Comprehensive Guide to The GMAT Exam

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Prodigy Finance - June, 22 2021

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Overview of MBA Applications

How much time should you spend on the entire admission process?

Getting into a business school (any business school) takes time. And, if you want to attend a prestigious programme, it’ll take you even longer – as any successful applicant will tell you.

So how much time should you spend on your B-school applications? Probably more than you think:

MBA application forms and CVs

Estimated time: 30 hours

You may think filling in the MBA application form will be straightforward and simple. However, you’ll want to leave yourself enough time to ensure that there are no mistakes in your application.

In fact, MBA admissions consultants, like MBA Prep School, suggest spending 13 hours on the basic application paperwork for 3 schools.

You'll spend even more time compiling the perfect CV for your application. It takes some applicants up to 16 to 17 hours to write a resume they’re satisfied with and proud to present.

GMAT preparation

Estimated time: 100 hours

Practice makes perfect: research shows that the more hours you put into preparation, the better your score is likely to be.

Want a score over 700? Be prepared to put in at least 90 hours of GMAT exam study. According to The Economist, applicants should be prepared to dedicate anywhere between 80 and 120 hours.

According to the GMAC Prospective Students Survey, the median study hours for a score over 700 is 90. Subtract just 10 hours from your study and you're more likely to fall in the 600-690 range. The median score linked to 45 study hours falls to under 500.

In addition to study time, the exam itself lasts over 3 hours. Test takers should plan on 4 hours, including breaks - and that's if they don't need to travel to a test center. Don't forget: many GMAT takers are unhappy with their first attempt and revisit the exam at least once.

MBA application essays

Estimated time: 80 hours

Even if you apply to just one school, you don’t have just one MBA admission essay to write. Previously, schools requested more essays than they do today.

For example, applicants to London Business School would have completed 6 essays a decade ago; INSEAD applicants did 5.

Today, many schools require 2 MBA admission essays, though Columbia applicants must write 3.

With a tight word count, editing and re-editing still takes hours of work. Oxford MBAs get a mere 250 words to express themselves, making it more difficult.

Admissions committees are also looking at new ways to get to know applicants. At INSEAD, you'll need to submit 4 short video interviews instead of essay responses. And, you should plan to spend just as much time preparing for these video interviews as you do editing your MBA admission essays.

So, how much time do you really need now?

Some sources suggest 60 hours, others as much as 100. The average seems to sit around 80 to 90 hours. The important thing is to ensure that each MBA admission essay or video response is the best it can be.

Cleaning your social media

Estimated time: 10 hours

You’ll be asked to create a LinkedIn profile once you get accepted into business school. Having one beforehand will give an edge over others.

More importantly, you need to clean up anything you wouldn't want admissions committees to see. Because they do look, especially if they have questions: ● 71% of admissions officers feel it’s fair to check an applicant’s social media. ● 40% admit to doing so. ● 36% have found something that negatively impacted the application.

You may not need 10 hours, but you'll want to be sure you've covered all your bases.

Getting recommendations

Estimated time: 15 hours

Every school expects different things from your recommendations. A few are happy with a general reference letter. Others expect your recommenders to answer specific questions. Many schools want this all done online.

Your recommenders need guidance to ensure that they don’t contradict anything you write in your MBA essays and say in your interview. You can make it easier on them by providing them with the information they need to comply with the school requirements - and to fit in well with your overall MBA application.

You’ll need at least 2 references for each application; if you’re applying to several schools, you may want to ask several people. Each one will need some time from you; 15 hours is just an estimate.

When are MBA applications due?

You’ll have to get your application and all your related documents in order well before the deadline. Most programmes begin in September. However, the application deadlines are usually set way earlier, with the first round deadlines sometimes being set almost a year before the programmes are to begin.

Check out the MBA application deadlines for some of the world’s top business schools:

INSEAD

For January 2022 intake:

Round

Deadline for complete application

Interview decision notification

Final decision notification

Round

Round 3

Deadline for complete application

18 June 2021

Interview decision notification

23 July 2021

Final decision notification

03 September 2021

Round

Round 4

Deadline for complete application

30 July 2021

Interview decision notification

27 August 2021

Final decision notification

24 September 2021

London Business School

Applications for the August 2021 intake for the London Business School MBA are closed. Applications for the August 2022 intake will open in August 2021, and will have four application deadlines, as is the trend at LBS.

