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Getting Into a Program With the GMAT

The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) is a standardized examination that is used by business schools, including online ones, to assess applicants. It is designed to measure analytical, verbal, writing and mathematical skills, which are not quickly or easily obtained but rather developed over time through education and work experience. Given its design, the GMAT is used as a predictor of academic performance and ability to be successful in the advanced study of business and management, as well as a realistic indicator of present and future ability in management positions.

Why the GMAT?

No two people are alike and neither are their educational backgrounds, employment history or career potential. All of these variations can make it difficult for admissions departments to compare and select appropriate applicants for their online MBA programs. Considering this challenge, admissions departments need at least one form of assessment that is the same for every candidate, hence the need for the GMAT. More than 1,500 institutions in 83 countries use the GMAT as part of the selection criteria for more than 4,800 programs, according to the Graduate Management Admission Council. Even though no candidate is admitted into an MBA program on GMAT scores alone, those who score higher on this exam do increase their likelihood of acceptance into highly competitive schools.

How the GMAT Works

The GMAT is separated into three main parts: analytical writing; quantitative; and verbal. The first is made up of two writing tasks, the Analysis of an Issue and Analysis of an Argument. During these tasks you must analyze an issue, explain your point of view on an issue, analyze the reasoning behind an argument and critique that argument. This section is designed to evaluate your analytical thinking about issues and arguments, as well as measure your ability to explore issues and formulate critiques.

The quantitative section consists of multiple choice questions pertaining to data sufficiency and problem solving. The data questions will require you to analyze a quantitative problem, determine relevant information and decide whether there is sufficient information to solve a problem. Problem solving questions test your mathematical skills, comprehension of mathematical concepts and ability to reason.

The verbal part features multiple choice questions testing reading comprehension, critical reasoning and sentence correction. You will have to read selected material and then answer interpretive, applied and inferential questions about it. Critical reasoning questions will require you to use your reasoning abilities concerning the creation and evaluation of arguments and plans of action. You will also have the chance to demonstrate your language proficiency as you are tested on English style and grammar.

Preparing for the GMAT

The purpose of the GMAT is not to assess your business knowledge, job skills, undergraduate education or understanding of a specific subject, so preparing for it can be a little tricky. It is recommended that prospective test takers begin preparing for the GMAT about three to six months beforehand. This can be done in several ways: on your own, with a group or a combination of both. A highly disciplined person may be able to study for the GMAT completely on his or her own, but somebody who gets easily distracted may want to consider a prep course with group study.

As there are no specific subjects to study or theories and terms to memorize, the best way to prepare for the GMAT is to make sure that you are familiar with the exam and what it will require of you. First, it’s important to understand the format as the more comfortable you are with it the more likely you are to perform well. There are many resources available from the Graduate Management Admission Council that can help you become more familiar with the GMAT such as GMATPrep software, which simulates the test taking experience and official GMAT review guides, which can help you better understand each exam section with questions, answers and explanations.

Second, it may help to work with a tutor or course instructor who is knowledgeable about the GMAT. Preparation courses are available from organizations such as The Princeton Review, Kaplan, Veritas Prep and Manhattan GMAT. These types of courses typically go over information and concepts that will appear on the GMAT, help test takers identify the areas that they need to improve on and distribute customizable homework to boost results on those sections. Those who are interested in enrolling in a prep class from one of these organizations may want to check out GMAT Test Prep: A User’s Guide from Bloomberg Businessweek to see which one may be worth their time and money.

Taking the GMAT

It is recommended that MBA program hopefuls take the GMAT about a year before they plan to enroll. The GMAT is offered year-round and administered at testing centers worldwide. Although availability depends on the test center of your choice, most have flexible scheduling and offer multiple time slots throughout the week. The Graduate Management Admission Council can help you find a convenient test center.

The GMAT can be taken up to five times but only once per month, so taking it well before you plan on beginning an MBA program can be beneficial in case your first score is unsatisfactory. Unofficial reports for verbal, quantitative and total scores are available immediately after the exam, which can help you then determine whether you would like to retake it. Official score reports are available online within 20 days of your test date, which can then be accessed by you and the MBA programs you’ve requested receive them. As a result, it is important that you take the GMAT in plenty of time to have the scores sent out before application deadlines.