The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) is a very useful tool in Australian universities (and over 110 other countries) to select students for further study in business management programmes (such as studying an MBA, a masters of business management, or attend to a graduate business school).

So if you would like to study the above courses or go to business school in another country, you might need to think about sitting this exam. The mba.com website states that: 

7 in 10 applicants to top 100 ranked MBA programs apply with an admissions test score from the GMAT exam. 200,000 candidates worldwide take the GMAT exam each year, 7,000 MBA and Masters programs and 2,300+ schools use the GMAT exam.

Are you a business student wanting to undertake a university exchange so you can study and live in Australia? If so, you'll likely want to know a little more about this exam and why you need to take the GMAT to prove your level of English for the MBA admissions process!

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What is the GMAT?

The GMAT is a standardised test specifically designed for graduate business and management programmes.

The GMAT score range is between 200 (the lowest score) and 800 (the best score).

A score of 550 is usually sufficient to attend a “smaller” university but you’ll typically need somewhere between 650 and 700 if you’re dreaming of attending a prestigious university!

It's up to universities to decide what score they require and you're graded on a curve. It’s certainly not the type of exam you would take in English lessons where there is a definite pass or fail.

Who Created The GMAT?

The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) is the owner and administrator of the GMAT exam. GMAC is a global, non-profit association of leading graduate business schools.

GMAC offers potential graduate business students with the products and tools they need to find the right program, prepare for the GMAT exam, and meet admissions professionals across the world. It also administers the GMAT exam.

The Structure of the Test

You'll have to demonstrate critical thinking and strong analysis throughout the entire exam, but there are four separately timed sections to the test. You will receive five scores, one for each section plus your total score. Your scores are reported on a fixed scale and appears on the Official GMAT Score Report that you and your designated score recipients (graduate business programs) receive.

The four sections are:

  • Analytical Writing Assessment
  • Integrated Reasoning
  • Quantitative
  • Verbal

The four sections don't necessarily have to be completed in the above order. When you arrive at your test centre, you have the flexibility to choose from three options for your exam's section order.

The Analytical Writing Assessment part of the exam is scored separately from the rest with range from 0 to 6, reported in intervals of 0.5. The Integrated Reasoning part is also scored separately but this time with a range from 1 to 8, reported in intervals of 1. The Quantitative and Verbal scores range from 0 to 60 on a fixed scale; with scores below 6 and above 51 are rare. Scores are reported in intervals of 1 and the standard error of measurement is 3 points.

Your total GMAT scores range from 200 to 800 and is based on your scores from the Quantitative and Verbal sections. The raw calculation is then converted to a number in the Total Score range. Scores are reported in intervals of 10. The standard error of measurement is 30-40 points.

Two-thirds of test takers score between 400 and 600. 

GMAT Scores also include a Percentile Ranking. This number indicates the percent of test takers that you performed better than.

The score that MBA programs will focus on for admission purposes is your combined Verbal and Quantitative scores. The mean score is 568. This should give you an idea of what is a poor score and what is an excellent score.

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Each Section of the Test

The Quantitative and Verbal Reasoning sections of the exam are computer-adaptive, meaning the difficulty of the test tailors itself in real-time to your ability level.

This is how it works: The first question you receive in either sections will be of medium difficulty. As you answer each question, the computer scores your answer and uses it as well as your responses to any preceding question to select the next question. If you answer the first question correctly, the computer will usually give you a harder question. If you answer the first question incorrectly, your next question will be easier.

Here's some more information about the individual sections and what they are designed to test you on… 

Analytical Writing Section

The Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) section of the test requires that you analyse the reasoning behind a given argument and write a critique of that argument. Your ability to think critically and to communicate your ideas through an essay in English is measured.

Specific knowledge of the essay topic is not necessary; only your capacity to write analytically is assessed.

In the Analysis of an Argument section you will discuss how well reasoned you find a given argument. To do so, you will analyse the line of reasoning and the use of evidence in the argument.

AWA essays are scored by a combination of trained and approved human raters and a machine algorithm. If there is a disparity between the algorithm score and the human score, the score will be reviewed by an additional human rater, and may be adjusted.

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Integrated Reasoning Section

The Integrated Reasoning (IR) section of the exam measures how well you integrate data to solve complex problems.

In particular, the Integrated Reasoning section tests your ability to:

  • Synthesise information presented in graphics, text, and numbers.
  • Evaluate relevant information from different sources.
  • Organise information to see relationships and to solve multiple, interrelated problems.
  • Combine and manipulate information from multiple sources to solve complex problems.