University of Chicago: Booth

For Fall 2022 admissions:

Round

Submission deadline

Decision notification

Round

Round 1

Submission deadline

September 23, 2021 11:59 PM CST

Decision notification

December 2, 2021

Round

Round 2

Submission deadline

January 6, 2022 11:59 PM CST

Decision notification

March 24, 2022

Round

Round 3

Submission deadline

April 7, 2022 11:59 PM CST

Decision notification

May 26, 2022

Round

Chicago Booth Scholars

Submission deadline

April 7, 2022 11:59 PM CST

Decision notification

June 9, 2022

IESE Business School

IESE Business School has five application rounds. The deadline for the last application round was May 4, 2021. The applications for 2022 admissions will probably open in September 2021.

Yale School of Management

Yale School of Management takes three rounds of applications. The deadline for the last round for 2021-22 was April 13, 2021. Going by previous trends, the application deadlines for 2022-23 will probably be announced in June 2021.

Northwestern University: Kellogg

For 2022 admissions:

Round

Application deadlines

Decision release date

Round

Round 1

Application deadlines

September 15, 2021

Decision release date

December 8, 2021

Round

Round 2

Application deadlines

January 5, 2022

Decision release date

March 23, 2022

Round

Round 3

Application deadlines

April 6, 2022

Decision release date

May 11, 2022

CEIBS

The final MBA application deadline for CEIBS was June 02, 2021, the decision for which will be announced by June 30, 2021. The MBA 2023 admissions had five rounds in total. Application deadlines for the MBA Batch of 2024 will be announced soon.

HEC Paris

For January 2022 intake:

Upcoming application deadlines

Decision date

Deadline to confirm

Upcoming application deadlines

15 August 2021

Decision date

17 September 2021

Deadline to confirm

20 October 2021

Upcoming application deadlines

15 September 2021

Decision date

22 October 2021

Deadline to confirm

17 November 2021

Upcoming application deadlines

15 October 2021

Decision date

19 November 2021

Deadline to confirm

15 December 2021

Upcoming application deadlines

15 November 2021

Decision date

17 December 2021

Deadline to confirm

02 January 2022

For September 2022 intake:

Upcoming application deadlines

Decision date

Deadline to confirm

Upcoming application deadlines

15 August 2021

Decision date

17 September 2021

Deadline to confirm

20 October 2021

Upcoming application deadlines

15 September 2021

Decision date

22 October 2021

Deadline to confirm

17 November 2021

Upcoming application deadlines

15 October 2021

Decision date

19 November 2021

Deadline to confirm

15 December 2021

Upcoming application deadlines

15 November 2021

Decision date

17 December 2021

Deadline to confirm

15 January 2022

HEC Paris will be adding application deadlines in 2022 soon, for its September 2022 intake.

Duke University: Fuqua

Applications for MBA 2021 admissions at Fuqua are closed. The application deadlines for 2022 admissions will be released in mid-July 2021.

Dartmouth College: Tuck

The last deadline for 2021 MBA admissions at Tuck School of Business was June 01, 2021. Application deadlines for 2022 admissions will be released soon.

Check out this comprehensive list of MBA application deadlines for some of the world’s top business schools.

MBA admissions process

Do not assume that a GMAT score of 760, an undergrad GPA of 3.8 from a top school, and good references will simply guarantee your admission at a top school. The holistic nature of the process ensures that the admissions committee looks at various aspects of your application and analyses you as a whole. Uncertainties arise because the evaluators are human too, and their subjective evaluation might boost the chances of one applicant and hurt the chances of another.

To fix this problem of subjectivity, you should never apply to just one school and never take rejection personally. However, if you get multiple rejections and no acceptances, you can reach out to experts. They’ll be able to help you identify the fundamental issues in your application and fix them.

Take a look at this comprehensive timeline on how to go about the MBA admissions process.

