How We Review, Compare and Rank GMAT Prep Courses

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GMAT prep courses come in a broad range of formats, styles, quality, accessibility and price. Some providers clearly stand out from the pack while others barely rate a mention.

An online course must employ effective teaching techniques using appropriate content to deliver a targeted learning outcome for each student. Almost all online courses can achieve this fundamental requirement to a greater or lesser extent. But how do we assess the quality of the teaching methods and the appropriateness of the content?

Courses can be compared on the basis of similarities with conventional face-to-face teaching, looking at technological considerations, administrative aspects of online courses, and other issues that are unique to online courses. National standards, rubrics, and benchmarks can also be used as measuring tools that allow a broader assessment of quality and substance.

GMAT prep course descriptions

GMAT prep course descriptions should be clear and accurate enough to answer the question: Is this course the right one for me? Most GMAT prep course providers give adequate information about their courses to make this judgement.

High-ranking prep courses will provide the following information to enable students to judge whether the course meets their needs:

  • Goals and learning objectives
  • Intended outcomes of the course
  • Level of education required
  • Prerequisite subjects and standards
  • Reading proficiency
  • Suitability of the course for students who are not native speakers of English
  • Options for the design and delivery of the course, including
    • Hours of instruction or stages provided
    • Static and/or live course instruction
    • Options for one-on-one support
    • Free or low cost introductory access.

The best GMAT prep courses that provide the most in-depth details about their course will rank more highly, as this enables students to make more informed decisions about the best course for them.

In addition, one of the best features of the best GMAT prep courses is to have free or nearly free introductory access for a brief period of time. Many providers offer 7-day free access or similar, which is the best way to become informed of the course’s suitability for each student. GMAT prep courses rank higher when they offer free access and introductory periods, which maximises transparency for the student.

Methods of delivering course material

The method the course provider delivers the course material is a critical point of decision for most students. Course material can be delivered in passive or highly engaging ways that vary in intensity and effectiveness, and levels of accessibility and convenience.

There are three ways that course material is delivered for GMAT prep courses:

  • On-Demand Online Course
  • Live Streaming Video Content Delivered Online
  • Live Classroom Settings Delivered in Person.

On-Demand Online Courses

On-demand online instruction is made up of static material that contains descriptions and explanations of problem solving principles and techniques. Pre-recorded online videos are a common feature of the best GMAT prep courses. On-demand online courses are the most popular method of course delivery for GMAT students.

On-demand online courses:

  • offer the greatest level of convenience for students, as they can log on when it is most convenient for them
  • best suits someone with limited free time; e.g. working full time, or with family commitments
  • better suited to highly motivated students (although most students who plan to take the GMAT are usually highly motivated)
  • easily accommodates a student who wishes to focus on a particular section of the GMAT, so that more time can be spent developing in this area
  • able to work through at a pace that suits the student, and can repeat sections when needed to fully understand a difficult aspect before moving on to other learning areas
  • are the cheapest option, and often the best value—students can save hundreds of dollars and still achieve amongst the highest-ranking scores.

On-demand online courses:

  • do not provide high levels of access to instructors, although most provide delayed access to instructors via email contact—this can be sufficient for many people.

Live-Streaming Video Content Courses

Live-streaming courses deliver the bulk of their course content through live streaming videos. Instructors will talk through the course material using online delivered video streaming at scheduled times.

Live-streaming courses:

  • commonly include a facility to communicate in real time with the instructor and fellow students
  • may include interactive solving of problems and responsive feedback
  • students can keep track of their progress, which can include personalised reviews from course instructors
  • on-demand access to recorded live-streaming classes and supplementary online material
  • are best suited to students who prefer to learn in a classroom-like environment without the inconvenience of attending a live classroom.

Live-streaming courses are more expensive than pre-recorded on-demand courses, although for individual students, the benefits from a live-streaming course may outweigh the extra cost.

Live Classroom-Delivered Courses

The third category of course delivery is the traditional face-to-face classroom setting with a room full of students and course instructors in person.

Live classroom-delivered courses:

  • suit students who function best in learning environments where social interaction and focussed discussion create stimulating learning environments
  • enable students to engage directly with course instructors, which can be hugely beneficial for working through tough concepts
  • allow for real time feedback that is excellent for identifying and addressing weaknesses before they become entrenched, and to establish correct problem-solving approaches as soon as possible.

The amount of personalised attention you receive in the classroom and the amount of time you have to prepare for your GMAT test day determine the quality of a live classroom-delivered course. The quality of live classroom-delvered courses are affected by:

  • the maximum number of students per class
  • the number of scheduled classes over the life of the course.

Private tuition

Private tuition is available from some course providers, and

  • is best suited to students who prefer intense and highly personalised teaching
  • can be delivered face-to-face or online (depending on the provider)
  • can be expensive, but for some students will help them to achieve their best score.

