How Important Is the GMAT?

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Woman works on desktop computer in classroom lab.

Many programs of advanced study, including most master’s in accountancy online programs, require applicants to have taken the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT). The GMAT is a multiple-choice, computer-based, standardized exam that measures applicants’ readiness for graduate-level academic work.

A GMAT score is one criterion — along with a prospective student’s work experience, academic record and supporting materials — that admissions officers take into account when evaluating an application.

Many programs, including University of North Dakota’s Master of Accountancy online program, offer GMAT waivers for applicants with extensive on-the-job experience. Many less experienced candidates, however, will not qualify for waivers — and their score will be an important piece of data in the application process. Doing well on the GMAT is therefore an important step in preparing for most careers in accounting.

GMAT Format and Content

How exactly does the GMAT work? The test takes 3½ hours and has four distinct sections that assess critical skills in business:

  • Analytical writing assessment. This section evaluates your ability to think critically and to communicate your thoughts and ideas in writing.
  • Integrated reasoning. This section evaluates your ability to analyze data and evaluate information presented in a variety of formats.
  • Quantitative reasoning. This section evaluates your ability to solve mathematical problems.
  • Verbal reasoning. This section evaluates your ability to read and comprehend written material, weigh arguments, and correct written text for grammatical accuracy and effectiveness.

The quantitative and verbal sections of the GMAT are computer adaptive, which means the difficulty of the test adjusts itself to the taker’s ability level. Basically, if you answer a question correctly, the computer next presents a slightly harder question. If you get it wrong, the computer selects an easier question. By the time you complete the section, the computer has an excellent picture of your ability in the area.

Why Is It Important?

Accounting candidates sometime wonder why the GMAT is required. After all, they may not be very interested in writing and verbal reasoning, and they may not expect to exercise these skills much in their post-educational number-crunching life. But the GMAT is important for some very good reasons.

First, it offers an objective measure of candidates’ abilities, which makes it useful for comparing and contrasting prospective students. Perhaps more importantly, the difficulty of the test gives admissions officers a glimpse of students’ analytical and problem-solving skills to see whether they can handle the work that will be set out for them in graduate school.

“They want to prove ahead of time that a candidate will actually get through their entire program, and so the GMAT helps them make that decision with some level of confidence,” explains Camille Coppock, marketing director of the Graduate Management Admission Council.

That is the advantage for the school — but are there advantages for the student? It turns out that there are several enormous benefits to doing well on the test. The website Ace the GMAT points out three reasons to take the GMAT and get the highest possible score:

  1. School admission. There is a high correlation between a high GMAT score and admission to the school of your choice, because the GMAT is the only part of your application that pits you objectively against other applicants. All other components, such as work experience, personal essays and extracurriculars, are highly subjective. A good GMAT score is solid evidence that you have what it takes to handle the rigors of an MBA program.
  2. Scholarships. A high GMAT score can substantially increase your chances of winning scholarship money. Ace the GMAT suggests finding out the average GMAT score at the school of your choice, then taking the test repeatedly to score well above that number. The higher your score, the more you will stand out from the crowd when the time comes to allocate scholarship funds.
  3. Better post-school salary. First, candidates with excellent GMAT scores are more likely to attend excellent schools, which eventually leads to better jobs and higher pay. Second, many recruiters will ask for a candidate’s GMAT scores during the post-educational hiring process. Companies know that a great GMAT score indicates a well-rounded, competent person — a factor that applies in the business world just as well as in the school environment.

Prepare to Succeed

To reap these benefits, applicants should take the GMAT seriously and prepare themselves to do their very best on the test. The website Poets & Quants suggests six steps that will lay the foundation for GMAT success:

  • Plan ahead. Successful preparation takes time – don’t rush yourself.
  • Set a schedule. Prepare a little bit at a time and don’t cram.
  • Take practice exams, and time yourself. It’s not enough to know the material; you need to be able to complete it in the allotted time. Practice so you’ll be used to the required speed.
  • Analyze your performance. Take practice exams, then go over your answers. See what you got right — and what you got wrong.
  • Focus on your weaknesses. Identify where you need to improve and practice those areas.
  • Combat your anxiety. If tests make you anxious, figure out how to manage that problem, whether it’s through deep breathing, meditation or visualization. Be ready to be your best on test day.

These simple steps will help you to make the most of your GMAT experience. Ace the test — and you’ll ace the accounting school application process as a result.

University of North Dakota’s Master of Accountancy Online Degree

University of North Dakota’s Master of Accountancy (M.Acc.) online program helps students master accounting principles as well as related skills necessary for a successful career in accounting at the highest levels.

UND is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International, which only recognizes about 30% of business programs in the United States. The Master of Accountancy online program offers practitioner and fundamentals tracks. Coursework is done online, which allows busy professionals to study accountancy and earn their degree without disrupting their work or personal lives. For more information, contact UND today.


GMAT format and content –

Why is it important? – Dominate the GMAT

Three reasons to take the GMAT – Ace the GMAT

Prepare to succeed – Poets & Quants