Grad School 101: An Overview of the GMAT Test Prep Process
The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) was created by the Graduate Management Admission Council and is used by business schools throughout the United States for admissions. Much like the GRE, the GMAT involves content students often have not seen since high school, so GMAT test preparation typically requires a mix of tutoring and extensive self-study. Testing is done on individually scheduled dates throughout the year at private testing centers just about anywhere in the world. Consequently, GMAT registration and test dates are chosen at the student’s discretion based on the progress of the GMAT prep program. The GMAT uses a computer system that adapts the test to each student’s individual performance. This question-adaptive computer interface is unique to the GMAT and is a major component of the GMAT score. Effective GMAT prep recognizes that practicing the process of taking the test is just as important as mastering the content that is tested. Inspirica’s approach to GMAT test prep begins with this fact, and your tutor will ensure that you go into test day having had ample experience with the mechanics of taking the test. This post is designed to give you an overview of the GMAT prep process.
The Format of the GMAT
The GMAT is comprised of four sections and takes approximately 3 1/2 hours to complete:
- Verbal Reasoning
- 36 questions
- 65 minutes
- Quantitative Reasoning
- 31 questions
- 62 minutes
- Integrated Reasoning
- 12 questions
- 30 minutes
- Analytical Writing Assessment
- 1 question
- 30 minutes
At the beginning of the test, students are given the opportunity to sequence their sections in one of three pre-selected orders. This gives each tester the flexibility to take the test in the sequence that best fits individual strengths and weaknesses. The sequences are as follows:
- Analytical Writing, Integrated Reasoning, Quantitative, Verbal
- Verbal, Quantitative, Integrated Reasoning, Analytical Writing
- Quantitative, Verbal, Integrated Reasoning, Analytical Writing
The Digital GMAT
The GMAT is a computer-adaptive test, which means that the difficulty of the test changes from question to question in response to the student’s performance. Because of this, the GMAT is only offered in digital form, and test-takers are not able to skip questions or change answers after they have been submitted, as the response to each question controls which question the tester gets next. GMAT test prep must include strategies for dealing with this special format.
In addition to its unique interface, the GMAT also contains multiple question-types that are seldom or never seen on other tests. This is best illustrated by the Data Sufficiency question type, which provides students with a question and two informational statements, then challenges them to determine what combination of the given information is sufficient to answer the question. Even though students are not required to actually answer the question in order to get the problem correct, the difficulty of this question-type is often compounded by the presence of material with which students are rusty. If this sounds challenging, that’s because it is! Fortunately, our GMAT test prep programs focus just as heavily on mastering strategies for each distinct question-type as they do on learning content, so you’ll go into test day fully prepared for anything the GMAT can throw at you.
Scoring the GMAT: AWA (Essay) and Integrated Reasoning
Each section of the GMAT receives an individual score. The essay or AWA (Analytical Writing Assessment) is scored twice, once by a human grader and once by a computer, and the two scores are averaged to produce a final score from 0.0 to 6.0. The Integrated Reasoning section is scored purely based on the number of questions that a student answers correctly, and the final score will range from 1 to 8. Some Integrated Reasoning questions have multiple parts, and a student must answer every part correctly in order to receive credit for that question.
Scoring the GMAT: Verbal and Quantitative Sections
Scoring for the Verbal and Quantitative sections is more complex, as each score takes into account several factors: the number of questions a student answers in the section; how many of those answers are correct; and the difficulty level of the questions answered. Inspirica’s approach to GMAT preparation will incorporate the realities of this question-adaptive test format.
In addition to the individual section scores, the GMAT will also produce a total score from 200 to 800, with two-thirds of test takers scoring between 400 and 600. The total score is the best single measure of a student’s performance on the test, and it is based only on the student’s performance in the Verbal and Quantitative sections. The scores from the AWA and IR do not factor into the single composite score.
Students will be able to see their unofficial scores immediately upon completing the test, and they will have two minutes to decide whether to accept the scores or cancel them. Even if you do not cancel your scores at the test center, you will still have 72 hours to decide to cancel (for a fee). And even canceled scores can be reinstated (again, for a fee). One goal of your GMAT prep program will be to establish the threshold score above which you would NOT cancel the score. Once accepted, scores will appear on all score reports sent to schools over the next five years; the GMAT does not offer the option to pick and choose which scores are submitted.
GMAT Test Registration and Test Dates
A student can retake the GMAT once every 16 calendar days but no more than five times in a rolling 12-month period and no more than eight times total. The test is administered frequently and on all different days of the week, so a student’s testing schedule is typically determined by business school application deadlines and availability of seats at nearby test centers. Students can search for nearby test centers and register to take the test at the GMAC’s website using their mba.com account. If requesting accommodations for a disability, that request must be processed prior to scheduling a testing appointment. Your GMAT test preparation will certainly involve establishing at least 2 or 3 GMAT test dates over the course of your program.
Inspirica’s Approach to GMAT Test Prep
Inspirica’s approach to GMAT test prep starts with recognizing the differing needs of students applying to graduate programs. We’ve seen every type of student, from those who are in college and want to enroll in business school immediately upon graduation to those who have been out of college and working full-time for years. Our team will work with you to find a tutor who fits your availability, and your tutor will focus on teaching content, strategy, and technique. The tutor will also help you guide your independent preparation as you practice those techniques and review content on your own, in whatever proportion that is optimal for you.
More than most other standardized tests, there are certain aspects of taking the GMAT that are impossible to replicate through homework alone, which is one of the reasons that regular practice tests are a staple of our GMAT test preparation programs. Your tutor will help you set up a schedule of periodic mock tests that will give you the opportunity to practice the techniques you’ve learned in the context of a full test while also familiarizing you with the experience of taking the full test straight through. This practice with the test-taking experience is particularly important in GMAT programs, as students need to become comfortable with the question-adaptive computer interface. After each mock test, you and your tutor will go over the results together in detail, using them to revise your overall GMAT preparation plan; you’ll be able to see the product of your hard work and determine what part of the test to attack next.
For GMAT test prep programs, you’ll take official practice tests released by the GMAC using the same software that you’ll use when you take the real test. The practice version of the software scores the test in the same way the actual GMAT is scored but still allows you to review each question individually, giving you and your tutor the opportunity to deconstruct your results in order to pinpoint exactly why and how your right answers were right and your wrong answers wrong.
Get Started Today on Your GMAT Test Preparation
To learn more about our GMAT test preparation programs, schedule a free phone consultation with our team of Program Coordinators today!