Practice Questions and Practice Exams

Good quality GMAT prep courses will offer students the opportunity to experience and deal with the variety of GMAT questions that can be asked on test day. This can be provisioned by offering:

  • a substantial number of practice questions

Practice questions are the central course material tool for coaching students. The more questions tackled during preparations the more opportunity there is for refining approaches and for dealing with questions in a difficult category. Practice questions are crucial for building skills and knowledge.

  • access to full-length practice tests

Questions in isolation will not fully prepare the student for dealing with the entire test-day circumstance, and the best GMAT prep courses will also provide a good number of GMAT practice exams. Practice of this kind is very important for understanding and dealing with the exam structure and for appreciating the time limitations when completing the exam. The greater the number of practice exams available, the higher the ranking of the GMAT prep course provider.

  • on-site practice exams

On-site practice exams offer a real-exam experience that includes supervision to simulate the exam-day circumstance. This can be very useful for calming nerves and highlighting areas for development before the real thing.

Course Instructor Quality

The quality of GMAT prep courses is partly determined by the quality of the performance of the course instructors. This can be difficult to measure and compare. Student reviews, while helpful, cannot establish an effective ranking of instructors as students only have contact with a small number of these instructors. Some course providers pay for reviews, which greatly diminishes their real worth in providing an honest measure of the parameter in question.

CRUSH the GMAT also assesses the quality of GMAT prep course instructors by referring to:

  • teaching experience of course instructors
  • support, professional development and in-house training provided to course instructors
  • recruitment criteria for course instructors.

Student Performance Feedback

Providing feedback to students involves the marking and reporting back the results of practice questions and practice exams. Insightful feedback from the best instructors who can spot weaknesses or misunderstandings in students is valuable information. The best GMAT prep course will have instructors who are able to manage the most complex exam questions and effectively communicate lessons and insights. These skills vary from instructor to instructor within, and across, GMAT prep course providers.

Media Technology and Ease of Access

High quality GMAT prep course providers have more options to make accessibility easier and offer easy routes for communication. This may include, for example:

  • mobile phone apps, which are very useful for students who prefer highly portable access
  • flashcard apps that allow for continued learning using mobile devices
  • online games that enhance interaction and enjoyment while learning the course material
  • blogs and forums that help keep students engaged and focussed in addition to offering practical advice to improve their GMAT scores.

Guarantees and Assurances

Many course providers claim to be able to add a certain number to your GMAT score. These claims can range from 50 to 140 points. Various guarantees or assurances accompany these claims, including money back guarantees. The quality of the guarantee is an important guiding factor when assessing the course’s quality.

The best GMAT prep course will not overstate their claims by making unrealistic assurances when they cannot be supported by results and when the providers themselves know that only some students will achieve massive improvement. On the other hand some providers make very modest claims, which may be so weak that the guaranteed level of improvement is highly achievable without special effort. If the claimed improvement in test score is high but the guarantee is solid then the student should feel confident that the provider is capable of delivering the claimed improvement.

Training for Business-School Admission Applications and Interviews

The best GMAT prep course providers will offer more than top quality test training and instruction. They will also offer support to students for developing their business-school applications and interview skills. This may, for example, be through:

  • individually-tailored student advice and support on the suitability of specific business schools
  • assistance with applications and training for interviews for entry into the top business schools
  • seminars that provide information about the process and how to support students to bolster their candidacy, by identifying aspects of their applications that need attention and advice about how to address areas of concern.

GMAT Information

Preparing to take the GMAT takes effort, timing, and a plan.

You will need to study hard and learn to cope with stress as you schedule your exam and keep an eye on application deadlines in addition to your other school or work obligations.

We’ve compiled a list of useful information about the process to help you in your mission to getting an excellent GMAT score and into the business school of your choice.

What is the GMAT?

The Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) is a standardized test used by business schools and programs around the world as an entrance exam to get your MBA. This 3 hour and 30 minute computer adaptive test is developed and administered by the Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC), and is designed to predict how successful a student will be in business school. It is considered a very important part of your application, and students interested in attending a top business school will need a great GMAT score to be admitted.

How Hard is the GMAT?

The GMAT measures a variety of analytical and problem solving skills and abilities that are considered critical in business and management. Even if you are good at math and have strong verbal abilities, you should take some time to familiarize yourself with the structure and types of questions on the exam. Although it is not impossible to do well on the GMAT without studying, studies show a correlation between how many hours individuals study and their scores.

The GMAT is scored on a scale between 200-800 (a combination of the Verbal and Quantitative sections of the exam). To give you an idea of how challenging the test is, the most selective schools like to see scores of 710 or higher, but only approximately 10% of test takers score between 700-800. A score between 650 and 720 (77th-94th percentile) is still very competitive and is generally strong enough to get into the top 25% of business schools.

GMAT Sections

The 4-part GMAT includes a Quantitative or “Quant” section (75 minutes), a Verbal Section (75 minutes), an Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) essay, and an Integrated Reasoning (IR) section (30 minutes each).

Each section of the GMAT contains specific types of questions.

