1. If you’re new to the GMAT, you might be surprised to learn that the test was established over 60 years ago. That’s right, business school applicants have been taking the Graduate Management Admission Test since 1954. Well, except it wasn’t called the Graduate Management Admission Test back then.


    The test was initially developed by the Educational Testing Service (or ETS) a roundtable of the top business schools at the time, including Harvard, the University of Chicago, the University of Pennsylvania, Rutgers, and more. The idea of the test was to develop a reliable way to assess prospective students’ critical thinking capabilities when applied to the types of matters that they would then encounter in business school and the business world.


    Who Is Using the GMAT Today?

    The GMAT is still the test of choice for all American business schools. As of late, some universities are starting to accept GRE scores, but the GMAT is still the test that the majority of MBA applicants take.

    The GMAT qualifies test takers for MBA, EMBA, and a series of joint dual degree programs, such as with a JD, MPA or MSW.

    There are also a range of non-business school masters programs that accept the GMAT, such as:

    • Accounting
    • Economics
    • Entrepreneurship
    • Financer
    • Hospitality
    • Information Studies
    • Public Health
    • Marketing
    • Real Estate
    • Supply Chain Management

    Why Do They All Use the GMAT?

    Why is the GMAT so popular? Well, part of it is because, as mentioned above, the test was actually developed by business schools. In 2005, the GMAC ended its relationship with ETS and developed the MERInsitute to even better develop how effectively the GMAT gauges a prospective MBA candidate for the rigors of business school.

    And while some schools are beginning to accept GRE scores in addition to GMAT scores, the GMAT is still the go-to standardized test for business school applicants.

    The simple reason is because the GMAT tests several different types of critical thinking. For example, you’ll notice there isn’t any calculus or any other particularly advanced math concepts on the Quant section. This because the Quant section of the GMAT does not test math skills but rather quantitative reasoning skills such as the logical deduction very common to most Data Sufficiency type questions.


    To put it differently, we can quote the  GMAT website, which states that the GMAT is, first and foremost, supposed to “gauge a test takers potential for success in business and management courses.” The test isn’t about what you know, but how you use what you know.


    What Doesn’t The GMAT Test?

    The GMAT really only tests your ability to deal with the exact type of problems you see on the test, which probably sounds a bit obvious but isn’t. In fact, this forms the heart of a few very successful approaches for answering questions on the GMAT (as you know what they are going to ask before they ask it)

    But, as with any test, the GMAT can’t check everything, which is why every MBA consultant will tell you that your application needs to be holistic. A few examples of traits that business schools look for and for which the GMAT doesn’t actively test include

    • Leadership potential
    • Emotional intelligence
    • Job skills
    • Book Smarts
    • Learning style
    • Achievement in undergrad
    • Proficiency in English

    In other words, what a great GMAT really shows is that you’re great at taking the GMAT. Take the time to study for the test and get a the kind of GMAT score that ensures that the admissions office will look at the rest of your application and learn about the rest of you.

    What’s Similar about the GMAT After All These Years?

    The rough format of the test has never really changed. The meat of it was originally the Verbal and Quantitative sections, and those really do still make up the most important part of the test.


    The Analytical Writing section is a relatively new addition to the test, first implemented in 1994 to “measure a candidate’s ability to think critically and communicate ideas.”


    With that said, even the essential Quantitative and Verbal sections have undergone a series of small revisions over the years. The most recent happened in 2018, when the GMAC made the entire GMAT 30 minutes shorter by reducing the number of questions on the Quantitative and Verbal sections. This is a blessing for any future GMAT taker, since shaving that much time off the test really reduces chance for fatigue.


    The Current Format of the GMAT

    The current format of the test, as shown on the GMAT website, goes like this:

    GMAT test section

    What’s Changed About the GMAT?

    By far the biggest way that the GMAT has changed since it was first given in the ‘50s is how it’s administered. As of 1997, the GMAT is a computer adaptive test, as opposed to a paper test.


    Computer adaptive tests measure a test taker’s performance in real time, and adjust difficulty accordingly. That means if you answer early questions with a great amount of accuracy, you will be given increasingly difficult questions as the test goes on. In other words, if your test is getting harder, you’re actually doing a great job.


    The adaptive tests rewards you in real time for doing well on the test, but how can you practice taking an adaptive test?


    That’s where examPAL really comes in handy, by allowing you to practice adaptive test taking from home. We have developed an AI that mimics the GMAT’s own adaptive testing software, which means that every question is chosen based on your past performance.


    In particular, while working out of a regular GMAT book will help you understand the basics of the material and the types of questions on the exam, it will not teach you how to approach different questions, and will certainly not teach you how to find the method that works best for you. With examPAL, you get experience not only using adaptive software, but also learning how to adapt yourself.  Which solution methods work best for you?  How can you play to your strengths and manage your weaknesses?

    And Lastly, Some Myths As Old As the Test

    This test has been around for so long that a variety of bad advice has become common wisdom. Be sure that you’re developing a good strategy for taking the GMAT based on your strengths and weaknesses. Don’t blindly take these common myths at face value:


    Myth 1
    It’s better to get as many questions right as possible, even at the cost of not finishing.

    Fact: This is flat out wrong. The GMAT penalizes you for leaving questions blank; make sure to finish the exam, even if it means guessing the last few questions.


    Myth 2
    The earlier questions are more important, put more time into them!

    Fact: All questions contribute equally to your final score.  While earlier questions do affect the difficulty of the later questions you recieve, they are not only slightly more important on average and are worth at most an extra 10% or so of time investment.


    Myth 3
    Studying vocabulary will help you on the test.

    Fact: The GMAT eliminated analogy questions years and years again. Do not worry about studying vocabulary; instead, focus on active reading and understanding. See our Reading Comprehension section for specific tips.


    Myth 4
    An easier question means you got the last question wrong.

    Fact: The GMAT switches between different topics and every once in a while randomly gives a harder or easier question.  So – one easier question does not mean you are doing poorly! Also, be careful! Easy-looking questions sometimes are trickier than they seem….


    Myth 5
    You need to get a super high score to get into a top school.

    Fact: Not all schools require scores of 700 and up.  Moreover, even those that do can make exceptions depending on the rest of your application.


    Myth 6
    You need advanced Maths skills for this test

    Fact: The Math skills tested are basic, but the GMAT requires excellent critical thinking capabilities when applying them.


    Good luck!

    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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