GMAT Prep

You should start off by preparing for the GMAT and gearing up for the entire MBA application process.

What is GMAT?

GMAT, or the Graduate Management Admission Test, is a multiple-choice exam that is used for admission to various graduate management programmes, such as an MBA programme.

The GMAT is conducted in a computer-adaptive format, which means that the difficulty of the questions you are asked is dependent on your previous answers. The tailor-made test assesses various analytical, writing, quantitative, verbal, and reading skills in real-time and gives you your unofficial GMAT scores immediately after you finish the exam.

GMAT Sections

The GMAT format lists four sections, the Analytical Writing Assessment, the Integrated Reasoning Section, the Quantitative Reasoning Section, and the Verbal Reasoning Section. Take a look at the structure of the GMAT:

Section

Number of questions asked

Time

Scoring

Description

Section

Analytical Writing Assessment

Number of questions asked

1

Time

30 minutes

Scoring

0-6 (in increments of 0.5 points)

Description

Analysis of an argument

Section

Integrated Reasoning

Number of questions asked

12

Time

30 minutes

Scoring

1-8 (in increments of 1 point)

Description

Multiple-choice questions

Section

Quantitative Reasoning

Number of questions asked

31

Time

62 minutes

Scoring

6-51 (in increments of 1 point)

Description

Multiple-choice questions

Section

Verbal Reasoning

Number of questions asked

36

Time

65 minutes

Scoring

6-51 (in increments of 1 point)

Description

Multiple-choice questions

The Analytical Writing Assessment measures your ability to think critically and to communicate your ideas. In this section, you are required to analyse the reasoning of an argument, and write a critique of that argument.

The Integrated Reasoning section assesses your ability to evaluate information presented in multiple formats, and involves questions of the following types:

● Multi-source reasoning

● Graphics interpretation

● Table analysis

● Two-part analysis

The Quantitative Reasoning section measures your ability to analyse data and draw conclusions using your reasoning skills. It involves questions of two types - Problem Solving, and Data Sufficiency. You need to have a grasp of basic secondary school classes to be able to understand and solve these questions.

The Verbal Reasoning section assesses your ability to read and understand written material, to evaluate arguments, and to correct written material to conform to standard written English. It involves questions based on critical reasoning and sentence correction, as well as reading comprehension passages.

How long is the GMAT?

The duration of the GMAT is 3 hours and 7 minutes, plus two optional 8-minute breaks in between.

When is the GMAT conducted?

Unlike many other competitive exams, there is no set date for the GMAT. It is conducted all year round, and you can choose the GMAT dates and testing centre that’s convenient for you, provided seats are available.

The GMAT has a flexible test schedule, and you can register for it online, on the official website, as well as offline, according to your preference.

Can you take the GMAT multiple times?

You can take the GMAT 5 times in a 12-month period, and 8 times in your entire lifetime. You can take the GMAT exam once every 16 calendar days.

How long are GMAT scores valid?

GMAT scores remain valid for 5 years.

Who is eligible for the GMAT?

The GMAT eligibility criteria are pretty straightforward. You need to have a graduate degree in any discipline from a recognised university, and you have to be at least 18 years of age. If you fall under the age category of 13 to 17 years, you need to have written permission from your parents or your legal guardian to take the GMAT exam.

How much does the GMAT cost?

The GMAT registration fee is $250. However, it differs in a few countries. For example, the GMAT registration fee is $275 in the United States and $285 in some European countries.

However, there are other costs also associated with the GMAT and you will likely incur some of them. These costs include your preparation costs, a rescheduling fee, a cancellation fee, and the cost of cancellation after leaving the test centre, among others. Moreover, it is quite likely that you will take the GMAT more than once.

So, the total cost of taking the GMAT exam can range anywhere between $750 and $1,250. Take a look at the cost of taking the GMAT exam in different countries, here.

GMAT scores

The range of GMAT scores is 200-800. According to the governing body GMAC, about two-thirds of test-takers score between 400 and 600. The verbal and quantitative sections are scored on a scale of 0-60, in increments of one point. However, scores below 6 and above 51 are extremely rare.

