What is the GMAT? Everything You Need to Know

If you’ve made the announcement that you’re applying to business school only to have friends and family wince and ask if you “have to” take the GMAT test, it can be a little scary…to say the least. If you don’t know much about the GMAT exam, you should know this: The GMAT gets a bad rap. Is it challenging? Definitely. The GMAT, meaning the Graduate Management Admission Test, likes to throw out a battery of questions in unusual formats you’ve never seen before.

Furthermore, like a crazy psychic mastermind, it adapts the difficulty level of questions based on how well you’ve answered questions so far (oh, it’s a computer-based test or CAT) But can you master the GMAT exam? Yes! Read on to find out all about the GMAT, from the definition of GMAT to what skills it tests to how you can prepare for a great score.

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To learn all about GMAT topics and how to approach them (as well as all about the GMAT itself), read on!

What is the GMAT? Meaning and Introduction

What does GMAT actually mean? GMAT stands for Graduate Management Admissions Test, meaning, you can think of it as “the MBA test,” because students who take it do so as part of their business school applications. The GMAT is created and administered by GMAC, which works with both business schools and businesses to determine appropriate content for the test.

What Do You Take the GMAT Test For?

Here’s the shortened GMAT definition: The GMAT is for students pursuing graduate-level education in business and management, typically an MBA. Now that you know what GMAT means, you may be wondering: what is the GMAT used for? 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 require a recent GMAT score 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.

How Do You Take the GMAT? (GMAT Registration)

How does GMAT registration work? To take the GMAT test, you’ll need to register on the official GMAC website, MBA.com.

In most of the world, the GMAT registration fee is $250 (US), but that price can differ in the U.S., Canada, and Europe; see the article “How Much Does the GMAT Cost?” for details. You’ll also need a valid ID in order to take the test; we’ll get into more about what this means for international students in a few moments.

How Often is the GMAT Exam Offered?

Most test-takers will be relieved to know that the GMAT exam is available on-demand at test centers worldwide on most days of the year. National holidays are a notable exception. So if you’re worried about GMAT exam dates, don’t be! There are plenty left.

That said, you should schedule your GMAT test dates well in advance. Depending on the size of your town, you may or may not have multiple test centers to choose from. Regardless, register early.

If you’re struggling to figure out the best time of day to take the GMAT, the answer really depends on you. When do you usually study and take practice GMAT tests? Are you an early riser or a night owl? When do you feel most alert? These are all things you should consider when selecting the best time of day to take your GMAT exam.

How often you can take the GMAT exam is a very different question from how often the GMAT is offered. While the GMAT is offered very frequently, you can only take the GMAT once in any 16-day period, and only five times within a twelve-month period.

Where is the GMAT Exam Offered?

Many test centers around the world offer the GMAT. With that said, the majority of these test centers tend to be in larger cities (you can find centers near you on the GMAT website). If you don’t live in one of these cities, make sure to plan your travel far in advance.

In fact, it’s even worth doing a test run to scout out your test location. Think about it: you will no doubt be nervous on your test day. Don’t add any stress by getting lost en route. Make sure to visit your test site prior to your test day to do a dry run of your transportation.

You may also gain valuable information. For example, many test centers have a special accommodations room. However, some (not all!) make a provision that if no testers are scheduled who need the space, then it is open to whomever shows up first. And that’s just one of many benefits of learning about your test center in advance!

What is a CAT, Anyway?

As I mentioned earlier, the GMAT is a CAT. And, no, I haven’t lost my mind—CAT means computer adaptive test. The GMAT is computer adaptive, which means that the level of difficulty of the questions adapts to your skill level. Questions appear on your computer screen one at a time. You must answer and confirm each question before you can move forward to the next question.

This has definite consequences for you as a test taker! After you have answered a question, you cannot change your answer. Within each set of multiple-choice questions, the items are selected by the computer software, depending on your response to the previous question.

The first question is always a medium-difficulty question. If you answer it correctly, your next question will be more difficult and worth more points. If you answer the first question incorrectly, your next question will be less difficult and worth fewer points.

In the end, thanks to the CAT format, your GMAT score is based on a complex formula that includes the number of questions that you answer correctly and the difficulty level of each question. This process allows an accurate assessment of your individual ability level in a given subject area.

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What Does the GMAT Exam Evaluate?

While at first glance, the GMAT may appear to contain a motley collection of questions, there is most definitely a method to the (apparent) madness! Take it from GMAC, which explains that “The GMAT exam measures higher-order reasoning skills.”

These are the kind of reasoning skills that we’d want business executives to have: determining not only what information is present, but also what information is needed and what we can do with the information in a variety of contexts.

What Does the GMAT Test Do?

The GMAT will test these reasoning skills in a wide variety of ways: through your written analysis of an argument, your ability to interpret data, your quantitative reasoning skills, and your verbal reasoning skills. We’ll look at the question types in each section in more detail in a little bit, but you can also take a look at the most commonly tested GMAT question types here.

How Does the GMAT Test Your Skills?

To put the GMAT in terms that many American students will understand, the GMAT is like a harder (well, much harder) version of the SAT. Think: multiple-choice questions, verbal and math sections, an essay—and that 200-800 scaled score.

On the other hand, the GMAT tests your skills in different ways from the SAT, as well. Remember, this is a computer-based exam (which the SAT is not), and 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.

Test day will also look different from your SAT experience. Again, you’ll be at a computer. The testing center will provide you with a booklet of five erasable noteboards 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—another way the GMAT is harder than the SAT.

But then again, business school is harder than college, so that makes sense.

How Does the GMAT Exam Reflect What You’ll Do in Business School?

The GMAT is a pretty good evaluation of executive business skills. There’s actually a correlation between GMAT scores and starting salaries, implying that there’s definitely a correlation and possibly some causation there, too.

GMAT questions use business-based scenarios whenever possible, though this will vary on some Quant and Verbal problems by necessity. Even though the GMAC is a private company, it tries to test both skills needed to successfully make it through a B-school curriculum and to succeed in private industry.

In short? Don’t despair—the time you put into prepping for the GMAT has the potential to help you through business school and even for the rest of your career. Pretty good return on investment, eh?

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Format of the GMAT Exam

What can you expect when you walk through the doors of the test center for your official exam? Well, first of all, a lot of paperwork. Once you sit down at your station, however, you should know exactly what to expect. With that in mind, here’s the rundown on GMAT sections and their timing.

Overview of GMAT Sections

Think of this as your GMAT exam syllabus. On test day, you’ll see these sections on the GMAT exam, though you can choose the order in which you work on them:

  1. Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA/Essay) (one question)
  2. Integrated Reasoning (12 multi-part questions)
  3. Quantitative Reasoning (31 questions)
  4. Verbal Reasoning (36 questions)

You can find more in-depth info on the GMAT’s format here.

Overview of GMAT Timing

While, technically, you’ll only be testing for 3 hours and 30 minutes, you should allow five hours for the entire GMAT exam. This is because of that aforementioned paperwork, as well as optional breaks.

After you’ve signed in, stowed your stuff in a locker, and sat down at your computer station, here’s the GMAT exam pattern, time-wise (we’re using the “traditional” order here, but your section order may differ depending on your preferences):

  1. 30 minutes: Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA/Essay) (one question)
  2. 30 minutes: Integrated Reasoning (IR) (12 multi-part questions)
  3. “Optional” 8-minute (MAX) break (you’ll want it)
  4. 62 minutes: Quantitative Reasoning (31 questions)
  5. “Optional” 8-minute (MAX) break (you’ll want this one, too)
  6. 65 minutes: Verbal Reasoning (36 questions)

That may seem overwhelming, but with some focused practice and work on GMAT timing strategies, it is doable!

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GRE vs GMAT for B-School

You may have heard the news: many top business schools, including UC Davis, Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, MIT, NYU and Dartmouth, have recently begun accepting the GRE in addition to the GMAT. This gives you another choice as you go through the admissions process—but how should you decide which exam to put your valuable time into? Here are a few questions that should help you decide.

1. Do all of your target schools accept the GRE?
This is probably the biggest determinant. After all, why take two challenging exams when you could just take one? Although many business schools accept both tests, some only accept the GMAT (for example, Berkeley’s Haas School of Business). If you are applying to some schools that only accept the GMAT, it is advisable to only take that exam. Unless you like taking tests. Nerd.

Here’s a list of MBA programs that accept the GRE. The rankings come from US News & World Report’s 2018 Best Business Schools rankings.

Which B-Schools Accept the GRE?

