OnlineMBA Guide: Getting Into a Program with the GMAT

The Graduate Management Admissions Test, popularly known as the GMAT, is a standardized examination that is used by business schools around the world to assess those applying to management education programs, including online MBA programs. It is designed to measure analytical, verbal, writing, and mathematical skills, which are not quickly nor easily obtained but rather developed over time through education and work experience. Given its design, the GMAT is used as a predictor of academic performance and ability to be successful in the advanced study of business and management, as well as a realistic indicator of present and future ability in management positions.


Why the GMAT?

No two people are alike and neither are their educational backgrounds, employment history, professional experience, nor their career abilities. All of these variations can make it difficult for admissions departments to compare, narrow down, and select appropriate applicants for their online MBA programs. Considering this challenge, admissions departments need at least one form of assessment that is the same for every candidate in which to compare applicants to one another, hence the need for the GMAT. As a standardize form of assessment, the GMAT is often one of several selection criteria for online MBA and other types of graduate management programs. In fact, more than 1,500 institutions in 83 countries use the GMAT as a part of the selection criteria for over 4,800 programs, according to the Graduate Management Admissions Council. Even though no candidate is admitted into an MBA program on GMAT test scores alone, those who score higher on this exam do increase their likelihood of acceptance into highly competitive schools and programs.

How the GMAT Works

  1. The GMAT is separated into three main parts; the analytical writing assessment, the quantitative section, and the verbal section. First, there is the analytical writing assessment which is made up of two writing tasks the Analysis of an Issue and Analysis of an Argument. During these tasks you must analyze an issue, explain your point of view on an issue, analyze the reasoning behind an argument, and critique that argument. This part is purposed to evaluate one’s analytical thinking about issues and arguments, as well as measure their ability to explore issues and formulate critiques.
  2. Second, there is the quantitative section which consists of multiple choice questions pertaining to data sufficiency and problem solving. The questions that have to do with data sufficiency will require you to analyze a quantitative problem, determine relevant information, and decide if there is sufficient information to solve a problem. Questions that deal with problem solving are supposed to test your mathematical skills, comprehension of mathematical concepts, and ability to reason and solve quantitative problems.
  3. Third, is the verbal section which consists of multiple choice questions that deal with reading comprehension, critical reasoning, and sentence correction. When it comes to reading comprehension questions, you will have to read selected material and then answer interpretive, applied, and inferential questions about it. Critical reasoning questions will require you to use your reasoning abilities concerning the creation and evaluation of arguments and plans of action. Finally, when it comes to sentence correction questions you will have the chance to demonstrate your language proficiency as you are tested on English style and grammar as well as the correct ways to linguistically express ideas and relationships.

Preparing for the GMAT

The purpose of the GMAT is not to assess your business knowledge, job skills, undergraduate education, or understanding of a specific subject, so preparing for it can be a little tricky. For those who prefer confidence over nerves on test day, it is recommended that they begin preparing for the GMAT about three to six months beforehand. This can be done in several ways, on your own, with a group, or a combination of both. A highly-disciplined person may be able to study for the GMAT completely on their own, but one who tends to get easily distracted may want to consider a prep course with group study.

As there are no specific subjects to study or theories and terms to memorize, the best way to prepare for the GMAT is to make sure that you are familiar with the exam and what it will require of you. First, it’s important to understand the format as the more comfortable you are with it the more likely you are to perform well. There are many resources available from the Graduate Management Admissions Council that can help you become more familiar with the GMAT such as GMATPrep software, which simulates the test taking experience and official GMAT review guides, which can help you to better understand each exam section with questions, answers, and explanations.

Second, it may help to work with someone who knows more about the GMAT than you such as a tutor or course instructor. Preparation courses are available from organizations like the Princeton Review, Kaplan, Veritas Prep, and Manhattan GMAT. These types of courses typically go over information and concepts that will appear on the GMAT, help test takers identify the areas that they need to improve on, and distribute customizable homework to improve in those areas. Those who are interested in enrolling in a prep class from one of these organizations may want to check out GMAT Test Prep: A User’s Guide from Bloomberg Businessweek to see which one may be worth their time and money.

Taking the GMAT

It is recommended that MBA program hopefuls take the GMAT about a year before they plan to enroll in an MBA program. The GMAT is offered year-round and administered at testing centers around the world. While test availability depends on the test center of your choice, most centers have flexible scheduling and offer multiple time slots throughout the week. The Graduate Management Admissions Council can help you find a test center that is at a convenient location so that you can schedule an appointment to take the GMAT as per your schedule.

The GMAT can be taken up to five times but only once per month, so taking it well before you plan on beginning an MBA program can be beneficial in the case that your first score is unsatisfactory. Unofficial score reports for verbal, quantitative, and total scores are available immediately after the exam, which can help you then determine if you would like to retake it. Official score reports are available online within 20 days of your test date, which can then be accessed by you and the MBA programs requested to receive them. Given this time range, it is very important that you take the GMAT in plenty of time to have the scores sent out before application deadlines.

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