From PhD Prep Track

Jump to: navigation, search

The GMAT, or Graduate Management Admission Test, is the standardized test designed to measure a candidate's aptitude for graduate management studies. More than 4,800 programs use the GMAT in their admission process. The test costs $250 each time you take it.

Here's some information to get you started on the test.


Test Format

Currently, the GMAT consists of four sections:

  1. Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA)
  2. Integrated Reasoning
  3. Quantitative
  4. Verbal

The test is administered via computers in approved testing centers. The AWA section consists of one written analyses: the analysis of an argument. The integrated reasoning section consists of interpreting information from a variety of sources. The quantitative and verbal sections are multiple-choice and computer-adaptive, meaning that questions are dynamically selected based on your responses. The AWA and integrated reasoning sections do not affect your composite score (the total score out of 800), but are scored separately.

Also, in the quantitative and verbal sections some questions are trial-questions that are being pretested for future exam use. These questions are unidentified and dispersed throughout the two sections. Answers to trial-questions are not factored into your final score.

AWA Section

The purpose of the AWA section is to measure your ability to think critically about an issue or argument and assess how well you communicate your ideas.

Highest scores are received by writers who are concise and have well-structured essays. Essays are graded by a computer software and a human GMAT-essay grader. Scoring differences are resolved by a second human GMAT-essay grader. Human graders generally try to follow the computer's grading; for this reason, it is best to avoid humor or witty remarks in your essays since the computer will likely not understand. has a great guide to doing well on this section of the GMAT.

Integrated Reasoning

The integrated reasoning section consists of four question types: (1) Multi-source reasoning, (2) Graphics Interpretation, (3) Two-Part Analysis, and (4) Table Analysis. Find out more here.

Quantitative Section

The quantitative section has two kinds of questions: (1) Problem-Solving and (2) Data-Sufficiency.

Problem-Solving questions are designed to test math skills and understanding of math concepts. There are lots of good guides out there to review the basic math knowledge you need for the test.

Data-Sufficiency questions are the more difficult type and ask you to analyze a quantitative problem and decide which information is relevant. You are given a problem and two statements; your task is to decide which (if any) of the statements gives you enough information to solve the problem. A sample question from can be found here.

Verbal Section

The verbal section has three types of questions: (1) Reading Comprehension, (2) Critical Reasoning, and (3) Sentence Correction.

Reading Comprehension questions measure your understanding of words or statements from reading passages. This section is similar to the Reading Comprehension sections of other standardized tests.

Critical Reasoning questions measure your ability to construct and evaluate arguments.

Sentence Correction questions are of two types: (1) correct expression, which tests grammar skills and knowledge of grammatical rules, and (2) effective expression, which deals more with word choice and concise writing. BYU's M COM 320 book is a great source to use in your preparation for this section.

Tip: Spending extra time studying for the verbal section will do more to set you apart from other test-takers since scores are generally lower for verbal than for quantitative. For example a 49/51 in both verbal and quantitative means you performed comparatively better on the verbal section than most students. See the GMAT Percentiles page to compare scores across exam sections.


To get the most up to date breakdown of timing and number of questions for each section, go to the official GMAT site.

Test Scores

GMAT scores are valid for five years, and range between 200 and 800. Two-thirds of all test-takers score in between 400 and 600. The GMAT is not the only criteria that decides admission into a PhD program, but it does carry weight. Thus, while a high GMAT score will not guarantee that you are accepted into a given program, a low score can eliminate you from consideration. For most research-intensive universities, a 700 is often considered the "magic number," although the actual benchmark will vary between schools. Schools often state what the minimum or average GMAT score is for their students. Some schools will focus mostly on the score from the quantitative section, while others will also put significant weight on the verbal section. This is because the program will likely require good quantitative skills, but writing skill may determine how likely you are to publish your papers.

Testing Locations

Approved testing centers can be found on’s scheduling page. The closest center to Brigham Young University is in Draper, UT.

Suggestions for Preparation

  1. Familiarize Yourself With the Test - Become familiar with the test. You could start by taking a practice test on so that you have a starting point from which to benchmark performance. Also, most GMAT preparation books, Kaplan for example, include examples of each section with practice problems. This will help you to understand the kinds of questions that are asked and the correct answers to those questions.
  2. Learn Test-Taking Strategies - After familiarizing yourself with the exam, focus on test-taking strategies. The Princeton Review book is a good resource for learning what kinds of strategies are useful. This will help you know how to attack the test and understand some of the tricks the test writers use. One of the best strategies is to focus a little more on the verbal section. It is very difficult to set yourself apart in the math section (most likely due to the quantitative skills that GMAT takers may have). However, a higher score in the verbal section will really skyrocket your overall score. With a little bit of extra time here, you can really learn how to attack the verbal questions.
  3. Take Practice Tests - This is where you should devote a significant portion of your time. One source suggests taking between 8 to 10 practice tests. Practice tests help you learn time management, which is critical for performing well on the GMAT. Several independent companies offer GMAT Prep Courses and practice materials, many of which are free. Reviews of these services can be found at and Practice GMAT exams offered by independent sources are generally more difficult than the actual GMAT exam; don’t stress out too much if your scores are low. has official practice exams that you can download for free from their website. These practice exams use the same format and technology as the real exam and are the most reliable measure of preparation. A BYU professor with previous experience as a GMAT prep-course instructor advises that taking practice tests is the best preparation strategy. According to him, there is no "trick" like many of the GMAT prep courses claim. He specifically recommends taking official GMAT practice tests, created by the GMAC, as opposed to practice tests offered by other sources.
  4. Sit for the Whole Test - One former test taker commented, "When I was taking the test, I chose an answer and then realized I had forgotten to take the square root to calculate the final answer. I spent the entire test trying to win a mental battle with myself. When I took a break between the math and verbal sections, I told myself to let it go and focus on making up for any deficiencies on the back-end. Before deciding to report my scores, I was tempted not to because I knew I had missed an easy question. I'm glad I decided to report my score, because I did well. " Remember,not all questions are counted. That means, if you miss a question, don't worry about it. Just focus on doing well on the remainder of the test. You can definitely make up for one missed question. If you're lucky, that question won't even be counted!
  5. Report Your Scores - After the test is over, make sure to report your scores. Even if you are worried about one question that you missed, report your scores because it is hard to gauge personal performance on the actual test.

From Past Test-Takers

Retaking the GMAT

You can take the GMAT no more than once in a 31-day period and no more than five times in a 12-month period. Schools to which you report your new scores will also receive your old scores. More information on the retesting policy is found at According to, scores increase 31 points (on average) when someone re-takes the exam.

If you do poorly your first time taking the GMAT, don't despair. Many students have scored below a 600 their first time, and then scored above 700 their second time. Study diligently the first time you take the exam, but if it doesn't go well, try again (and invest another $250). Most business programs will not discount your new score if your old score is lower (although some schools do take it into consideration).

External Links

  • - The Official GMAT Web Site, which includes registration and other information about the exam.
  • Graduate Management Admission Council - The Graduate Management Admission Council manages the exam.
  • BYU GMAT Prep - This is the link to the BYU GMAT prep course.
  • & - Online forums with lots of free resources to help in GMAT preparation.
  • BusinessWeek - A great BusinessWeek article that reviews the main GMAT Prep courses, as well as discussing the upcoming changes to the GMAT.
  • Article - about preparing for the GMAT
  • Article - discussing keys to preparing for the GMAT.

Main PageThe GMAT
Personal tools