RankUniversity Name
#1Harvard University
Boston, MA
#1University of Pennsylvania (Wharton)
Philadelphia, PA
#3University of Chicago (Booth)
Chicago, IL
#4Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Sloan)
Cambridge, MA
#4Northwestern University (Kellogg)
Evanston, IL

#4Stanford University
Stanford, CA
#7University of California—​Berkeley (Haas)
Berkeley, CA
#8Dartmouth College (Tuck)
Hanover, NH
#9Columbia University
New York, NY
#9Yale University
New Haven, CT
#11University of Michigan—​Ann Arbor (Ross)
Ann Arbor, MI
#12Duke University (Fuqua)
Durham, NC
#12New York University (Stern)
New York, NY
#14University of Virginia (Darden)
Charlottesville, VA
#15University of California—​Los Angeles (Anderson)
Los Angeles, CA
#16Cornell University (Johnson)
Ithaca, NY
#17University of Texas—​Austin (McCombs)
Austin, TX
#18University of North Carolina—​Chapel Hill (Kenan-​Flagler)
Chapel Hill, NC
#19Carnegie Mellon University (Tepper)
Pittsburgh, PA
#20Emory University (Goizueta)
Atlanta, GA
#21Georgetown University (McDonough)
Washington, DC
#21Indiana University (Kelley)
Bloomington, IN
#21Washington University in St. Louis (Olin)
St. Louis, MO
#24University of Southern California (Marshall)
Los Angeles, CA
#25Arizona State University (Carey)
Tempe, AZ
#25Vanderbilt University (Owen)
Nashville, TN
#27Ohio State University (Fisher)
Columbus, OH
#27University of Washington (Foster)
Seattle, WA
#29Georgia Institute of Technology (Scheller)
Atlanta, GA
#29Rice University (Jones)
Houston, TX
#29University of Notre Dame (Mendoza)
Notre Dame, IN
#32Temple University (Fox)
Philadelphia, PA
#32University of Minnesota—​Twin Cities (Carlson)
Minneapolis, MN
#34University of Wisconsin—​Madison
Madison, WI
#36Pennsylvania State University—​University Park (Smeal)
University Park, PA
#37Michigan State University (Broad)
East Lansing, MI
#38Texas A&M University—​College Station (Mays)
College Station, TX
#38University of Texas—​Dallas
Richardson, TX
#40University of Florida (Hough)
Gainesville, FL
#40University of Illinois—​Urbana-​Champaign
Champaign, IL
#42University of California—​Davis
Davis, CA
#43University of Rochester (Simon)
Rochester, NY
#44Boston College (Carroll)
Chestnut Hill, MA
#44Boston University (Questrom)
Boston, MA
#44University of California—​Irvine (Merage)
Irvine, CA

#47University of Maryland—​College Park (Smith)
College Park, MD
#48University of Georgia (Terry)
Athens, GA
#50Purdue University—​West Lafayette (Krannert)
West Lafayette, IN
#50Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey—​Newark and New Brunswick
Newark, NJ
#52Southern Methodist University (Cox)
Dallas, TX
#53University of Pittsburgh (Katz)
Pittsburgh, PA
#54Northeastern University
Boston, MA
#54University of Alabama (Manderson)
Tuscaloosa, AL
#54University of Tennessee—​Knoxville (Haslam)
Knoxville, TN
#57College of William and Mary (Mason)
Williamsburg, VA
#57CUNY Bernard M. Baruch College (Zicklin)
New York, NY
#57North Carolina State University (Jenkins)
Raleigh, NC
#57University of Massachusetts—​Amherst (Isenberg)
Amherst, MA
#57University of Miami
Coral Gables, FL
#57University of Utah (Eccles)
Salt Lake City, UT
#64University of Iowa (Tippie)
Iowa City, IA
#65Baylor University (Hankamer)
Waco, TX
#65Iowa State University
Ames, IA
#65Pepperdine University (Graziadio)
Malibu, CA
#65University of Connecticut
Storrs, CT
#69Babson College (Olin)
Babson Park, MA
#69University of Missouri (Trulaske)
Columbia, MO
#71Texas Christian University (Neeley)
Fort Worth, TX
#71University of South Carolina (Moore)
Columbia, SC
#73Fordham University (Gabelli)
New York, NY
#73Tulane University (Freeman)
New Orleans, LA
#73University at Buffalo—​SUNY
Buffalo, NY
#73University of Arkansas—​Fayetteville (Walton)
Fayetteville, AR
#77Binghamton University—​SUNY
Binghamton, NY
#77Case Western Reserve University (Weatherhead)
Cleveland, OH

#79Louisiana State University—​Baton Rouge (Ourso)
Baton Rouge, LA
#79University of Cincinnati (Lindner)
Cincinnati, OH
#79University of Colorado—​Boulder (Leeds)
Boulder, CO
#82University of California—​San Diego (Rady)
San Diego, CA
#83Auburn University (Harbert)
Auburn, AL
#83Stevens Institute of Technology
Hoboken, NJ
#83University of Oklahoma (Price)
Norman, OK

#86University of Kentucky (Gatton)
Lexington, KY
#86University of Louisville
Louisville, KY
#88Drexel University (LeBow)
Philadelphia, PA
#88Syracuse University (Whitman)
Syracuse, NY
#91Rochester Institute of Technology (Saunders)
Rochester, NY
#93DePaul University (Kellstadt)
Chicago, IL
#93University of California—​Riverside (Anderson)
Riverside, CA
#93University of Houston (Bauer)
Houston, TX

And here’s a list of business schools that may not require you to take the GRE or the GMAT. For these programs, you’ll just need to check and see if you are eligible for the standardized-test waiver. (This data was pulled from our own research, with help articles by Geteducated.com, Collegeatlas.org, and Aringo.)

Which B-Schools Don’t Require the GMAT or the GRE?

