Graduate Management Admission Test
Admission staff all over the world still see the GMAT as a founding pillar of any successful MBA application, and its a good score that speaks volumes. Source: Kenzo Tribouillard / AFP

The first step to earning a coveted MBA is to learn how to apply for one. The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) is a big part of this application process — a multiple-choice, computer-based and computer-adaptive standardised exam that is often required for admission to graduate business programmes like the MBA.

An MBA is one of the most sought-out business degrees. Even in the midst of a pandemic forcing the networking-heavy programme to go virtual, business schools continue to see robust interest in this postgraduate business programme. According to the findings of the Graduate Management Admission Council’s annual Application Trends Survey, among 1,085 graduate business school programmes, 67% reported they had received more applications for 2020 than they did in 2019.

This is easily understandable. An MBA can carve multiple career paths. At the same time, it is a great way to develop a range of people skills, analytical skills and to fully experience first-hand what it takes to lead and manage in the business sector — all of which stand to make graduates highly employable today. Recent studies by the GMAC Corporate Recruiters Survey 2020 states that there is a growing demand for managerial individuals in the fields of innovation, strategy, technology and interpersonal skills.

To reap these rewards, you’ll first need to show admission officers you are one of the worthiest MBA candidates via your GMAT score. According to Kaplan, the Graduate Management Admission Test is developed and administered by test-maker GMAC to provide business schools with common measures of applicants’ preparedness for graduate-level academic work. Business school admission committees look at your GMAT score, along with work experience, academic record, and supporting materials, to assess your readiness for the rigours of an MBA programme.

Thanks to the pandemic, many GMAT Test centres are closed around the world and to overcome this problem, the GMAC has launched an online alternative that will allow students to take the GMAT exam at home.

The online exam will be available in impacted geographies, outside of Mainland China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, and Slovenia. Anyone unable to take the test in person due to COVID-19 will be eligible to take the exam from their home. For test takers located in the areas mentioned, GMAC is working closely with government authorities to present an alternative solution.

Nearly everything about either choice — online or at the centre — is the same, the key difference is that the GMAT Online exam’s section order is set and does not include the Analytical Writing Assessment. If being able to arrange the order will give you the confidence you need or if writing is your strong suit, the test-centre based exam might be the better option for you.

Whether you are taking the test in person or online, it is important to work hard toward achieving an above-average score. Generally, a good score in the GMAT is one that falls above the 90th percentile and a score ranging between 700 to 800. This is a global indicator of promise in an MBA candidate. Here are some pointers on getting a good GMAT score for your MBA application in 2021:

Understand the Graduate Management Admission Test structure

At the test centre, the standard GMAT consists of four sections to be completed in the order of your choosing: Quant, Verbal, Integrated Reasoning, and Analytical Writing. The online exam consists of three sections that can only be completed in the order of Quant, Verbal and Integrated Reasoning.

Study consistently with the right materials

To get an above average, near-perfect score, you will need to dedicate around three months of your time to a consistent study routine. To make the most out of this time, you should use the highest quality practice materials.

Only select books and practice tests that serve as official guides as these are usually the most accurate in terms of tone, format, difficulty, and content to the real GMAT exam. Official GMAT practice resources, such as the Official GMAT Prep Software, are the best place to start, particularly as a diagnostic tool at the beginning of your prep to gauge how much progress you need to make and in which areas.

Focus on timing 

The test centre-based exam takes three hours and seven minutes to complete, whereas online it takes two hours and 45 minutes. To get a perfect or near-perfect score you will need to not only focus on the contents of the exam but on finishing it on time and efficiently as well.

By moving too quickly, you might miss important details in the question. Move too slow and you’ll risk not having enough time finishing a section which can significantly drag your marks down.

To improve on timing, practise with timed tests and only take breaks when the trials permit. By doing this, you will train yourself to avoid experiencing burnout when test day arrives. Getting into a rhythm will also help you gain the confidence you need to excel.