If you are a prospective MBA student, researching the GMAT should be on your to do list. The GMAT, the Graduate Management Admissions Test, is a standardized test commonly used in the business school application process . It was developed in 1953 by a group of business schools as a reliable indicator to select qualified students for their programs.
The GMAT is a content-neutral test. This means that it does not test specific coursework for students to memorize, but rather it assesses cognitive behavior in basic math and reading level material. The test is computer based and administered in standardized testing centers. It takes three hours and 30 minutes to complete and students are scored on a scale from 200 to 800. The tests is comprised of the following four sections (2):
- Analytical Writing Assessment – This 30-minute section consists of one essay and measures the ability to think critically and communicate ideas.
- Integrated Reasoning – This 30-minute section measures the ability to evaluate information presented in multiple formats from multiple sources. This portion of the test consists of 12 questions.
- Quantitative – This 75-minute section measures the ability to analyze data and draw conclusions using basic math skills. This section of 37 questions is computer adaptive, meaning that each question following a correctly answered question will increase in difficulty.
- Verbal – This 75-minute section measures the ability to read and understand written material, evaluate arguments, and correct written material. This section is computer adaptive as well, and consists of 41 questions.
Some experts say that a student's GMAT score is the most important factor in MBA admissions.
Over the years, the GMAT has developed a double significance in the world of business schools. Schools use this exam as a quantifier when choosing new students into a program, but the average GMAT score of students in an MBA program or business school is also used to gauge the quality of the program. Over the last few years educational program rankings have become more and more popular. Students use rankings as a tool to narrow down their search in business schools. Many business school rankings and MBA rankings use average GMAT scores as a quantitative measure of the quality of the program. This criterion is used under the umbrella of admissions selectivity. Thus, more business schools are looking for students with higher and higher scores in a way to boost their ranking numbers, and in the end boost their popularity among prospective students.
GMAT vs GRE
Even thought the significance of the GMAT score is great, and the competition for a high score is getting harder, business schools are also making more exceptions for entrance exams as well. More and more schools are allowing students to submit a GRE score in lieu of a GMAT score. Knowing that some students are still weighing their options on what master's degrees they might pursue, business schools are trying to be more accessible to students not solely focused on business and MBAs. This allows schools to recruit from a larger pool of students. Let's compare the two exams:
- GMAT: computer based; duration of 3.5 hours total; structure-Analytic Section with one essay, Integrated Reasoning section, Quantitative Section, and a Verbal Section; cost of $250; a score is good for 5 years
- GRE: computer based; duration of 3.5-3.75 hours total; structure-Analytical Writing section with two essays, two Verbal Reasoning sections, two Quantitative Reasoning sections, and an experimental section in either math or verbal; cost of $195; a score is good for 5 years
The silver lining is that there are many possibilities for prospective online MBA students. When looking through quality business schools that offer an online MBA, some schools require the GMAT, some require the GMAT or the GRE, and then there are some that do not require either. The deciding factor will be: which schools will you apply to and what do they want during the application process? Let's look at the choices.
Require GMAT scores
- Indiana University – Bloomington, Kelley School of Business
IUBloomington may grant an exemption from the GMAT if an applicant already holds a terminal degree such as: MD, PhD, JD from an accredited university
Temple may grant an exemption from the GMAT if an applicant based on an extensive professional history or those with a terminal degree such as a MD, PhD or JD.
Require GMAT or GRE scores
A GMAT or GRE score is required unless applicants have 7+ years of professional full-time work experience.
W.P. Carey accepts both GMAT and GRE test scores
An exemption is granted from the GMAT and GRE for Whitman online MBA program applicants who have five or more years of professional or military experience.
Do not require GMAT or GRE
How to Prepare for the GMAT
If you are interested in applying to an online MBA program that requires a GMAT score, it is time to start preparing. Taking the GMAT requires a time and money commitment, and thus requires dedication and preparation. First, find out what scores your online MBA program is looking for and what the application dates are. This will give you a score goal as well as help frame your timeline. Kaplan, the highly esteemed test prep organization, tells us, "Admissions tests are not crammable." They explain that this test does not allow for preparation at the surface level of memorizing facts, but that it takes strategic study to produce replicable behaviors. Making a plan and strategically following it will make all the difference. Experts who study the behaviors of high scorers found that those students study between one and six months, and clock in 50-100 hours of study time to adequately prepare for the test. Now that you have a goal and a rough time-line, go online to find the nearest testing center and schedule your exam.
–Make your schedule-Once your exam date is set, get out your calendar and make your study schedule. Since you are interested in an online MBA program, you schedule is probably full of many responsibilities. Take all things into account, your classes, work schedule, holidays, and family responsibilities. It is time to time block your day and become a master in your time management. Be realistic, if you can't study four hours every day, then don't base your plan off of studying for four hours every day. If possible, it is helpful to study in the morning because then your day can be framed with identifying problem solving behaviors that are applicable in test prep. Let's say that one day you are working on your timing and speed-reading to improve your pacing during the GMAT. The rest of the day can be full of "practice" while doing your regular daily responsibilities, like reading email. Then, once you make your schedule, stick to it. Consistency, regularity, and familiarity helps test taking on many levels.
–Find your benchmark-Before you start studying take a practice exam. There are many free practice tests available online. There is no need to spend precious study time going over material that you have already mastered and feel comfortable in. A practice test will help you identify your areas of greatest study need. Identify those areas and focus on those first during your study schedule.
–Identify your study material/class-There are many avenues to follow when looking at study material for the GMAT. You can buy a book, read study blogs, enroll in a course like Kaplan or Princeton Review, or find a study partner or group. As a prospective online MBA student, this is a great opportunity to study in a way that can reflect online coursework. Look into an online study program, an online community, or set up a self-paced study schedule. This can give you a preview into how you might do in an online course.
–Timing is important-The GMAT is a timed test. If you study the GMAT content to mastery but cannot answer the questions in the allotted time, then your score will not reflect your mastery. To ensure that you perform your absolute best, you need to not only practice cognitive behaviors, but also practice your timing in each section. To develop a personal pacing strategy, time yourself when answering practice question sets or taking practice exams.
–Take practice exams intermittently and learn from your mistakes–Kaplan suggests to take practice tests once every two weeks, then increase to once-a-week around a month before the test. Are you repeatedly making the same mistakes? How are you responding to the stress of taking a test? Assess your results and plan your future study content accordingly.
–Your overall health is important-Don't ignore your overall health for the sake of study hours. Regular exercise, good sleeping habits, and good eating habits positively affect GMAT scores. Think ahead and pack healthy snacks during your long study sessions. Healthy snacks can keep your energy up and keep you from eating foods that could make you sleepy and sluggish. Coupling strong study preparations with a healthy body, mind, and heart can increase your confidence when you walk in the doors on testing day.
- Research Online MBA programs and choose your top five.
- List the application criterion for each program.
- Decide if you need to take the GMAT.
- If you are taking the GMAT, set your goals, make your plan, and get to it! Remember, the GMAT is one stop on your road to your online MBA and then your future professional goals. With commitment and dedication it is possible to reach your scoring goals and maybe even surpass them.