GMAT Exam: Format, Eligibility & Tips

The GMAT exam is one of the most well-known examinations for admissions into MBA courses. As per the Financial Times Global MBA Ranking 2020 data (Application Trends Survey 2020), 9 out of 10 applicants to the top100-ranked MBA courses applied with scores obtained in admissions tests. 7 out of 10 such applicants appeared for GMAT according to the report. 2,00,000 candidates appear for the examination annually across the world and 7,000 masters and MBA courses use the scores of the same for admissions in more than 2,300 schools as well. More than 110 countries accept GMAT score reports and there are 650 testing sites globally for the same.

What is the GMAT exam?

It is a computer-adaptive examination that assesses four individually timed sections, namely Analytical Writing Assessment, Integrated Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning and Verbal Reasoning for admission to postgraduate management courses like MBAs and Master’s in Finance. The GMAT exam’s full form is Graduate Management Aptitude Test, and it is a 3.5-hour test, inclusive of breaks and test guidelines. Candidates can flexibly customize the examination and select their preferred section order as well. Aadhar cards are also being accepted now as valid proof of identity with effect from 8th April 2021.

Importance of the GMAT exam:

The GMAT exam in India and other countries is sure to impact the entire educational and professional journey of an applicant. Most leading business schools and universities use GMAT scores for taking admission related decisions. The examination is the most preferred and widely used indicator of academic prowess in professional degree courses. Reports indicate 90% of admission decisions are usually taken on the basis of GMAT scores.

The examination helps in tracking the aspirant’s skills in relation to what leading business schools desire. Testing is readily available throughout the world and even recruiters often include this as a parameter for hiring purposes. Companies look at communication skills, quantitative/technical abilities and proven performance ability while hiring candidates. The score itself testifies towards the last two attributes at least.

Types of GMAT examinations:

There are online and offline modes of the examination. On the whole, learning about the various sections of the examination will help you greatly. There are four sections within the GMAT exam itself. These include the following:

  •       Analytical Writing Assessment-: This section will measure the ability of candidates with regard to communicating their own ideas and also thinking critically on problems.
  •       Integrated Reasoning-: This section tracks the abilities of candidates with regard to data analysis and also evaluation of all information that is given through various formats.
  •       Quantitative Reasoning-: This tracks the ability of candidates with regard to analyzing data and also coming to logical and valid conclusions with the help of their skills of reasoning.
  •       Verbal Reasoning-: This section measures candidates’ abilities with regard to reading and absorbing written information and for argument evaluation. It also tracks their capabilities to read and correct written information for adhering to certain written English standards.

The four sections are all timed separately. You can take two 8 minute breaks (optional) in the course of the entire examination.

This table will give you a better idea of the process:

Section of Examination Question Count and Timing Type of Questions Range of Scores
Analytical Writing Assessment 1 question and 30 minutes Analyzing any passage/argument 0-6 (via 0.5 point increments)
Integrated Reasoning 12 questions and 30 minutes Interpreting Graphics, Reasoning from multiple sources, Analyzing Tables, Two-part analytical questions 1-8 (increments in 1 point each)
Quantitative Reasoning 31 questions and 62 minutes Solving Problems and Data Sufficiency 6-51 (increments in 1 point each)
Verbal Reasoning 36 questions and 65 minutes Critical Reasoning, Comprehension and Reading and Correcting Sentences 6-51 (increments in 1 point each)

Eligibility for GMAT examination:

GMAC (Graduate Management Admission Council) is the body holding the examination and it doesn’t not have any set eligibility criteria for the same. Yet, there should be complete adherence to the eligibility guidelines of the college/university where the applicant wishes to get admission post the examination. Here are some basic criteria that you should keep in mind:

  •       Candidates should be at least 18 years of age.
  •       Upper age limit is not there for any aspirant.
  •       Those between 13-17 years of age should get written permission from legal guardians or parents.
  •       GMAC has not officially given any statement with regard to required qualifications of candidates.
  •       Those who want to enroll in MBA courses should have graduate degrees from any recognized institution.

