GMAT

Although the GRE is becoming a more popular alternative for students looking to apply to business school, the GMAT remains the dominant standardized test in the field. The test consists of three sections: the Analytical Writing Assessment and the Quantitative and Verbal sections, in that order. The last two sections are presented to you in a computer-adaptive format, and the questions vary by test-taker because they automatically adjust to your level of ability. Because of this format, you’re not able to skip around or return to a question that gave you trouble initially. Your test will be scored based on not only your correct answers, but how difficult the questions were that you did answer correctly. Sound confusing? It’s really not. This scoring method allows you to see where you rank in terms of all the other examinees.

When you receive your score, you’ll see a total figure ranging from 200 to 800. About two-thirds of those who take the test score between 400 to 600, but to get an idea on what the top schools in the country like to see, the median GMAT score at Harvard University is 720; the median GMAT score at Yale University is 710. Below, we give you more information on the sections you’ll see on the GMAT so that you can be competitive come exam day.

The Analytical Writing Assessment

You’ll have an hour to complete each writing task on this section of the exam, with half an hour dedicated to each. One assessment will ask you to analyze an issue, the other to analyze an argument. You won’t be asked to provide a right or a wrong answer. Instead, you’ll be judged on how you developed a position on an issue in the first section, and how successful you were in your critique of the argument presented to you in the second section.

The Quantitative Section

You’ll have 75 minutes to answer 37 multiple-choice questions in this section. There will be two question “types” on this part of the exam—Data Sufficiency and Problem Solving. Yes, you’ll be expected to know some math for the test. Business has a lot to do with numbers, after all. This section will require knowledge of basic algebra and geometry, and will measure how well you apply that knowledge to not only solve problems, but analyze those problems.

The Verbal Section

You’ll have 75 minutes to answer 41 multiple-choice questions in this section. There will be three question “types” on this part of the exam—Reading Comprehension, Critical Reasoning and Sentence Correction. The comprehension questions will be based on passages of up to 350 words on a wide variety of topics. Your critical reasoning will be measured by questions that ask you about the structure of arguments and the effectiveness of a described plan of action, among other scenarios. The sentence correction questions will test your style and grammar skills.

Although you’ll get a cumulative score, you’ll also see how well you did in each section. The Verbal and Quantitative sections are scored between 0 and 60. The Analytical Writing Assessment is an average of two ratings from the essay scorers, and scores on this section will range from 0 to 6, with half-points possible. If you weren’t able to finish a section in the time allotted but decided not to cancel your scores, you’ll still get scored on that section. Your scores may not be too high, though, as the number of questions you answer per section factors into your final score. For more information on the kinds of questions you’ll be expected to answer in each section, take a look at the sample questions found at the links below.

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