Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

How MBA Admissions Works


Taking the GMAT
You can take a GMAT preparation class or form a study group.
You can take a GMAT preparation class or form a study group.
John Rowley/Getty Images

In general, most schools consider your GMAT score one of the most important factors when determining whether or not you'll be accepted into a program. Rather than test your business skills, the test assesses your problem solving, critical reading and writing skills in order to determine your potential for success in an MBA program. Whereas quality of GPAs might vary from college to college, the GMAT is a universal measure that everyone has to take in order to gain admission to an MBA program.

Before you register for the GMAT, you might consider enrolling in a test preparation class. While it's not definite that your score will go up as a result of taking a class, it might prove helpful as you prepare for the test.

You should register and take the test in advance of applying so that the MBA programs receive your scores in time. Be mindful that in some countries the GMAT is only offered once per year, so plan well in advance as to when you need the test. You can only test once per calendar month.

The GMAT is administered in a computer-adaptive format -- that is, questions are selected as you take the test, and one question appears on-screen at a time. You can't go back or skip questions. The questions on the GMAT will adjust to your ability level. For example, your first question will be moderately difficult. If you get the first question wrong, the next question will be easier; however, if you get the first question right, the next question will be harder. Each test is unique, and minimal computer skills are necessary. You'll just need to know how to type, use a mouse and operate a help button.

The GMAT consists of three sections: analytical writing, quantitative and verbal. In the analytical writing section, you'll be assigned two 30-minute writing tasks: an analysis of an issue and an analysis of an argument. In the quantitative section, which follows an optional break after the writing section, you'll be given 37 data sufficiency and problem solving multiple-choice questions. You'll be given 75 minutes for this portion of the test. Following a brief optional break after the quantitative section, you'll begin the verbal section, which lasts for 75 minutes. This section consists of 41 multiple choice questions of three types: reading comprehension, critical reasoning and section correction.

Your GMAT score is determined by the number of questions answered, the correct number of answers and the level of difficulty of the questions, which are weighted according to statistical data. If you aren't sure about an answer, you definitely should guess. There's a penalty for all unanswered questions. So, if you see you're running out of time, you should make sure to have a minute to spare to fill in every question, even if your response might not be accurate.

On the next page, we'll look at two more important elements of your application: your resume and application essay.