GMAT Prep: Everything you need to know
What is GMAT?
GMAT is the Graduate Management Admissions Test, an exam that you will generally need to take to gain admission to an MBA program although there are some exceptions (see below). The test comes in four parts: Verbal, quantitative, integrated reasoning and essay writing. The first two sections are by far the most important and make up the score (out of a maximum of 800) that schools use to decide on admission.
How to prepare for GMAT?
The least favourite topic of many MBA applicants! GMAT prep can be intense, especially if you are juggling it with full time work. The average time taken to prepare for GMAT is going to vary a lot, depending on whether or not English is your native language, how comfortable you are with grammar concepts, and how much math you remember from school.
It’s a good idea to start by taking a GMAT practice test to see how much work you have ahead of you - you can see the GMAT score chart here.
GMAT quant preparation materials: Where can I find them?
GMAT Club is a great place to start - they have an entire forum dedicated to questions about the quant section of the test, including advice on where to find practice tests and additional GMAT prep resources.
Can you take the GMAT online?
Some schools are currently accepting the GMAT online option which was introduced as a result of COVID-19. Initially a temporary solution, GMAC have announced that the online option of the test will remain. How does GMAT online work? The sections, question types and timings are now the same as the in-person test. The online GMAT is proctored remotely, you need to be visible on camera the whole time (except for breaks) and both audio and video feeds will be recorded.
GMAT versus GRE -which is tougher?
When considering whether to take the GMAT versus GRE, be sure to check first with the schools you are applying to - not all will accept the GRE, but also some are allowing applicants to take their own in-house tests which many students say are shorter and more straightforward. The two tests cover slightly different topics - the verbal section of the GMAT focuses more on grammar, spotting errors and critical thinking, whilst the GRE is geared includes a ‘fill in the gap’ section which tests vocabulary as well as reasoning skills. On the quant side, the big difference is that the GRE allows you to use a calculator! The quant section of the GRE is generally considered to be less ‘tricky’ than the GMAT, where new concepts such as data sufficiency questions often catch new students
What is a good GMAT score?
Remember - everyone's experience of GMAT preparation and test taking is different, and what is a good GMAT score for you comes down to the school that you want to go to and your individual strengths and weaknesses.
The Economists top 10 business schools all had average GMAT scores of 700+ in 2018 and 2019 which gives you an idea of where you need to aim if you are looking to get into a top 10 MBA program. The average GMAT score globally across all test takers between 2017 and 2019 was 564.84, according to GMAC.
GMAT without studying - can you pass?
The GMAT isn't about passing or failing, it's about getting the score you need for your target school. So if your dream school only requires a GMAT score of 550-600 you might need to put in less time, especially if English is your first language or you're a math whizz. That being said, the GMAT is designed to test not just your underlying math and verbal skills but your critical thinking - and that means lots of traps and questions designed to catch you out. Generally, taking the GMAT without studying is not a recipe for success.
An MBA without GMAT or GRE - is it possible?
More and more schools, even some top programs, are considering applicants without GMAT scores, either on a case-by-case waiver basis or by adapting their MBA admissions process to look at other criteria. Business schools without GMAT requirements in Europe have also steadily been becoming more common - some of these schools, particularly in the UK, are now offering their own proprietary admissions tests as an alternative.
When to take the GMAT for an MBA?
Your GMAT score is valid for five years so depending on how much preparation time you require, try to get it done well ahead of your application deadlines. Generally you should take the GMAT at least two months ahead of your application to give enough time for your scores to be reported - note though that some UK/European schools offer flexibility on this and may be willing to evaluate your application without a GMAT score and make a conditional offer based on you taking the test before school begins.