Your Insider Guide to the GMAT

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These are some of the questions we are most frequently asked at


  • General
  • Registration
  • GMAT Scoring
  • GMAT
  • Test Prep Classes
  • Books/Software
  • Miscellaneous

General Questions about the GMAT

What is the GMAT anyway?

The GMAT is the standardized test used by business schools to determine admission into their programs. The test lasts approximately 3 1/2 hours. You'll have two half-hour essays that you'll write first followed by a 5-minute break. Next, you'll have a 75-minute quantitative section consisting of 37 questions followed by another 5-minute break. You'll finish with a 75-minute verbal section consisting of 41 questions.

The GMAT is one of three main things an admission committee will use to determine whether to admit you. The other two are your undergraduate scholastic record (i.e. grade point average) and your work experience. You can't do anything about the former and probably can't do too much about the latter. Therefore, you should prepare for the GMAT very seriously. This website contains a vast amount of information to allow you to do just that.

How many times can I take the GMAT?

You can take the GMAT up to five times during every consecutive 12-month period, with one test allowed for every31 calendar days. However, many schools frown upon taking the test too many times. Taking the test twice probably won't get you into any trouble though. Taking the test a third or fourth time may cause an admissions committee to question your ability. While, most schools will only consider your best score, some schools may handle this differently for someone who has taken the test multiple times.

It's important to note that schools will see all of your scores. Even if you decide to cancel a particular score (which you must do before seeing your score), the cancellation will still be reported to the school. Plan on taking the test no more than twice and assume that the admissions committees will take the best of those two scores.

What's the deal with the essays?

The first part of the test will be an Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA). This will consist of two separate thirty-minute essays on a topic you will be given. You will be scored on a scale of 1.0 to 6.0 in half point increments. This score will not be a part of your total GMAT score but will be reported to schools. Although there is some disagreement on this, the admissions committees may also view the actual essays that you wrote. Although the AWA is not usually a big factor in determining admission, it may make more of a difference in students with below-average Verbal scores.

Where do I go to find out additional information about the GMAT?

A good place to start is This is the official site for GMAT information. You can download a free registration bulletin from the MBA store which will give you more detailed information on the registration process. Also, check out our Links Page which has links to websites you can go to for additional information and advice.

Questions about Registration

How do I sign up for the GMAT?

Signing up for the GMAT is pretty easy. You can do it either on-line or over the phone. The phone number to call is 1-800-GMAT-NOW. The web URL is

If you need a specific day of the week or a specific time, plan on calling well in advance. Popular days and times may fill up weeks in advance. You'll need a major credit card to pay for your test fee.

Questions about GMAT Scores

How do they score the GMAT?

The GMAT is scored on a scale from 200 to 800. The average score is pretty close to 500 although that has increased in recent years. To get into a top 10 business school you will typically need a score higher than a 600. While a score higher than 700 should get you into most business schools, nothing is guaranteed. We recently heard of a student who scored 740, only to be rejected by every school to which he applied!

You will get two sub-scores on your GMAT; one for the Quant section and one for the Verbal section. You will also receive a percentile score so you can compare your performance with that of others taking the test. In addition, you will receive a score for your essays – which also will be reported to the schools.

How does the Adaptive Test format work?

We've put together an article with a very helpful analogy. Click here to read our article entitled "Adaptive Testing Explained".

Can I cancel my score if I do badly?

Yes, but you must do so before you see your test score. Once your score has been reported to you, you do not have the chance to cancel. In most cases, canceling your score is a bad idea. The only cases in which we would recommend canceling are those in which you had an extreme circumstance which caused a very poor performance (illness, bad testing environment, etc.). Usually, people think they did worse than they actually did. Remember that even if you don't cancel and do poorly, you do have the chance to take the test again.

How long will my GMAT score be good for?

According to GMAC, GMAT scores are good for 5 years. Please note that all your scores during the past five years will be reported on your score card to schools.

Specific GMAT Questions

What's a good plan for studying for the GMAT?

This will depend on how much time you have and how much you would like to increase your score. We've put together Game Plans for several of the most common routes. Click here to pick a Game Plan that suits you best.

I have a score of XXX with a GPA of 3.XX from Some University and I'm wondering what schools would be best for me?

First, you'll want to determine where you can get in. A great place to start is the U.S. News & World Report Business School Rankings. This will give you the average GMAT score at the top 50 business schools in the country. From this you should be able to get a pretty good estimate of the schools that might accept you. Just because your GMAT is lower than the average obviously doesn't mean that you won't get in, it will just make it less likely.

After figuring out where you can get in, you'll want to figure out the best match for you. Consider your interests. What type of job do you want upon graduation? What part of the country would you like to live in? The answer to which school you should go to is beyond the scope of this site, but you should be able to find some good books at your local bookstore or library which will give you additional information.

I'm looking to score high and want some tough questions. Where can I find them?

Two pieces of advice for those seeking tough questions:
Do the questions at the end of the math section in the latest edition of the Official Guide. These were arranged from easy to hard, so by just doing the last questions, you'll see what are considered the difficult ones. Click here for more info.

Use LSAT material. Some of the LSAT material is very similar to GMAT material, only more difficult. Click here for more info.

Questions about Test Prep Classes

Should I take a prep class through a company like Kaplan, Manhattan Review or the Princeton Review?

Remember that all prep courses are not created equal. We've written at article which deals with this common question. Click here read the article.

Which course is the best: Manhattan Review, Kaplan, or the Princeton Review?

Your first concern should be the quality of the instruction. We've put together an article that will give you advice on how best to do this. Do your homework and make sure to ask a lot of questions of any prospective test preparation center. It's your money and your GMAT score at stake.

Questions about GMAT Books and Software

What are the best GMAT books?

We've reviewed dozens of GMAT books and talked to hundreds of students who've used these books. We've narrowed down the list to a select few that are worthwhile. Click here for the list of Recommended books.

Is there anywhere where I can get free practice tests?

There sure is! We've put together a list of free GMAT practice tests. Click here to check them out. If you find more, send us an e-mail at and we'll be happy to include them.

Miscellaneous Questions

What is a "quandary" anyway?

According to Webster, a "quandary" is a "state of perplexity or doubt", as in "We hope this site cures most of your quandaries."

How to Choose a Prep Course


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Adaptive Testing Explained


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Sentence Correction Secrets


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