  • AWA Section: you will have to analyze and write a critique of the reasoning behind an argument provided on the test. This section measures critical thinking skills and your ability to communicate those in writing.
  • IR Section: you must answer questions related to graphics interpretation, two-part analysis, table analysis, and multi-source reasoning. This section measures your ability to integrate data to solve complex problems.
  • Quant Section: This section attempts to test your content knowledge of essential math skills and measures how well you analyze data and use reasoning to draw conclusions. There are two types of questions in this section: Data Sufficiency and Problem Solving. Data Sufficiency questions typically consist of a question and 2 statements of data, and you must decide if those statements provide enough data to answer the question. Problem solving questions require knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, and geometry.
  • Verbal Section: You must answer the Reading Comprehension questions, Critical Reasoning questions, and Sentence Correction questions that appear in this section. Reading Comprehension questions evaluate how well you understand, analyze, and apply information and concepts based on reading a text. Critical Reasoning questions involve using reasoning skills to formulate and evaluate arguments and plans of action. In Sentence Correction questions, you have to determine which version of 5 possible sentences is the most grammatically correct.

GMAT Test Dates

The GMAT is offered year-round in most locations around the world on every weekday throughout the year, except Sundays and holidays. You can go to the GMAC website (www.mba.com) to locate a test center near you and search for available test dates and times (many test centers allow you to schedule either a morning or an afternoon test.)

Although there are no specific dates and times you have to keep track of when it comes to registering and scheduling an appointment for the GMAT, don’t wait too long because test centers and appointment times can fill up quickly and you might not be able to get a date or time that is convenient for you.

Make sure to check with the MBA programs you are applying to so that your exam results will be submitted on time to meet each school’s application deadlines. You will receive an unofficial score report as soon as you finish the exam, but official reports are submitted to schools up to 20 days after your test date. Your registration fee includes GMAT score submissions to 5 schools or programs of your choice, which you enter the day you take the exam. You can order additional official score reports for a fee, and you will receive a copy of the score report as well.

GMAT Registration

In order to register for the GMAT online, go to the GMAC website to create an account and follow the instructions to register online. You can also register by phone (phone numbers can be found on the GMAC website), by mail, or by fax. Note that there is a $10 surcharge for registering by phone.

GMAT Cost

The cost to register for the GMAT is $250. If you need to reschedule the GMAT appointment, you will be charged an additional $50. Additional score reports (beyond the 5 that are included in the regisration fee) cost $28 each.

If you cancel the GMAT more than seven days prior to your scheduled appointment time, you will receive a refund of $80. If you cancel by phone, you will also be charged a service charge of $10. (So essentially, you will only get $70 back from your initial $250 registration fee if you cancel by phone 7 days in advance.)

If you cancel your appointment less than seven days before your exam, you will not receive a refund, and  you may be charged an additional $10 service fee for canceling.

If you miss your scheduled appointment, your registration fee will not be refunded.

If you need to retake the GMAT because you think you can do better, you can take the exam once every 31 calendar days, for a maximum of 5 times in 12 months.

Forms of Payment

You can pay to register with a credit card (Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or JCB) or debit card (Visa or MasterCard only). If you mail in your registration form, you can also pay with a cashier’s check, money order, or personal check. Payments by check must be in US dollars and drawn on banks within the United States.

What to Expect the Day of the Test

How Long is the GMAT?

The length of the actual exam is 3 hours and 30 minutes, but you will need to arrive at the test center at least 30 minutes early to complete check in procedures and to complete administrative tasks prior to the exam. You are also allowed to take two optional breaks during the exam.

What to Bring to the Test Center

When the day of your GMAT arrives, make sure you are prepared with all of the required paperwork and identification you need to be admitted to the test center. Your name on your identification papers must appear exactly as the name you used when you registered for your appointment.

Acceptable forms of ID must be valid and unexpired and include: a passport, a government-issued driver’s license, a government-issued national/state/province identity card (including European ID card), or a Military ID card. (If you are testing outside of your country of citizenship, you must present a valid passport).

You should also bring your appointment confirmation letter or email from Pearson VUE (if you don’t have it, you may still take the test if you have a scheduled appointment).

Lockboxes are available at most test centers to safeguard any personal items you may not bring in to the exam room (e.g. cellular phones, pagers, notes, scratch paper, calculators, watches, etc.)

Be sure to also check with mba.com on what to bring and not bring on the day of your test.

Your GMAT Score

Immediately after you complete the GMAT exam and before you leave the test center, you will receive your unofficial GMAT score report, which contains unofficial scores from the Verbal, Quantitative, and Integrated Reasoning Sections, as well as the Total score.

The unofficial score report also contains the authentication code you will need to access your Official Score Report. Make sure to keep the authentication code in a safe place, as this is the only time you will receive the code!

For more information about how the GMAT is scored, see our article on GMAT scoring.

Preparing for and taking the GMAT is a challenging process that will require advance planning, consistent hard work, and determination. We hope the information above is helpful as you begin your journey to taking the GMAT and getting into the MBA program of your choice.

