1. So you want to apply to an MBA program. Historically, the GMAT is a prerequisite for applying to business schools and it is still the standardized test of choice for the majority of admissions offices around America. But are you qualified to take the GMAT? In order to sign up for and successfully take the exam, you’ll first need to make sure you satisfy all the criteria.

    The Graduate Management Admissions Council — or GMAC, the organization that makes and administers the GMAT — permits you to take the test if you:

    • Are at least 18 or have consent from a guardian
    • Have a registered a GMAT account
    • Have not maxed out your retesting opportunities
    • Have scheduled an exam and paid the test registration fee

    And while not required for the GMAT, you will greatly improve your chances of getting into a business school if you also:

    • Earned an undergraduate degree
    • Have sufficiently high GPA

    1. Are at least 18 or have consent

    You must be at least 18 years old to register for the test on your own. If you are not yet 18 years old, then you must have a parent or a guardian submit a consent and authorization form to GMAC. You can find more information about that on the GMAT website.

    Note that there isn’t a citizenship requirement for taking the GMAT, meaning that you can take the GMAT regardless of which country you are a citizen of. If you are not a native English speaker, though, you likely want to spend extra time studying for the exam. More on that below.



    2. You Have Registered a GMAT Account

    You will need to create an account on the GMAT website. This whole process takes about 15 minutes. It includes filling out your personal information such as date of birth, location, and educational history.

    You will also have to fill out a quick survey about what schools you’re interested in applying to, what you plan on focusing on during your studies, and what profession you are seeking. This survey is not mandatory and does not at all impact your testing experience. This information is exclusively for the GMAC organization, which means that it won’t show up on your business school applications or even be seen by the programs you’re applying to.

    Fortunately, the GMAC is intent on making this exam accessible for everyone. If you have specific testing accommodations you need, either because of a disability or a learning disorder, the GMAC makes it simple to qualify. No one is automatically qualified, though, so be proactive when registering. Read more about that process in our article about testing accommodations.


    3. You Have Paid the Fee

    It costs $250 to register for the GMAT each and every time you take the test. Every single test taker must pay that fee.

    The GMAC does not offer any fee waivers. As stated on the GMAT website, “Some scholarship organizations, such as the Fulbright Foundation and the The Edmund S. Muskie Graduate Fellowship Program, may provide fee assistance if you are selected to participate in their programs.”

    If you decide to cancel your test, you will receive just $80 as a refund if you cancel at least 7 days prior to your scheduled exam. If you cancel in fewer than 7 days, you will not receive any refund whatsoever.

    If you need to reschedule, it will cost you $60 to do so at least 7 days prior to your scheduled exam, and $250 to do so with fewer than 7 days before your test.


    4. You Have Not Taken the Test Too Many Times

    You are allowed to take the GMAT multiple times, but there is a limit.

    The GMAC requires that you wait at least 16 days between every GMAT that you take. It doesn’t matter whether you decided to keep or cancel your scores in the testing center, you must still wait 16 days.

    You are not allowed to take the GMAT more than 5 times within 12 months. Therefore, you likely do not want to take a GMAT within 16 days of your last one anyway. Take some time to study and improve before you retest.

    You may only take the GMAT a total of 8 times in your entire life. This is another hard limit set by the GMAC, but it’s a helpful limitation. After all, a business school does not want to see that you took the GMAT dozens of times and never improved your score. Let this lifetime limit of 8 tests motivate you to make each GMAT you take count.


    5. You Should Have an Undergraduate Degree By the Time You Apply for an MBA Program

    While the GMAC does not require that you have an undergraduate degree to take the test, you will want to have obtained one by the time you apply to an MBA program.

    Since the MBA is a professional and not an academic degree, not all MBA programs will require that you have an undergraduate degree. But the vast majority of worthwhile, high-quality MBA programs absolutely will require that you hold an undergraduate degree. Even if you have been working professionally for years, a school will still want to know that you are capable of handling the rigors of its program.

    Fortunately, it doesn’t matter what discipline your undergraduate degree is in. You could have studied forestry, philosophy, photography, or economics. Business schools certainly do not care what your degree is in, as long as it came from an accredited university.

    In fact, admissions offices may be more intrigued by a person who comes from, say, a chemistry background than the 400th applicant it has seen that day with a BA in Management.

    What really matters when it comes to your academic profile will be your GPA, your transcripts, and your letters of recommendation from former professors.


    6. Make sure you’ve studied enough to be prepared!

    The GMAC has no way of knowing whether or not you have studied for the GMAT when you are registering, and they really couldn’t care less. But you should care!

    The GMAT is an extremely important exam for your business school application process. As a standardized test, it gives admissions offices a good sense of how you compare to all of the applicants who you are competing against. When you look at your GMAT score report, you will see percentile information. For example, If you are in the 91st percentile, that means you performed better than 91% of the other people who took the GMAT over the past five years.

    Importantly, note that the GMAT tests your cognitive flexibility, meaning your ability to approach any problem in a variety of ways, more than it tests your mastery of specific mathematical or verbal concepts.  Specifically, it tests if you can answer a given question in a very short period of time, which means that it tests if you are capable of finding the fastest possible method of solving a question.  In turn, this requires that you are familiar with several different types of solution approaches and are capable of moving smoothly between them. Showing that you are successful at this also shows business schools that you are predisposed to the types of lessons that will help you in your career.

    How much should you prepare for the test? Plan on putting in 100 to 120 hours of study time total, which should take you about 6 to 8 weeks of studying. Those hours include learning the material, solving practice questions, and, most importantly, reviewing your work with an eye towards learning from your mistakes.

    If you’re not a native English speaker, plan on putting in an additional 4 weeks of language prep, since you’ll have to become comfortable both with the vocabulary in the Verbal section and with the reading speed necessary for quickly comprehending Quant and Verbal questions.

    Are you trying to find the most effective way to prepare for the test? Consider examPAL. Our patented PALgorithm preps you for the test according to your needs. You will learn how to approach each question in either a Precise, Alternative or Logical manner. On top of that, our algorithm reinforces your strengths and serves you lessons and assignments based on the areas you need to improve on most.

    Even better, examPAL’s practice material functions just like the GMAT. The GMAT is an adaptive test, meaning that the questions increase in difficulty as you get more and more of them correct. Our system does the same, which means you’ll be plenty used to the feel of the GMAT by the time you actually sit down and take it on test day.


    Best of luck with your studies!

    Dave Green
    Senior tutor and professional test-prep writer. Interdisciplinary wizard, with Master’s degrees in economics, philosophy, and political science at HUJI.

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