UniversityLocationCampus ProgramOnline ProgramDetails
Auburn UniversityAuburn, ALYesYes*Waiver may be available (GMAT/GRE)
Babson CollegeWellesley, MAYesYes*Waiver may be available (GMAT)
Ball State UniversityMuncie, INYesYes*Waiver may be available (GMAT/GRE)
Bentley UniversityWaltham, MAYesYes*Waiver may be available (GMAT/GRE)
Boise State UniversityBoise, IDYesYes*Waiver may be available (GMAT)
Clarion UniversityClarion, PAYesYes*Waiver may be available (GMAT/GRE)
Drexel UniversityPhiladelphia, PAYesYes*Waiver may be available (GMAT/GRE)
East Carolina UniversityGreenville, NCYesYes*Waiver may be available (GMAT/GRE)
Florida Atlantic UniversityBoca Raton, FLYesYes*Waiver may be available (GMAT/GRE)
Florida International UniversityMiami, FLYesYes
Frostburg State UniversityFrostburg, MDYesYes*Waiver may be available (GMAT)
Hofstra UniversityEast Garden City, NYYesYes*Waiver may be available (GMAT/GRE)
Howard UniversityWashington, DCYesYes
Jackson State UniversityJackson, MSYesYes*Waiver may be available (GMAT/GRE)
James Madison UniversityHarrisonburg, VAYesYes*Waiver may be available (GMAT)
Lehigh UniversityBethlehem, PAYesYes*Waiver may be available (GMAT/GRE)
Longwood UniversityFarmville, VAYesYes*Waiver may be available (GMAT/GRE)
Louisiana State University Baton Rough, LAYesYes
Louisiana State University - ShreveportShreveport, LAYesYes
Marist CollegePoughkeepsie, NYYesYes*Waiver may be available (GMAT/GRE)
Missouri State UniversitySpringfield, MOYesYes
Morehead State UniversityMorehead, KYYesYes*Waiver may be available (GMAT/GRE)
New Jersey Institute of TechnologyNewark, NJYesYes *Waiver may be available (GMAT/GRE)
New Mexico State UniversityLas Cruces, NMYesYes*Waiver may be available (GMAT)
Northeastern University D-Amore-McKim School of BusinessBoston, MAYesYes
Ohio UniversityAthens, OhioYesYes
Pace University - New YorkNew York, NYYesYes
Pepperdine UniversityMalibu, CAYesYes*Waiver may be available (GMAT/GRE)
Quinnipiac UniversityHamden, CTYesYes*Waiver may be available (GMAT/GRE)
Robert Morris UniversityMoon, PAYesYes*Waiver may be available (GMAT)
Rochester Institute of TechnologyRochester, NYYesYes
Rowan UniversityGlassboro, NJYesYes*Waiver may be available (GMAT/GRE)
Saint Joseph's UniversityPhiladelphia, PAYesYes
Sam Houston State UniversityHuntsville, TXYesYes*Waiver may be available (GMAT)
Southeastern Oklahoma StateDurant, OKYesYes
Southern Illinois University - CarbondaleCarbondale, ILYesYes*Waiver may be available (GMAT/GRE)
Suffolk UniversityBoston, MAYesYes*Waiver may be available (GMAT/GRE)
Syracuse UniversitySyracuse, NYYesYes*Waiver may be available (GMAT/GRE)
Temple UniversityPhiladelphia, PAYesYes*Waiver may be available (GMAT)
Tennessee Technological UniversityCookeville, TNYesYes*Waiver may be available (GMAT/GRE)
Texas A&M University - CommerceCommerce, TXYesYes*Waiver may be available (GMAT/GRE)
Texas Southern UniversityHouston, TXYesYes
The George Washington UniversityWashington, DCYesYes*Waiver may be available (GMAT)
The University of Tennessee - KnoxvilleKnoxville, TNYesYes*Waiver may be available (GMAT)
The University of Tennessee - ChattanoogaChattanooga, TNYesYes*Waiver may be available (GMAT)
The University of Tennessee - MartinMartin, TNYesYes*Waiver may be available (GMAT/GRE)
The University of Texas at DallasDallas, TXYesYes*Waiver may be available (GMAT/GRE)
The University of Texas at TylerTyler, TXYesYes*Waiver may be available (GMAT)
University of ArkansasFayetteville, ARYesYes*Waiver may be available (GMAT/GRE)
University of BaltimoreBaltimore, MDYesYes *Waiver may be available (GMAT)
University of Colorado - Colorado SpringsColorado Springs, COYesYes*Waiver may be available (GMAT/GRE)
University of Dallas Irving, TXYesYes
University of Houston - Clear LakeClear Lake, TXYesYes*Waiver may be available (GMAT)
University of Houston - VictoriaVictoria, TXYesYes*Waiver may be available (GMAT)
University of Louisiana at MonroeMonroe, LAYesYes*Waiver may be available (GMAT/GRE)
University of Massachusetts - AmherstAmherst, MAYesYes*Waiver may be available (GMAT/GRE)
University of Massachusetts - DartmouthDartmouth, MAYesYes *Waiver may be available (GMAT)
University of Massachusetts - LowellLowell, MAYesYes*Waiver may be available (GMAT/GRE)
University of Nebraska - LincolnLincoln, NEYesYes*Waiver may be available (GMAT)
University of Nevada - RenoReno, NVYesYes*Waiver may be available (GMAT/GRE)
University of New HampshireDurham, NHYesYes*Waiver may be available (GMAT)
University of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapl Hill, NCYesYes*Waiver may be available (GMAT/GRE)
University of North DakotaGrand Forks, NDYesYes*Waiver may be available (GMAT/GRE)
University of ScrantonScranton, PAYesYes
University of Wisconsin System - eCampusMadison, WIYesYes*Waiver may be available (GMAT/GRE)
University of WyomingLaramie, WYYesYes*Waiver may be available (GMAT/GRE)
University System of GeorgiaAtlanta, GAYesYes*Waiver may be available (GMAT)
Wayne State UniversityDetroit, MIYesYes*Waiver may be available (GMAT/GRE)
West Chester University of PennsylvaniaWest Chester, PAYesYes*Waiver may be available (GMAT/GRE)
West Texas A&M UniversityCanyon, TXYesYes*Waiver may be available (GMAT)
West Virginia UniversityMorgantown, WVYesYes*Waiver may be available (GMAT/GRE)
Western Kentucky UniversityBowling Green, KYYesYes*Waiver may be available (GMAT)
Western New England UniversitySpringfield, MAYesYes*Waiver may be available (GMAT/GRE)
Youngstown State UniversityYoungstown, OHYesYes*Waiver may be available (GMAT/GRE)
DePaul UniversityChicago, ILYesNo*Waiver may be available (GMAT)
Lake Forest CollegeChicago, ILNoYes
Loyola UniversityChicago, ILYesNo
Boston UniversityBoston, MAYesNo
Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyBoston, MAYesNo
Villanova UniversityPhiladelphia, PAYesNo
University of California - Los AngelesLos Angeles, CAYesNo*Waiver may be available (GMAT)
New York UniversityNew York, NYYesNo
Seton Hall UniversitySouth Orange, NJYesNo
La Salle UniversityPhiladelphia, PAYesNo*Waiver may be available (GMAT)
University of DelawareNewark, DEYesYes*Waiver may be available (GMAT)
University of ChicagoChicago, ILYesNo*Waiver may be available (GMAT)
Northwestern UniversityEvanston, ILYesNo
Rutgers UniversityNewark, NJYesNo*Waiver may be available (GMAT)
Colorado State UniversityFort Collins, COYesNo*Waiver may be available (GMAT)
Boston UniversityBoston, MAYesNo*Executive MBA Program does not require GMAT
University of Southern CaliforniaLos Angeles, CAYesNo*Executive MBA Program does not require GMAT
Santa Clara UniversitySanta Clara, CAYesNo*Executive MBA Program may waive GMAT
San Francisco State UniversitySan Francisco, CAYesNo*Executive MBA Program may waive GMAT
Georgetown UniversityWashington, DCYesNo*Executive MBA Program does not require GMAT
Golden Gate UniversitySan Francisco, CAYesNo*Waiver may be available (GMAT)

2. Do you perform better on the GRE?
Assuming you are applying to schools that all accept the GRE, take a free practice test for each exam. If you perform better on one and you think your score has a better opportunity to improve, it is the better test to take. And if you’ve already taken one exam and are wondering what that score means for your potential performance on the other, here’s a conversion of GRE to GMAT scores.

3. Are you applying for a dual degree program?
If you are tacking on a MPH or other graduate degree to your MBA, check to see whether or not the other program will accept the GMAT. If not, the GRE may be the way to go.

At the end of the day, most business schools will still require the GMAT, but the GRE is becoming an increasingly viable option.

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Who Takes the GMAT?

So you might be wondering, who takes the GMAT and what is it used for? Future business-school students (who are, one may assume, future businesspeople) take the GMAT. Basically, if you’re applying to business school in the United States, you most likely need to take the GMAT, though the GRE may be an acceptable alternative (see the previous section for more info).

If you’re applying to international business schools, you might need to take the GMAT, or a GMAT score may prove to be an asset to your application file. Check with individual programs to verify their GMAT policy and requirements.

Finally, if you’re applying to any other non-business graduate program, you almost certainly don’t have to take the GMAT.

The GMAT for International Students

Taking the GMAT can seem like an overwhelming prospect for anyone, and this is all the more true if English isn’t your first language. If you’re applying to U.S. business schools (and/or some international programs, usually those taught in English), you will most likely take the GMAT. Because you’ll almost certainly have to take an English proficiency exam as well, it’s a good idea to get that out of the way first, polishing your language skills in the process.

International students often ask, “Do you need your passport to take the GMAT?” This is a great question, and so important that American students should be asking it, too! The answer for most international test takers is YES. The GMAT policy is that if you’re testing outside your country of citizenship, you need your passport. This is also true for Americans testing abroad. Government-issued IDs won’t even cut it.

If you are testing in your country of citizenship, you may still need your passport as ID. If you’re American and testing in the U.S., a government ID (like a driver’s license or military ID) is also okay. This is sometimes true for international test takers, but not always. Check out the “Special Restrictions” section of the MBA GMAT registration site as you register, but when in doubt, take your passport.

Other than valid identification and registration, the GMAT test’s eligibility criteria are completely open. You don’t need to have finished college to take it (or even started college, for that matter—though let’s face it, it’d probably help to have a few years under your belt).

(When) Can You Retake the GMAT?

First of all, don’t worry: yes, you can retake the GMAT. The GMAT policy allows you to retake it any time after the sixteen-day period following your exam. After that, you can retake the GMAT as many as five times in twelve months. If you want to take it even more than that, you can submit a written request to the GMAT, but think seriously before doing this.

The question, in this case, is not so much “how many times can I take the GMAT?” but rather “how many times can I take the GMAT and expect different test results?” Unless you’ve significantly changed your approach to the test, there’s really no good reason to take it more than five times. If you’re wondering whether to retake the GMAT at all, check out our post on Should I Retake the GMAT?

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GMAT Scoring

As we’ve already seen, GMAT scoring varies depending on the section. Here’s a quick recap:

  • AWA: 0-6
  • IR: 1-8
  • Quant: 0-60
  • Verbal: 0-51
  • “Total” (i.e. Verbal and Quant scaled score): 200-800

I know it’s more than a little bit confusing, especially without context. So let’s get some context!  First of all, it’s very important to recognize that the “total” score, the 200-800 score, is based only on you Quant & Verbal subscores; the AWA & IR are entirely separate and have nothing to do with the “total” score.  