Registration procedure for GMAT examination:

GMAC has stipulated registration for the examination at 6 months prior to the test date or at the most by 24 hours before the examination date. Yet, you should note that slots will be unavailable if you book at the eleventh hour. You should ideally book slots in advance prior to the planned date of examination. Registration methods include by postal mail, online and by phone.

Candidates can take GMAT anytime as per their wishes. However, they can only reschedule the next test attempt post 16 days after taking the first one. A maximum of five attempts are allowed in a single year. Here are the registration steps that you need to know:

  •       Go to the official GMAT site.
  •       Create an account.
  •       Provide personal information including name, address and so on.
  •       Provide your work and academic information.
  •       Verify your details before submitting.
  •       Schedule the examination date. Select a convenient or nearest testing center.
  •       Then choose the date and time slot accordingly.
  •       Pay the registration fee online via credit or debit cards.
  •       Your registration will be completed after making the payment.

The peak season for the GMAT exam starts from November each year. Try and book your chosen slot around 3-4 months before your preferred date. You can pay via cheque and schedule the examination through postal mail. You can also register through phone, calling the customer service number for your region. US$10 is the payable surcharge for this facility.

Fees for GMAT examination:

The examination fees are $250 (application) and this is approximately INR 18,300. Extra charges apply if you wish to change your testing center or reschedule your examination. Those not appearing for the examination will have to bear the total fee. Cancelling the examination 1-14 days prior to the date of testing will lead to a charge of $200 (approx. INR 14,700) and you will get a refund of $50 (INR 3,700). However, canceling 15-60 days before your examination slot will lead to charges of $175 (approx. INR 12,840) and a refund of $75 (INR 5,500) will be given. If you cancel more than 60 days before your examination date, you will get a refund of $100 (approx. INR 7,300) while $150 (approx. INR 11,000) will be deducted. The slot cannot be modified or canceled within 24 hours of the scheduled appointment.

$150 (approx. INR 11,000) is the rescheduling charge, if done 1-14 days prior to the date of testing. Rescheduling 15-60 days before the testing date means a charge of $100 (approx. INR 7,300). Rescheduling more than 60 days before the date of testing means a charge of $50(INR 3,700). All charges are in US dollars.

Important GMAT exam dates to know:

There are no official or specified GMAT exam dates for 2021 as per reports. Candidates may opt for any particular date based on their own wishes and overall availability. Retaking the examination is possible after a period of 16 days as mentioned earlier. The test may be taken for a maximum of five times annually as well. Candidates should register 2-3 months prior to the actual examination date. Registration via phone or online may help you register till 24 hours prior to the date of the examination. However, advance registration is always a safer choice.

GMAT exam syllabus and pattern:

The GMAT examination pattern is as follows:

  •       Analytical Writing
  •       Integrated Reasoning
  •       Quantitative Reasoning
  •       Verbal Reasoning

Aspirants may choose to take two breaks of 8 minutes (optional) throughout their examination. Here’s taking a closer look at the GMAT exam syllabus.

Syllabus of GMAT exam

GMAT is a 3.5-hour test, and an aspirant can score a maximum of 800 points. It evaluates the candidate’s abilities on various parameters. Here are the section wise syllabus details:

Analytical Writing Assessment-:

  1. Argument Essay- This deals with analysis of any particular argument/reasoning and then presentation of the candidate’s own argument in this regard.
  2. Issue Essay- Aspirants will have to write essays on issues given to them and the word count is roughly 600. They may provide their own opinions in support of/against the issue provided.

Integrated Reasoning-:

  1. Table Analysis- This measures the ability of aspirants to analyze and sort tables containing specific data.
  2. Two-Part Analysis- This tracks candidates’ abilities with regard to complex problem-solving. They may be quantitative, verbal or both.
  3. Multi-Source Reasoning- Candidates will be measured on the basis of their ability to analyze data from various tables/sources, text passages, graphics.
  4. Graphics Interpretation- Candidates will be assessed on information interpretation in graphical images like pie charts or curves and graphs.

