How to Study for the GMAT

The Graduate Management Admission Test, also known as the GMAT, is a required assessment for admission to most graduate business programs. That means if you are looking to get your MBA, a passing GMAT score is a must. Taking the time to prepare for the Graduate Management Admissions Test will significantly improve your score and your chances of getting accepted into your MBA program of choice. Find out how to study for the GMAT below. 

MBA Programs are rigorous, and the GMAT helps schools assess if you are ready for the program.

The GMAT will test your critical thinking as well as your ability to analyze and understand written material. It will also assess your understanding of algebra, geometry, and data analysis. 

Because so much is covered, it is crucial to develop a plan and give yourself plenty of time to prepare for the GMAT.

GMAT Recommended Study Resources

On the official site of the GMAT, you will find a free exam prep course. This prep course includes 90 sample test questions and two free sample exams. 

These sample exams and questions are a great place to start. They will help you understand the question format and pace of the official GMAT. This will also help you plan what areas you need to focus your study efforts. 

Another great resource is the Free GMAT practice tests from test-guide.com. These resources are up to date for 2020, and the practice exams include automatic scoring and explanations for all answers. Understanding what you got wrong, why it was wrong, and what the response should have been is crucial to being prepared for the GMAT. 

For More Help

See our review of the best GMAT Prep Courses.

GMAT Prep Courses

Best GMAT Prep Courses

If you find you need additional study resources, check out the Best GMAT Prep Courses for 2020. These prep courses can help you focus on the areas you need the most support and prepare for the overall length of the test. 

While taking a practice test is one of the best options to prepare you for the GMAT, some find a prep book a great addition. Head here for the Best GMAT Prep Books for 2020

Resources you may also find helpful in preparing for the GMAT are flashcards and study guides. On StudyGuideZone, you can download a free study guide designed to prepare you for the four different sections of the GMAT. 

Whatever resources you decide to use, taking a practice test before you begin studying to create a plan and again after you feel ready will help you achieve the highest score possible on the GMAT.

How To Study for The GMAT

Walk through the steps in our infographic below to make sure you know how to study for the GMAT.

How to study for the GMAT

(click on image to enlarge)

GMAT Content Outline

The GMAT consists of four sections. The time limit for each section varies and is listed below. You can plan on the entire test to take approximately 3.5 hours, including all test sections and breaks. 

  1. The Analytical Writing Assessment – This section will test how well you utilize critical thinking skills to solve a problem and your ability to communicate your ideas clearly. The Analytical Writing Assessment consists of only 1 Prompt. With this prompt, you will have 30 minutes to analyze an argument.
  2. Integrated Reasoning – This section tests your ability to analyze information presented in various formats. The Integrated Reasoning section of the GMAT consists of 12 questions. These questions will include a graph, table, or comparison for you to analyze. This section also has a 30-minute time limit.
  3. Quantitative Reasoning – This section measures how well you use reasoning skills to make a conclusion from a given set of data. The Quantitative Reasoning section includes 31 problem solving and data analysis questions. You will have 2 minutes to answer each question or 62 minutes in total. 
  4. Verbal Reasoning   This section tests how well you can read and comprehend written material. It also looks at your ability to correct passages to abide by standard English grammar rules. The GMAT's Verbal Reasoning section consists of 36 reading comprehension, grammar correction, and critical reasoning questions. You will have 65 minutes to complete this section.

Unlike other exams, you will have the option to choose from three different section orders on test day.

Option 1

  • Analytical Writing Assessment
  • Integrated Reasoning
  • (8 Minute Optional Break)
  • Quantitative Reasoning
  • (8 Minute Optional Break)
  • Verbal Reasoning

OPTION 2

  • Verbal Reasoning
  • (8 Minute Optional Break)
  • Quantitative Reasoning
  • (8 Minute Optional Break)
  • Integrated Reasoning
  • Analytical Writing Assessment

OPTION 3

  • Quantitative Reasoning
  • (8 Minute Optional Break)
  • Verbal Reasoning
  • (8 Minute Optional Break)
  • Integrated Reasoning
  • Analytical Writing Assessment

What order you choose to take the sections of your GMAT exam is entirely up to you, but you should consider what areas you excel and what sections may be more challenging for you to complete

Taking a few different practice tests can also help you decide what order will help you succeed. Also, notice the optional breaks included in each schedule. These may play a factor in the section order you choose. 

GMAT Administration 

To register for the GMAT, you must visit MBA.com and create an account. After you create your account, you will choose if you want to take the online version of the test or go to a local testing center. 

The online version will require you to follow specific guidelines to ensure the test's validity, but you can take it at any time. If you choose to take the GMAT at a testing center, you will schedule a date and time that works for you. 

Whether you decide to take the exam online or in a testing center, choose a time to help you do your best. If you feel alert and ready to go in the morning, take the test first thing. If, on the other hand, you are not a morning person scheduling an afternoon testing time may be a better option.  

The GMAT is given continuously throughout the year, so you can take it when it best suits your needs. Be sure and schedule the test far enough in advance to properly prepare and early enough that your results are sent to your schools of choice by the application deadlines. 

The fee to register for the GMAT is $250. Depending on the country you schedule your exam in, there may be additional taxes and fees. A complete list of these can be found at MBA.com. 

GMAT Scores

Each section of the GMAT is scored in its own range with varying increments.

The Analytical Writing portion of the test is scored in a range from 0-6 in increments of 0.5. Your score will be an average of your score from the computer and the human reader.

The Integrated Reasoning portion of the test is scored from 1-8 in 1-point increments. This score is based on the number of questions you answer correctly.

The Quantitative Reasoning section of the test will receive a score from 6-51 in 1-point increments. This score is compiled from the number of questions you answer, each question's difficulty, and how many questions you answered correctly.  

After completing the GMAT, you will get an unofficial report of your score immediately. You will then have two minutes to decide if you want to cancel this score or send it to your choice schools. 

Because you only have two minutes to decide if you want to keep or cancel your score, it is essential to know what is considered a good GMAT score ahead of time. The score you need will vary depending on the business school you choose to apply for admission. 

GMAT FAQS

What Schools use the GMAT as part of their admissions process?

Over 6,000 MBA programs around the world use the GMAT score as part of their admissions process. Because so many schools use this test, anyone hoping to earn their MBA will need to prepare for and take the GMAT.

When do I get my GMAT score?

You will get an unofficial score immediately after you finish the exam. This preliminary score helps you decide if you want to cancel the score or keep it. After you have decided to keep a score, you will receive the official score report within 20 calendar days of taking your GMAT exam.

If I cancel my score and decide to retake the GMAT, will schools see the canceled score?

No. The GMAT score report sent to schools will contain only the scores you have accepted. The Official Score Report you receive, however, will include all canceled and accepted scores for the past five years.

How long will my GMAT score be valid?

A GMAT score is considered valid for five years. They are stored and available for ten years; however, scores over five years old are sent to schools with a caution that the results may not be valid any longer. After ten years, scores are no longer available at all.

If I cancel my score, is it gone, or can I reinstate it again?

You may reinstate a GMAT score for four years and eleven months from the test date. To do so, log in to your GMAT account, or call customer service. You will have to pay a $50.00 fee to reinstate your score, and it will only be valid for five years from the test date, not the date you reinstate the score.