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Introduction to the GMAT

What is the GMAT?

GMAT stands for “Graduate Management Admission Test.”  Just as the SAT is an admission test high school students need to take to get into college, the GMAT is an admission test after-college folks in the business world need to take to get into business school.  The vast majority of MBA programs required a recent GMAT as an essential part of the admission process.  Different schools use and judge GMAT scores in different ways.  As a general rule, a good score on the GMAT can give an applicant a strong competitive edge in applying to the best business schools.


Who writes the GMAT?

The GMAT is created by GMAC, the “Graduate Management Admission Council”, a private company headquartered in Reston, VA outside of Washington, D.C.  The GMAC reflects the concerns of both business schools and private industry, theoretically soliciting their views in shaping the GMAT.


How much does it cost to take the GMAT?

As of October, 2011, it costs $250 (U.S.)


How do I register to take the GMAT?

Go to GMAC’s website,, for complete information and to make an appointment to take the GMAT.  As part of that process, you will be able to select a testing center near you.


What is the format of the test?

You will take the test on a computer at an official testing center.  You will need to present valid I.D. (such as a Driver’s License + a major credit card).  You will have to lock up your personal belongings (cell phone, wallet, etc.) before you are allowed to take a seat at a computer.  You are not allowed to take a calculator, notes, or even blank paper into the testing room.

Some sections of the test employ Computer-Adaptive Testing (CAT), which means the difficulty level of the questions is adjusted automatically as you move through the test.  See this post: for more details on the CAT.

The testing center will provide you with a booklet of five erasable noteboard and dry erase pens, so you can write things down if you need to.  The Integrated Reasoning section has an on-screen calculator, but the Quantitative section is calculator-free.   See this post: for more details on that.


What are the sections on the GMAT?

1) First you will have the Analytic Writing Section (AWA), which presents the “Analysis of an Argument.”  This is 30 minutes.

2) The AWA is followed immediate by the 30 minute Integrated Reasoning section (IR).  This section has 12 questions and does not employ CAT. This section is new, as of June 5, 2012.

3) Optional short break (less than 8 minutes)

4) Quantitative section: 75 minutes, 37 questions, employs CAT

5) Optional short break (less than 8 minutes)

6) Verbal section: 75 minutes, 41 questions, employs CAT

The entire ordeal, including all the initial paperwork, will take just under 5 hours.  For a sense of the difficulty on the Quant & Verbal sections, see the Magoosh GMAT Diagnostic Test.


See this post for information about the score report.


By the way, sign up for our 1 Week Free Trial to try out Magoosh GMAT Prep!

6 Responses to Introduction to the GMAT

  1. Clara January 29, 2016 at 5:43 am #


    This is a really interesting blog!

    I need to take the GMAT and I need a really good score. I will really engage in the studies, but I need to ask you:

    How many months do you think its needed before the exam? (assuming Im starting from zero)

    Thank you so much!!


    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert January 29, 2016 at 11:13 am #

      Hi Clara!

      That depends if “starting from zero” means you have never had to study these kinds of topics (math and verbal) or whether this is just your first time studying for the GMAT. We like to recommend a good general rule of thumb of around 3 months of study, but many people spend longer (anywhere from 3-6 months) if they are prepared in advance, and many students find out late that they must take the GMAT and prepare in a month or less. 😮

      You should give yourself enough time to actually learn–not cram!–and revise if necessary. It is also prudent to schedule your GMAT early enough that if you should need to retake it, you can do that comfortably. So, the short answer is that 2-3 months is ideal unless you know right away that you’ll need a lot of extra study.

      I hope that helps. 🙂

  2. Faruk July 14, 2012 at 9:05 am #

    Hey Mike…As I told you earlier, I am going to buy the Magoosh Premium Account on tomorrow..I hope you will support me to break the 600 level…:) By the way, how I will contact with you after having the account ?

    • Mike MᶜGarry
      Mike July 15, 2012 at 9:34 am #

      Faruk: I am glad to hear you are signing up: I think Magoosh will profoundly help your GMAT performance. Through the Magoosh website, you can always email, and I and GMAT experts can answer any questions you have.
      Mike 🙂

      • Faruk July 15, 2012 at 11:06 am #

        Thanks Mike..but I will be happy if you provide me the detailed solution via the given e-mail…I am really weak in verbal…:( …and honestly I find your posts most helpful…:)

        • Mike MᶜGarry
          Mike July 16, 2012 at 5:00 pm #

          I’m glad you find these posts helpful. Thank you for telling me.
          Mike 🙂

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