GMAT: Criticism, Format And Timing, Scoring, Exam Details

The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) is a computer adaptive test (CAT) intended to assess certain analytical, writing, quantitative, verbal, and reading skills in written English for use in admission to a graduate management program, such as an MBA program.

GMAT Score Accepted World Wide

It requires knowledge of certain specific grammar and knowledge of certain

  • Specific Algebra
  • Geometry
  • Arithmetic.

According to the test-owning company, the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), the GMAT assesses analytical writing and problem-solving abilities, while also addressing data sufficiency, logic, and critical reasoning skills that it believes to be vital to real-world business and management success.

It can be taken up to five times a year but no more than 8 times total. Attempts must be at least 16 days apart.

GMAT is a registered trademark of the Graduate Management Admission Council.

More than 7,000 programs at approximately 2,300+ graduate business schools around the world accept the GMAT as part of the selection criteria for their programs.

Business schools use the test as a criterion for admission into a wide range of graduate management programs, including MBA, Master of Accountancy, Master of Finance programs and others.

The GMAT is administered in standardized test centers in 114 countries around the world. According to a survey conducted by Kaplan Test Prep, the GMAT is still the number one choice for MBA aspirants despite the increasing acceptability of GRE scores.

According to GMAC, it has continually performed validity studies to statistically verify that the exam predicts success in business school programs.



Key Description:

Acronym: GMAT

Type: Computer-Based Standardized Test

Developer / Administrator: Graduate Management Admission Council

Knowledge / Skills Tested:

  • Quantitative reasoning
  • verbal reasoning
  • integrated reasoning
  • analytical writing.

Purpose: Admissions in graduate management programs of business schools.

Year Started: 1953; 67 years ago

Duration: 3 hours and 7 minutes

Score / Grade Range: Quantitative section: 6-51, in 1 point increments,

Verbal Section: 6-51, in 1 point increments,

Integrated Reasoning Section: 1 to 8, in 1 point increments,

Analytical Writing Assessment: 0.0 to 6.0, in 0.5 point increments.

Total score (from verbal and quantitative sections only): 200 to 800.

Score / Grade Validity: 5 Years

Offered: Multiple times a year.

Countries / Regions: 650 test centers in 114 countries.

Languages: English

Annual Number of Test Takers: More than 200,000 (2019)

Prerequisites / Eligibility Criteria No official prerequisite. Intended for those interested in graduate management education. Fluency in English assumed.

Fee: US$ 275

Scores / Grades used by More than 7,000 programs at approximately 2,300 graduate business schools around the world accept the GMAT exam.


Social Network: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube



History of GMAT

In 1953, the organization now called the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) began as an association of nine business schools, whose goal was to develop a standardized test to help business schools select qualified applicants.

In the first year it was offered, the assessment (now known as the Graduate Management Admission Test), was taken just over 2,000 times; in recent years, it has been taken more than 230,000 times annually.

Initially used in admissions by 54 schools, the test is now used by more than 7,000 programs at approximately 2,300 graduate business schools around the world.

On June 5, 2012, GMAC introduced an integrated reasoning section to the exam that aims to measure a test taker's ability to evaluate information presented in multiple formats from multiple sources.



Criticism of GMAT

The GMAT is intended to assess Verbal Reasoning skill, Quantitative Reasoning skill, Integrated Reasoning skill and Analytical Writing skill in English for use in admission to a graduate management program, such as an MBA program.

In 2013, an independent research study considered three full-time MBA programs and reported that the GMAT Total score had a 0.29 correlation with the first-year GPA (Grade Point Average) of the MBA programs while undergraduate GPA had a 0.35 correlation.

When the GMAT Total score was combined with undergraduate GPA, the AACSB score provided the best predictive power (0.45) for the first-year performance on MBA core courses.

Another independent research study from 2015 reported that the GMAT Total score did not add predictive power after undergraduate GPA and work experience had been considered.

However, the data used in that paper was based on a single MBA program, and the methodology and results of the study were not verified.

In 2017, GMAC conducted a large-scale validity study involving 28 graduate business programs, and the results showed that the median correlation between the GMAT Total score and graduate GPA was 0.38, the median correlation between the GMAT IR score and graduate GPA was .27, and the median correlation between undergraduate GPA and graduate GPA was .32. The results also showed that undergraduate GPA and GMAT scores (i.e., Verbal, Quant, IR, and AWA) jointly had 0.51 correlation with graduate GPA.

Whilst GMAC's own data may concern success in business school programs what it does not do is make any connection between the candidate and their ability in business or capacity to learn.

The latter is not necessarily a predictor of examination success and therefore use of GMAT as an entrance qualification can be seen as an artificial barrier to management education by those institutions that use it.