There are four different types of questions in the Integrated Reasoning section (descriptions courtesy of the MBA website). These are:

  • Multi-Source Reasoning

“Measures your ability to examine data from multiple sources text passages, tables, graphics, or some combination of the three—and to analyse each source of data carefully to answer multiple questions. Some questions will require you to recognise discrepancies among different sources of data. Others will ask you to draw inferences, and still others may require you to determine whether data is relevant.”

  • Table Analysis

“Measures your ability sort and analyse a table of data, similar to a spreadsheet, in order to determine what information is relevant or meets certain conditions.”

  • Graphics Interpretation

“Measures your ability to interpret the information presented in a graph or other graphical image (scatter plot, x/y graph, bar chart, pie chart, or statistical curve distribution) to discern relationships, and make inferences.”

  • Two-Part Analysis.

“Measures your ability to solve complex problems. They could be quantitative, verbal, or some combination of both. The format is intentionally versatile to cover a wide range of content. Your ability to evaluate trade-offs, solve simultaneous equations, and discern relationships between two entities is measured.”

All the questions involve both quantitative and verbal reasoning, either separately or together. There are two special features of this section: many questions require more than one response, and you will be able to use an online calculator with basic functions to answer the questions. Due to the nature of this section, you must answer all responses to a question correctly; no partial credit will be given.

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Quantitative Section

The Quantitative Reasoning section of the exam measures your ability to reason mathematically, solve quantitative problems, and interpret graphic data. There are two question types:

  • Problem Solving

This type of question measures your ability to use logic and analytical reasoning to solve quantitative problems. You solve the problem and indicate the best of five answer choices.

  • Data Sufficiency

These questions test your ability to analyse a quantitative problem, recognise which data is relevant, and determine at what point there are enough data to solve the problem. You will be given a problem that consists of a question and two statements. Using the data in the statements, plus your knowledge of math and everyday facts, you decide whether you have enough data in the statement to answer the question asked.

Verbal Section

The Verbal section of the exam is there to test your command of standard written English, how well you can analyse arguments, and your ability to read critically. There are three question types in this section:

  • Reading Comprehension

These questions test your ability to understand words and statements, understand logical relationships between significant points, draw inferences, and follow the development of quantitative concepts. Specifically, the following reading skills will be tested: main idea, supporting idea, inference, application, logical structure, and style. Each Reading Comprehension passage comes with questions that ask you to interpret material, draw inferences or apply to a further context.

  • Critical Reasoning

These types of questions measure your ability to make arguments, evaluate arguments, and formulate or evaluate a plan of action. Critical Reasoning questions are based on a short reading passage, usually fewer than 100 words. Generally, the short text comes with a question that asks you which of the five answer options strengthens or weakens an argument, tells why the argument is flawed, or strongly supports or damages the argument.

  • Sentence Correction

These questions test two broad aspects of your language proficiency. First, correct expression, referring to sentences that are grammatically and structurally sound. Second, effective expression, referring to sentences that effectively express an idea or relationship clearly, concisely, and grammatically. Each Sentence Correction question presents a sentence, part or all of which is underlined. Beneath the sentence are five ways of phrasing the underlined part. Paying attention to grammar, word choice and sentence construction, you must choose the answer that produces the most effective sentence.

How long does the GMAT take?

For specific details on how much time you have for each section, see the table below:

SectionTime (mins)
Analytical Writing Assessment30
Integrated Writing Assessment30
Quantitative 62
Verbal65
Optional breaks16
Total Approx. GMAT Test203

The Time to Prepare

The time you should spend getting ready to sit the exam is unique to you. Only you know what’s right for you! But we do know that successful business school candidates gave themselves 3-6 months to prepare.

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What books do I need for the GMAT?
If you want to achieve an excellent store, you'll need to study a lot! (Source: GMAT Club)

According to the GMAC Prospective Student Survey (2016), 62% of test takers begin their preparation four or more weeks ahead of their exam date. Those who began their preparation earlier accumulated more total prep hours. Those who studied more scored higher - 60 hours or more yielded scores of 500 or higher.

It’s recommended that you start your GMAT test prep at least six months before your test results are due. To enhance your chance of success, begin getting ready for the exam around a year before you're going to sit the test.

