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All about the GMAT and how to prepare for it

The GMAT is a required exam for most business schools and a critical part of your MBA admissions journey. Read on to learn about the test and what to expect on test day.

All about the GMAT and how to prepare for it

The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) is a standardized examination used to assess graduate business school applicants in the United States and several other countries. It is accepted by more than 7,000 programs at over 2,300 graduate business schools and is taken by about 260,000 students each year. The test is owned by the Graduate Management Admission Council, a “global, non-profit association of leading graduate business schools,” and is administered by Pearson VUE.

GMAT Sections

The GMAT includes four sections: analytical writing assessment, integrated reasoning, quantitative, and verbal. In the analytical writing assessment, test-takers must write an essay that analyzes a given argument. The essay task is strictly analytical rather than argumentative; students should not write their own opinions of the featured subject. Integrated reasoning questions require students to synthesize information from a variety of verbal, graphical, and numerical sources, using both quantitative and verbal reasoning skills. The quantitative section is based on problem-solving, quantitative reasoning, and interpretation of graphs and tables, using basic arithmetic, algebra, and geometry. The verbal section focuses on comprehension and evaluation of written texts as well as some vocabulary. Basic knowledge of the English language is assumed, but students do not need to be familiar with the specific subjects that appear in test passages in order to successfully answer the questions.

Traditional GMAT Structure

Until July of 2017, every administration of the GMAT used the same structure, and this traditional section order remains an option for test-takers. The analytical writing assessment is given at the beginning of the test. Students have 30 minutes to write an essay in which they discuss the argument presented in a single textual passage. The integrated reasoning section is the next portion of the test; it includes 12 multi-part questions over 30 minutes. Answer choices for many of these questions are binary (e.g. true/false or yes/no), but some types of integrated reasoning questions include three or four answer options. The quantitative section, 37 multiple-choice questions in 75 minutes, is the third segment of the test to be administered. The GMAT concludes with the verbal section, which is 41 multiple-choice questions over 75 minutes. Total testing time is 210 minutes (3 and a half hours). Students are allowed to take 8-minute breaks before each of the last two sections, but they are not required to do so. The best way to familiarize yourself with the test is to take a few free GMAT practice questions on the Manhattan Review website. A full practice test is also available.

2017 and 2018 GMAT Changes

Since July of 2017, students have been allowed to pick any one of three exam structures when they begin the test. The first option is the original section order described in the preceding paragraph. The other two possibilities are verbal, quantitative, integrated reasoning, and analytical writing; and quantitative, verbal, integrated reasoning, and analytical writing. As of April 16, 2018, the GMAT will be reduced by 30 minutes, mostly through a smaller number of questions on the verbal and quantitative sections. The new quantitative section will be 31 questions in 62 minutes (6 fewer questions and 13 fewer minutes), while the new verbal section will be 36 questions in 65 minutes (5 fewer questions and 10 fewer minutes). Students will now be allowed to view the required video tutorial online at home, which further reduces test time by about 7 minutes.

GMAT Administration

All students will take the GMAT entirely on a test center computer (the GMAT paper test is no longer offered). The computer is used to write the essay for the analytical writing assessment, and it also presents questions and records answers for all of the other sections. The computerized GMAT requires only the most basic computer skills, such as familiarity with tabs and drop-down menus. The computer calculates raw scores for the multiple-choice sections, which are then converted to total scores. Essays are graded by qualified and trained college professors from several academic disciplines, and also by a computerized scoring program. Computer adaptation is a feature of the verbal and quantitative sections of the GMAT, in order to control for slight variations in test difficulty level and ensure that each administration is as fair as possible.

GMAT Scoring

Each of the GMAT’s four sections is scored separately. Test-takers receive a total score that is based on the verbal and quantitative sections only, individual scores for each section, and a percentile ranking that compares their performance to other students from the past three years. The total score is the most widely used number in business school class profiles and in everyday discussion of the GMAT. Many admissions consultants believe that the GMAT scores most relevant to business school acceptance are the total scores and the quantitative scores, which together may account for as much as 25% of admissions decisions. In most cases, the GMAT is a more significant factor in business school applications than undergraduate GPA.

