If you are applying to business school, you probably know, you’ve got to take your GMAT. You may not have taken a standardised test in many years, so it’s normal to feel overwhelmed with the prospect of studying for this test.

Here is a break down of everything you need to know about the GMAT, so you can take the test feeling positive and prepared.    

What is it?

The Graduate Management Admission Test—or GMAT—is an exam used to gain admission to business schools. The test has been used for 60 years and is accepted by over 6,000 graduate business and management programs worldwide to help them make decisions on admissions.

Registration, Scheduling and Costs

There are multiple ways to register for the GMAT: online, by phone or mail. The exam is offered throughout the year, all around the world; refer to the official GMAT website for up-to-date information on test locations and schedules.

Registering fees are USD 250, which includes the cost of sending your official test results to up to 5 institutions, and if you registered online it gives you access to free GMAT prep materials. Value-added tax (VAT) applies for testing in some countries, so be sure to check the official GMAT website for country-specific requirements.

Useful tip: Before you schedule a GMAT date, research application deadlines for the schools to which you are applying. If your payment is being sent by mail, keep in mind that it can take up to eight weeks to reach the US.

Test Components

You have 3.5 hours to complete these 4 test sections: Analytical Writing Assessment, Integrated Reasoning, Quantitative, and Verbal. The entire test is taken on a computer. The Quantitative and Verbal sections consist of Computer Adaptive multiple-choice questions. This means that the difficulty levels of test questions are based on your performance on the previous question.

Quantitative: This section is used to test your knowledge of basic arithmetic, algebra and geometry.

Verbal: This section consists of 41 questions in 3 categories: Reading Comprehension, Critical Reasoning and Sentence Correction.  

Integrated Reasoning: You are given 30 minutes to answer 12 questions, which consist of multi-source reasoning, graphics interpretation, two-part analysis and table analysis.

Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA): This portion measures your critical thinking and writing skills based on one assigned topic. Your response will be evaluated twice—once by a trained university faculty member and again by an automated essay-scoring engine.

Useful tip: Allot four and a half hours for the complete test-taking process, including sign-in and break times.


You get to view your unofficial scores (minus the AWA section scores) immediately after completing the GMAT.

Once you see your ‘Score Preview’, you have one opportunity to cancel your test results. Please note that you must wait 16 days before you can retake the test. If you choose to accept your scores, you can get a printout of your unofficial report.

The Official Score Report will be delivered to you and your chosen graduate programs within 20 days after you take the test.

Useful tip: The GMAT doesn’t have a passing or failing score; each graduate business school has their own stipulated minimum score required for admission into their program; keep these scores in mind so you can better decide whether to cancel or accept your results.

Test Prep

Use these tips to get ready to tackle the GMAT:

  • Have a thorough understanding of the computer-adaptive format and how it will affect your test-taking strategies.
  • Practice your typing skills.
  • Create a study plan and adhere to it.
  • Take timed practice tests to assess your knowledge and pace.

While there are many resources available to help you study for the GMAT, we advise that you do not overwhelm yourself by purchasing too many study materials. It’s best to choose resources from a reputable institution and work your way through those study materials. Practice tests are one of the best ways of studying for the GMAT, so make sure you take enough of them to feel good about your performance.

Good luck on your test and your business school ambitions!

If this guide was helpful, also check out: Is An MBA Right for You?, Where Are Today's International Students Going for Their Education?, and Top Reasons to Study Medicine.

About the Author: Muneeza Kizilbash grew up in the United States and Pakistan and was active in her university’s International Student Council. Now settled in Dubai, she loves to inform, educate and entertain her readers through her writing.