The GMAT and GRE for an MBA

Let’s state the obvious right now, taking the GMAT or GRE sucks. However, if you want to get into a reputable in-person MBA program, it’s a necessity to do well on it. Our status as a veteran and Green Beret does not mean automatic acceptance. We need a competitive score to complement our resume along with the rest of our application. Both exams will require a significant amount of time and effort. Most likely you will take them more than once to improve your score.

The GMAT consists of an analytical writing assessment (AWA), integrated reasoning (IR), quantitative and verbal sections. The AWA is one essay analyzing an argument with a 30-minute time limit. The IR is 12 questions in 30 minutes evaluating data, think charts and graphs. The quant is 31 questions in 62 minutes, multiple choice. The verbal is 36 questions in 65 minutes, multiple choice. After your 2nd and 3rd section of the exam, you can choose to take an 8-minute break. Most people find the GMAT the more difficult test. It is computer adaptive and designed to keep you on that razor’s edge of your ability to solve the problems. Each question’s difficulty will depend upon you answering the previous question correctly or not. For this reason, you can not skip around to different questions. The quant is more difficult on the GMAT and no calculator is allowed. The most important sections are the quant and verbal, but you can’t ignore the other parts.

The GRE consists of an analytical writing assessment (AWA), quantitative and verbals sections. The AWA consists of 2 essays with 30 minutes for each one. One essay is an issue and the other is an argument. The quant portions are at least 2 sections of 20 questions in 35 minutes each. The verbal parts are at least 2 sections of 20 questions in 30 minutes each. There will be 1 additional quant or verbal section that must be completed with the same standards of the portions above, but it is experimental and not considered in your score. You will not know which one is the “experimental” section. You are allowed a 10-minute break roughly in the middle of the exam. The differences on the GRE are the 2 essays, vocabulary, slightly easier quant with a calculator on the computer, and the ability to move past a question within the 20 question section. The GRE is not computer adaptive within the section but will adapt for your second quant and verbal sections based upon how you did on the first section for that subject. Like the GMAT the most critical sections are the quant and verbal, but you can’t ignore the AWA essays.

Some helpful information for taking these exams. Yes, they are long and you will be there for 4 plus hours. Be prepared for that and have a snack/ drink. The next two things surprised me when I first took the exam. First, it’s like going to prison. You will be wanded with a metal detector, pockets turned inside out, visible tattoos checked and gave a limited amount of paper, pencil, and tissues. The second was how quiet it was in the exam room. It’s quieter in there than a library and I was not prepared for that. Most of my studying had been done with at least ambient noise in the background and the silence in the exam room was strangely unnerving.

There are numerous paid and free services to prepare for the exams. I’ve heard of people using Kaplan and Magoosh. I personally used Veritas online classes. They give veterans a 50% discount and you can take the course more than once while also keeping access to the online material. I did the 10 class online prep with David Newland twice at Veritas and it was a huge benefit. DOD will reimburse you for the price of one exam, information for that can be found at

I wouldn’t underestimate the importance or difficulty of these exams. Yes, they are manageable, but it will take a lot of work to be ready for them. Most schools post their average score and that gives you an idea of what you need to be competitive. But again the test scores are just one piece to your overall application, don’t discount yourself because you didn’t crush the exam. But use those target scores as your goal. I’d say a good overall goal for a top program is a GMAT in the 700’s or 160’s on each section of the GRE.

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