Quantitative Reasoning-

  1. Data Sufficiency- Candidates have to analyze problems of quantitative nature, identify vital data and determine necessary data for problem solving. Topics contained here include Elementary Algebra, Geometry, Ratio Proportions, Arithmetic, Exponents and Roots, Integers and their Properties, Linear Equations and Permutation and Combinations.
  2. Problem Solving- Candidates have to deploy analytical reasoning techniques and logic for problem solving.

Verbal Reasoning-

  1. Critical Reasoning- This section tracks abilities to evaluate and create arguments while formulating strategies or action plans.
  2. Reading Comprehension – Candidates have to demonstrate ability to create inferences, absorb logical connections between vital points, understand statements and words and follow quantitative concepts and how they are developed. Reading skills include application, inference, main idea, logical structure, style and support for an idea.
  3. Sentence Correction- This section will deal with correcting grammar and structure in sentences. Aspects like subject-verb agreement, rhetorical sentence construction, unseen passages, finding errors, countable and uncountable, misplaced modifiers and parallelism will be important in this section.

Calculation of GMAT scores:

There is a fixed scale for reporting of scores in your four sections of the GMAT exam and the total score, i.e. five sections in all. These official scores will be contained in the report. The total score report will include Quantitative and Verbal scores only.

Section Score Band
Quantitative 0-60 (with percentile) 
Verbal 0-60 (with percentile)
AWA 0-6 (half integers and with percentile)
Integrated Reasoning 1-8 (integer)
Total 200-800 (with percentile)

Here are the minimum and maximum scores for every section along with the mean average that you can expect.

Examination Portion Range of Scores (Minimum-Maximum) Mean Score Threshold
AWA 0-6 4.5
Verbal 0-60 27
Integrated Reasoning 1-8 4
Quantitative 0-60 38
Total Score 200-800 548

Getting GMAT examination results:

It is not difficult to obtain GMAT exam results. Aspirants will receive their respective links from the GMAC on their registered email addresses. They should adhere to instructions given in this email and check the official scores.

Vital tips for GMAT:

Here are some crucial tips that you should keep in mind:

  •       Getting hold of suitable GMAT resources and study materials is important along with books.
  •       GMAT score validity is the same as that of GRE. Wondering how long is the GRE score valid? Both exam scores remain valid for five years in total. Aspirants should carefully analyze the deadlines of several universities for applications and schedule their examinations likewise.
  •       The Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative exam portions are basically computer-adaptive tests, i.e. the test difficulty will be customized on the basis of the aspirant’s prowess. The first question will have a medium difficulty level. With candidates answering one question after another, the machine will score the same and use responses for choosing the next level of difficulty. Answering the first question right means a tougher question may come next. The procedure continues throughout the entire section.
  •       You cannot return to any question or skip any question or even change your answers later on.
  •       Build your strategy early on for GMAT. There are several aspects worth remembering including LORs (letters of recommendation), essays, sending resumes and a lot more.
  •       Keep taking practice tests and work on your weaknesses early on. Keep assessing your own results and build customized plans for studying.
  •       Be realistic from the start; getting 700 or more is not always possible.
  •       Time is limited in the examination. Practice answering all the sections without getting stuck anywhere.
  •       Penalties are there for not completing a section of the examination. Your score may come down with every question that is not answered. Pace yourself suitably and do not get stuck on any particular question. A maximum of 2 ½ minutes is recommended for every question. If you simply do not know the answer, taking a calculated guess may be a good move.
  •       Enhance your powers of visual understanding, i.e. quickly deciphering charts, symbols and graphs or tables. GMAT commonly has these types of questions and you should practice swift interpretation before taking the examination.
  •       Do calculations mentally while taking practice tests. Do not reach out for your calculator instantly. It will not be available in the Quantitative portion and practicing mental mathematics is very important.

These tips will help you prepare better for the GMAT exam.

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