How does the current GMAT differ from the GMAT Exam (10th Edition) that was retired in early 2024?

The prior GMAT Exam (10th Edition) was longer, had more question types, and had a different scoring scale. The prior exam had four sections: an analytical writing essay, Integrated Reasoning, Quant, and Verbal. The Integrated Reasoning section was not adaptive and did not factor into the overall GMAT score. Quant had a mix of 31 Problem Solving and Data Sufficiency questions to be answered within 62 minutes. Verbal had a mix of 36 Critical Reasoning, Reading Comprehension, and Sentence Correction questions to be answered in 65 minutes. There were two eight-minute breaks between sections.

You can learn about the current GMAT on our About the GMAT page. The current GMAT no longer includes an essay or Sentence Correction questions. Data Sufficiency has been combined with Integrated Reasoning to form a new adaptive Data Insights section that counts towards the overall GMAT score. Geometry concepts are no longer tested. "Pure math" (e.g. inequalities) concepts have been removed from Data Sufficiency. Each of the three sections is now 45 minutes long, with one 10-minute break given. Section scores now range from 60 to 90 (instead of 6 to 51 for Quant / Verbal and 1 to 12 for IR). The overall score ranges from 205 to 805 (instead of 200 to 800).

Although fewer concepts are tested, the overall exam is harder. In particular, Quant and IR questions on the current GMAT are harder overall than those on the prior GMAT. The Quant scoring scale reflects this change. On the retired GMAT, a 49 Quant score (out of 51 max) corresponded to only a 72nd percentile and a 45 Quant score corresponded to a 47th percentile, meaning that over 50% of test takers achieved one of the six highest possible section scores. This distribution has appropriately been increased: a 71st percentile now corresponds to an 81 Quant score and an 46th percentile now corresponds to a 77 Quant score (out of 90). Similarly, a current GMAT score of 665 corresponds to a 720 prior GMAT score, as discussed in more depth in our section on score concordance.

Why do my practice test scores vary / differ from my real GMAT score?

You hope to see continuous score improvement as you take more practice tests, but that doesn’t always happen. Rather, your scores may vary, sometimes significantly. Your scores may even go down. Furthermore, you may ultimately receive a real GMAT score on test day that differs from your practice test scores. There are several reasons why this can happen – some related to the tests themselves.

  • Test scores are partially driven by luck. Perhaps you got lucky on a given test, receiving questions on concepts that you are more comfortable with. Or perhaps you got unlucky, receiving questions on concepts that you are less familiar with. This uncontrollable luck factor can impact your score.
  • In the adaptive scoring algorithm, early misses do more damage than back-ended misses. A few careless mistakes, particularly early in a section, can establish a low scoring range that’s hard to dig out of. Or (due to luck) perhaps early questions play to your strengths on one test, but relate to your weaknesses on another.
  • There is a penalty for not finishing all questions in a section because you run out of time. So an unfinished test may receive a lower score than a test that was fully completed within the time limits.
  • How well-rested and focused you are when taking a given test can have a big impact. You should be very well-rested and highly focused for the real GMAT, but perhaps you weren't for a certain practice test. If you are tired due to insufficient sleep and/or distracted by other pending projects, you won’t be able to fully concentrate on test questions. Your pacing will be sub-optimal, you will make more careless mistakes, and your score will probably suffer.
  • We recommend using only the Official GMAT practice tests. The quality of third party practice tests can vary significantly. The quality and difficulty of test questions on some practice tests may be less reflective of real GMAT questions. Furthermore, the scoring algorithm on third party tests is less accurate. Practice tests that are less reflective of the real GMAT in these ways will produce a less reliable score.
  • You may come across some practice test questions on GMAT forums or in other study resources. Furthermore, if you retake an Official GMAT test more than twice, you may see repeat questions. Prior familiarity with a question will allow you to answer that question faster and more easily, saving you time and lowering your stress. You are also much more likely to get that question correct. As a result, your score for that test may be artificially inflated.
  • We recommend that you replicate test day conditions when taking practice tests. If you take a practice test in a more relaxed setting or pause the exam to take breaks or spend more time on questions, your score for that test may be artificially inflated.
  • For in-person exams, lack of familiarity with the testing environment can have an impact. You are in the official testing center, an unfamiliar environment, using an unfamiliar computer. It can be distracting with the proctor coming and going to assist other students, especially if you are seated near the door to the testing room. Furthermore, the testing room environment has different students typing away at their respective work stations, another potential source of distraction. These issues don't arise with the online GMAT or with practice tests taken in a familiar environment on your own computer. To better prepare for in-person exams, we recommend taking a couple practice tests elsewhere on another computer (such as at a public library).
  • Finally, consider the stress involved in taking the real GMAT, knowing that your score counts. Practice tests are often lower-stress, because you take these at your leisure and because you know that the score doesn’t count. Unfortunately test anxiety can significantly impact some GMAT takers, resulting in lower real GMAT scores than what practice tests indicate that they are capable of achieving.

When should I take the GMAT?

