GMAT (Graduate Management Admissions Test) – A Guide |
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GMAT (Graduate Management Admissions Test)

Written by Ben Taylor

The GMAT is a standardised test that measures the ability of candidates to undertake graduate study in business schools. It’s most commonly associated with entry to Masters of Business Administration (MBA) and Masters in Management (MIM).

GMAT exams are delivered in English and involve a combination of numerical, reasoning and writing aptitude tasks. Not all business schools will ask for a GMAT score, although it’s a common part of the application process in countries such as the USA, Canada, Australia and India.

If you’re thinking about studying a Business-related Masters, it’s always worth checking whether you need to take the GMAT exam. Preparing can take time and you’ll also need to register for a place in a GMAT assessment centre, so make sure you factor this into your plans.

How does the GMAT exam work?

The GMAT is a computer-based test that consists of four sections, taking just over three hours to complete:

  • Analytical Writing Assessment (30 minutes / 1 question) – You will write a short essay to analyse and evaluate the rationale behind an example argument.
  • Integrated Reasoning (30 minutes / 12 questions) – This section tests your capacity to solve problems using data from multiple sources. The questions come in four different formats: graphics interpretation, multi-source reasoning, table analysis and two-part analysis.
  • Quantitative Reasoning (62 minutes / 31 questions) – As the most mathematical part of the GMAT, this section requires good general knowledge of arithmetic, algebra and geometry. There are two kinds of question: problem solving and data sufficiency (the latter is a combination of numerical and verbal reasoning).
  • Verbal Reasoning (65 minutes / 32 questions) – This section is designed to test your reading comprehension, critical reasoning and sentence correction skills.

The GMAT’s Quantitative Reasoning and Verbal Reasoning sections are both computer-adaptive. This means that the exam will adapt itself to your ability level, with your answers determining the difficulty of the next question.

So, the first question will be of medium difficulty. If you answer it correctly the next question will be harder, while if you answer it incorrectly the question will be easier. This adaptive process continues until you’ve finished answering all the tasks. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to return to or edit any exercises once you’ve answered them.

Your GMAT score is determined by the number of questions you’ve completed, the number of correct and incorrect answers, and the difficulty level of each question.

Find out more about Masters in Business

Read our guide to Business Masters degrees like the MBA and Masters in Management.

What GMAT score do I need?

A GMAT score is just one of several factors at play in an MBA application: your score will be taken into account alongside your essays, interview, qualifications and professional experience. An excellent GMAT score doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be accepted onto a competitive MBA programme, while a slightly subpar result doesn’t necessarily doom your application.

The maximum GMAT score is 800, but two-thirds of GMAT candidates achieve between 400 and 600 (the mean score is 561.27). In terms of MBA admissions at the very top business schools, the average GMAT score is between 712 and 730. Universities will usually provide the average GMAT score of their current crop of students, which will give you a good impression of the standard you’ll need to achieve.

GMAT scores are valid for five years (and available to report on for 10 years).


While the GMAT is designed for students looking to gain a place on a Business Masters, increasing numbers of business schools accept GRE (Graduate Record Examination) scores from candidates. The GRE is designed as a more general exam suitable for students applying to a range of disciplines.

Find out more in our guide to graduate entry tests.

GMAT preparation

Unsurprisingly, preparation is vital to GMAT success. There are plenty of online resources, tips and practice papers to help you out, but make sure they’re from reputable sources.

A good place to start is the free starter kit provided by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), the organisation that created and administers the GMAT. This includes sample questions across two GMAT exams and features the computer-adaptive process included in the actual test.

After you’ve taken a free mock exam, you’ll receive an indicative score that should hopefully give you an idea whether you need to take a more comprehensive preparatory course or if you can simply practise by yourself.

Where can I take the GMAT exam?

There are accredited test centres around the world where you can take the GMAT throughout the year. You’ll first need to register an account with (a website run by the Graduate Management Admissions Council), before choosing a convenient date and location.

What is the GMAT exam fees?

The GMAT fees is USD $250, although institutions can apply for fee waivers to help out financially disadvantaged students.

Online GMAT fees

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the administrators of the GMAT developed a fully-online version of the test that can be taken from the comfort of your own home. The online GMAT exam fees is USD $200 and is available worldwide, with the exception of mainland China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea and Sudan.

The online version of the GMAT is similar in format to the in-person test, although it’s slightly shorter at two hours and 45 minutes, and doesn’t feature the analytical writing assessment.

Your score will be valid for five years and you’ll be able to send your results to as many universities as you want.

Find out more about the online GMAT, including how to book your place.

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Last updated: 13 October 2022