 

The Fundamentals of Taking the GMAT

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The GMAT was designed to measure students’ analytical and problem solving skills and other abilities that are considered critical in business and management. If you familiarize yourself with the types of questions on the test and practicing them, you can achieve a good score if you plan in advance and are determined to work hard.

GMAT Study Plan

Your GMAT study plan should include taking enough time to prepare for the test. Business schools weigh the GMAT heavily in the admissions process. Studying in advance allows students to learn the format of the test and become adept at the different types of questions in each section. The exam takes 3 hours and 3o minutes, so you should practice taking several sections at once so you are used to focusing for that long on the day of the exam.

It pays to practice under the same conditions you will experience on test day. This means taking several full-length practice exams exactly as you would the day of the exam. You should time yourself to simulate the pressure you will experience on the test. If you typically study alone in a quiet place, consider taking a full practice test in a public area, such as a student center or coffee shop, to acclimate yourself to having people and mild noise around while you are trying to focus on test questions.

We have compiled a list of the best GMAT prep courses, most of which provide full-length practice tests with timers and analytic software to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. Be sure to explore different test prep options, including in-person and live online courses, on-demand video lectures, private tutoring, practice questions, drills and strategies for each section.

How Long Should I Study for the GMAT?

The amount of time you will need to study to achieve a good score on the GMAT will vary depending on your abilities and your experience and comfort level with taking standardized tests. A student with a knack for taking standardized tests and good math skills probably won’t have to study as many hours as someone who is less confident in his or her mathematical abilities and dislikes standardized tests.

Non-native speakers of English will probably have to spend more time learning and practicing for the Verbal sections of the exam than those whose first language is English. Even if you are good at math and English grammar, it pays to study. According to the Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC), just over half of all GMAT test takers in a 2013 prospective student survey studied at least 51 hours before they took the exam. The survey found that, on average, those who spend more time studying for the GMAT tend to perform better on the exam (See the Stats Here).

GMAT Syllabus

In order to perform well on the GMAT, you should set up a systematic study plan to address all sections of the exam instead of randomly studying practice questions here and there whenever you have a few minutes. There are free and low-cost study materials available online and in print, and you can design your own syllabus.

In addition, most commercial test prep companies offer a carefully-designed interactive syllabus that takes the guesswork out of what you should study, when you should study, and for how long. Many prep courses offer analytic feedback based on your input to determine which areas you should spend the most time on.

GMAT Schedule

Only you can determine the best GMAT schedule for your lifestyle and needs. Make sure to plan ahead for how many weeks or months you will study for the test so that it will fit into your schedule along with your other obligations, such as school and work.

In addition to quantity, the quality of your study hours matters. Studying consistently for a set time each day over several weeks or months with a careful plan and quality materials will likely yield better results than trying to cram in a lot of study hours at the last minute without a plan.

When to Take the GMAT

You will need to take the GMAT early enough to meet the admissions deadlines. Make sure to check with each MBA program to which you will apply so that your exam results will be submitted on time to meet that school’s specific application deadlines. You will receive an unofficial score report in the testing center as soon as you finish the GMAT, but official reports are submitted to schools up to 20 days after your test date.

It is always a good idea to take the GMAT several months earlier than the application deadlines in case you want to take the test again to improve your score. Factor in additional study time and/or time to complete a prep course to maximize an increase in your score.

When and How do I Register for the GMAT?

The GMAT is offered year-round in most locations around the world on every weekday throughout the year, except Sundays and holidays. You can go to the GMAC website (www.mba.com) to locate a test center near you and search for available test dates and times. You can register by phone, mail or by fax.

Although you do not have to keep track of specific dates and times when it comes to registering and scheduling an appointment to take the GMAT, don’t wait too long because test centers and appointment times can fill up quickly and you might not be able to get a date or time that is convenient for you. For additional information, please see our GMAT Information article.

GMAT Prep Course

Taking a GMAT prep course is an excellent idea if you need a program to keep you motivated and on track while you study for this challenging exam. Prep courses organize GMAT study material and practice questions in a systematic way so that you can learn the material in a way that makes sense based on your current strengths and weaknesses. Quality materials that are similar to those on the actual exam and experienced tutors can make all the difference in your GMAT score.

GMAT Practice Questions & GMAT Sample Tests

The best prep courses include hundreds or even thousands of GMAT sample questions and sample tests for you to gauge your ability and track your progress over time. Many test prep companies also offer a selection of GMAT questions and a GMAT sample test for free on their websites. Often, GMAT prep courses include a GMAT mock test that simulates the actual exam and provides test-takers with specific analytic feedback on areas of weakness to indicate which areas would benefit most from additional practice.

GMAT Tutors

Students who have already taken the GMAT once or are struggling with GMAT study material and are concerned about their score should consider hiring a GMAT tutor for guidance and instruction that is tailored to their specific needs. Taking advantage of personal GMAT coaching by expert instructors (typically, instructors employed by the best test prep companies have scored in the 98th or 99th percentile of the GMAT themselves) is an excellent way to improve your score in a targeted way.