The constant iterations from GMAC about correlation between GMAT scores and GPA do not change this logic. According to GMAC's own data the correlations are about qualitative and quantitative reasoning and whilst important these alone do not constitute ability to learn (i.e. being able to acquire those or other skills) nor is there published research to show that a specific level of either has a direct correlation to business capability. Ability to learn actually does improve work performance.

It can reasonably be argued therefore that ability to learn is the more important factor and GMAT is not measuring this at all.There is a sound argument that the reason for the existence of management education is to improve the quality of that activity and hence any learning in this area is beneficial to society as a whole.

The promotion of GMAT as the best way to get onto management education at higher levels is therefore a biased approach.



Format And Timing of GMAT

The GMAT exam consists of four sections: an analytical writing assessment, an integrated reasoning section, a quantitative section, and a verbal section.

Total testing time is three hours and seven minutes. Test takers have 30 minutes for the analytical writing assessment and another 30 minutes to work through 12 questions, which often have multiple parts, on the integrated reasoning section and are given 62 minutes to work through 31 questions in the quantitative section and another 65 minutes to get through 36 questions in the verbal section.

Section Duration in minutes Number of questions
Analytical writing assessment 30 1 essay
Integrated reasoning 30 12
Quantitative 62 31
Verbal 65 36

The quantitative and verbal sections of the GMAT exam are both multiple-choice and are administered in the computer-adaptive format, adjusting to a test taker's level of ability.

At the start of the quantitative and verbal sections, test takers are presented with a question of average difficulty. As questions are answered correctly, the computer presents the test taker with increasingly difficult questions and as questions are answered incorrectly the computer presents the test taker with questions of decreasing difficulty.

This process continues until test takers complete each section, at which point the computer will have an accurate assessment of their ability level in that subject area and come up with a raw score for each section.

On July 11, 2017, the GMAC announced that from now on the order in which the different parts of the GMAT are taken can be chosen at the beginning of the exam.

Three options will be available at the test center:

  • Analytical Writing Assessment, Integrated Reasoning, Quantitative, Verbal (original order)
  • Verbal, Quantitative, Integrated Reasoning, Analytical Writing Assessment
  • Quantitative, Verbal, Integrated Reasoning, Analytical Writing Assessment

In April 2018, the GMAC officially shortened the test by half an hour, shortening the verbal and quantitative sections from 75 minutes each to 65 and 62 minutes, respectively, and shortening some of the instruction screens.

In April 2020, the GMAC announced a shortened "Interim GMAT" version to accommodate testing from home or remote locations that would be monitored by a proctor via webcam. The shortened version will not include the AWA section.


Scoring of GMAT

The total GMAT score ranges from 200 to 800 and measures performance on the quantitative and verbal sections together (performance on the AWA and IR sections do not count toward the total score, those sections are scored separately). Scores are given in increments of 10 (e.g. 540, 550, 560, 570, etc.).

The score distribution conforms to a bell curve with a standard deviation of approximately 120 points, meaning that about 68% of examinees score between 430 and 670.

More precisely, over the three-year period 2014–2017 the mean score was 556.04 with a standard deviation of 120.45 points.

The final score is not based solely on the last question the examinee answers (i.e. the level of difficulty of questions reached through the computer adaptive presentation of questions).

The algorithm used to build a score is more complicated than that. The examinee can make a mistake and answer incorrectly and the computer will recognize that item as an anomaly. If the examinee misses the first question his score will not necessarily fall in the bottom half of the range.

After previewing his/her unofficial GMAT score, a GMAT test taker has two minutes to decide whether to keep or cancel a GMAT score at the test center. A test taker can also cancel a score online within the 72 hours after the scheduled exam start time.

A cancelled score can be reinstated for 4 years and 11 months after the date of the test for a fee of $50.



Scheduling And Preparing for The Exam

Test takers may register for the GMAT either online at or by calling one of the test centers.

To schedule an exam, an appointment must be made at one of the designated test centers. The GMAT may not be taken more than once within 16 days but no more than five times in a rolling 12-month period and no more than eight times total, even if the scores are canceled. Official GMAT exam study materials are available on the online store and through third-party vendors. The cost of the exam is $250. All applicants are required to present valid ID when taking the test.

Upon completion of the test, test takers have the option of canceling or reporting their scores. As of July 2014, test takers were allowed to view their score before making this decision.

There are test preparation companies that offer GMAT courses. Other available test preparation resources include university text books, GMAT preparation books and online material, sample tests, and free web resources.

Because of the COVID-19 outbreak, the GMAT was made available to take online and at home starting April 20, 2020.

Top business schools, including Harvard Business School and MIT Sloan, announced that they would accept scores from the virtual exam.


See also: CAT, CAT 2020 Important Date