Last minute cramming for the test is highly discouraged. You must familiarise yourself with the exam’s format early on, otherwise you’re wasting your time and money.

The MBA website confirms that “most test takers report a minimum eight-week study timeline is ideal if you are somewhat familiar with the underlying GMAT exam content. But, you are the best judge of how much time you need to prepare.”

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How to Revise?

In order to get a good score in the exam, here are some of the best-practices from previous test-takers:

  • Review and study one section of the exam at a time.
  • Review the types of questions in each section.
  • Review basic maths skills.
  • Practice pacing, because time management is vital to completing the GMAT exam.

Nicole Lindsay, a career development expert, has more advice on how to study for the test:

  1. Make a study plan. Strong GMAT test-takers have a comprehensive study plan. This helps you to stay on track, and that consistency equals progress as you work through the material. Decide the subjects that you will revise on particular days and the activities that you will complete, such as answering practice questions or taking a full-length practice exam.
  2. Practice with purpose. Practice is one of the most important aspects of GMAT preparation. Approach each practice test as though you’re sitting down on the actual exam day. This will help you get used to focusing for an extended period of time, moving at an appropriate pace, and sustaining endurance.
  3. Know how you learn. Strong test-takers know their strengths and use them to maximise their study time and performance. There isn't one right way to study for the GMAT, only the way that is right for you. You might need the accountability and structure of a class, or you might prefer a self-paced environment.
  4. Have a positive mindset. Once you have put in the time and work to get ready for the GMAT exam, the best thing you can do is stop worrying and relax. Stress on the day will only impede you. Strong GMAT test-takers go into the exam with a positive, can-do attitude - they know they are ready and are confident in their abilities.

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What Resources to Use?

Now, let's look at which resources you can use to help you prepare:

  1. The GMAT Official Practice Starter Kit and Exams 1 & 2 helps you familiarise yourself with the format and questions asked in the actual exam, including two free computer-adaptive GMAT exams.
  2. Continue your preparation with more questions from GMAT Official Practice Exams 3-6.
  3. Practice real GMAT questions with answers and explanations utilising the GMAT Official Guide.
  4. Go over the GMAT Official Guide Verbal Review or the GMAT Official Guide Quantitative Review.
  5. Focus on, and prepare for, each particular section of the exam, using GMAT Official AWA Practice, GMAT Official IR Practice, and GMAT Official Quantitative Practice.

You can also download the GMAT Exam 8-Week Study Plan. 

How long does it take to prepare for the GMAT?
A study plan is a great idea to help you succeed at the GMAT! (Source: DH Leonard Consulting)

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Websites such as Kaplan and The Economist provide free sample questions with analysis of answers, or mini questionnaires to help you get ready but if you’re looking for even more study resources then you can find several revision tools to purchase online.

On Amazon, you can also find heaps of revision material on the topics included in the exam, just like the following bundle which should cover all you need to know:

Get a Private Tutor

As you can see, getting ready for the exam is a long process, and it can be hard to stay motivated while studying for it. 

In particular, learning to solve mathematical problems by yourself is a tricky task. Perhaps you should consider getting a GMAT tutor or a special English tutor.

A private GMAT teacher can assist you with English by:

  • Helping you to create a revision program that is adapted to your strengths and weaknesses.
  • Motivating you to stay on track and advance with your revision.
  • Explaining the maths concepts that you need help understanding. 
  • Teaching you the techniques needed to manage your time and answer questions efficiently yet correctly.

While there is no cut and dry solution when it comes to achieving a good score in the test, here’s some advice to help increase your chances on the day:

  • Read the questions carefully to prevent making needless mistakes.
  • Work on a piece of scrap paper before answering the questions.
  • Keep an eye on the clock: There is a penalty for not completing each section of the exam. If you do not finish in the allotted time, your scores will be calculated based upon the number of questions answered. Your score will decrease significantly with each unanswered question.
  • If a maths problem is too hard, eliminate the obviously-wrong answers and “trial” the remaining answers.
  • In the sentence correction section, if you can’t decide between two options, choose the shortest.
  • In the reading comprehension section, read the questions before reading the text. This will allow you to quickly find the answers in the text while you are reading. 

If you have any questions or need any assistance getting ready for the GMAT or English exams and tutorials, check out the tutors on Superprof.

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Jon

As an Englishman in Paris, I enjoy growing my knowledge of other languages and cultures. I'm interested in History, Economics, and Sociology and believe in the importance of continuous learning.