291,570 MBA aspirants took GMAT from January to December 2011. The test is constantly evolving, reflecting the changing criteria by which Business Schools and Companies would like to assess the applicant. The exam lasts for 3.5 hours, but can total as much as 4 hours when accounting for breaks taken between sections.
The GMAT is made up of four main sections - Analytical Writing Assessment, Integrated Reasoning, Quantitative, and Verbal. It is a computer adaptive test, which implies that the computer presents the next question based on your answer to the previous one. So if the first question was answered correctly, then the next one will be tougher, with a higher scoring potential. If the question is again answered correctly, the next question becomes even tougher, while offering higher marks as well. On the other hand, if the first question is answered incorrectly, then the subsequent question would be an easier one, with lower marks. This process continues throughout the test, with the difficulty of the question increasing or decreasing based on the last answer. Only one question is presented at a time. And a question cannot be skipped, nor can the answers to previous questions be changed.
Section 1 - Analytical Writing Assessment Section
This section is meant to test a candidate's ability to think critically, and communicate those thoughts with clarity. Candidates are given 30 minutes to read a given argument, and then comment critically on it. Remember, personal views are not asked for; just an analysis of the argument is required.
The argument topics are of general interest, related to business or a gamut of other topics. Students must read carefully, analyze the assumptions of the argument, and provide explanations or examples to weaken or strengthen the conclusion. They can also give evidence to counter the argument.
The scoring range is from 0 to 6 in intervals of 0.5. In case a student is unhappy with the score, it can be re-scored by independent readers for a $45 fee. The essay is judged based on the overall quality of the ideas presented, capability to arrange, develop, and write about those ideas, and the ability to write grammatically correct English. Note that this is not added to the final GMAT score, it is only used by the B-School to assess the writing skills.
Section 2 - Integrated Reasoning
Today, one is inundated with data from different contexts and sources. Therefore, the ability to interpret large complex data critically, and come up with the right inferences is of paramount importance - both in the classroom and in the workplace. The Integrated Reasoning section is designed to test this ability. It has 12 questions that have to be answered in 30 minutes. This is a new section, which has been added in July 2012. The score range is from 1 to 8 in intervals of 1. The score is not added to the final GMAT score.
Nearly all the questions require more than one answer. Marks are awarded only if all the answers for a particular question are correct, because it implies complete understanding of the scenario. A partial understanding is not enough.
The section has four types of questions, all of which require the test taker to analyze and combine data in multiple formats, from different sources:
• Graphics Interpretation: A graph must be interpreted, and the right answers must be selected from the drop-down lists
• Two-Part Analysis: An analysis of two parts must be done, and one answer from each of the two columns must be selected to solve this two-part problem
• Table Analysis: The table presented can be sorted based on different criteria, and this must be used to organize the data in order to determine whether certain conditions are met.
Each question will have opposing answers like true/false, yes/no and inferable/not inferable - the right answer must be selected
• Multi-Source Reasoning: The data is presented in different layers, and one must click on the header of each layer to view that particular data.
Section 3 - Quantitative Section
The quantitative section is designed to test mathematical skills, as well as the ability to assess quantitative factors, resolve quantitative problems and interpret all graphical data. It requires proficiency in arithmetic, elementary algebra and common geometric concepts. This section contains 37 questions that are to be completed in 75 minutes. The scoring range is 0 to 60 in intervals of 1.
There are two types of questions:
1) Problem-Solving questions
• Basic mathematical ability
• Grasp of elementary mathematical concepts
• Capability of reasoning quantitatively and solving different quantitative problems
2) Data-Sufficiency Questions
• Ability to analyze a quantitative problem
• Ability to recognize the relevant information
• Ability to ascertain the point at which information is sufficient to solve a problem
The questions will have some information, followed by two statements, called (1) and (2). One must determine if these have enough data to answer the question, and so choose one from the following options:
• Statement (1) ALONE is sufficient, but statement (2) is not sufficient.
• Statement (2) ALONE is sufficient, but statement (1) is not sufficient.
• BOTH statements TOGETHER are sufficient, but NEITHER statement ALONE is sufficient.
• EACH statement ALONE is sufficient.
• Statements (1) and (2) TOGETHER are NOT sufficient.
Section 4 - Verbal Section
The Verbal section is designed to test how well you can read and understand written matter, reason and analyze arguments and spot mistakes and correct them according to written English standards. It has 41 questions that are to be answered in 75 minutes. The scoring range is 0 to 60 in intervals of 1.
There are three types of questions:
1) Reading Comprehension
A passage of up to 350 words is presented on general topics from physical or biological sciences, social sciences and business-related areas like marketing, finance and human resource management. Then a set of 4 to 6 questions follow, based on the passage. The questions may be interpretive, applied or inferential.
The passage tests for
• Understanding words & statements in English
• Comprehending the various logical relationships between the important points and concepts in the passage
• Ability to draw the right inferences from facts and statements
• Understanding quantitative concepts when they are presented in a verbal manner - in the passage
2) Critical Reasoning
Critical Reasoning questions test reasoning skills that are involved in the making and evaluating of arguments, as well as in the formulation or evaluation of a plan of action.
3) Sentence Correction
Sentence Correction questions ask which of the five answers is the best expressions of an idea or a relationship. Here, familiarity with stylistic conventions and grammatical rules of standard written English are a must. One must also be able to correct or improve sentences that are wrong or ineffective.
The total score is out of 800 and only takes into consideration the Verbal and Quantitative sections. The important point to note here is that the score is actually a percentile ranking - how one rank among all GMAT test takers over the last 3 years. The scores are valid for five years and can be sent to five Business Schools of your choice.
Essential GMAT Reading Comprehension Guide
After reading F1GMAT’s Essential GMAT Reading Comprehension Guide, you will:
1. Complete GMAT RC Questions in less than 1 minute and 50 seconds
2. Read Faster
3. Take Notes Effectively
4. Collect and Interpret Facts
5. Speed up Summary Creation
6. Remember Information
7. Question the Author
8. Learn to Answer GMAT Reading Comprehension Title question
9. Learn to Answer GMAT Reading Comprehension Main Idea Question
Mastering GMAT Critical Reasoning
After you read F1GMAT’s Mastering GMAT Critical Reasoning Guide, you will learn:
How to overcome flawed thinking in GMAT Critical Reasoning?