Introduction to the GMAT

The following sections will give you a brief description of the importance, format, content, and scoring of the GMAT.

Why is the GMAT important?

The GMAT is a required component of your application to business school. GMAT scores are used to predict your success in the first year. A high score indicates that you possess solid analytical and verbal skills needed for the academic rigor that is required to pursue an MBA. Though the GMAT score is not the only piece of your application, it is a significant one.

A GMAT score at or above the mean of other applicants will improve your chances of admission. A good score can show that you have taken your MBA application seriously. In short, your GMAT score can be equated to what you choose to wear on a job interview. Alone, a fancy suit will not get you the job and ripped jeans might not lose you the job, but which outfit gives the right impression?


How is the GMAT Scored and What is a Good Score?

You will receive three scores from the GMAT, subsection scores for Quantitative and Verbal and a total score that ranges from 200 to 800. You will also receive a percentile for each subsection and for the total score. Percentiles indicate the percentage of test takers that scored below your reported score. You can see a complete percentile breakdown by visiting Interpreting Your Scores and downloading from GMAC a small file with the percentiles listed.

Here is a partial list of percentiles:


Percent Below

Quant

(0 - 60)

50%

37

75%

45

85%

48

95%

50

Percent Below

Verbal

(0 - 60)

50%

28

75%

35

85%

37

95%

42

Percent Below

Total

(200 - 800)

50%

540

75%

610

85%

650

95%

710


Note that the scaled (0 - 60) score that places a test-taker in the 50% for quantitative (meaning 50% of all test-takers score below this mark in quant) is very different than the score that places a test-taker in the 50% for verbal.

What is a Good Score?

This is an age-old question and the answer is always necessarily vague since the GMAT score is not a lone determinant for admission. The simple answer is a good score makes you a contender for the school you want to go to. The more complex answer is a good score is one that reflects your preparation and level of commitment to the business school application process. Sending in scores that do not force the admissions committee to question whether you can handle the work at their school will demonstrate that you are serious about applying and aware of the impact of your score.

A good GMAT score alone will not get you admitted, however a below average one can be an unnecessary roadblock, particularly if you do not have considerable and unique accomplishments to off-set a sub-par score. It is much more difficult for an admissions officer to persuade the admissions committee that they should consider a candidate with a GMAT score of 400 than one with 620.

How is the GMAT Structured?

The GMAT consists of three sections structured as shown below:

 

Number of Questions

Allotted Time

Scoring

Analytical Writing Assessment

Analysis of an Issue

Analysis of an Argument

1

1

60 minutes

30 minutes

30 minutes

0 - 6

(half-point increments)

Quantitative

Problem Solving

Data Sufficiency

37

75 minutes

0 - 60

(1-point increments)

Verbal

Sentence Correction

Critical Reasoning

Reading Comprehension

41

75 minutes

0 - 60

(1-point increments)

What's tested on the Quantitative Section?

Knowledge of the following:

Basic Operations and Properties: Properties of integers, fractions, decimals, ratios and proportions, percents, and powers and roots of numbers

Basic algebra: Simplifying and manipulating algebraic equations, solving linear equations, solving quadratic equations, manipulating expressions with exponents, inequalities, absolute value, and functions

Basic geometry: Lines, convex polygons, triangles, quadrilaterals, circles, rectangular solids, cylinders, and coordinate geometry

Arithmetic and Word problems: Rate, work, mixtures, interest (simple and compound), and profit

Statistics: Probability, sets (overlapping groups), counting methods (combinations and permutations), and descriptive statistics (mean, median, mode, range, standard deviation)

Ability to apply knowledge of above areas

Ability to differentiate between information that is relevant to solving a problem and information that is irrelevant

There are two types of quantitative questions: Problem Solving and Data Sufficiency. Each type tests the same content areas but each tests them in a different way.

What's tested on the Verbal Section?

Ability to comprehend written material

Ability to understand logical relationships between points in a passage

Ability to analyze written material

Ability to identify and use correct grammatical expression as it relates to the following:

Pronoun-noun agreement

Pronoun agreement and ambiguity

Verb tense

Subject-verb agreement

Parallel construction of lists and comparisons

Proper use of modifiers

Correct usage of idioms

The Verbal section tests these skills with three types of questions: Sentence Correction, Critical Reasoning, and Reading Comprehension.

Earning your best score on the GMAT will require that you gain understanding of the rules and principles that govern each of the above quantitative and verbal areas, learn how to apply them in a variety of contexts, and learn how to most efficiently approach various questions. The following sections will demonstrate Bell Curves methods for doing this.