The GMAT total score ranges from 200 to 800, to which the verbal and quantitative sections contribute an amount that is roughly equal. The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) does not disclose the conversion formula, but some evidence suggests that the verbal score might be given slightly more weight. Scores are based on the number of correct answers in these sections and the level of difficulty associated with each question. Students receive unofficial scores, which are calculated by computer, immediately after finishing the test. According to GMAC, two-thirds of all test-takers score between 400 and 600, and the average total score is approximately 550. A score of 700 is in the 88th percentile, and a score of 750 is in the 98th percentile.

Verbal and Quantitative Scores

Students also receive verbal and quantitative section scores of 0 to 60 each. These are referred to by GMAC as “scaled scores,” and they are determined by a computer-adaptive algorithm that accounts for the difficulty level of each question (or more precisely, the probability that a student at a specific score level will answer that question correctly). The number of correct answers that correspond to a particular scaled score will therefore vary (25 correct answers, for example, may produce a scaled score between 28 and 30). GMAC data shows that high verbal scores are far less common than high quantitative scores. Though scores for both sections are given within the same range, the mean quantitative score is about 39, while the average verbal score is below 27. A verbal score of 46 is in the 99th percentile of all test-takers, but a 46 quantitative score is only in the 60th percentile. Verbal scores below 9 and above 44 are characterized as “rare” by GMAC, as are quantitative scores below 7 and above 50.

Integrated Reasoning Scores

Integrated reasoning scores do not count toward the total GMAT score. IR scores are reported on a scale of 1 to 8 in one-point increments. Scores for the integrated reasoning section are calculated from the number of correct answers, and each part of a multi-step problem must be answered correctly in order to receive credit. GMAC reports the mean GMAT integrated reasoning score as 4.23, with a score of 7 in the 82nd percentile and a perfect score of 8 in the 93rd percentile.

Analytical Writing Assessment Scores

The analytical writing score is graded from 1 to 6 in half-point increments. The essay is scored by a human grader and by a software program. If these two scores vary by more than one point, a second human grader is brought in to provide an additional assessment. GMAC indicates that the average analytical writing score is 4.44, with 5.5 representing the 80th percentile and 6.0 the 89th. Analytical writing scores do not factor into the total GMAT score.

Test Centers in the Philippines

As of the time of this posting, there are two test centers that administer the GMAT in the Philippines. One is the MISNet Incorporated located in Cebu City (32 2531536) and the other is MISNet Inc. in Makati City Manila (2 751-2871).

GMAT Strategy

Success on the GMAT depends on more than just superior content knowledge. Although it is obviously important to have as much mastery of the skills tested on the GMAT’s four areas as possible, students must be able to demonstrate these skills within the constraints of the exam. By the time test day arrives, prospective graduate students should be thoroughly familiar with the structure of the test, the directions for each section, and the types of exercises typically included in each portion of the exam. Rigorous daily practice with GMAT materials (both official and unofficial) will develop this familiarity. It is also crucial that test-takers learn to manage their time effectively, and if necessary, make educated guesses on difficult questions. Strategic approaches to the GMAT can easily make quite a difference in student scores and business school admission prospects.

The importance of physical comfort on test day should not be underestimated. Students should make sure that they are getting the proper amount of rest in the days leading up to the test, and nutrition is also a significant component of physical well-being. When taking the GMAT, comfortable clothing is preferable to business attire. Physical health, vigor, and comfort can go a long way toward building confidence, reducing stress, and improving cognitive function while undergoing the demanding task of completing a lengthy and difficult examination. Test-takers should be familiar with the location of their test’s administration as well as the typical traffic conditions at the time of day they have chosen, to ensure that they arrive at the test center on time.

Studying for the GMAT is an investment of time, energy, and determination. While there is nothing more exciting than attending the school of your dreams, adequate preparation for the exam can’t be overlooked and must be considered carefully. Become ready by becoming familiar with the exam and knowing your weaknesses, so you can turn them into strengths. To find out about the GMAT preparation options with Manhattan Review in the Philippines, please check out this website or directly fill out this form to receive further information.


About Manhattan Review:
Manhattan Review, an international test prep firm, mainly offering preparation for admissions test needed to apply for US-based universities and schools, such as GMAT, GRE, LSAT, SAT ACT, SSAT, ISEE, and TOEFL. Founded in 1999 by Dr. Joern Meissner, an internationally renowned business school professor, our company helps students gain entrance to their desired degree programs by working to improve their admission test scores. Headquartered in New York City, Manhattan Review operates in the Philippines and many cities in South East Asia including Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and Jakarta.