GMAT scores are valid for five years, so it is best to finish the GMAT one to two years before you wish to attend business school. Ideally you should take the GMAT well in advance of business school application deadlines. Expect to spend over 100 hours on your GMAT preparations, over the course of one to three months. By extending your preparations over such a timeframe, you allow sufficient time for concepts to sink in and for extensive practice, and you minimize the risk of getting burned out.

Find a Commitment Free Time Period

Because GMAT prep is a major time commitment, it's best not to simultaneously study for the GMAT and prepare b-school applications. Choose a time period for your GMAT studies that is clear of major work or personal commitments. You need sufficient time each week to study without other stressors impacting your study time or concentration level. Finally, select a time period that will allow for continuous studying without an extended break, because students tend to start forgetting material and approaches in as little as one week without continuous reinforcement.

Are You Ready?

You are probably ready for the GMAT if you consistently achieve practice test scores in your target scoring range. Before taking the GMAT, you should ideally attain at least two Official GMAT practice test scores within your target range.

Timeframe with a GMAT Class

If you take an instructor-led full-length GMAT preparation course, you should ideally take the GMAT one-to-three weeks after the conclusion of your course. Doing so will allow a few weeks to carefully review your course materials, fill-in any knowledge gaps, and take a couple additional practice tests.

This timeframe assumes that you have kept current with course assignments and are comfortable with the concepts discussed in your class. If you need time after the course ends to catch up with homework assignments and/or achieve greater proficiency with certain concepts, you may need additional time before taking the GMAT. The danger with waiting too long after your course ends to take the GMAT, however, is that you may not keep up the intensity of your studies. The pressure to stay current with course assignments subsides once the course concludes.

Application Deadlines

If you must schedule your GMAT exam close to application deadlines, try to schedule your appointment at least 16 days before the deadline, to allow time to retake the GMAT if necessary. If you are right up against application deadlines, some admissions offices will accept an unofficial score report to complete your application by the deadline, with score verification when your official score report becomes available. Since policies vary, please check with the schools to which you are applying.

Should I retake the GMAT?

If your real GMAT score is lower than your practice test scores, we recommend that you retake the GMAT. If this is the case, evaluate why the results were lower and consider what you can do to yield higher results next time. The second FAQ on this page provides further suggestions.

Performance issues aside, you should consider a retake if your scores are below the average GMAT scores of the schools to which you are applying, especially if other aspects of your application aren't strong. A high GMAT score can help overcome a subpar GPA or other weak areas in your application. You should also consider a retake if your Quant score is weak, because schools want evidence that you can handle rigorous courses such as Finance. Again, consider how to achieve higher results. GMAT tutoring may be a great option. The more time you have before application deadlines, the more sense it makes to try to improve your GMAT scores.

Should I take the GMAT or the GRE?

Many business schools accept the GRE in lieu of the GMAT in order to broaden their applicant pool. This has made it easier for potential applicants from non-business backgrounds (e.g. engineering, teaching, etc.) to pursue an MBA. Such individuals may have already taken the GRE in anticipation of pursuing graduate studies in their field; not having to take the GMAT eases the burden for these individuals.

The GMAT remains the test of choice for most business schools. If you have a traditional business background, we recommend that you take the GMAT. If you submit a GRE score with a traditional business background, an admissions officer may wonder why you elected to forgo the GMAT. Even with a non-traditional background, taking the GMAT demonstrates a commitment to pursuing a business education.

That said, you should consider whether you can score significantly better on the GRE than on the GMAT. GRE Quant is easier than GMAT Quant. GRE Verbal is more vocabulary-focused, whereas GMAT Verbal is more logic-focused. The best way to evaluate the GRE as an alternative is to take a full GRE PowerPrep practice test and a full GMAT Official practice test, perhaps on adjacent weekends. Then consider which test you performed better on and which plays better to your strengths. If your practice test results are about equal for both tests, the GMAT is probably a better choice for an MBA. But if your GRE results are significantly higher, the GRE may be a better choice.

What relevance do the skills tested on the GMAT have with business school?

More than you may initially realize. Integrated Reasoning questions were specifically designed to be relevant to skills used in the business school and in the working world. Management students must be able to evaluate data presented in different formats and from multiple sources to make decisions under some uncertainty. With case studies an integral part of business school classes, such skills are essential for MBA students to thrive in the classroom. Such skills are also important for managers to make effective decisions in today’s world with so much data and information readily available.

Other GMAT question types have direct relevance as well. The GMAT Verbal section question types test your ability to understand and evaluate complex reading material (RC) and to make and evaluate logical arguments (CR). These skills are essential to both business school classes and the working world.

Many students specifically complain about the Quant section, but the skills tested here are also relevant. The Quant section tests your ability to quickly and efficiently solve problems, not your ability to perform tedious arithmetic. A standardized test can structure questions using only concepts that all students have been exposed to, so the GMAT uses high-school level math to test problem solving abilities. Although it may have been a long time since you’ve used these math concepts, you’ve very likely seen them before. This problem-solving ability is critical for business school. Furthermore, a comfort with numbers is important for certain required business school classes, such as accounting and corporate finance.