Beyond that fact, the best way to make sense of all this is to look at percentiles. Watch our video below to learn more or skip ahead to the GMAT Percentiles section below!

GMAT Percentiles

A percentile describes the percentage of test takers who scored lower than you did on the exam. This is particularly important in helping you contextualize your GMAT scores. After all, knowing your GMAT percentile can help you evaluate how close you are to getting into the school of your dreams.

First of all, a few things to know about GMAT scores: 2/5 of students have a total score of between 400 and 600; therefore, the higher you score above 600, the more you stand out from the pack. The most recent average GMAT score the GMAC released was 556.04. Again—the farther above this average you reach, the more appealing your GMAT score will be to B-schools.

To contextualize your score even more, here’s an overview of GMAT score percentiles: total, scaled, AWA, and IR.

Total GMAT Score Percentiles

Percentile (cont'd.)
Score (cont'd.)

Scaled Score Percentiles

Quant Percentile
Quant Scaled Score

AWA and IR Percentiles

AWA Percentile
AWA Score

What Does It Take to Get a Top GMAT Score?

Blood, sweat, and tears. No, just kidding—the only thing that’s really required is the sweat. It is difficult to get a top GMAT score. On the other hand, it’s also non-negotiable if you’re dreaming of attending a top business school. To be competitive at the top ten business schools in America, for example, you’ll need to have a total GMAT score of around 715.

And, because this ain’t my first rodeo, let me take a wild guess at what your next questions going to be…

How Can I Score 700+ on the GMAT?

Sadly, there’s no shortcut to scoring above 700 on the GMAT.


There are actually only three steps in the process to scoring 700+. Really, just three!

  1. Take practice tests.
  2. Analyze them.
  3. Repeat.

Okay, yes. Technically, there may only be three steps (the way I’ve described them; others may see it differently). However, the way you carry out each step is of vital importance to that 700+ score!

First of all, you need to give yourself plenty of time. Exactly how much time will depend on your situation, and we’ll go into that a little bit later. But chances are that you’ll need at least a month (bare minimum), no matter where you’re starting, to get above 700 on the GMAT—and probably more.

Taking practice tests is so important. And when you’re done, analyze them. No, don’t just look at the questions you got wrong. Look at why you got them wrong. Record them in a log. Write them down. Do them again in a week, two weeks, three weeks. Look at the questions you got right, too. Were you guessing? Is there a quicker process you could have used?

You should spend at least as long analyzing your practice tests as you do taking them.

There are two other scenarios surrounding this whole “700+” issue. First, you may find that you’re consistently approaching the 700+ range but missing it. In that case, check out How to Get from 650 to 700.

On the other hand, you may be aiming for a perfect 800 (they do happen!) If so, check out the Magoosh blog on how to get that perfect GMAT score.

In all this, it will be important to keep in mind what Magoosh GMAT Expert Mike McGarry calls the “habits of excellence.”

One important note on retakes for you perfectionists out there: test takers who score above 700 on the GMAT have diminishing returns with each subsequent retake. So remember, the GMAT is just one aspect of your B-school application.

If you’ve scored a 760 and are obsessed with getting an 800, stop and ask yourself why. At this point, your time would be better spent working on other aspects of your application.

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Do You Have to Prep for the GMAT?

Do you have to prep for the GMAT? It depends. Do you want to do well on it? I’m sorry, I know that sounds harsh—but this isn’t a test for the casual test hobbyist (if, you know, such a person existed).

Prepping for the GMAT is important. Not only is there immense time pressure, which preparing can help you deal with, but the problem formats can be downright confusing (Data Sufficiency, anyone?) if you’ve never seen them before.

Basically, if you’re serious about business school, you should be serious about the GMAT and prep for it. While not the only admissions criterion, your score on the GMAT test can be the difference between you getting accepted or rejected from your target MBA school. Proper GMAT preparation is a very important part of scoring well on the GMAT.

That being said, a great or even perfect GMAT score cannot guarantee your admission into a business schools. In addition to your GMAT score, your work experience, essays, recommendations, and interview are all factors that contribute to your acceptance or rejection from a business school.

How Hard is the GMAT, Anyway?

It’s not a walk in the park, let’s put it that way. It’s definitely harder than the SAT. But unlike the MCAT, for example, the GMAT isn’t meant to measure specific knowledge. Instead, it’s meant to measure your reasoning skills. The fact that it does this using very particular question types is part of what makes it challenging—but, as Magoosh GMAT expert Mike McGarry explains, the GMAT is just that, a challenge—not an obstacle.

How Long Should I Study for the GMAT?

Studying for the GMAT is less about the amount of GMAT preparation time you put in (Magoosh has sample study schedules that range from 1-6 months) and more about the kind of work you put in.

With that said, you should aim for one month, minimum, to prep for the GMAT—and that’s only if you can devote most of that month to GMAT prep.

Why a month minimum? Think about everything you’ll need to do before test day:

  1. Learn the format of the GMAT
  2. Learn the rules of and directions for the individual question types
  3. Follow a proven study schedule
  4. Learn math content & strategies
  5. Learn verbal content & strategies
  6. Do practice questions
  7. Take mock tests

Yes, you’re definitely well on your way to completing steps 1-5 on that list just by reading this post, but steps 6 and 7 are the real kickers that will not just prepare you for test day but also improve your score.

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How to Prepare for the GMAT Exam

So I’ve convinced you to prepare for the GMAT? Awesome! Clearly, I think this is an excellent idea. But now that you’ve decided to prep, you’ll have to make a few decisions, as well as keep a few pieces of advice in mind.

GMAT Book vs Class vs Tutor vs Online

When preparing for the GMAT, an early decision is whether or not to take a class. There are many quality options to choose from, with Kaplan, Veritas Prep, Manhattan GMAT, and (if we can toot our own horn) Magoosh as some of the top brands.

Prices vary for instruction, with in-person classes priced around $1500 and online courses offered between $750-$1000 (Magoosh is a notable exception to this—all our plans are under $300). GMAT coaching is also an option, but expect it to run you even more $.That is a lot of coin, so should you write the check or save the money for a cache of Charles Shaw to get you through business school?

Although the decision factors vary from one future applicant to the next, one fundamental consideration is how disciplined you are as a person. Be honest. A good analogy is to consider a personal trainer. Some people can achieve their fitness goals without one, but others know that in order to stay on track, it helps to pay someone.

So, if you will be able to set a study schedule (more on that below) and stick to it, you’ll likely be able to achieve your personal top score without the instruction. (Magoosh’s free GMAT ebook is a great step in this self-directed, um, direction, and you can follow up by choosing more prep after reading Magoosh’s advice on the best GMAT books.)

But, if you know verbal practice problems will take a backseat to the next season of Modern Family, then it is time to pull out your Visa and purchase the required help.

In terms of resources, keep in mind that there are excellent official resources out there, too (though they’re limited). You can take two free CATs at the GMAC website, which is a good place to start. It’s best to use these later on in your practice, as test day approaches.

It’s pricey, but you can also buy more exams and questions from the GMAC (but you can also find excellent questions for free right here on the Magoosh blog!)

While the GMAT Official Guide is a must-have, you should also know that the GMAC also puts out specialized Verbal and Quantitative guides, too. And on that note, not everyone realizes that there’s a code at the back of the full Official Guide that gives you free online practice to 50 IR questions—not too shabby!

Practice Habits of Excellence

No matter which method of GMAT prep you choose, it’s absolutely vital that you practice well. What do I mean by this? That you practice habits of excellence. Habits of excellence are all about starting from a mindset of curiosity as your primary motivation—rather than starting from a mindset of “I must get x, y, or z score.”

As one of our students tweeted: gmat test

This paradox will bother people, because for some people, getting that target score is their principal motivation: without it, folks might worry that they will have no motivation. Think about it this way. If my goal is “I must get a 720,” then the thought of that goal and any attachment to that goal will actually work against me in achieving that goal. By contrast, if your motivation is the ideal of excellence, embodying excellence as a mindset, then living that high standard is its own reward.

For example, if you are attached to a score, then every time you make mistakes on a practice session or in a mock test will be a cause for concern and anxiety. By contrast, the habit of excellence is not bothered by making mistake during the learning process, because every mistake is a profound opportunity to improve your overall understanding.

One of the ideals of excellence is: never make the same mistake twice. That’s a hard ideal for which to strive, but the student who can follow it consistently sees massive improvement over time. After getting a question wrong, energy spent on “what else do I have to learn?” or “how can avoid this mistake in the future?” is energy well spent.

By contrast, anxiety about “will I achieve my target score?” does zilch to move you forward, and because the anxiety generates distraction, it is actually entirely counterproductive. It is the ultimate waste of time in GMAT studying.