GMAT Tips

The best way to get a great GMAT score is to practice as many authentic GMAT questions you can under simulated test conditions. You can consult GMAC’s The Official Guide for GMAT Review (available at the GMAC website’s online store and from other online booksellers) for a comprehensive overview of the exam and practice materials.

If you are considering a test prep course, you should make sure that the course you choose offers specific tips, strategies, and opportunities to practice the kinds of questions you will see on the test. For example, if you are trying to improve your score in the Verbal section of the GMAT, you should make sure the course offers GMAT sentence correction tips, GMAT critical reasoning tips, and GMAT reading comprehension tips, because those are the three types of questions that appear in that section of the exam.

For the Quant section of the exam, make sure you have the opportunity to learn specific strategies and GMAT problem solving tips, GMAT data sufficiency tips, and GMAT integrated reasoning tips. Many courses break each section of the exam down into individual question types and offer specific video lessons or live online lectures on those types of questions, followed by practice with such questions and detailed explanations on how to solve them.

GMAT essay tips are also valuable for the Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) portion of the exam. Some prep courses provide essay-grading software or personalized feedback from GMAT instructors to help students craft essays that will earn them a top writing score.

Many GMAT exam information and prep sites offer features such as the GMAT Question of the Day or a GMAT Forum for additional practice and go over questions, seek advice from other students or expert instructors, and provide more general information about getting an MBA and applying to business school.

In summary, there is no shortage of available study materials to help you get a great score on the GMAT. Whether you choose to study on your own with free or low-cost materials, or decide to enroll in a commercial test prep course, there are many ways to achieve a high score on the GMAT to improve your chances of getting into a top MBA program.


 

GMAT Scoring

The Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) is a 4-hour standardized test used by more than 2,100 universities and institutions all over the world in their admissions decisions process. The purpose of this computer adaptive test is to predict how successful a student will be in business school.

It measures various analytical and problem solving skills along with other abilities that are considered critical in business and management. The 4-part GMAT includes a Quantitative or “Quant” section (75 minutes), a Verbal Section (75 minutes), an Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) essay, and an Integrated Reasoning (IR) section (30 minutes each).

How Is The GMAT Scored?

The GMAT has a more complex scoring system than many other standardized tests.

For the two longest sections (Quantitative and Verbal) your score will be on a scale of 0-60. The Verbal and Quantitative scores are then combined into a Total score on a scale of 200-800. These two sections are part of the computer adaptive test.

This means that as you answer questions in one of these sections, computer software evaluates each answer, updates your score, and chooses the next question from a question bank by adapting to your apparent skill level. You may not skip or return to questions.

The Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) essay is not computer adaptive and is scored on a scale of 0-6.

The Integrated Reasoning (IR) section is also not computer adaptive and is scored from 1-8 in full point increments. The IR and the AWA are scored separately, and they are not included as a part of the 200-800 score for the combined Quant and Verbal sections.

To summarize, your score report will contain 5 different scores:

  • An AWA score between 0-6
  • An IR score between 1-8
  • A Quantitative score between 0-60,
  • A Verbal score between 0-60, and
  • A total score between 200-800 for the combined Verbal and Quant sections

An official score report will be mailed to you (in addition to an email with a link to the official score report online), however, unofficial scores from the Verbal, Quantitative, and Integrated Reasoning sections and the Total score are available as soon as you finish the test. You should keep the unofficial report, which includes an authorization number that you will need to gain access to your official scores. At the beginning of the test you can select 5 programs to receive your Official Score Report; they will get the report within 20 days of your exam date.

GMAT Score Range

The number that most universities and programs list when they publish admissions statistics is the Total score, which is the combination of the Quant and Verbal sections and ranges from 200-800. For example, Harvard Business School reports that the GMAT score range of its most recent incoming class was 510-790, and the median GMAT score was 730.

The highest GMAT score you can get is an 800, but scores between 760 and 800 are all in the 99th percentile.

GMAT Percentiles

Your score report will also include your percentile rank, which indicates the percentage of test-takers who scored lower than you for the previous three years. Each exam taker’s score is updated with the most recent year’s percentiles. For example, if you have a Total score of 690, that puts you in the 87th percentile. This tells admissions committees that your Total score was better than 87 percent of all GMAT test takers over the past three years.

What Is A Good GMAT Score?

The mean Total GMAT Score over the last 3-year period is 547.35

Here are the mean scores by section:

  • Integrated Reasoning: 4.33
  • Quantitative Section: 38.03
  • Verbal Section: 27.04
  • Analytical Writing Assessment: 4.34

To determine your target score for the GMAT, you will need to know the average GMAT scores of accepted students at the business schools and MBA programs to which you plan to apply.

Typically, a score above 710 puts you in the running for the most selective schools, and anything above 750 is considered extremely high. Don’t forget that schools also base their admissions decisions on other parts of the application too. For example, your work experience and references, your undergraduate GPA, how well you did in your interview, and your essays are all important factors committees will consider.

