187 minutes.

There are two optional breaks of 8 minutes between the exams.

Three different available orders can be chosen from when to sit for the GMAT exam. Examinees can opt to follow any of the orders based on their preferences and preparedness.

These combination options are:

· Analytical Writing Assessment – Integrated Reasoning – Quantitative – Verbal

· Verbal – Quantitative – Integrated Reasoning – Analytical Writing Assessment

· Quantitative – Verbal – Integrated Reasoning – Analytical Writing Assessment

What is a good GMAT score

The GMAT examination is not a pass or fail exam. More attention is paid to the 200-800 scale of the score and it is usually based on percentile. This means that there is an average range of scores and schools admit based on a percentage score above this average. The mean score for the 200-800 scale is 609 in the US for 2020. A good GMAT score is usually above 600 since the average is in the 500 level.

Cost and Score Validity

The GMAT exam costs $275 in the US including the cost of sending the result to 5 different institutions. The test score has a 5 years validity period.

Final Thoughts on the GMAT Exam

The GMAT examination is a standardised test that has been for several decades. It has become a basic requirement for admissions into business and management programs. This makes it a` very important consideration for any aspirant of such program especially MBA.


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