GMAT Role in Application
While there is debate about the weight put on GMAT scores, it is a requirement for admission to business school and it is the best standard measure available to business school admissions departments for evaluating students applying from around the U.S. and from around the world. As such, a score that is particularly high or low will make an impression. Business schools post the average GMAT scores of their entering class, and it is a component of their national rankings. Applicants should aim to achieve test scores that meet or exceed the reported average of their schools of choice.
Today's GMAT is a dynamic, electronic test that adjusts it's level of difficulty based on the test taker's performance on the previous question. In other words, a correct response will prompt the following question to have a higher level of difficulty, and an incorrect answer will prompt a less difficult question. As a result, there is no skipping questions or going back to change answers, and time management is crititcal. Many takers of the test have reported time management to be the most challenging aspect of the test.
There are four sections of the test. The Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) is a single essay question that test-takers have 30 minutes to complete. The Integrated Reasoning section is the newest section of the test, introduced in 2012. It has a 30-minute time limit and includes twelve questions about multi-source reasoning, graphics interpretation, two-part analysis and table analysis. The Quantitative and Verbal sections are the traditional sections of the test. With 75 minutes to complete each, they take up the bulk of the test-taking period and include 37 and 41 questions respectively.
Schools are primarily interested in students' three-digit score, ranging from 200 to 800. This score is based only on Quantitative and Verbal scores and does not factor in scores from the AWA and Integrated Reasoning sections.
GMAT test-takers should therefore focus their efforts on the Quantitative and Verbal sections, as long as their scores on the AWA and Integrated Reasoning sections are not noticeably low. For example, test-takers who can score a 4.5 or higher on the AWA should consider that an acceptable score.
Two-thirds of of test-takers have total scores between 400 and 600. The average GMAT score worldwide is 540. The average GMAT score for students admitted to the top ten full-time programs in the United States is around 700 to 720.
Forbes magazine reports that a school's median GMAT score is an indicator of its median "5-year gain", meaning the salary for its graduating class at graduation and for the five years following graduation. Students who attend business schools with higher GMAT scores have higher median salaries for the first five years post MBA compared to their pre-MBA pay.
However, that indicator only works in the aggregate. On an individual basis, the correlation between MBA scores and post-MBA pay disappears. The only individual indicator associated with GMAT scores is as a predictor of first-year graduate school grades.
Test takers should choose a time to take the GMAT that would allow them to retake the test in case of disappointing results. Scores improve on average 30 points between the first and second time taking the test.
Schools generally take the higher score, though some claim to average scores. Schools generally do not mix scores, taking the score from one section in one test and another section from a second test.
There is no limit to how many times the GMAT can be taken, however, statisically there is not likely to be significant improvement from multiple repeated retakes.