Part of what I am discussing here is the difference between extrinsic motivation and intrinsic motivation. The student who is attached to achieving a particular target score is extrinsically motivated. The student who strives to embody and live out the mindset of excellence is intrinsically motivated. Folks who are externally motivated have less stamina and resilience, and generally are less likely to perform at their highest potential.

The advantages to intrinsic motivation are widespread and profound. This is true on the GMAT, in business school, and throughout one’s career.

Any time you spend thinking about a particular numerical target, and how close or not close you are to it, is time you are not thinking about concrete concepts and strategies. Concepts and strategies will further your progress toward a good GMAT score. By contrast, thinking about the numerical target does absolutely nothing to help you achieve that target, and in most cases, it generates anxiety and distraction that works against you.

One of the essential strategies for achieving GMAT success is to let go of any attachment to what score you want and, even more importantly any stories about what a good or bad GMAT score would mean.

Your GMAT Tools

With our philosophical approach well in place, let’s turn now to two practical tools you’ll need for your GMAT practice: practice questions and full-length GMAT practice tests. These are the two most vital components of your GMAT prep. If you take nothing else away from this post (I mean, I hope you take something else away from this post!), know that.

Practice problems are important to learning and mastering concepts. Practice tests are key to evaluating the extent to which you’ve internalized this knowledge and can put it into practice on the official exam. Period.

How to Take and Review a GMAT Practice Test

There are a few components of successful GMAT practice-test taking. Here are our tips for how to take GMAT practice tests:

  1. Your environment should be as official as possible. That means as silent as possible, with no disruptions. Use a whiteboard for scratch work, if possible. Don’t use a calculator on Quant. You get the picture.
  2. Time your practice test and stick to the allotted timeframes. Practice problems are where you should work on your timing. Practice tests are where you see the fruits of that labor.
  3. Take the whole test in one sitting, with only two 8-minute breaks as outlined above.
  4. Review your test the next day. Set aside at least three hours to do this.
  5. Review what you got right as well as what you got wrong.
  6. If possible, look at the problems you spent the most time on. Did you get them right? Was it worth it in terms of other problems you may have had to rush through? Target these problem types for timed practice during the week.
  7. Keep an error log of your mistakes, as well as the correct answers and explanations. Return to error log questions periodically to try them again.

Of course, even with all that in mind, there’s another component of GMAT practice exams that’s really important.

The Importance of the CAT

Let me be totally clear on this: if you’re only taking paper-based practice exams (which are hard to find but still floating around!), or even if you’re taking computer-based but non-adaptive exams, you’re doing a great thing in terms of boosting your score, but your idea of your current GMAT score range is going to be a little off. Really.

In Quant and Verbal, the actual, official GMAT presents you with different questions depending on what you’ve answered correctly so far on the exam, zeroing in on your final score. So as you work through non-computer adaptive tests, keep in mind that the score you receive is a general idea of the range in which you might score.

While it may be useful to take at least one CAT before test day, the most important thing to do with your time is to zero in on the types of questions you’re getting wrong on each practice test and work to address those.

Good GMAT Practice vs Bad GMAT Practice

To sum that all up: good GMAT practice includes practice problems and timed practice exams taken under exam-like conditions. Good GMAT practice requires practice tests. And good GMAT practice is practice in which you work on your habits of excellence every time.

Where can you find materials to help you actually get good GMAT practice? Glad you asked!

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Best Online GMAT Practice

When you’re looking for materials that will help you get good GMAT practice, make sure that they are both test-like and user-friendly. What do I mean by this?

Questions should be test-like in that they mirror the form and the content that you’ll see on the official exam.

Your practice experience should be user-friendly in that the answers and explanations a) exist and b) make sense in a way that will help you remember how to get to the correct answer.

Let’s take a quick glance at what this looks like by examining a Magoosh GMAT practice problem.

I’ll be upfront with you here: Magoosh has great online GMAT practice. That’s not just bias talking—I can prove it to you. Not only does Magoosh test prep meet all the standards for good GMAT test prep I’ve been talking about, but it also meets another standard, rare in the test-prep industry: it provides excellent and thorough answers and explanations in a variety of formats. (We also have tons of free resources for GMAT study on this blog, if you’re interested!)

What Does Magoosh GMAT Practice Look Like?

Here’s a Magoosh GMAT test sample question for Integrated Reasoning.
(NOTE: We’ve provided interactive buttons for you to select or input your answer as you go through these questions. This way, you can keep track of your answers and check your work. However, please note that there’s no option to submit them!)

The graph below shows the different commuting options chosen by commuters in the Farview City metropolitan region in 1995 and in 2005.


The commuting mode whose ridership increased by approximately 29% from 1995 to 2005 is .

Here we have a GMAT test example question for IR. Go ahead, put your GMAT training to work! I’ll be here when you get back.

Bad GMAT Practice Answer (and Why We Hate It!)

Ready to check your answers? Great!

The answer is “commuter trains.”

Disappointed in my response? I’m not surprised! Yet you’d be amazed at how much test prep just provides you the answer and leaves it at that. If you answered incorrectly, you’re probably frustrated, not knowing how to get to the correct answer. And even if you got the answer right, how do you know it’s because you did the problem correctly, and not just because you accidentally chose “commuter trains”?

Yep. That’s bad GMAT practice. It wastes your time, it frustrates you, and—worst of all—it doesn’t help you improve. At all.

Good GMAT Practice Answer (and Why We Love It!)

On the other hand, good GMAT practice will clearly explain the answer, in context, and give you strategies for solving the problem. Just like Magoosh’s GMAT expert Mike has done in the actual answer to this problem:

Well, we can estimate this one. A 29% increase is an increase of a little more than a quarter. Bikes tripled, so that’s way more than a quarter increase—that’s not correct. The category “subway & bus” when from 3 to 5 million, more than a 50%—that’s not correct. Cars decreased, so that’s not correct.

Even without looking at “commuter trains,” we can easily eliminate the other three. Notice “commuter trains” increased from 7 M to 9M, a 2M increase which is slightly more than one quarter of 7. That’s the answer, and we didn’t need the calculator.

Believe me, GMAT questions and answers are rarely that clearly presented. Now, that is good GMAT practice.

So now that we’ve seen how important good GMAT materials are, let’s take a quick look at GMAT practice. To get a top score on the GMAT, you’ll need to practice well and often. How? Well, we’ll take a look at some GMAT practice in the section-specific chapters below, but you should also check out the testmaker’s free GMATPrep software, among other resources, such as books and online or in-person lessons. Then come back for some advice on how to organize your GMAT practice!

Using a GMAT Study Schedule

You may or may not be convinced by now that online prep is the best GMAT training for you—and that’s totally okay! Different students respond to different formats and methods of learning. One thing that every GMAT student has in common, though, is the need for a clear GMAT study schedule. Following that link, you’ll find schedules ranging from one month to six months of preparation, all free and all customizable to your particular strengths and weaknesses.

Not only will a GMAT study schedule help you stay organized while studying, but it’s also the only way to make sure that you incorporate time to do everything you need to do to get you to your goal score. A study schedule keeps you organized, keeps you accountable, and keeps you on track for your goals. This is especially important if you’re aiming for a top score (and we have a study plan for that, too! Check out the Magoosh GMAT Study Plan for 700 or More).

So just what will you be studying as you follow your chosen schedule? Let’s dive a little deeper into GMAT content to take a look.

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The GMAT AWA Section

One of the most common questions about the GMAT AWA (Analytical Writing Assessment) is: Does it even matter? Aren’t business schools way more interested in your multiple-choice scores?

Yes and yes. Overall, your sectional scores and overall score will be more important to your B-school applications than your score on the AWA. However, with that said, you should be prepared to do your best on it.

Why? The GMAT is a mental marathon. You want to undertake your journey with confidence, ready to dive into Integrated Reasoning with aplomb. So with that in mind, at least know what you’re in for with the AWA so your reaction to your prompt isn’t one of total terror and/or bafflement.

What Concepts Does the AWA Cover?

The AWA asks you to write one essay in 30 minutes. In this essay, you analyze an argument (hence “analytical” writing assessment). You’ll write a response, typically 4 to 6 paragraphs, in which you evaluate the argument.

The logic behind this is that you’re showing your ability to think critically about opinions presented to you. You can analyze them, find their strengths and weaknesses, and determine what information might help you further evaluate the argument in more depth. Basically, you’re showing off skills that definitely come in handy in business settings.

What Kinds of Arguments Will I Evaluate?

Like a lot of the material on the GMAT, the arguments presented in the AWA tend to be business-oriented, or at the very least, have implications for businesses. You can see an official example here, as well as an example of a high-rated response.