Even the best GMAT score won’t get you into your first choice school if the other parts of your application are lacking. Remember also that the median GMAT score for a particular school is not the minimum score you need to get in, and that roughly half of the applicants who were admitted had GMAT scores that were lower.

A score between 650 and 720 (77th-94th percentile) is still very competitive and puts you in the running for the top 25% of business schools, whereas a score between 600 and 650 (61st-77th percentile) will generally get you into schools in the top 50%.

You can use a GMAT score calculator to predict your Total score based on practice exams, and to see which schools accept candidates in your score range. Score calculators are available online from various test prep companies and MBA informational websites. You are typically asked to enter your section scores to generate a total score and are then matched with schools.

Most Competitive Schools by GMAT Score

The top 10 U.S. business schools admit students with median GMAT scores of 714 and above.

The chart below shows some of the top ranked business schools in order of having the highest average GMAT score for enrollment.

(Chart Source: U.S. News )

Average GMAT Scores For Top 20 Business Schools

The top 10 business schools in 2015, as ranked by U.S. News & World Report, include Stanford University, Harvard University, University of Pennsylvania (Wharton), the University of Chicago (Booth), MIT (Sloan), Northwestern University (Kellogg), the University of California-Berkeley (Haas), Columbia University, Dartmouth College (Tuck), and the University of Virginia (Darden).

For entrance into the top 20 business programs in the country, you will typically need a GMAT Total score above 680. The following schools were ranked #11-20: New York University (Stern), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor (Ross), Duke University (Fuqua), Yale University, University of California-Los Angeles (Anderson), Cornell University (Johnson), University of Texas-Austin (McCombs), University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (Kenan-Flagler), Washington University in St. Louis (Olin), and Carnegie Mellon University (Tepper).

As a prospective business student, you should research the MBA programs that most interest you and tailor your application to each school. Find out as much as you can about the application process and the strengths and specialties of each particular program, and use that information to your advantage.

Read the information and instructions from each school carefully, take advantage of business student forums, and follow the advice that is often provided by prep course companies on the application process. Success is often the result of diligent research and hard work. If you study hard, research your options, and focus on preparing the best application you can for each school, your chances of getting into your dream school are much higher.


GMAT vs. GRE

Which Programs Recognize the GMAT & GRE?

The decision used to be simple: individuals who planned to attend business school took the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), and those pursuing a graduate degree in the humanities or sciences took the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Recently, many business schools have begun to accept the GRE along with the GMAT for various reasons.

According to the Educational Testing Service (ETS) – the company that develops, administers and scores the GRE – more than 900 MBA programs in the US now accept the GRE and the GMAT, as do several hundred more programs worldwide. An up-to-date list of all MBA programs that accept the GRE can be found on the ETS website. So, which exam should you take if you want to go to business school and get your MBA?

1. Call Schools to Find Out Which Exams They Accept

It is always a good idea to contact the admissions department of any graduate school that interests you to to get the most up-to-date information about their admissions and MBA requirements. If they accept both the GRE and the GMAT, find out if the department prefers one exam to the other and why. You should also ask if they compare the two tests and which scores they consider to be equivalent. Sometimes, a particular exam is used to qualify students for scholarships or other benefits, so you’ll want to make sure you are taking the right test to maximize your chances for admissions and any additional perks.

2. What Do You Plan to Study?

Taking the GMAT indicates that your sole ambition is to go to business school. Students who take the GRE may also be applying to other types of graduate programs. Of course, those who are interested in a dual degree program (e.g. business and political science or public administration) may find it to their advantage to take the GRE if that exam is accepted by both programs.

On the other hand, taking the GMAT demonstrates that you are committed to getting a business degree because the GMAT is only accepted by business schools and cannot be used to apply to other kinds of graduate schools.

Which is Harder, GMAT or GRE?

When you are applying to business school, your test scores will need to be very competitive because business schools factor scores heavily into their admissions decisions. The general consensus is that neither exam is objectively harder, but many individuals will perform better on one exam than on the other, based on their particular background and skills. If you have solid math skills and think word problems are a breeze, the GMAT is the more traditional choice and may carry more weight with business school admissions committees. If your math skills are weaker, consider taking the GRE because the Quant sections are considered to be slightly easier than those on the GMAT.

On the other hand, if vocabulary and language usage have never been your strong suit, you may prefer the GMAT to the GRE’s more subtle and complex Verbal sections.

If you are not sure which exam is the best choice for you, you can take a free practice exam of each. The ETS website provides access to two full-length GRE practice tests, and two full-length GMAT practice tests are available at www.mba.com, the official GMAT website.

The GRE is offered in more cities and countries around the world than the GMAT. As such, it may be more convenient for you to register for and take the GRE, depending on where you live.

GMAT Format

The GMAT is a standardized, computer adaptive test that measures a number of different analytical and problem solving skills as well as other abilities considered important in the field of business and management. Admissions committees have a lot of experience with the GMAT because it was the only accepted standardized exam by business schools for many years. It is considered relatively good at predicting how well students will perform in business school.

