History of the GMAT

The Creation of a Business School Admissions Test

In 1953, deans of nine of the top business schools in the United States (Harvard, Columbia, Northwestern, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Michigan, Rutgers, Seton Hall, the University of Chicago, and Washington University in St. Louis) met with representatives of Educational Testing Service (ETS). The purpose of these meetings was to develop a standardized admissions test for graduate business degree offerings. The goal was to make the business school application process more transparent and accessible by testing skills seen as necessary to business school success in a statistically reliable and uniform fashion. Harvard Business School had begun offering the MBA in 1908, but did still did not have a test for admission to the MBA program. The combined efforts of the nine business schools and ETS resulted in the Admission Test for Graduate Study in Business (ATGSB), which was administered for the first time to 1,291 students on February 6, 1954. Approximately 2,900 applicants to 10 business schools took the test in its first year. The sections on the original test were called Verbal Omnibus (which included analogies, antonyms, and sentence completion), Quantitative Reasoning (data interpretation and problem solving), Best Arguments, and Quantitative Reading.

The ATGSB to 1976

The ATGSB was revised a number of times over the first twenty years, especially its verbal assessments. In 1955, the test was divided into separately scored sections for verbal and quantitative skills. Analogy and antonym questions (part of the Verbal Omnibus section) were eliminated from the exam in 1961, reinstated in 1966, and then discontinued again in 1976. Reading recall sections, in which students had to answer questions about reading passages without being able to reread the text, were one feature of the ATGSB in the 1960s. Data sufficiency questions, which measured the ability to analyze quantitative problems, were added to the ATGSB in 1961. In 1970, the Graduate Business Admission Council (GBAC) was incorporated as a separate entity from ETS. GBAC's original membership consisted of 30 business schools. Practical business judgment questions were added to the ATGSB in 1972. These questions asked test-takers to classify facts contained in reading passages, and they would develop into critical reasoning questions by the late 1980s.

The GMAT from 1976 to 1996

The ATGSB was renamed the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) in 1976, and that same year, GBAC renamed itself the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC). Reading recall was replaced by reading comprehension questions in 1977, and assessment of this skill has persisted to the present day. The Analytical Writing Assessment was added to the GMAT in 1994. International member schools were first admitted to GMAC in 1995 (the first of these were London Business School and INSEAD). By this time, the GMAT had been administered to approximately 200,000 students over the first 40 years of the test's history. GMAC began a number of initiatives during the 1980s and early 1990s, such as a series of publications on major issues in graduate business training (1984), a low cost loan program for MBA students (1988), and the establishment of the Minority Summer Institute (1990), the latter intended to attract underrepresented groups to careers as post-secondary business educators.

1997 to the Present

The most significant change of the mid-1990s was the adoption of computer-adaptive testing, which was introduced in 1997. This change allowed the test to be offered much more widely than before, and has led to an explosion in the overall number of test-takers. The GMAT is currently taken by about 250,000 students each year at testing centers in 113 countries, and the GMAT is currently accepted by 5,200 programs at 2,100 universities. GMAC severed ties with ETS in 2005, and the test is now administered by Pearson VUE. The most important recent content revision to the GMAT is the introduction of an integrated reasoning section in 2012, and the latest GMAT also includes a shortened analytical writing assessment in which test-takers are only required to complete one writing task instead of two.

GMAT Consistency and Security

The 200-800 range for GMAT scoring has been in place for the test's entire history. There has also been some degree of consistency with the GMAT's assessment of quantitative skills. Problem-solving questions have appeared on the GMAT in every year since 1954, and the general emphasis on quantitative skills has remained relatively stable. Many of the security policies associated with the current GMAT stem from a 2008 cheating scandal, when a private entity gained access to and sold GMAT questions online.