How Should I Write My GMAT AWA?

Glad you asked! First of all, be strategic. Outline before you write, know what examples you’ll use, and always (always!) leave time to proofread. Other things to keep in mind as you prepare for the AWA:

Practice for GMAT AWA

Itching to try your hand at a sample GMAT essay? Can’t say I blame you! Have a go at the following prompt, from the OG13:

The following appeared in a memorandum written by the chair of the music department to the president of Omega University.

“Mental health experts have observed that symptoms of mental illness are less pronounced in many patients after group music therapy sessions, and job openings in the music-therapy field have increased during the past year. Consequently, graduates from our degree program for music therapists should have no trouble finding good positions. To help improve the financial status of Omega University, we should therefore expand our music-therapy degree program by increasing its enrollment targets.”

Discuss how well reasoned you find this argument. In your discussion be sure to analyze the line of reasoning and the use of evidence in the argument. For example, you may need to consider what questionable assumptions underline the thinking and what alternative explanations or counterexamples might weaken the conclusion.

You can also discuss what sort of evidence would strengthen or refute the argument, what changes in the argument would make it more logically sounds, and what, if anything, would help you better evaluate its conclusions.

Don’t give yourself longer than 30 minutes to write your practice essay. When you’re done, check out Magoosh GMAT expert Mike McGarry’s analysis of the argument and sample high-scoring essay in response to the prompt to evaluate your work.

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The GMAT Integrated Reasoning Section

For many, the mere mention of this section alone can cause anxiety. But it doesn’t have to. Remember, the GMAT is standardized. We can break down patterns, even (and maybe especially) within Integrated Reasoning so that you can get rid of those IR-related anxiety sweats well before test day.

What Does GMAT IR Cover?

The GMAT Integrative Reasoning section is set up to test higher-order reasoning. This includes questions about the integration of information (organizing, synthesizing), evaluating information (tradeoffs and benefits of different actions), making inferences from data (and predictions), relating information to other data, and strategizing based on data provided.

You’ll have 12 questions to answer in 30 minutes. While that sounds relatively comfortable, keep in mind that these are often complex, multi-part questions. A big part of mastering IR depends on your ability to master the timing.

These twelve questions will each be one of four types:

  1. Graphics Interpretation (GI)
  2. Two-Part Analysis (2PA)
  3. Table Analysis (TA)
  4. Multi-Source Reasoning (MSR)

Unlike question types on other sections of the GMAT (ahem, looking at you, Quant), every test taker will see all four question types. The only difference between what you and your neighbor are looking at will be in the experimental questions mixed into the section.

Why Does GMAT IR Test These Concepts?

Integrated Reasoning is designed to test your managerial skills. Really! Think about it: a lot of people can find and even verify facts. At the higher levels of an organization, however, managers need to be able to assess, evaluate, and, yes, integrate data to make reasoned (and hopefully reasonable) decisions. So don’t worry—there’s definitely a good reason to polish your skills with charts and graphs!

How Can I Increase My GMAT IR Score?

If that’s all got you a little freaked out, don’t worry! There’s a lot you can do before your official exam to boost your IR score. In fact, there’s so much you can do that we even wrote an eBook about it (free, by the way)!

Mike breaks down the key components of IR strategy here, but here’s a quick recap.

  1. Use your knowledge of other sections. There are some key similarities (and differences!) in IR to Quant and Verbal. For example, you can’t go back to a question, just like on Quant. You can also expect to see a handful of experimental questions, but you won’t know which they are. Finally, the section is timed, and time pressure can be intense.
  2. With that in mind, do timed practice! While there are 12 questions in this section, Mike describes them more aptly as 12 “screens,” because you’ll see 2-3 questions per graphic stimulus. This leaves you with about a minute per question—making time management key.
  3. Know the question formats. This is important for any section on the GMAT, but nowhere more so than on IR. Mike breaks down the question types in the above post, and you can learn more about how to approach them in the ebook.
  4. Practice information evaluation. This is “executive thinking” that has to do with weighing pros and cons, determining the validity of evidence, and other such higher-level reasoning skills. You can see great examples of this in publications like The Economist. And speaking of that noble publication…
  5. Get used to reading graphs. Really used to it, with really difficult graphs. Again, financial publications are great for this, as they help you interpret the data in context.

GMAT IR Practice Questions

With all that background information and those strategies at your fingertips, I’m sure you’re dying to see what GMAT Integrated Reasoning looks like in practice! Wait no longer: here’s a sample problem for you to try. (If you’re looking for more practice and tips, the Magoosh GMAT Blog has plenty more IR resources!)


The flowchart represents a mathematical algorithm that takes one positive integer as the input and returns a positive integer as the output. Processes are indicated in the rectangular symbols in the flowchart. Each process is represented by an equation, such as p = p + 1. In this particular process, one is added to the current value of p, and the sum becomes the new value of p. For example, if p = 8 before the process, p = 9 after the process.

Question #1-2

1) A value p = 50 is initially entered. When S first has a value of S = 10, p has a value of .

2) An initial entry that reaches an output in the fewest number of steps is .

Be sure to check your answers at the end of the post!

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The GMAT Quantitative Section

By the time you encounter GMAT Quant, you’re well into the test. You’ve written an essay analyzing an argument. You’ve conquered 12 IR questions in a short period of time. You’ve taken your optional (but really, take it!) 8-minute break. Now, it’s time for Quant (Math).

For GMAT Math, you’ll answer 31 questions in 62 minutes, giving you slightly over two minutes per question (but remember, you need to actually select the right answer and wait for the next screen to load! So let’s say two minutes). Within Quant, you’ll encounter:

  1. Problem Solving Questions (approximately 18-20 questions)
  2. Data Sufficiency Questions (approximately 11-13 questions)

We’ll take a closer look at how these question formats test your math and reasoning skills in just a minute. Before we do, though, here’s what you can expect to see, concept-wise, on GMAT Quant.

Concepts on the GMAT Math Section

You may have heard rumors about the difficulty of GMAT math, or maybe you’ve tried out a few problems yourself and been bowled over by the high-level thinking they require. But one thing you won’t have encountered is any concept beyond high-school level math.

Strange, but true: the GMAC knows that there are humanities majors among us who may not have thought about calculus integrals in years…and even then, only under duress (that last one may be just me). So instead, the GMAT tests quantitative reasoning (notice a pattern here?) by piling relatively simple concepts on top of each other to create multi-level problems.

So yes, you should review the following areas before test day:

  • Arithmetic
  • Number properties
  • Pre-algebra
  • Algebra
  • Geometry
  • Word problems

But, in addition to that review, you should spend the majority of your Quant study time focusing on practice problems and practice tests, because although the material the GMAT tests isn’t that tricky, the way the GMAT tests it can be pretty tricky indeed.

If you want to go really in-depth on how GMAT Quant tests these questions, take a look at our post What Kind of Math is on the GMAT? Breakdown of Quant Concepts by Frequency!

How Does the GMAT Test These Concepts?

As we’ve already seen, you’ll encounter those concept areas in two formats: Problem Solving and Data Sufficiency. Let’s start out with Problem Solving, since there are more of these questions in the section.

GMAT Problem Solving questions test your reasoning skills by having you unravel dense problems to their simpler components. Sound like a quality a good manager should have? The GMAC thinks so, too. These are multiple-choice questions with five answer choices. For an amazing round-up of 30+ practice questions with answers and explanations, written by GMAT experts on the Magoosh GMAT Blog, check out GMAT Quant Questions: Problem Solving.

GMAT Data Sufficiency questions are beasts of a different nature. In these questions, the focus is not about solving the problem, but about analyzing a question, then evaluating two statements and deciding if either, both, or neither is sufficient to answer the question. Tricky, right? But also interesting. These questions test the same types of skills the GMAT looks at in IR—that is to say, higher-order reasoning in which you flex those managerial muscles to determine and select the best possible information.

Strategies for GMAT Quant

If all that information has you a little overwhelmed, know that there’s a lot you can do before your exam to master this section! First, learn How to Study for GMAT Math, and then How to Actually Improve Your Score on the GMAT Quant Section. Once you’ve got that info under your belt, brush up on your math foundations with Kevin:

Another really important thing to do is brush up on your number sense particularly if it’s been some time since you worked with numbers.

