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What is a good GMAT exam score? How to prepare for the test

At a glance

  • According to the Graduate Management Admission Council™ (GMAC), which administers the GMAT™ Exam, the average score is 568.21.
  • The GMAT Exam has four sections: analytical writing, verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning and integrated reasoning.
  • According to MBA.com, a site where students can register to take the GMAT Exam, successful exam-takers say they needed a minimum of eight weeks to prepare, though getting a good score can require up to six months of consistent study.
  • Students generally complete a bachelor’s degree in business before taking on the GMAT Exam.
  • While a GMAT Exam may be a requirement for admission into a graduate program, it can also be a barrier. University of Phoenix does not require a GMAT score for admission.

The GMAT Exam measures students’ readiness for business-related master’s degree programs. Students who chose a bachelor’s degree in a business subject and completed their coursework can take the GMAT before applying for a business degree program, such as an MBA or other similar master’s degree options.

According to Bloomberg Businessweek, some schools recently waived GMAT requirements for MBA applicants. However, some still require it. Others will waive it if students have a stellar undergraduate GPA. Though students can take the exam more than once, there is a lifetime limit of eight attempts. Also, if someone has a below-average score and opts for a retake, it could delay the application process until the following year.

The GMAT Exam might be intimidating, but the truth is that a number of colleges are reconsidering their reliance on standardized tests. This is because standardized testing does not reflect lived experience, may be biased toward certain groups, and often does not predict a candidate’s ability to engage in a dynamic graduate school program. That said, it doesn’t hurt to fully understand the GMAT Exam while considering graduate school options.

What is a good GMAT score?

According to the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), which administers the GMAT Exam, the average score is 568.21. Scores can range from 200 to 800, but two-thirds of all test-takers from 2018 to 2020 scored between 400 and 600 points.

The range for Harvard Business School students, for example, is 590 to 790, and the median score for MIT’s Sloan School of Management is 730. Most schools publish a profile of incoming students on their website, so they can see the average GMAT Exam score for the previous year’s applicants.

Students have the option to cancel their score if they are not happy with it. However, if they do not cancel, the score will get reported to their chosen schools whether or not they retake the exam. Canceled scores still count as one of the eight attempts, and students need to wait at least 16 days before a retake. The record will not show the score, printing a “C” in its place, so schools will be aware that it was canceled.

The best strategy, then, is to prepare properly and try to score at or above the median, offering the best chance of acceptance into a chosen master’s degree program. This strategy also helps to avoid application delays caused by multiple retakes.

How is the GMAT Exam scored?

The GMAT Exam has four sections. Each gets scored separately but factors into the final report. GMAC has details about each section on its website. Here is a breakdown of the components of a GMAT Exam score.

  • Verbal reasoning: This section gives a score between 6 and 51. The average score for test-takers between 2018 and 2020 was 27.26. A computer scores this part of the test.
  • Quantitative reasoning: This part has a score range of 6 to 51. The mean for recent tests is 40.7 points. Like the verbal reasoning portion, this section has computerized scoring.
  • Integrative reasoning: This section has a range of 1 to 8. Recently, test-takers averaged 4.6 points. This section is calculated separately from the first two. Schools will be able to see the point total for this section, but it will not factor into the 200-to-800 total score.
  • Analytical writing assessment: The essay portion of the exam is scored on a scale of 0 to 6. First, a machine scores the writing using a specially formatted algorithm. Later, a human reviews and rates the essay. If the computer and human scores widely differ, the piece is reevaluated. Currently, the mean score for the writing section is 4.43.

Also, it’s important to note that each part of the exam has a time limit. Students lose points for all unanswered questions. Therefore, preparing to meet the time requirements for each portion is an essential aspect of test preparation.

What to expect on the GMAT Exam

In addition to different scoring, each of the four sections requires different skills and preparation. Preparing for the individual parts of the GMAT Exam is essential because each will appear on the report attached to MBA applications.

Here’s a closer look at what to expect from each section of the exam, which is administered on a computer:

  • Verbal reasoning: You have 65 minutes to complete this section. It features 35 questions that measure reading comprehension and critical-thinking skills. Some questions involve sentence correction, as well. This part of the test is multiple choice.
  • Quantitative reasoning: You have 62 minutes to complete 31 multiple-choice questions. The goal of testing quantitative reasoning is to measure problem-solving abilities and skills at using data to inform decisions (data sufficiency). There are math questions, but you cannot use a calculator.
  • Integrated reasoning: This section has 12 questions, and you have 30 minutes. This section assesses ability to use tables and graphics to answer questions. Other questions require you to find answers using multiple sources of information and data.
  • Analytical writing assessment: This essay portion takes 30 minutes. There is only one question, but you need to write a piece that assesses and critiques the argument posed in the question.

The total test time is three hours and seven minutes, and there are two eight-minute breaks.

Studying for the GMAT Exam

It’s a challenging exam, but you can use the study skills you developed during your undergraduate courses. Consistent preparation in the months leading up to the test often involves finding the best way to study at home.

According to MBA.com, a site where students can register to take the GMAT Exam, successful exam-takers say they needed a minimum of eight weeks to prepare, though getting a good score can require up to six months of consistent study.

Practice exams are available to help you become familiar with the sections and types of questions in each. You can plan to take a practice test each week as part of your long-term study strategy. This way you can measure improvement as you go to ensure you are on track to earn the highest score you can.

Benefits of preparing for the GMAT Exam

Preparing for the GMAT in the months leading up to the exam provides several benefits:

  • You can practice finishing the questions within the allotted time.
  • You give yourself the best chance of earning the highest score you possibly can and standing out during the application process at your chosen business schools.
  • You can identify your weaknesses through practice tests and work to correct them so that you can score the best you can on each section.
  • You can gain confidence through practice tests so that you are less nervous on the day of the exam.
  • You can save time and money by getting a high score on the first or second try to avoid multiple retakes.
  • You can avoid having to cancel your score and getting a “C” on your GMAT record.

If you don’t prepare for the exam, you might have to retake it based on the score you get.

Retaking the GMAT Exam

You can retake the GMAT Exam multiple times. The lifetime limit is eight, but there are rules for when you can retake the exam.

You can take the GMAT Exam once every 16 days. However, you can only sit for it five times within a rolling 12-month period. Each test currently costs $275 in the United States, so retaking the test repeatedly could get expensive.

Preparing for the GMAT Exam can take a lot of preparation. Working from home can be a challenge. Check out our blog covering productivity hacks from around the world to help you as you prepare!