GMAT Scoring: All You Need to Know

Understanding the GMAT

The GMAT – Graduate Management Admission Test is a standardized test that assesses quantitative abilities, writing and reading skills, analytical thinking and integrated reasoning, and verbal ability. The GMAT was designed and is used to evaluate applicants for MBA programs (Masters in Business Administration) at post-graduate schools.

Students exam

The GMAT is considered alongside your application and merits and is an essential benchmark measure to compare students with each other. Your GMAT score will be compared to all other applicants, so you must stand out. All applicants will be expected to complete the exam and gain a score that is reflective of their application, potential, and abilities.

The GMAT is also a CAT (Computer Adaptive Test), which means two key things; firstly, this means that you will complete the test on a computer, and secondly, it means that the test questions adapt to your ability. In the Quantitive and Verbal sections, the exam course changes and provides different questions, depending on the answers you have given.

If in the first few questions you have not scored very highly, it will reflect this by showing questions at your ability level. If you have high scores in the first number of questions, then the test will stretch you with more difficult questioning. This is a unique type of test that is not widely used, but in this instance, the technique helps to assess the ability of potential MBA students.

The GMAC oversee the GMAT questions, schedule, and testing, and ensure that the test is meeting the standards required for students who would like to study at business school. They work with business schools to create a test that can be used for all students and schools, mostly in North America.

Understanding GMAT scoring

The Graduate Management Admission Council created the scoring system, which is complex and has many factors. Each of the four sections has a separate scoring bracket, and these are added to get your total score.

However, the Quantitive and Verbal sections have a different method of scoring, depending on the difficulty of questions that you answer. This is because of the Computer Adaptive Element of the tests, which make every test unique to each student.

The GMAT is split into four sections which span across 3 hours and 30 minutes:

Analytical Writing Assessment – This section is 30 minutes and has one lengthy writing task. This section of the exam requires you to assess a given argument and write a critique essay of the argument. You are not required to know about the topic, although topics include general news, sociological debates, and business topics. This section is testing your ability to think critically and use good written English to express and communicate your views through analytical writing.

Integrated Reasoning – This section is 30 minutes and has 12 multiple choice questions that test how you absorb and use data to solve complex problems. The test will present you with information in graphics, text, and numbers and will need to evaluate the information from different sources. The data will help you to solve the complex problems, by combining and manipulating the data, thus integrated reasoning. These are high-level multiple-choice questions that you need to solve rapidly.

Quantitative Math – This section is 75 minutes with a total 37 number of questions in multiple-choice format. These questions fit into two main types – problem-solving and data sufficiency. This non-calculator test requires knowledge of arithmetic, elementary algebra, and geometry, but is focusing on assessing your reasoning and logical skills. This section of GMAT is CAT and adapts the questions depending on your level of answering.

Verbal Reasoning – This section of GMAT is more about the reading than the verbal, and comes in at 75 minutes with 41 multiple-choice questions. The key aim is to assess your English comprehension by asking you to read and understand the written material, use it to reason and evaluate arguments, and correct grammar, spelling, and vocabulary.

GMAT Scoring and Scaled Score

Pencil on a test sheet

Each GMAT section has a separate scoring scale. You’ll receive 5 GMAT scores in total.

  • Analytical Writing Assessment score – 0-6 points
  • Integrated Reasoning score – 1-8 points
  • Quantitative Math scaled score – 0-60 points
  • Verbal Reasoning scaled score 0-60 points
  • A combined total score between 200 – 800 points

The most complex element of GMAT scores is for the Verbal Reasoning and Quantitive sections, as these are adaptive questioning sections. This means that the scaled score range is vastly different and influenced by the number of questions you complete, the correct answers you present, and the difficultly of the questions.

All the scores are combined and calculated to produce your total GMAT score. GMAT scores are worked out using a complex system. It’s not merely adding up, which is why it seems like the above values don’t match up.

What is the percentile score?

Once you’ve completed the exam, you will also get given a percentile score. This ranks your score with other students that have taken the GMAT in this academic year for your chosen school. The percentile score is like a bell curve, with most students achieving an average score between 500 and 650.

Your percentile score will stand out to schools if you are in the top 10%, 5%, or 1% of all test takers. This means your GMAT score will be over 740 points, which is an excellent score for Harvard.

What GMAT score should I aim for?

Exam pass

Your total score should be 700 points or above to get into the top business schools. It sounds easy, but this will take a lot of hard work and dedication. Not many students get scores of 750 and above, and this puts them in the top percentile of scorers.

If you’re looking to get into a good school for an MBA program, then aim to reach a GMAT score between 600 and 700 points. This is a respectable score that shows excellent analytical ability and potential for studying at MBA level. Most preparation courses will help to boost your GMAT score by 50 points, and we strongly recommend using a GMAT course when studying for this exam.

Should I complete GMAT prep?

Exam sheet

Yes! If you’re going to take the GMAT and want to apply for business school, it’s essential that you study, prepare, and practice for this test to get your best score. Schools will use your GMAT score to assess if you’re ready to study at the pressured and demanding level of business school, so this is a chance to demonstrate that you are capable and intelligent.

Check out our article on the best prep courses available and our breakdown reviews of each course. Choosing the right one for you is an essential step to achieving your MBA dreams and furthering your education.

In an ideal world, you should start preparing for the GMAT around one year before the school’s application deadline. This will give you enough time to study, prepare, and take the test and be able to factor it into your application. If you scored highly on your SAT exam, then you could benefit from a shorter preparation period, and may just need to sharpen your analytical skills.

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