General Tips for GMAT Quant

Are the basics coming back to you now? Awesome! Here are some more tips, which apply to both Problem Solving and Data Sufficiency questions:

  • Format. Know the format of the GMAT Quantitative section before test day. For example, you should know:
    • The number of questions in the section (31)
    • How long the section lasts (62 minutes)
    • Whether it’s computer adapted like the Verbal section (it is)
    • The types of questions you’ll see on the section (problem solving, data sufficiency)
    • Strategies for solving each question type
  • NO CALCULATORS. You can’t use a calculator on this section of the test. Get good at mental math!
  • Content. Know the concepts tested in the section (algebra, arithmetic, geometry, word problems, etc.) And know which concepts are tested most frequently, so you can focus your time efficiently. Some common concepts include percentages, linear equations, and rates & proportions.
  • Actually practice! Math prep is not for spectators. You have to do math to learn math.
  • Strategies. It’s important to have a strong math foundation and to know your GMAT math strategies, so that you can focus your time on the critical aspects of the questions and not on the calculations.

There’s also quite a bit you can do to prep for GMAT Data Sufficiency questions. First of all, get familiar with them! You’re going to be old friends before this test is over. Next, learn how to strategize so that you don’t miss points unnecessarily.

And as you practice, there are a few habits you should get into as you approach GMAT Data Sufficiency questions.

GMAT Strategies for Data Sufficiency

First, memorize the answer choices. Really memorize them! Going over these is a huge waste of time on test day, because they’re not going to change. Just to refresh your member, they are:

A. Statement 1 alone is sufficient but statement 2 alone is not sufficient to answer the question asked.
B. Statement 2 alone is sufficient but statement 1 alone is not sufficient to answer the question asked.
C. Both statements 1 and 2 together are sufficient to answer the question but neither statement is sufficient alone.
D. Each statement alone is sufficient to answer the question.
E. Statements 1 and 2 are not sufficient to answer the question asked and additional data is needed to answer the statements.

These are the only answer choices you will see in Data Sufficiency. These are the only answer choices you will ever see in Data Sufficiency (for the foreseeable future, that is). Learn ’em now, benefit later.

Otherwise, here are a few handy tips to master Data Sufficiency:

  1. Eliminate and guess to save time. Do it strategically and you can eliminate up to three answers at a time with Data Sufficiency!
  2. Don’t solve the problem (unless you really absolutely 100% have to). No, really. Focus on the statements and the idea of sufficiency. Don’t lose sight of the purpose of these questions.
  3. Think about each statement separately before considering them together. If you consider them together first, it’ll be harder to see if one is actually sufficient on its own.

Before you dig into some practice questions, take a look at this series of GMAT Quant strategy videos to help you sharpen your skills!

Data Sufficiency Strategy Videos:

Elimination Method
Doubling and Halving

GMAT Quant Practice Questions

Ready to put those strategies to work? Try your hand at these two GMAT Quant practice questions. And, if you skipped the IR practice questions (#1-2), jump back up by clicking here.

3. Data Sufficiency

The figure on the left is an isosceles right triangle, and the figure on the right is a square of length 3. What is the value of b?

(1) b is the length of the diagonal of the square.

(2) the triangle and the square have the same area.

Statement 1 alone is sufficient but statement 2 alone is not sufficient to answer the question asked.
Statement 2 alone is sufficient but statement 1 alone is not sufficient to answer the question asked.
Both statements 1 and 2 together are sufficient to answer the question but neither statement is sufficient alone.
Each statement alone is sufficient to answer the question.
Statements 1 and 2 are not sufficient to answer the question asked and additional data is needed to answer the statements.

4. Problem Solving

Paracelsus University has two kinds of professors, academic professors and professional professors. At Paracelsus University, 60% of the professors are academic professors, and 70% of the professors are tenured. If 90% of the professors at Paracelsus University are academic professors or tenured or both, then what percent of the professional professors there are tenured?


Be sure to check your answers at the end of the post!

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The GMAT Verbal Section

The GMAT Verbal section is 65 minutes long; during those 65 minutes, you’ll encounter 36 multiple-choice questions. Like the Quantitative section, the Verbal section is computer adaptive, which means the test will be adjusting the difficulty as you move through the section.

The Verbal score, along with the Quantitative score, determines your Total 200-800 GMAT score. As we’ve seen, AWA and IR sections have separate scores and are not included in the Total GMAT score.

What Content Will I See on GMAT Verbal?

There are three question types on the Verbal Section: (1) Reading Comprehension (RC); (2) Critical Reasoning; and (3) Sentence Correction.

These three types will be roughly evenly distributed, so you will have about 11-14 of each of the three kinds in a typical Verbal section.

Reading Comprehension questions give you a short (200-300 words) or long (300-400 words) passage, then ask you about what you’ve read with three or four multiple-choice questions, respectively.

Critical Reasoning questions set forth an argument that you then analyze. There are eight different types of CR questions, which you can read about in the above post, all of which are multiple choice, with five answer choices.

Sentence Correction problems present you with a sentence. Part of this sentence is underlined, and you have to decide if there’s a grammatical problem. If so, you choose from one of four alternatives to the underlined portion.

Why Does the GMAT Have a Verbal Section?

The easy answer is: Of course the GMAT has a Verbal section, because that’s more or less the norm for standardized tests. The PSAT, the SAT, the ACT, the GRE, the LSAT, and even the MCAT all involve a Verbal or English section, so why wouldn’t the GMAT?

A deeper answer is: To be a truly successful executive in the modern business world, one needs a wide variety of skills, but undeniably, some of the essential skills are verbal skills. All of business involves selling, and selling almost always involves presenting words and interpreting words. Both the seller and the buyer need to have sophisticated verbal skills to negotiate the finer points of selling at almost any level.

Finally, there is the simple issue of establishing credibility. No matter how intelligent you are, folks who know you only through your writing will have a low opinion of you if your writing is full of grammatical errors!

Similarly, if the arguments you pose are vulnerable to obvious objections, you are unlikely to be persuasive even if you are right! Being successful in business means making a good first impression on new people time and time again, and clearly that involves verbal skills.

GMAT Verbal Strategies

First, let’s take a look at some strategies you can use to approach GMAT Verbal questions in general, then at some more specific approaches for each of the three question types.

  • Structure
    • Know the format of the GMAT Verbal Section before test day. For example, you need to know:
      • The number of questions (36)
      • How long the section lasts (65 minutes)
      • Whether it’s computer adaptive like the Quantitative Section (it is)
      • That you can’t go back after answering a question
      • The question types you’ll see (critical reasoning, reading comprehension, sentence correction)
      • Strategies for solving each question type
  • Read, Read, Read, Read … !
    • Immerse yourself in words by reading as much as you can.
    • Really. You really can’t read enough.
    • Try to read 40-50 pages per day, or approximately 1-2 hours
    • What should you read?
      • Try a mixture of books, articles, magazines, newspapers, fiction, and non-fiction.
      • We recommend The Economist, The NY Times, The New Yorker, Arts and Letters Daily, and The Atlantic.
      • Be comfortable reading different things (even math!) and interpreting an author’s meaning.
  • Think in your own words
    • When you read, practice digesting the information and putting it into your own words.
    • Synthesize and summarize.
  • Focus on ONE area at a time
    • Choose a question type (critical reasoning, for example) and focus only on it for a designated amount of time (maybe a week or so).
    • Understand sub-question types and common wrong answer types.
    • Complete practice questions and review your wrong answers.
    • Become an expert in that area, then move on to another question type.
    • Don’t forget to go back and review, even after you’ve moved on to another aspect of the GMAT Verbal Section.
  • Review
    • Review concepts and question types – don’t just move from one concept to the next and never return.
    • Answer the same questions again, even if you got them right the first time.

You can get more advice on the Magoosh GMAT Blog, with Mike’s tips on How to Improve Your GMAT Verbal Score and Chris’s advice on How to Study for the GMAT Verbal Section.

Kevin takes you through six important tips for Reading Comprehension questions in this short video:

GMAT Verbal Practice Questions

Time for some GMAT Verbal sample questions! We’re picking up our practice where we left off, at #5. Still need to get caught up? No problem. You can try #1-2 here and #3-4 here.

Reading Comprehension


Most educated people of the eighteenth century, such as the Founding Fathers, subscribed to Natural Rights Theory, the idea that every human being has a considerable number of innate rights, simply by virtue of being a human person.

When the US Constitution was sent to the states for ratification, many at that time felt that the federal government outlined by the Constitution would be too strong, and that rights of individual citizens against the government had to be clarified. This led to the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments, which were ratified at the same time as the Constitution.

The first eight of these amendments list specific rights of citizens. Some leaders feared that listing some rights could be interpreted to mean that citizens didn’t have other, unlisted rights. Toward this end, James Madison and others produced the Ninth Amendment, which states: the fact that certain rights are listed in the Constitution shall not be construed to imply that other rights of the people are denied.

