20 Questions About the GMAT
What to know about the GMAT before taking it. Facts and fables about the most important test you'll ever take.
Thanks to the Internet, you can learn almost anything you want about the GMAT without ever leaving home. Much of what you'll read, however, is wrong.
The Web is full of GMAT misinformation and paranoia: "Is it really true that people who take the test stoned score higher? Will I get fingerprinted at the test center? Are other people cheating while I'm not?"
Don't laugh; these are real questions I've seen posted on the Internet. (The correct answers are: sometimes, no and yes—in that order.)
Let's tackle some of the common GMAT myths and misconceptions.
1. What if I take the test more than once? Will schools average my scores? No. I'm not aware of a single school that still averages GMAT scores. Back in the day, policies varied from program to program, but then one year everything changed. Suddenly the schools all agreed to unify their practice. Now virtually all of them accept only your highest score.
2. What about the math and verbal sub-scores? Do schools use them? Yes. In fact, your math sub-score is critically important. Admissions officers are terrified of admitting candidates who will bomb out because they can't handle the math-intensive courses. So getting an acceptable math score is important. The verbal sub-score isn't quite as critical, and applicants who speak English as a second language are often given extra leeway for low verbal scores.
3. What about the AWA score—the essay? Do schools use it? Almost never. Adding the essay to the GMAT has been a total failure.
4. If the essays are so unimportant, is it okay to skip them? Definitely not. It's true that schools place virtually no weight on your AWA score when making the admissions decision, but ignoring the essays completely—as some unwise test takers have done—makes the applicant look lazy. Write the essays. If nothing else, it's a good way to warm up for the two parts of the exam that matter dearly.
5. Is it easier to improve in math or verbal? Most GMAT prep students who take a class improve more in math than they do in verbal. The concepts in math are more concrete and the answer choices are less ambiguous.
6. What is an acceptable GMAT score? It varies from school to school and candidate to candidate. Applicants from overrepresented work backgrounds—such as banking or consulting—need higher GMAT scores, while candidates from underrepresented work backgrounds can be admitted with significantly lower numbers. Regardless of a candidate's work background, however, being admitted to a top-tier program with a score below 600 is almost impossible.
7. How much can I improve on the GMAT? The GMAT curriculum can be mastered completely. The people who write the exam aren't robots with superhuman brain power. They're ordinary worker bees who follow prescribed formulas to write predictable test questions. Because I've studied the test for so long, I know every concept that appears on the exam. If I can master it, you can master it.
8. What do you score on the GMAT? 800.
9. What is your personal favorite section and least favorite section of the GMAT? Favorite is data sufficiency (lot's of cool techniques to apply), and least favorite is reading comp (too many boring passages about how flies mate).
10. What are your suggestions for how to improve the GMAT? More vividly detailed reading passages about how humans mate.
11. When should I take the test? At least 31 days before your first application deadline. There is now a 30-day waiting period between test administrations for people who want to take the test more than once. Schedule your test early enough to take it multiple times and still make your deadline.
12. Any suggestions for test day? Arrive super early. Sneak Skittles in your shirt pocket. Go commando.
13. Should I use GMASS, the Graduate Management Admissions Search Service? Yes, checking the GMASS box at MBA.com or on your computer on test day will allow schools to recruit you based on your GMAT score and self-reported GPA.
14. Should I elect to send my scores every time I take the test? Yes. The fee you pay to take the exam includes sending your scores to five schools. Beyond that, you can send scores to more programs at a cost of $25 per school. (Outrageous.) There is no advantage in holding off on sending your GMAT transcript until you get the score you wants. Schools will use only your highest score anyway, so don't wait until you've taken the test many times and then be forced to pay $25 per school. Send your scores with every test.
15. Does the GMAT 'measure' anything? Apparently not. No one claims that the GMAT is an intelligence test or that it measures any kind of aptitude or potential. In fact, the Graduate Management Admissions Counsel is so lawyered up on this issue that it invests more energy clarifying what the test doesn't do than explaining what it does. The only justification ever given for administering the test is that there is a slight correlation (median correlation = 0.51) between GMAT scores and first-year grades in business school. (Shockingly, the study conducted to find that modest correlation was paid for and conducted by the very people who write the test.) There is apparently no correlation whatsoever between a student's GMAT score and his or her second-year grades. Go figure.
16. They take my picture at the test center as part of the security process. Is it true that schools can pull up that picture on the Internet? Yep, and they often do. That "security" picture is made available to schools (for some stupid reason), so don't be caught wearing your "Legalize It!" T-shirt and flipping off the camera.
17. What is the average GMAT score? In the 2008-2009 test-taking cycle, the worldwide average was 539.
18. What's the gender breakdown among GMAT test takers? 60% male; 40% female
19. Which undergrad majors score highest and lowest on the GMAT? Physics (606); Education (485)
20. Which U.S. states have the highest and the lowest average GMAT scores? The highest isn't a state at all, it's the District of Columbia (593). The lowest is Mississippi (441).Next: GMAT Sentence Correction >
75 minutes of math; 75 minutes of verbal; 2 essays
That's all that stands between you and 21 months in Palo Alto.
- GMAT Homepage
- 20 Questions About the GMAT
- GMAT Strategy
- GMAT Structure
- Sentence Correction
- Critical Reasoning
- Reading Comprehension
- Problem Solving
- Data Sufficiency
- GMAT Non-Standard Test Accommodations
Links to the official GMAT Web site.
First download the GMAT Information Bulletin, then schedule your exam.
Some Advice: OK, I'm clearly biased because I teach the GMAT exam, but take a GMAT prep class. If nothing else, sitting in a classroom with other test takers will motivate you to study harder.