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What Is the GMAT and How Is It Scored?

The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) is the exam used to assess most Master of Business Administration (MBA) program applicants. Some quality, accredited business schools waive the GMAT requirement or allow applicants to submit scores from the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) instead. For instance, the University of West Florida (UWF) is temporarily waiving GMAT/GRE requirements for admission to the schools’ eight online MBA program options.

However, if a student chooses to apply to an MBA program that requires the GMAT, they will have to take the exam. So, it is important for prospective MBA students to learn about this test and what it entails.

The GMAT is a computer-adaptive test with a duration of three hours and seven minutes, plus thirty minutes for check-in and two optional eight-minute breaks. GMAT scoring is broken up into a “Total Score” and individual scores for four parts, corresponding to each of the test’s four sections: Quantitative Reasoning, Verbal Reasoning, Integrated Reasoning and the Analytical Writing Assessment. The GMAT can be completed in one of three section order options, depending on the test taker’s preference.

Analytical Writing Assessment

The Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) is an essay section assessing how a student completes an “Analysis of an Argument” task. Students will be presented with an argument and then asked to write a critique analyzing the validity of that argument. This section is scored on a scale of 0-6 in half-point increments and will take 30 minutes.

Integrated Reasoning

The Integrated Reasoning (IR) section also takes 30 minutes. Students will be tested on their ability to analyze information from multiple sources. They will be presented with information in a variety of forms, including written, graphs, charts and tables. They will have to answer 12 multi-part questions. The GMAT scoring for this section is on a scale of 1-8 in whole-point increments.

Quantitative Reasoning

The Quantitative Reasoning section is 62 minutes long and consists of 31 questions. Those questions come in two forms. Problem-solving questions ask students to select the answer to a math problem from five answer choices. Data sufficiency questions ask students whether they can solve a problem with given information. This section is scored on a scale of 0-60, although most scores range from 7-50. This section is also computer adaptive, which means that the GMAT scoring isn’t based solely on whether you answered the questions correctly, but also the progressing difficulty level of the questions.

Verbal Reasoning

The Verbal Reasoning section takes 65 minutes to complete and is also computer adaptive. This section has 36 questions of three types: critical reasoning, sentence correction and reading comprehension. The Verbal Reasoning section is also scored on a scale of 0-60, with most scores ranging from 9-44.

A test taker’s calculated performance on the verbal and quantitative sections combined is used to compute a Total Score on a scale of 200-800, with the majority of test takers scoring between 400 to 800. AWA and IR scores are treated independently, and many business schools only review an applicant’s Total Score on the GMAT. But all five scores (Total Score, Quantitative Reasoning, Verbal Reasoning, IR and AWA), percentile rankings and other information are included in the Official Score Report that will be sent to schools of the test taker’s choice.

Importantly, test takers may choose to take the GMAT at a test center or online. If a test taker chooses to take the GMAT at a test center, they will be able to preview their Unofficial Score (every score except the AWA) immediately upon completing the exam. At this point, the test taker must choose to accept or cancel their score within two minutes, although test takers who accept their score will have an additional 72 hours to cancel it following exam completion.

Cancelled scores are not sent to schools, so this option can be useful if the test taker has a minimal score range in mind that they wish to achieve. Online test takers do not have this option. Clearly, these are important factors to consider when preparing for the GMAT and deciding what type of MBA program to pursue.

Learn more about UWF’s online MBA programs.

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