What is the GMAT?

Many MBA programs use the GMAT as part of their admissions process. Here's some guidance to help you determine if taking this standardized test is the right choice.
Written by Nate Delesline III, Staff Writer

Thousands of universities worldwide use the Graduate Management Admission Test, or GMAT. This popular exam is one way schools assess students' potential for academic success. 

Most people who take the GMAT are students who want to earn a master's in business administration, or MBA degree. Students interested in other business-related degrees, like management, finance, or consulting, may also consider taking the GMAT. 

Some schools offer test waivers. Others don't require students to submit test scores. Higher education and student rights advocates say requiring standardized test scores can discourage or block students from pursuing their dreams. And they say test scores aren't a reliable indicator of ability or success. 

Still, taking the GMAT may offer an advantage. It can help you stand out in a competitive admissions process for top MBA programs. Read on to learn how to take the GMAT, the topics it covers, how it's scored, and more.

Key GMAT highlights

Used primarily for

Graduate-level business school admissions


$275 in 2022


Three hours 

Skills tested

Analytical writing, logic, and critical reasoning




Analytical writing: 0 to 6 in half-point increments

Integrated reasoning: 1 to 8 in 1-point increments

Quantitative: 6 to 51 in 1-point increments

Verbal: 6 to 51 in 1-point increments

Total: 200 to 800 in 10-point increments

Average score

Analytical writing: 4

Integrated reasoning: 4.5

Quantitative: 40

Verbal: 21

Available online?


When to take it

At least two months before applications are due.

Can you retake it?


Is there a subject-specific test?


What skills does the GMAT test for?

The GMAT measures your knowledge and skills in four areas relevant in business education and careers:

Analytical writing

  • Analyze the reasoning behind a persuasive statement 
  • Write a critique of that persuasive statement 
  • Demonstrate your ability to communicate your ideas in writing

Integrated reasoning

  • Synthesize information from graphics and written passages 
  • Organize information to solve interrelated problems
  • Demonstrate your ability to solve problems using large amounts of data

Quantitative reasoning

  • Use logic and analytical reasoning to solve problems
  • Interpret graphic data
  • Solve basic arithmetic, algebra, and geometry problems

Verbal reasoning

  • Read and comprehend written material
  • Write and evaluate persuasive content
  • Demonstrate your knowledge of English spelling, grammar, and sentence structure

How is the GMAT scored?

The GMAT's quantitative and verbal reasoning sections are computer-adaptive. That means the difficulty of the test changes in real-time based on your answers. GMAC says computer-adaptivity "allows the exam to assess your potential with a higher degree of precision."

People who take the GMAT receive a five-part score. Here's how each section is scored:

  • Analytical writing: 0 to 6 in half-point increments
  • Integrated reasoning: 1 to 8 in 1-point increments
  • Quantitative: 6 to 51 in 1-point increments
  • Verbal: 6 to 51 in 1-point increments
  • Total: 200 to 800 in 10-point increments.

The total score isn't just the sum of the other four parts; instead, it reflects each question's difficulty.

What's the average GMAT score?

The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) is the nonprofit organization that owns and administers the test. According to GMAC, the average total score is 568. Two-thirds of test-takers score between 400 and 600.

Here's a look at average GMAT scores from 2018-20, according to GMAC

  • Verbal: 27.26
  • Quantitative: 40.7
  • Integrated reasoning: 4.6
  • Analytical writing: 4.43

You'll receive your quantitative, verbal, integrated reasoning, and total scores immediately after completing the exam. If you're at a testing center, you'll receive a paper copy of your unofficial score report. 

Your official scores are usually available within seven business days. However, allow up to 20 days for your score report. You may cancel your preliminary scores on your test day without a fee. You may also cancel your scores up to 72 hours after the test for a fee.

How do I take the GMAT?

You must register online to take the GMAT. GMAC suggests these three steps: 

  • First, create an account at mba.com. 
  • Next, review the score reporting timeline. Doing this allows you to choose a testing date that aligns with application deadlines. 
  • Finally, if you request a disability accommodation, you'll need to wait for approval before scheduling your GMAT.

