The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) – the admissions exam required by most business schools  – is probably unlike any test a student has ever taken in their academic career. Its purpose is to provide a common yardstick by which business school admissions committees can measure applicants’ ability to succeed in their MBA programs.

Brief history of the GMAT: In March 1953, deans from top-ranked MBA programs like Columbia, Harvard, Northwestern, Rutgers, Seton Hall, University of Chicago, University of Michigan, University of Pennsylvania, and Washington University (St. Louis) met to create an objective, national entrance exam for business schools. Originally called the Admissions Test for Graduate Study in Business (ATGSB), the name was changed to the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) in 1976.  The pilot was administered in February 1954 to 1,300 students – for all of 1954 it was taken by only 4,300 test takers and required by only eight business schools.  In 1997, GMAT moved from a paper-and-pencil format to a computer format.  In 2005, the original developer of the exam, ETS – the GRE’s developer – lost its contract to ACT, the administrator of the ACT.    In June 2012, the GMAT saw a major change to its content with the addition of the  Integrated Reasoning section, meant to measure data analysis and balanced decision-making skills that are important for success in business school and the business world.    

  • Year created: 1953
  • Number of tests takers in 2011: 258,200
  • Length of test: 3 and a half hours, plus breaks
  • Test format: computer-adaptive test (CAT) – level of difficulty adapts after each section.  If you answer a question correctly, the next question is more difficult.  If you answer a question incorrectly, the next question is less difficult. The new Integrated Reasoning section is NOT adaptive – the difficulty level does not change based on how you answer each question.
  • Sections on test: Verbal, Quantitative, Integrated Reasoning, Analytical WritingAssessment
  • Score range: 200-800; Integrated Reasoning section given its own distinct grade
  • Cost of test: $250
  • How often the test it administered: almost every day of the year
  • Administrator of test: Graduate School Admission Council (GMAC)
  • Interesting fact about the test: Test takers cannot bring personal items, including wallets, watches, purses, hats, bags, or coats into the testing room.

*GMAT is a registered trademark of the Graduate Management Admission Council, which was not involved in the production of, and does not endorse, this product.