Taking the GMAT exam soon? Here’s everything you need to know in 2023

gmat exam preparation
As registration for the new GMAT exam opens in late August, here's a quick guide on what you need to know in taking this graduate admission test. Source: AFP

GMAT exam preparation is known to be rigorous, arduous, and challenging — for good reason.

Commonly referred to as the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), this multiple-choice, computer-based and computer-adaptive standardised exam is used globally for admission to graduate management or business programmes, like the popular Master of Business Administration (MBA).

Yocket revealed that the average GMAT score among those who attempted the test was around 565 marks — only 27% of test takers scored over 650 and 12% reached 700 marks.

Currently, the GMAT exam score ranges from 200 to 800.

It begs the question: what are the struggles faced by those who have taken the GMAT exam? 

Is it hard to pass the GMAT exam?

That depends on a few factors, like your preparation, testing environment, and ability to work well under pressure. 

Still, it helps to know some of the challenging aspects of this graduate admission test. 

1. Subject matter and study methods

Since GMAT measures your ability to think critically and apply reason to solve complex problems, study methods like cramming and memorising facts and formulas are ineffective and only increase your anxiety.

2. Time constraints

In the old format, students had three hours and seven minutes to complete the exam. It is split into four sections with their respective time limits: 

  • Integrated Reasoning: 30 minutes to answer 12 questions
  • Quantitative Reasoning: 62 minutes to answer 31 questions
  • Verbal Reasoning: 65 minutes to answer 36 questions
  • Analytical Writing: 30 minutes to answer 12 questions

Students can make mistakes as they rush to complete the exam within the designated time frame. The pressure of the ticking clock can lead to careless errors even in areas you have a good grasp on. 

GMAT exam preparation

You may feel pressured or distracted when taking an exam online. Source: AFP

3. Delivery format

Before the online GMAT exam option became available, students had to make their way to test centres.

The stress of taking an exam in a public setting or having an exam proctor can distract some students. Not being able to create your ideal exam space can hinder your best work.

4. Computer-adaptive test structure

Since GMAT is a computer-adaptive test (CAT), the exam can get more difficult depending on your answers.

The better your answers, the harder the questions.

Another disadvantage of this exam structure is that you cannot return to prior questions once you have answered them.

Even if you accidentally mark a wrong response, your answers will remain and it will be deemed final.

gmat exam preparation

The new “GMAT Focus Edition” is launching in late 2023. Source: AFP

What are the changes to the GMAT exam?

The new “GMAT Focus Edition” is launching in late 2023.

This will be a more streamlined and practical option for both business schools and applicants, says the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), which administers the test.

If you’re interested in the changes, read our conversation with Nalisha Patel, Regional Director for Europe at Graduate Management Admission Council, here

Here’s a quick breakdown of what you should know about the GMAT Focus Edition:

  • The exams will be shorter: The GMAT Focus Edition will feature three 45-minute sections (Quantitative Reasoning, Verbal Reasoning, and the newly developed Data Insights)
  • There will be more flexibility in taking the exam: Text takers can bookmark as many questions as they want, review questions within the remaining section time, and change up to three answers per section — features not available in the current GMAT exam structure.
  • The GMAT scoring system will change: The scoring scale will be altered slightly for the GMAT Focus Edition, ranging from 205 to 805. Currently, the GMAT exam score ranges from 200 to 800.
  • Detailed performance insights: Upon completing the exam, the GMAT Focus Edition will provide test takers with an enhanced Official Score Report. 
  • You can still access your scores before sending them to schools — with one major change: Those taking the GMAT Focus Edition can still send their scores to five business schools at no charge, but the new format will allow test-takers to access their scores first and have up to 48 hours to decide which school they’ll send their scores to.

Registration for the GMAT Focus Edition will open August 29, with the test set to debut toward the end of this year.

gmat exam preparation

It cost US$275 to do the GMAT exam in-person in the US and US$300 online. Source: AFP

How much does it cost?

GMAT Focus Edition fees will remain the same as the current GMAT exam.

You can click here to check for the price of taking the exam in your country.

How do I register for the GMAT exam?

Since April 2020, GMAC has begun offering the GMAT online. Current test-takers now have the option to take the test online or at an in-person centre. 

You can create an account at mba.com to register for the GMAT.

Do check the application deadlines of the schools you plan to apply to. You can register to take your GMAT at least three weeks before the earliest application deadline, according to Forbes. 

This helps ensure that your scores are successfully transmitted to the schools of your choice by their application deadlines.

On top of this, remember that you can only take the GMAT up to five times within a year. You can also only take the exam up to eight times in total and must wait 16 calendar days between exam attempts.

Registration for GMAT Focus has opened, with the exams available on Nov. 7.

GMAT exam preparation

For your GMAT exam preparation, consider whether you would like to do the test online or in person. Source: Thomas Coex / AFP)

Taking the test in-person vs online

For the most part, the in-person and online GMAT exams are similar, with some key differences: 

  • Availability: Test centres for GMAT exams are available for up to seven days, whereas the online exam is available 24/7.
  • Scratch work: You receive a five-page booklet with two dry-erase markers at a testing centre. At home, you can use a personal whiteboard or whatever is at your disposal.
  • Sending score reports: For the online test, you must send the five free score reports to your chosen programmes within 48 hours of receiving our official score report. That time limit does not apply when you take the test in person. 

Will the old GMAT format still be available for applicants?

The current version of the GMAT exam will continue to be available to candidates until early next year to facilitate their in-progress preparation and applications for business school.

All GMAT exam scores — whether they are of the current GMAT or GMAT Focus Edition — will continue to be valid for five years.

gmat exam prep

Get your study buddy and take the practice exam together before attempting the real GMAT exam. Source: AFP

GMAT exam preparation: Top tips for students

You can start by using mba.com’s free eight-week study planner for more guidance on GMAT exam preparation.

Here are a few other tips laid by Christin Perry, a freelance writer from Forbes:

  • Start studying early: A GMAC survey of 3,600 test-takers found that 62% of respondents started their preparation four or more weeks ahead of their test date. In addition, test-takers who studied more scored higher — 60 hours or more of preparation — yielded scores higher than 500.
  • Take a prep course: While there’s no guarantee that a prep course can enhance your score, these courses can teach you about time management. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect.
  • Practise time management: Running out of time on one of the sections of the GMAT is an unfortunate way to reduce your score. It’s best to practice pacing before test day — ideally by taking a practice exam — to give you a sense of how long you can spend on each question. Two free practice exams are available at the mba.com exam prep store.

Some other GMAT exam preparation resources you can use include The Princeton Review, Kaplan, and Target Test Prep. They can cost up to US$1,999.

For those concerned with the upcoming GMAT Focus edition, official GMAT Focus prep materials will be available on mba.com on June 6, 2023, with a free study planner of only six weeks to help test takers stick to a schedule, inform prep activities, and track progress. 

A free GMAT Focus Official Starter Kit comes with a sampler of 70 real GMAT questions and two full-length practice exams. 

What’s more, GMAC is building a community for students to meet others planning to take the new exam format.

“A lot of our candidates might still be finishing up their undergraduate studies. Getting ready for business school, even if you haven’t been in education for the last few years, helps you transition to do that as well,” says Patel.