Take a look at this GMAT score calculator. It gives you all the combinations of scores in different sections that you need to achieve your desired total GMAT score.

Average GMAT scores

Currently, the average GMAT score is approximately 565, as reported by GMAC. Take a look at the median GMAT scores by section:

GMAT Section

Average Score

GMAT Section

Verbal

Average Score

27.11

GMAT Section

Quantitative

Average Score

40.38

GMAT Section

Analytical Writing Assessment

Average Score

4.45

GMAT Section

Integrated Reasoning

Average Score

4.51

GMAT Section

Total Score

Average Score

564.84

Out of the thousands of people who take the GMAT every year, only 1% manage to get a score of 760 or higher. About 9% of people score above 700. 93% of all applicants fail to get what is considered to be a good GMAT score.

GMAT score percentiles

Every GMAT score corresponds to a percentile. The percentile tells you how you’ve performed in comparison to other test-takers.

For example, getting the 90th percentile means you’re scored better than 90% of all test-takers. Take a look at GMAT scores and their corresponding percentiles:

GMAT Score

Corresponding GMAT Percentile

GMAT Score

760-800

Corresponding GMAT Percentile

99th

GMAT Score

750

Corresponding GMAT Percentile

98th

GMAT Score

740

Corresponding GMAT Percentile

97th

GMAT Score

730

Corresponding GMAT Percentile

96th

GMAT Score

720

Corresponding GMAT Percentile

94th

GMAT Score

710

Corresponding GMAT Percentile

91st

GMAT Score

700

Corresponding GMAT Percentile

88th

GMAT Score

690

Corresponding GMAT Percentile

85th

GMAT Score

680

Corresponding GMAT Percentile

82nd

GMAT Score

670

Corresponding GMAT Percentile

80th

GMAT Score

660

Corresponding GMAT Percentile

77th

GMAT Score

650

Corresponding GMAT Percentile

73rd

GMAT Score

640

Corresponding GMAT Percentile

67th

GMAT Score

630

Corresponding GMAT Percentile

65th

GMAT Score

620

Corresponding GMAT Percentile

62nd

GMAT Score

610

Corresponding GMAT Percentile

58th

GMAT Score

600

Corresponding GMAT Percentile

54th

What is a good GMAT score?

Your definition of a good GMAT score will depend on the schools you’re applying to. Generally, a score between 650 and 690 is considered to be good, while a score above 700 is great.

However, if you’re applying to the top 10 schools, getting a 690 might not be enough. A score of 650 and above will probably be enough for the top 20 schools, while a score above 600 will give you a fair chance at the top 50 business schools.

GMAT scores for top MBA programmes are generally quite high. Take a look at the average GMAT scores for top business schools:

Business School

Average GMAT scores

Business School

Stanford University

Average GMAT scores

734

Business School

Columbia University

Average GMAT scores

732

Business School

University of Pennsylvania (Wharton)

Average GMAT scores

732

Business School

Harvard University

Average GMAT scores

728

Business School

Yale University

Average GMAT scores

721

Business School

Northwestern University (Kellogg)

Average GMAT scores

730

Business School

MIT Sloan

Average GMAT scores

727

Business School

University of California - Berkeley (Haas)

Average GMAT scores

725

Business School

University of Chicago (Booth)

Average GMAT scores

730

Business School

Dartmouth College (Tuck)

Average GMAT scores

723

Take a look at the GMAT scores and selectivity index for business schools here.

How to prepare for the GMAT

Taking the GMAT is one of the requirements for getting into business school. The hype that surrounds the GMAT might make preparation seem like a daunting task, but with determination and an organised schedule, it’s not difficult at all.

Here are a few tips on how to prepare for GMAT exams:

● Assess how much time you’re going to need and pace your preparation accordingly. Any time span ranging from 8 weeks to 6 months works, depending on your requirements.

● Don’t try to do everything at once. Prepare one section at a time.

● Go over basic math concepts and revise them to jog your memory.

● Take a look at the types of questions that are asked in each section, and prepare accordingly.

● Time management is extremely important. Many excellent students fail to score well because of poor time management.

