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GMAT 101 – What is the GMAT and why is it important?

October 7, 2020
By Beth McKenna – Graduate Student Recruitment Officer, JMSB

Given the ongoing pandemic, the option of going back to school to upgrade, gain more skills and become more competitive in the workforce has been popular with many professionals and recent graduates. However, as the demand for business degrees rises, so does the competition for admissions to many top-ranked and prestigious schools.

Many leading business schools, such as the John Molson School of Business, offer a case-approach to their business administration curriculum. This creates a learning environment where students are placed in challenging scenarios that require quick thinking and a handling of problems from different approaches with limited information.

The Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) assesses a candidate’s potential for success in such scenarios and helps the admissions team ensure that the program continues to recruit top critical thinkers and reasoners. It is therefore an essential part of the admissions process and required for all applicants. We are dedicated to maintaining a challenging, stimulating and rewarding environment in the classroom, while ensuring our MBA students continue to strive to be the best.

What is the GMAT?

Simply put, the GMAT is a comprehensive 3.5-hour exam that tests candidates on a variety of critical thinking skills. Scored on a bell curve from 200 to 800 (760 score = top 1 percentile), the exam is divided up into four parts:

  1. Quantitative Reasoning
  2. Verbal Reasoning
  3. Integrated Reasoning
  4. Analytical Writing Assessment

The Quantitative, Verbal and Integrated Reasoning sections are multiple choice while the Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) is the essay part of the exam (and the only part graded by a human). Only the Quantitative and Verbal Reasoning sections make up the final exam score, however, our admissions committee will still look at the Integrated Reasoning and AWA scores as those sections demonstrate skills that are relevant to a graduate business program.

In short, the higher the GMAT score, the better, although all schools have different minimum score requirements and different class averages. Business schools requiring the GMAT are outputting top-level graduates and hold greater long-term reputations with employers and industry.

How do we go about studying for it?

Preparing for the GMAT can be like taking your brain to the gym; it’s going to require skills that candidates may not have recently used in their career or daily life. For many, the exam is best approached by studying regularly and gradually over a longer period, rather than trying to prepare and “cram for the exam” in a short period before an application deadline.

A good way to start is to purchase a book of past GMAT questions, such as the GMAT Official Guide published by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) - the makers of the test, and to take a free diagnostic test. This is a great opportunity to try out the exam, get a feel for the types of questions asked and determine how much prep may be needed before test day. If, after attempting a few questions, you realize that you’re missing strategies to tackle the questions, you may consider purchasing a strategy guide from a reputable publisher, or investing in a quality training program.

Many candidates opt to get an extra advantage by registering for a GMAT test prep courses or tutoring, such as Admit Master, which provides prep sessions in major cities in Canada and the US, as well as online. They offer one-to-one GMAT coaching and group classes on a regular basis, along with free refresher webinars.

But I have lots of work experience and a great GPA… doesn’t that merit a waiver from the GMAT?

The John Molson MBA welcomes students of all Bachelor-degree backgrounds, from a wide variety of industries, cultures, positions and career trajectories. Although advanced in their careers and their field, many candidates still find our MBA to be a challenge. The same could be true for candidates who are recent graduates from both business and non-business majors. This is why we strictly require all candidates, including those who hold a previous Bachelor’s or Master’s degree from another institution that didn’t require a GMAT, to write the exam to be considered for admissions.

As the GMAT tests skills that are not applicable to every job, nor used on a daily basis, there is no proven correlation between work experience and exam performance. Work experience can vary depending on years of entry-level, mid-level, managerial- or executive-level positions. Therefore, most schools will not waive the GMAT in lieu of work experience. In addition, many leading consulting firms may consult a prospective employee’s GMAT score to get an even more in-depth assessment of the candidate for their firm. It is important to take the GMAT seriously!

I didn’t know about the GMAT before I decided to pursue a graduate business degree; how much time do I need to prepare to take the exam?

GMAT 101 – What is the GMAT and why is it important?

Law schools require the LSAT, med schools need the MCAT – most reputable business schools require the GMAT. Your preparation time will often depend on your propensity to learn new, unfamiliar concepts, and on your starting level of skills in the tested areas. However, on average, we recommend candidates set aside 6 weeks to 3 months to adequately prepare to write the GMAT exam. In addition, we also recommend that candidates leave a few weeks open after their first attempt in case they need a second attempt to improve their score. Candidates must wait 16 days before re-attempting the GMAT.

All this being said, don’t be dissuaded by a business program requiring the GMAT! This requirement will ensure that the program admits the best students and reflects the quality and reputation of the program, as well as the academic achievements of its participants. The return on investment from getting a graduate business degree that grants access to a wide network and enables growth far outweighs the weeks of work needed to prepare for the GMAT exam.

What is the difference between the GRE and the GMAT? Why does John Molson School of Business prefer GMAT?

The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is similar to the GMAT, but is less quantitatively focused. GRE scores are required for a more general range of graduate school programs outside of business. The GMAT’s quantitative focus was designed specifically for skills relevant to business school. As the MBA programs at John Molson center on case-solving and quantitative skills, the admissions committee prefers that applicants submit a GMAT score.

What do I have to do to move my application forward and prepare for the GMAT exam?

  1. Start on your application, including the statement of purpose, reference letters, etc. In other words, get all the other parts in place and send your GMAT score to be added as the final piece. We will not consider an application for admissions until all documents are uploaded, including a GMAT score.
  2. Set aside 3.5 hours and try the mock GMAT exam at
  3. Get GMAT preparation resources and set aside multiple times per week to study for the exam. If you are less comfortable in either quantitative or verbal reasoning, consider investing in extra resources to focus on your area of weakness.
  4. Book your test date. Give yourself 2-3 months until the test date, if possible, in order to allow for adequate studying time.
  5. Continue practicing and studying for the GMAT exam. Take multiple practice exams – it’s not just about knowing the material, but thinking under pressure and time constraints!
  6. If you are still struggling with the material, consider joining a GMAT preparation class or hiring a tutor.
  7. Write the exam.
  8. If successful – great! Submit the score to your school(s) of choice.
  9. If unsuccessful, plan to re-write the exam and keep studying.


Any further questions regarding the GMAT? Contact John Molson’s Graduate Recruitment Team at, or Sergey Kouk, Senior GMAT Trainer at Admit Master, at

Best of luck with your studying!


For more information on the John Molson Full-time & Part-time MBA, visit our website. Then connect with a recruiter to arrange a one-to-one meeting or participate in one of our many online information sessions.

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