The Graduate Management Admission Test is a computer adaptive standardized test in mathematics and the English language for measuring aptitude to succeed academically in graduate business studies. Business schools commonly use the test as one of many selection criteria for admission into graduate business administration programs (e.g. MBA , Master of Accountancy , etc.) principally in the United States, but also in other English-speaking countries. It is delivered via computer at various locations around the world. In those international locations where an extensive network of computers has not yet been established, the GMAT is offered either at temporary computer-based testing centers on a limited schedule or as a paper-based test (given once or twice a year) at local testing centers. As of December 2009, the fee to take the test is U.S. $250 worldwide.

The exam measures verbal, mathematical, and analytical writing skills that the examinee has developed over a long period of time in his/her education and work. Test takers answer questions in each of the three tested areas, and there are also two optional breaks; in general, the test takes about four hours to complete.

Scores are valid for five years (at most institutions) from the date the test taker sits for the exam until the date of matriculation (i.e. acceptance, not until the date of application).

The maximum score that can be achieved on the exam is 800. Over the 3 years concluding in October 2009, the mean score has been 538.5.

The Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) section is the first section to be answered. Then the Quantitative section and the Verbal Ability section follow respectively.

The “Total Score”, composed of the quantitative and verbal sections, is exclusive of the analytical writing assessment (AWA), and ranges from 200 to 800. About two-thirds of test takers score between 400 and 600. The score distribution resembles a bell curve with a standard deviation of approximately 100 points, meaning that the test is designed for 68% of examinees to score between 400 and 600, while the median score was originally designed to be near 500. The 2005/2006 mean score was 533. [8]

The quantitative and verbal sections comprise a computer adaptive test. The first question may be difficult. The next few questions in each section may be around the 500 level. If the examinee answers correctly, the next questions are harder. If the examinee answers incorrectly, the next questions are easier. The questions are pulled from a large pool of questions and delivered depending on the student’s running score. These questions are regularly updated to prevent them from being compromised by students recording questions.

The final score is not based solely on the last question the examinee answers (i.e. – the level of difficulty of questions reached through the computer-adaptive presentation of questions). The algorithm used to build a score is more complicated than that. The examinee can make a silly mistake and answer incorrectly and the computer will recognize that item as an anomaly. If the examinee misses the first question his score will not necessarily fall in the bottom half of the range.

Also, questions left blank (that is, those not reached) hurt the examinee more than questions answered incorrectly. This is a major contrast to the SAT, which has a wrong-answer penalty. Each test section also includes several experimental questions, which do not count toward the examinee’s score, but are included to judge the appropriateness of the item for future administrations.

Verbal and Quantitative Section scores range from 0 to 60. Analytical Writing Assessment scores range from 0 to 6 and represent the average of the ratings from the two GMAT essays. The essays are scored differently from the Verbal and Quantitative sections and are not included in the total score.

All scores and cancellations in the past 5 years will be on a student’s score report, a change from the previous policy of the last three scores and cancellations being kept on the score report.

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