Introduction to the GMAT

Sample GMAT Score ReportThe Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) is the test required for admissions to nearly all MBA programs, as well as a growing number of other business-related graduate education programs. The GMAT is an important part of your application for two reasons.

First, it is probably the only element of your application that admissions committees can use to objectively compare candidates.  Things like work experience, extracurricular involvement, and even GPA are often seen as subjective elements of an applicant’s candidacy.

Second, the GMAT is one of the few controllable aspects of your application.  You can get a great GMAT score with diligent preparation and practice.

On test day, expect to spend about four hours taking the GMAT.  You will see the following four sections tested:

Analytical Writing Assessment

The first section of the GMAT is the Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) which consists of one essay, timed at 30 minutes. You’ll be required to write a type of essay that’s known as an Analysis of an Argument. This section is graded on a scale of 0.0 to 6.0, but this score does not count towards your final GMAT score and is reported separately.

Integrated Resoning

The second section on the GMAT is Integrated Reasoning (IR). This section has replaced the second essay of the AWA since June 2012, since the test makers’ own research showed that the types of questions on IR are more relevant for business school. You’ll see four types of questions requiring you to process multiple data sources, much as you would in real life business interaction. This section is scored on a scale of 1 to 8, in 1-point increments.


The next section of the GMAT tests your math skills, where you will have 75 minutes to answer 37 multiple choice questions. You’ll see two types of math problems on the GMAT:

  • Problem Solving – Multiple choice math questions that you’re already familiar with
  • Data Sufficiency – Special type of math problems where you’re given two pieces of information and are asked whether you have sufficient data to answer a given question


The final section of the GMAT tests your verbal skills.  You will have 75 minutes to answer 41 questions. There three types of questions tested on the GMAT verbal section:

  • Sentence Correction – Grammar questions where you will be asked whether the underlined portion of a sentence is correct, and if not to select the best answer
  • Critical Reasoning – Questions asking you to evaluate the structure of an argument
  • Reading Comprehension – Questions testing your understanding of a passage

Your GMAT Score Report

On your GMAT score report, you will see the following information:

Your AWA score will be scored separately, from 0.0 to 6.0. A score of 4.0 or above is generally considered strong. Your IR is also scored separately from 1 to 8. Since this section is fairly new, percentile rankings for IR are updated more frequently until 2013.

The quantitative and the verbal sections are individually scored on a raw-score scale of 0 to 60, with each raw score assigned a percentile. For example, if you scored a 43 raw score in your math section, that will earn you a 61st percentile, meaning that 61% of all GMAT test takers scored less than you. Note that the raw-score-to-percentile assignments vary dramatically between the math and verbal sections. For example, in verbal a 43 is 96th percentile.

The two raw scores combined create your overall score on a scale of 200 to 800. Your final overall score will also have a percentile ranking. This final score is extremely important, because it’s the number that admissions committees use to compare candidates!

Getting Started on Your GMAT Prep

To get started on preparing for the GMAT, please refer to the following:

Written by Dana Jinaru, moderator to Beat The GMAT and self studier who earned a 770.