GMAT Sections

The four parts of the GMAT include:

  • An Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) essay
  • An Integrated Reasoning (IR) section
  • A Quantitative or “Quant” section
  • A Verbal section

GMAT Length

The GMAT takes approximately 3 1/2 hours to complete. The four different sections are broken down as follows:

  • AWA: You have 30 minutes to write an essay on one topic
  • In the IR section, 12 questions must be answered in 30 minutes
  • In the Quant Section, 37 questions must be completed in 75 minutes
  • In the Verbal Section, 41 questions must be answered in 75 minutes

GMAT Subjects & Question Types

There are several different types of questions in each section of the GMAT. In the AWA Section, students are tasked with analyzing and providing a critique of the logical reasoning of a specific given argument. This section evaluates critical thinking skills and the ability to communicate an argument in writing.

The IR Section contains questions related to graphics interpretation, two-part analysis, table analysis, and multi-source reasoning. It tests students’ ability to integrate data in order to solve problems.

The Quant Section is designed to test basic knowledge of essential math skills and evaluates how good tests takers are at analyzing data and using reasoning skills to form conclusions. This section features two types of questions, Data Sufficiency and Problem Solving. Data Sufficiency questions usually include a question and 2 statements of data, and students must decide if those statements contain enough data to answer the question. Problem Solving questions draw on test-takers’ knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, and geometry.

The Verbal Section contains Reading Comprehension questions, Critical Reasoning questions, and Sentence Correction questions. Reading Comprehension questions are designed to measure how well test takers understand, are able to analyze and apply information and concepts after reading a short passage. Critical Reasoning questions demand the use of reasoning skills to create and analyze arguments and plans of action. Finally, Sentence Correction questions ask test takers to select the best, most grammatical version of 5 possible sentences.

GRE Format

The GRE revised General Test is a standardized test that is designed to test your verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, critical thinking and analytical writing skills to gauge how capable you are of graduate level work. Until recently, the GRE was primarily required for admission to graduate programs in the humanities and sciences, but it is now accepted by many business schools as an alternative to the GMAT.

Like the GMAT, the GRE is a computer-adaptive test, however, the GRE revised General Test is adaptive only at the section level. This means that the difficulty of the second Verbal Reasoning or  Quantitative Reasoning section on your GRE will relate directly to how well you performed on the first section of that type. For this reason, you can skip or go back to questions and change your answers within the same section on the GRE, but on the GMAT, you cannot go back to any question once you have answered or skipped it because every answer you provide on the GMAT determines the difficulty of the very next problem.

GRE Sections

The GRE measures your skills in three separate areas:

1. Verbal Reasoning

2. Quantitative Reasoning

3. Analytical Writing

GRE Length

You are given just under 4 hours (plus a 10 minute break) to complete the GRE on the day of the exam. The timed sections are broken down in the following way:

  • Analytic Writing: 2 essay questions, 30 minutes for each section
  • Verbal Reasoning: 2 sections of approximately 20 questions each, 30 minutes for each section
  • Quantitative Reasoning: 2 sections of  approximately 20 questions each, 35 minutes for each section
  • Unscored Experimental section: either 30 or 35 minutes, depending on whether it is Verbal or Quantitative.

GRE Subjects

As on the GMAT, each section of the GRE contains specific types of questions. In the Analytical Writing section, you are provided with two essay topics; an “Analyze an Issue” task, and an “Analyze an Argument” task. The Analyze an Issue task measures your ability to critically evaluate claims made about a general topic and asks you to write a response based on specific instructions. You will most likely be asked if you agree or disagree with a particular claim and why.

The “Analyze an Argument” essay task attempts to evaluate how well you understand, can analyze and determine the validity of a particular line of reasoning and how effectively you can communicate your analysis in writing. You asked to discuss how logical the given argument is, and must determine if  enough evidence is present to support the claims.

The Verbal Section measures how well you can interpret and evaluate written material and understand the information contained with in it. You must analyze relationships among different parts of sentences, and must identify relationships among words and concepts.

Three types of questions are found in the Verbal Section: Reading Comprehension, Text Completion, and Sentence Equivalence. For the RC questions, you have to read the passage and answer the questions that follow correctly. Alternatively, you are asked to click on a sentence in the passage that meets a specific description. Text Completion questions involve filling in the blanks in sentences when given various options for each blank. In Sentence Equivalence questions, you have to select two answers that complete a sentence that a) fit the meaning as a whole, and b) produce a sentence that is similar in meaning.

The Quantitative Section of the GRE tests how well you can understand, interpret and analyze quantitative information, solve problems with the help of mathematical models, and whether you can apply basic mathematical concepts and skills by using arithmetic, algebra, and geometry. Unlike the old version of the GRE, the revised test includes an on-screen calculator for students to use on the exam.

