The GMAT, or the Graduate Management Admission Test, is the standardized test that business schools require for admissions. It's supposedly just math, English, and little bit of writing, but, like any standardized test, there are a few tricks you need to know about it. Luckily, I just took the GMAT today, so I'm well-versed in all the in and outs of the test. Here's what you need to know:

It has four sections: Analytical Writing Assessment, Integrated Reasoning, Quant, and Verbal

The AWA is essentially the same type of 5-paragraph essay you wrote all through high school, and you're given 25 minutes to complete it (not that you'll need this long). IR is an interesting section because it tries to combine a little bit of math with a little bit of English with a little bit of graph and data interpretation. It's a really weird section, but don't stress too much about it. The two important sections are Quant and Verbal, and they're each 75 minutes long and back to back. Definitely study the various kinds of questions that can be given in each section because they can get a little confusing, especially with things like data sufficiency.

It's four hours long

The GMAT is scheduled to last 240 minutes, or four hours, but it could be little more or less depending on who you are and where you take the test. For example, I was out early today because I always take the verbal (English) section really fast, but otherwise I would have been out late because my testing center took half an hour to get me checked in. Other variations in time can be due to whether or not you choose to take either or both of your option 8 minute breaks between sections.

It's computer-adaptive

What does that mean? Well, the GMAT is taken on a computer, and it uses your previous answers to decide how difficult the next few questions it gives you should be. This is problematic because if you happen to get a few easy questions wrong due to some stupid error (i.e. your stressed-out brain decides that 2+2=8), the test will think you really don't know what you're doing and bump down the difficulty of your test, making it impossible to get a great score. This means that you have to be really careful about getting multiple answers wrong in a row, as this is what really kills you.

But, because it's on a computer, you get your scores right away.

Yup, right away. I knew my score on the test before I even got up from my computer, which is both amazing and terrifying. It's great to find out right away because then you don't have to deal with the stress of weeks of waiting, but it's also terrifying because you don't have any time to mentally prepare yourself for your score. Then, because you immediately know how well you did, you can choose whether or not you want to "accept" your score, or just make it disappear forever

It tests your basic math and English skills

Yes, I know I said this when I talked about the sections, but this actually is important. Don't stress about learning all sorts of complicated kinds of math and impressive sentence structures! The GMAT only tests the things that you would have to do on a daily basis in the business world, and a lot of this revolves around problem solving. This means that, while the actual content you need to know isn't hard, it can be difficult to figure out just how to tackle a problem.

It's not trying to trick you

Instead, it knows how you're likely to trick yourself and gives you every possible answer you could trick yourself into. Don't fall for this! Double check your work as much as you can.


This may sound scary, but it's really just a test like anything else. And remember, if you don't do well, you can always take it again!