What is GMAT? - Jonathan Ng

The GMAT is a three and a half hour long computer adaptive standardized test designed to guage the test taker’s mathematical abilities and grasp of the English language. Used by over 1,900 graduate business schools around the world as a part of their selection criteria, attaining a respectable GMAT score has come to be a requirement for anyone harbouring big dreams of enrolling into any prestigious business program. The GMAT’s 5 year score validity rule has made it popular among not only working adults, but also with fresh university graduates with plans of attending an MBA program in the near future.

The GMAT is comprised of 3 main sections; the Analytical Writing Assessment, the Quantitative section, and the Verbal section, all of which often require ample preparation. The scores in the Quantitative and Verbal sections are used to determine the final GMAT score of which test takers are given a score ranging from 200-800 depending on their performance on each section. Test takers are required to complete the test on a computer
at registered test centers. Being an adaptive test, the questions asked in the Quantitative and Verbal sections are dependent on your abilities, thus your performance on a question often has an impact on the difficulty level of the next question presented to you.

Analytical Writing Assessment
The first section that test takers are tasked with is the Analytical Writing Assessment. This section puts the test taker’s ability to effectively structure arguments and opinions to the test, requiring participants to write two essays, the first an analysis of an issue, and the second an analysis of an argument. Test takers are given thirty minutes to complete each essay and are graded on a 0-6 scale in 0.5 intervals by two different evaluators, one
of which may be by an automated essayscoring engine. The two scores awarded to each essay are then averaged out to form the final Analytical Writing Assessment score. If there is a disparity of more than 1 between the two scores, another evaluator will be asked to grade the essay in order to determine an accurate final score. As one of the graders is a computerized program, test takers should spend time memorizing the proper essay
format that is expected in the Analytical Writing Assessment section. Computers have little appreciation for originality, so deviating too much from the standard format may not only confuse the computer, but could cost you your grades.

While this section is often regarded as the least important by many, most top schools do take into account the Analytical Writing Assessment score, so test takers are advised not to neglect this section during their GMAT preparation.

Quantitative Section

The Quantitive section has been designed to measure participants’ mathematical knowledge and problem solving abilities in topics spanning from arithmetic and elementary algebra to other commonly known concepts of geometry. Two different types of questions are given in this section of the
test, problem solving questions and data-sufficiency questions. The problem solving questions are presented in either mathematical equations or word problems, while for the data-suffi ciency questions, test takers are given a math problem and two statements associated to the problem, and are required to determine if either statement alone is enough to answer the problem. With 75 minutes to complete 37 multiple choice questions, test
takers are forced to put their time management skills to good use.

Although the mathematical concepts tested are only of high school level, many test takers that have been out of the “studying and test taking game” for quite a while do face their fair share of struggles when taking on this section. Going back to the basics and consistent practice may be a good idea for ambitious test takers.

Verbal Section

The Verbal section is the last part of the test, requiring test takers to put their competencies in the English language on full display. This
part of the test is made up of 3 sections; a reading comprehension section, which consists of questions related to the passage given, a critical reasoning section, where test takers are presented with an argument they are required to analyze, and a sentence correction section, which is a rephrasing exercise. Each section requires test takers to use different skills to complete. Like the Quantitative section, test takers are given 75 minutes to complete the multiple choice questions, but are given a slightly more demanding 41 questions to answer.

The sentence correction section is a rephrasing exercise, where test takers are asked to choose the right phrasing of an underlined section of the sentence. Questions in the critical reasoning section present test takers with an argument which they are required to analyze. The reading comprehension section consists of questions related to the passage given.

A large majority of test takers usually fare relatively poorer on this section, with many native English language speakers even deeming this section as the most challenging, so do make it a point to brush up on your comprehension and grammar and widen your vocabulary if you have your sights set on any top business program.

Scoring top marks in the GMAT is far from an easy feat and is something that even the academically gifted and accomplished struggle with. Due to the large array of topics and skills tested in the GMAT, many MBA hopefuls take up to 3-4 months to completely prepare for the test. Though the long and grueling preperation process for the GMAT is quite a demanding one, many find the benefits of getting a good GMAT score to be well worth the effort. So as you embark on your GMAT journey today, do keep in mind that while a good GMAT score will not assure you a spot in a good business program, a poor one could definitely put you out of the running.

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