● You can use the GMAT Official Guide or other study material to prepare. The official guide provides you with tons of information, including an explanation of key concepts, Q and A, and a step-by-step guide on how to ace each section.

● Once you’re done with studying all the concepts, get started with GMAT practice questions and sample papers. Do sample papers in a test-like environment without any distractions.

GMAT Study Plan

You can pace your preparation according to the amount of time you have. You can follow a 6-month study plan, or a 2-month GMAT study plan for working professionals, or a 3-month GMAT study plan.

That being said, the best GMAT study plan is probably one that you create on your own, to your convenience.

No matter how much time you give yourself to study, the important thing is to follow these five steps while preparing for the GMAT:

  1. Set a target score
  2. Assess the amount of time you will require for preparation
  3. Create your own study plan or choose one available online
  4. Follow the study plan diligently
  5. Take mock tests and periodically review your preparation

Which schools should you apply to?

● Start researching schools

● Create a list of target schools

● Assess your strengths and weaknesses

● Identify ways to enhance your candidacy

There’s only one MBA degree, yet no two programmes are the same. Before submitting applications, you want a real understanding of each school’s identity and assets, and, more importantly, why they are the best fit for you.

The plethora of information that’s instantly available online is a blessing and a curse. You can instantly see tons of photos, videos, blogs, and tweets, and this information overload can baffle you and create a lot of confusion.

Here are a few tips to help you find the best business school for yourself:

Tip 1: Create your personal lens and filter

Your ability to be discerning begins with honest introspection. The first question MBA admissions committees ask the thousands of applicants vying for just a few hundred spots is:

“Why do you want to go to business school? And why our school?”

Prioritise your values, strengths, motivations, and career interests; your motivation and future ambitions will become the lens and filter for finding out what’s most relevant, practical, and useful to you.

Tip 2: Use reliable sources of information

The best sources of information are the schools themselves. While we encourage you to devour each programme’s website, it’s helpful to start with the MBA Student Profile and employment report. Both are usually full of data about current and graduating students.

You’ll see where students are coming from and where they’re going after graduation. As you compare programmes, ask yourself: Can I see myself thriving there? How can each school help me achieve my career goals?

Then there are school-hosted blogs, which are among the best sources of accurate information. Students or admissions-run MBA blogs keep applicants apprised of news, opportunities, admissions policies, and events.

You can also follow the latest on social media channels like Facebook and YouTube, and often get swift responses on Twitter feeds. More informal advice can be gleaned through discussion boards maintained by groups of students who specialise in talking to applicants.

These and other online resources are part of each school’s ‘MBA Cloud’ — and everything that isn’t should be approached with a healthy dose of skepticism: Who is the person giving the advice? Are they an alumnus or experienced consultant? How can you check the validity of their information?

Tip 3: Get a feel for the culture and vibe

It’s ideal to visit your top schools; it provides a sense of personality and cultural fit. Of course, you should join the tour and official information sessions, but also consider visiting when they aren’t expecting you. By catching students in the hallway or sitting in on a lecture, you can glean the community vibe. Are people welcoming? Does it feel like a more competitive classroom, or is the environment collaborative and supportive? Is faculty engaging with students, or dashing off to other commitments?

If a visit isn’t possible, participate in online webinars, attend local information sessions, or an MBA fair. Make time to reach out to students and alumni who share similar interests, initiating candid conversations that uncover a school’s culture. Connect with faculty to get more depth than the ‘official view.’

At the end of the day, admissions officers have ample experience in identifying motivated applicants from the merely speculative ones. Moreover, careful and thorough research ensures you’ve spent valuable time and effort on schools that are also the best fit for you. The more familiar you are with the MBA programmes of your choice, the better your chances of admissions success.

Working on your essays and recommendations

● Prioritise your final list of target schools

● Begin drafting your essays and get feedback

● Identify potential recommenders and make a rough timeline with them

Next, you need to finalise your list of schools. Once you’ve decided on the schools you want to apply to, you can finally get started on your resume and your MBA application essays.

To find out how to create a resume, draft essays, get recommendations, and prepare for your interviews, see our Guide to B School Admissions.