In the Quantitative section, Quantitative Comparison (QC) questions ask you to compare two quantities and determine the relationship between them. You will also see Problem Solving (PS) questions; these involve basic math skills and concepts. Some PS questions are based on information provided a set of charts or graphs. These are referred to as Data Interpretation Questions.

You should be aware that (unlike on the GMAT) not all Quant questions will be straightforward multiple choice. In each quantitative reasoning section you will encounter a combination of problems that require you to select one answer from a list of multiple-choice options, select one or more answers from a list of options, and numeric entry problems that require you to type in an answer that you reach on your own.

How Long Should You Study for the GMAT?

There is no magic number of hours that will guarantee a good score on the GMAT. Your success and the amount of time you will need to study will depend on your background and your unique set of skills.  A student with a knack for taking standardized tests and good math skills probably won’t have to study as many hours as someone who is less confident in his or her mathematical abilities. Students whose first language is not English may need to spend extra time practicing their language skills to achieve a good score on the Verbal section and AWA.

GMAT Study Hours

A recent GMAC prospective student survey found that slightly more than half of all GMAT test takers studied at least 51 hours to prepare for the exam. The survey also indicated that on average, those who studied more hours before the GMAT got higher scores. For example, those who received a score of 700 or more studied 102 hours on average, and those who received a score between 400 and 499 studied for 70 hours on average (these times are only estimates because the survey asked students to self-report their study hours rather than actually timing students while they studied (See Chart Here).

How Long Should You Study for the GRE?

As with the GMAT, the number of hours you need to study to get a great score on the GRE will depend in part on how well you take tests and whether you have already honed some of the skills that are tested on the Verbal and Quantitative sections of the exam. Non-native speakers of English may need to study much longer than native speakers of English to perform well on the Verbal sections.

GRE Study Hours

Most prep course companies recommend that you set aside a minimum of several weeks to a few months to become familiar with the various sections of the exam and prepare yourself adequately. If you haven’t been out of school for a long time and you are pretty good at math, a few weeks of practice might be all you need. On the other hand, if you take a free practice exam and are unhappy with your score, you may want to dedicate up to a few months to studying for the GRE or enroll in a commercial prep course.

In addition to quantity, the quality of your study hours will matter. Studying consistently for a set time each day over several weeks or months according to a plan and using quality materials will almost certainly lead to a better score than trying to cram in a lot of GRE study hours in a haphazard fashion at the last minute.

Cost

When it comes to the cost of the GMAT and GRE, the GRE is the less expensive option.

GRE Cost: The standard fee for an on-time registration for the GRE is $195.

GMAT Cost: The standard registration fee for the GMAT is $250.

GMAT Scoring

The GMAT is scored slightly differently from most other standardized tests.

Both the Quantitative and Verbal Sections are scored on a scale of 0-60. Next, these two scores are combined into a Total score on a scale of 200-800. The Verbal and the Quant sections are computer-adaptive. This means that as you answer each question in The Verbal and Quant sections, computer software evaluates your answer, updates the score, and selects the next question from a question bank depending on how well you answered the preceding questions in an attempt to hone in on your apparent skill level. As a result, you may not skip or return to questions you have already answered. Once you have answered a question and moved on to the next one, the computer has already calibrated and updated your score.

The AWA is scored on a scale of 0-6, and the IR Section is scored on a scale from 1-8. These two sections are not computer-adaptive. They are scored separately and are not included as a part of the 200-800 score that represents the combination of the Quant and Verbal sections.

For more information about GMAT scoring and reporting, click here.

GRE Scoring

The GRE reports three different scores, one for each of the sections described.

Verbal Reasoning is scored on a scale from 130-170 in one-point increments. Quantitative Reasoning is scored on a scale from 130-170 in one-point increments. The Analytical Writing score is reported on a 0-6 score scale in half-point increments (for example, it is possible to get a 4.5 on the essay).

GRE to GMAT Conversion

On the ETS website, there is a tool designed to help institutions (such as business schools) interpret GRE scores in comparison to GMAT scores. The GRE Comparison Tool for Business Schools enables the relatively reliable prediction of GMAT scores based on applicants’ GRE Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning Scores. (The tool generates a predicted score range instead of specific scores because GRE scores may not be the exact equivalent of scores test-takers would have achieved on the GMAT given the statistical measurement of error in both tests.)

A GMAT to GRE Conversion tool is not available, but it is theoretically possible to work your way backwards by using the tool on the ETS site to approximate the range of scores you might receive on the GRE based on your specific GMAT scores.

For more information about GRE scoring, click here.

Conclusion

Taking the GMAT or the GRE is an essential part of the business school application process. Some programs have minimum cut-off scores to determine which students’ applications will even be reviewed and considered for admission. Your best bet is to contact the business schools that interest you most to  find out if those programs prefer one test over the other, and for what reasons. If either test is accepted, you should go with the test that you feel most confident taking. To get the highest possible score and maximize your chances of getting into your first choice school, you should consider enrolling in one of the many excellent online prep courses for the GRE or GMAT. Check out some of the best prep options today!