Preparing for the GMAT®

What is the GMAT?

The GMAT® exam (or Graduate Management Admissions Test) is a computer-adaptive test, split into four sections.  The qualitative and qualitative sections are both multiple choice sections and you would have 90-minutes to complete each section.  Within these sections, you would start with a base-level questions and subsequent questions would be more or less difficult based on whether your answer to the previous was correct (this is what makes an adaptive test).  Taken together, the qualitative and quantitative sections make up your overall score out of 800.

The remaining two sections are 30 minutes in length (making the entire exam 4 hours).  Within the analytical writing section, you would complete a single short essay question (this is scored out of 6.0).  The final, and newest, section of the GMAT is the Integrative Reasoning section which is scored out of 8.0.

Why do we ask for the GMAT?

The GMAT is designed to test your overall ability to think critically, interpret and analyze information and problem solve.  Your GMAT score is one indicator of your ability to do well within an MBA program.  That being said, it is not the only factor we look at in assessing applications to the Alberta MBA.  A strong GMAT score can help to offset shortcomings in other aspects of your application, just as a weaker GMAT score can be offset by an otherwise strong application.  We have seen students with lower GMAT score really excel in the MBA program and earn top grades, while some students with excellent GMAT scores end up in the middle of the class.

How to Study?

Recognizing that everyone has a different study style, there is no set way we’d recommend that you approach the GMAT.  However, as a starting point, we’d encourage everyone to register with the GMAT site at to get access to the two sample practice tests offered.  Before signing up for a GMAT prep course, we’d suggest taking one of the practice tests to get a feel for the exam and which areas you may need to spend more time preparing for.  While those of you who learn best in a classroom setting may want to go ahead with a formal prep course at this point, purchasing a study-guide and working through practice questions may be a more cost-effective way to reach the same desired result.

The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) is the non-profit group that administers the GMAT.  They provide some rough figures on how long different world regions spend preparing for the GMAT, with 30-40 hours more common in North America and some parts of Asia spending 100+ hours preparing for the exam.

While a strong GMAT score is certainly one way to make your application stand out, it is not the only way.  We’d suggest that you don’t focus entirely on preparing for the GMAT to the detriment of other aspects of your application.  After all, it is only one part of your application.

In-Person GMAT Prep Course

If you do want to take a GMAT prep course, the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Extension does offer a test preparation course.  While not formally affiliated with the School of Business, we have heard good things from students completing this course:

Faculty of Extension GMAT Test Preparation Course

Online GMAT Prep Courses

There are a number of online and self-paced study option as well.  Some that we are familiar with include:

The Economist
Veritas Prep
Khan Academy (free)

In addition to online courses, there are a number of online forums where test takers share their tips, tricks, and suggestions to do well.  Again, there are a number of different sites, but some we are familiar with are:

Beat the GMAT


5 Replies to “Preparing for the GMAT®”

  1. Can you please elaborate what are the other aspects that should be highlighted in my application to make my application stand out.


  2. Thank you for your comment and interest in the Alberta MBA program. Fit can be just as important as your GMAT score when it comes to your application. The way you can express your fit with our program would be through your statement of intent. Some important things you may want to highlight include:

    -Why our program is the best fit for you
    -Your personal goals and why our program aligns with those
    -Unique things about you, why that would contribute to your success as a student, and what we can expect from you as a student

    Hopefully this is helpful, thank you so much for your question.


  3. I’ve scored 460 overall and done well in the quantitive section with a score of 44 (58% percentil). I have the ready rest of docs required. Do you think I sould apply?
    International applicant.


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