Constitutional traditionalists interpret the Ninth Amendment as a rule for reading the rest of the constitution. They would argue that “Ninth Amendment rights” are a misconceived notion: the amendment does not, by itself, create federally enforceable rights. In particular, this strict reasoning would be opposed to the creation of any new rights based on the amendment. Rather, according to this view, the amendment merely protects those rights that citizens already have, whether they are explicitly listed in the Constitution or simply implicit in people’s lives and in American tradition.

More liberal interpreters of the US Constitution have a much more expansive view of the Ninth Amendment. In their view, the Ninth Amendment guarantees to American citizens a vast universe of potential rights, some of which we have enjoyed for two centuries, and others that the Founding Fathers could not possibly have conceived. These scholars point out that some rights, such as voting rights of women or minorities, were not necessarily viewed as rights by the majority of citizens in late eighteenth century America, but are taken as fundamental and unquestionable in modern America. While those rights cited are protected specifically by other amendments and laws, the argument asserts that other unlisted right also could evolve from unthinkable to perfectly acceptable, and the Ninth Amendment would protect these as-yet-undefined rights.

Constitutional scholars of both the traditionalist and liberal views would agree that “Ninth Amendment rights”

accommodate shifts in cultural values with respect to issues affecting human rights
cannot serve as the basis of legal decisions
are directly reflected in our understanding of who can and can’t vote
are not stated explicitly in the Bill of Rights
extend the idea of Natural Rights Theory

Critical Reasoning


In social science research, “highest education level attained” would refer to the most advanced grade or degree achieved by an individual—for some individuals, it may be a grade in grade school, and for other individuals, it may be a Bachelor’s Degree, a Master’s Degree, or Ph.D. (which is considered the highest education level). A recent study has shown a strong correlation between highest education level attained and proficiency in chess. Another result, studied at many points throughout the 20th century, shows a marked positive correlation between highest education level attained and income level.

Assuming the statements above are true, what conclusion can be drawn from them?

If one practices chess enough to raise one’s proficiency, one has a good chance of raising one’s income level.
It is possible that a person who has attained only a sixth grade level of education could earn more than a person who has a Ph. D.
If Jane has a Ph. D., and Chris has not finished his undergraduate degree, then Jane will usually beat Chris in chess.
The average salary for people who have completed three-year Master’s Programs is higher than the average salary of people who have completed two-year Master’s Programs.
An individual’s proficiency at chess rises consistently during that individual’s years of school, and levels off once that individual has finished her years of formal education.

Sentence Correction

7. With American cryptanalysts breaking the Japanese code, the Japanese Imperial Fleet losing the strategic element of surprise at Midway, which allowed the American Fleet to ambush the Japanese and win a decisive victory.

With American cryptanalysts breaking the Japanese code, the Japanese Imperial Fleet losing the strategic element of surprise at Midway, which allowed
With American cryptanalysts breaking the Japanese code, the Japanese Imperial Fleet strategically lost the element of surprise at Midway, and this allowed
Because of the American cryptanalysts breaking the Japanese code, the Japanese Imperial Fleet strategically lost the element of surprise at Midway, to allow
Because American cryptanalysts had broken the Japanese code, the Japanese Imperial Fleet lost the strategic element of surprise at Midway, allowing
Since American cryptanalysts broke the Japanese code, the Japanese Imperial Fleet strategically lost the element of surprise at Midway, and this allowed

Be sure to check your answers at the end of the post!

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The GMAT can be an overwhelming test, but it can also be a great opportunity to sharpen your reasoning skills, focus your ambitions, and prepare yourself for the business world. With the right resources and the right strategy, you can master this “extraordinarily challenging” test and get a score you can be proud of.

GMAT Resources & Next Steps

But with all that said, if your first foray into GMAT practice has you a little freaked out, that’s okay! There are a ton of free resources right here on the Magoosh GMAT Blog to help you master both the format and the content of the GMAT. For example:

Those are all great resources with which to start. They’ll give you a great grounding in what the GMAT looks like, how to study for it, and the concepts that you’ll see on test day—almost like an illustrated guide to this post!

Next, check out Zen Boot Camp for the GMAT. Particularly if you’re scoring high already—but not quite high enough—mastering the mental game is crucial. Then again, it’s always crucial.

Getting a great score on the GMAT does take lots of preparation, and for a truly tailored approach, let me make a suggestion. After you’ve worked through Magoosh’s free resources, try Magoosh GMAT prep!

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Bonus Resource: Answers and Explanations

Finally, the moment you’ve been waiting for! Here are the answers and explanations to the practice problems we’ve looked at in this post, in order of appearance.


Check out Magoosh GMAT expert Mike McGarry’s analysis of the argument and sample high-scoring essay in response to the prompt to evaluate your work.

Integrated Reasoning Answers

Question 1) 59
Question 2) 10

For mathematical and computer science folks, a flow chart diagramming a mathematical algorithm might be one of the most enjoyable games the GMAT provides.

For less math-y folks, though, this question type could be a living nightmare.

How does someone not adroit at mathematical reasoning even begin to make sense of this? Click here for a video explanation of the answer!

Quantitative Reasoning Answers

Question 3) Each statement ALONE is sufficient to answer the question.

We know everything we need to know about the square. The prompt tells us that the triangle is an isosceles right triangle, a.k.a. the 45-45-90 triangle, a very special right triangle. Click here for a video explanation of the answer!

Question 4) 75

We used a double matrix to solve this one. Confused? Click here for a video explanation of the answer!

Verbal Reasoning Answers

Question 5) “Ninth Amendment rights” are not stated explicitly in the Bill of Rights. Click here for a video explanation of the answer!

Question 6) It is possible that a person who has attained only a sixth grade level of education could earn more than a person who has a Ph. D. Click here for a video explanation of the answer!

Question 7) Because American cryptanalysts had broken the Japanese code, the Japanese Imperial Fleet lost the strategic element of surprise at Midway, allowing the American Fleet to ambush the Japanese and win a decisive victory. Click here for a video explanation of the answer!

You’ve reached the end of this post! Give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back, then leave us a comment with any questions or comments you still have. Happy Studying!

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8 Responses to What is the GMAT? Everything You Need to Know

  1. Felipe August 2, 2020 at 6:37 am #

    Great Material Guys! Thank you for sharing!

    • Erina Dominick August 21, 2020 at 3:18 pm #

      Thank you Felipe! We’re glad it was helpful for you.

  2. Veeraj April 9, 2020 at 9:39 pm #

    For the question 2 in to IR section (GMAT IR Practice Questions) how 10 is better than 11 for an answer?

  3. Colin August 31, 2018 at 1:45 am #

    Hi Magoosh Team,

    I’m pretty sure there’s an error to the answer for the two integrated reasoning questions (the part with the fun process diagram). I’m trying to master this concept but it seems part of the answer (including the correct answer :-O) for Question 1 and part of the description for Question 2 are missing. Can you please fix this so I can make sure I’m understanding these types of questions correctly?

    Thank You!

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert September 21, 2018 at 12:24 pm #

      Hi Colin,

      You are absolutely right–I’m not sure what’s going on here, but I’m going to send this along to our writing team so that they can take a look at it. For the first question, we have to get to S=S-1 step twice in order for 2+10, which means that we need to reach a prime number in the P=P+2 circiut twice. The first prime number that we reach is 53, which brings our S to 11. Then we go through the circuit three more times to get to the next prime number (P=57). Once P is prime, we can ‘exit’ that loop and reach S=S-1, which is 10. So, 59 is the correct answer.

      For #2, it helps to look at the fastest way out of the diagram. We basically need to start with an even number that is close to a prime number (in order to avoid the first loop) and p must be greater than s to avoid the second loop. We also have to repeat the p=p+2 loop until we reach a prime number 12 times (because S must equal 0 in order to leave the loop). When P=10 or P=12, we pass to the “Is S=0” step on the first try, but 10 will pass through the p=p+2 loop more quickly than 12 because there are more prime number options for it (because as numbers increase, prime numbers become fewer and farther between, which would require more p=p+2 loops.) This is why 10 is the best answer.

      Does that make sense, Colin? I’m going to send this along to our content team so that they can fix it. Thanks for letting us know about this issue…it’s super helpful when students provide us with this sort of feedback so that we can improve Magoosh as much as possible 🙂

  4. raffa February 21, 2018 at 11:44 pm #

    You say that verbal score range 0-51, but “Verbal and Quantitative scores range from 0 to 60; ” (source: mba.com)

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert February 22, 2018 at 5:35 pm #

      You’re right, Raffa, but right after that on the same page, it says, “scores below 9 and above 44 for the Verbal section and below 7 and above 50 for the Quantitative section are rare.” This is where our reduced range is derived from. 🙂

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