At a testing center, you'll have about three hours to complete the exam. For the online version, you'll have 15 minutes to check in and two hours and 45 minutes to take the test.

To take the GMAT at a testing center, you must present valid identification. You must also agree to follow all testing center rules. 

GMAC recommends the following preparation and test-taking strategies:

  • Read each question carefully; eliminate wrong answers and select the best choice.
  • Confirm your answer only when you're certain you're ready to move to the next question. Once you advance to the next question, you can't change previous answers.
  • Watch the time — your score decreases with each unanswered question.

Can I take the GMAT online?

If your computer and testing space meet the requirements, you can take the GMAT online anywhere in the world, excluding five countries. You must download and use a secure browser, and your computer must meet all the technical requirements. 

Also note that when taking the virtual GMAT, you can only move off-camera during scheduled breaks during the testing session.

Can I take the GMAT more than once?

Yes, you can take the GMAT up to five times in a rolling 12 month period. You're allowed to take the test eight times in your life. Both the online GMAT and testing center options count toward this limit. Most experts suggest taking it twice. 

When should I take the GMAT?

Aim to take the GMAT between two months and 12 months before the application deadline. This will allow enough time for your official scores to come in. When deciding on a test-taking time frame, consider program application deadlines.

With online and in-person testing center options, opportunities to take the GMAT are generally available year-round. In some cases, you can even register and take the test within 48 hours (although we do not recommend this approach).

Remember to build in some study time. The Economist suggests a 60-day study plan is a sweet spot. A 30-day study plan might be too short for most people. But a study schedule that stretches too long may mean forgetting what you learned at the start of your plan.

How much does the GMAT cost?

As of early 2022, it costs $275 to take the GMAT in a testing center or online. People who register for the GMAT receive a free download of the GMAT Handbook. GMAC also provides additional online resources.

GMAC, through its mba.com website, also sells test prep options. They include practice exam packages that range from about $40 to $90. 

The organization offers fee waivers through schools, which schools can award to students at their discretion. GMAC does not offer GMAT test fee waivers directly to students.

Additional fees may apply for certain services. These include ordering additional official score reports (beyond the five free reports offered with the test) and canceling a score after leaving the test center. And you'll need to pay $150 to reschedule your GMAT 14 days or less before the testing date. 

What's the difference between the GMAT and the GRE?

Many schools that accept the GMAT also accept the GRE. The GRE (Graduate Record Examination) is another standardized test used to screen and assess students for admission to graduate-level academic programs. 

The GRE measures your abilities in three areas: analytical writing, verbal skills, and quantitative skills. If you're interested in a specific program, you'll want to verify with your school which of the two tests they prefer or accept.

One U.S.-based graduate program says the GMAT and GRE play to different strengths. If you have great analytical and math-oriented skills, and you're good at interpreting data, the GMAT might be a good choice. The GRE, on the other hand, focuses more on vocabulary and less on math and data analysis. 

If you have several years of full-time professional work or military experience, you may be eligible to request GRE or GMAT waiver.

Depending on the program, some individuals may be eligible to skip GRE or GMAT testing requirements when applying for grad school. These include:

  • People who hold science, technology, engineering, or math-related undergraduate degrees
  • People with a public accountant or financial planner certification

This article was reviewed by Lonnie Woods III

A head-and-shoulders photo of a Black man wearing large glasses, a black turtleneck, and a gray vest.

Lonnie Woods III is a student affairs administrator, professor, and professional development consultant whose work and research examine the career competencies of students interested in pursuing artistic careers or those studying arts-related majors in college. 

He has 10-plus years of experience working in education with professional experience spanning various institutions, including Pratt Institute, Maryland Institute College of Art, Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York University, The George Washington University, and The Whitney Museum of American Art. 

Woods holds a bachelor of science in fine art photography from Towson University and a master of arts in higher education and student affairs from New York University. Woods currently serves as a professor within the arts administration master's program at Teachers College, Columbia University.

Lonnie Woods III is a paid member of the Red Ventures Education freelance review network. 

Last reviewed Feb. 26, 2022.

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