Preparing for GMAT

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The Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) is increasingly recommended to boost the overall strength of your application. The GMAT provides us with a key insight into your analytical and quantitative ability and helps us to distinguish top candidates as a result. 

If you are still in two minds about whether to take GMAT, we’ve put together a quick guide on how the GMAT works and can benefit you, as well as some top tips on preparing for the exam.

So what is GMAT?

The GMAT Focus Edition exam is 2 hours and 15 minutes long (with one optional 10-minute break) and comprises of three elements: Quantitative Reasoning, Verbal Reasoning, and Data Insights.

Each section is designed to test a different element of your skill set including critical thinking, ability to analyse data and ability to understand written material. The idea is that higher scores show that you have a good competence in these areas, and you are therefore well-equipped to succeed in postgraduate study.

You can read more about the structure of the exam on the GMAT website.

Do I need a GMAT?

In MSc admissions, this is a question we get asked a lot! In a nutshell, most of our MSc programmes do not require a GMAT, yet a well-balanced result (GMAT score of 600+, or in the 55th percentile or higher in the GMAT Focus Edition.) will definitely add weight to your application.

Something else to weigh-up is your current level of quantitative ability (as evidenced by your degree transcript) versus how quantitative your chosen MSc programme is. You may come from a highly mathematical discipline and decide that GMAT is not as important a factor to you. Alternatively, you could come from an Arts or Humanities background and be looking to demonstrate quantitative ability in a different way. GMAT is highly recommended for candidates from less quantitative degree backgrounds. Even some of our less quantitative programmes such as our Management Masters still expect applicants to be confident with numbers, and we will be looking for evidence of this in your application.

It’s also worth mentioning that as much as GMAT can add weight to your application, you still need to consider any other programme specific requirements – a fantastic GMAT score would not overrule any other requirements you have not met!

It would be impossible for us to advise you specifically on GMAT before you apply, as the academic committee needs to review a full application in order to assess your capabilities. You need to make your own personal assessment of how your quantitative and analytical ability is demonstrated elsewhere in your application, and how much your application could benefit from a good GMAT score.

The exception to all of the above is MSc International Management, where a GMAT or GRE score is an entry requirement. Therefore, if you are looking to pursue this programme, you would need to sit the exam in advance of submitting your application (although double check whether you qualify for a GMAT waiver first).

For this programme, we recommend a GMAT score of 600+, or in the 55th percentile or higher in the GMAT Focus Edition. If you are taking the GRE, we recommend a minimum score of 156 in the verbal, and 158 in the quantitative sections. 

Are there any other benefits of taking the GMAT?

A well-rounded score can not only add weight to your application but can continue to benefit you as you go on to seek future employment.

Although GMAT is predominantly designed to predict likely success in postgraduate study, the type of skills that are demonstrated through the test such as quantitative analysis, problem solving, working with data and reports, and communication, are sought after professionally.  

In the fields of finance, analysis, risk management, investment banking, management and consulting, it is becoming more common for firms to ask for your GMAT scores. Even if you aren’t required to take it, a strong score will look good on your CV and LinkedIn profile as it has a strong global reputation. GMAT Exam scores will remain valid for five years from your appointment date, so this gives you quite a wide timeframe.

What’s more, the skills, time and effort you put in to preparing for the GMAT, as well as striving for a good result, will put you in good stead for MSc study and securing your career goals in the future.

I’ve decided I’d like to take the GMAT, what next?

There are more than 600 GMAT test centres worldwide – you can use the GMAT website to find your nearest test centre. Alternatively, you have the option to take the GMAT exam online – the choice is yours! 

Remember though, GMAT is designed to be prepared for and GMAC advise that 6 months is the ideal timeframe to give yourself. However, this varies from person to person with some test-takers reporting that eight weeks is enough time to get ready for the exam. If you have a particularly busy schedule or are working full-time, it is probably best for you to make a schedule beforehand of how much time you want to dedicate to preparation and when.

If you are unable to attend an in-person test, the online version of the GMAT exam is available for booking up to 6 months in advanced, on a rolling basis. Before booking this however, I would encourage you to consult the GMAT Online Exam to check the online test is available in your region. 

Be sure to check out some top tips on GMAT's preparation page.

To sum up

We recognise that the GMAT is a big commitment of your time, but we have highlighted how it can be of real benefit to you. In most cases, it really comes down to personal choice. GMAT is and will always remain only one element by which we measure applicants – a strong CV, academic record, good references and personality will always be important.

If you would like to discuss more, come and meet us at one of our information sessions or sign-up for one of our online webinars.

Should you be taking the test soon – best of luck!

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Jerry Voong

About Jerry Voong

MSc Admissions Officer - Management Masters'
I am an MSc Admissions Coordinator at the Business School, since starting in January 2020. I am currently responsible for the MSc Economics and Strategy for Business programme.