Before you begin getting down the nitty-gritty of the GMAT – identifying your strengths and weaknesses within the individual sections, for instance, or figuring out the order in which you want to take the different sections, or even whether or not you should invest in a personal GMAT tutor – it’s first necessary to figure out if you meet the various GMAT prerequisites for taking the test.
Let’s take a look at the eligibility criteria that you must satisfy in order to sit the GMAT – and some that you may think are relevant, but actually aren’t.
GMAT Prerequisites (Eligibility Criteria for the GMAT)
This one is fairly straightforward GMAT prerequisite (though with a wrinkle or two if you’re a minor): you need to be 13+ years old in order to take the GMAT.
But about those wrinkles we mentioned: if you’re 13 or older but less than 18, you’ll need your parent or legal guardian to sign a parental consent form. This can be physically mailed, or scanned and emailed.
If you’re 18 or older, there’s no need for anybody’s permission. There’s also no upper limit on the age at which you can take the GMAT; if you decide upon a change of career path at 50, then, you can absolutely sit the GMAT!
There are no requirements regarding academic qualifications when taking the GMAT; whether you’re a school dropout or hold a PHD, you are eligible to take the test. The business school you intend to apply to may however have differing prerequisites, so make sure you check them before sending your GMAT results to them!
People of all nationalities can sit the GMAT, so this does not directly fall under GMAT prerequisites. However, there may be varying rules for persons of different nationalities – an example of this is Indian candidates, who must take their passport with them on the day of their test. Failure to do so will result in their place being forfeit.
Given that the minimum age requirement for sitting the GMAT is 13, you have probably guessed that no prior work experience is necessary.
Number of Attempts That Can Be Made
There are several criteria governing how often you can make attempts, and how many attempts you can make. So if one of the criteria below applies to you, you should be aware that additional prerequisites apply to your GMAT exam:
You Must Wait at Least 16 Calendar Days Before Retaking the GMAT
In order to prevent repeated attempts in a short period of time (which, without time to reassess and brush up on the areas that caused you to fail, would be counterproductive in any event), you must wait 16 calendar days before any repeat attempt at the GMAT may be made. Here is a detailed guide to help you decide whether you should retake the GMAT.
You Are Limited to 5 Attempts in 12 Months
For similar reasons to the previous entry, you cannot ‘spam’ attempts by simply taking it over and over again until you pass. On a related point…
You Are Limited to 8 Attempts in Your Lifetime
It is a very bad idea to simply take the GMAT over and over again without any period of self-reflection or attempt to improve. After 8 failed attempts, you may never again take the GMAT – so make sure that, before each attempt, you are as prepared as you can possibly be before taking it.
If You Score a GMAT 800 (the Highest Possible Score) You Must Wait 5 Years Before Taking It Again
If you’ve got a perfect score on the GMAT (GMAT 800), you cannot retake it for at least 5 years. More to the point: there’s no reason to take the GMAT after obtaining a perfect score. It does not expire, and you cannot possibly score more highly. The only potential reasons would be if an employer or business school perhaps thought that too much time had elapsed since you took it, and wanted to be sure your skills were still sharp.
Before sitting the GMAT, you must have completed the registration form. The following information must be included:
- Your name, spelled in the same way as it is on your passport/ID
- Contact information (telephone number, email, etc.)
- Demographic data (ethnicity, gender, age, nationality, date of birth, etc.)
- Payment information
You must also present a photo ID when you turn up for the test. This photo ID:
- Must be an official, government-issued document
- Must have a recent, recognizable photograph of you
- Must have a signature
As previously stated, in India the only accepted form of ID is a valid passport. In the United States, this is a bit more flexible. The ID, whatever form it takes, cannot be expired. So one of the key prerequisites you should make sure to fulfill for the GMAT is to make sure you have an up to date ID for test day.
Security Measures on Test Day
When arriving for the test, it’s necessary to complete several routine security checks both to verify your identity, and to prevent cheating. These checks are detailed below.
A Digital Photograph
Before sitting the GMAT, it’s necessary to have your photo taken. This helps to prove that your photo ID is accurate, and prevents candidates from sending someone else to sit the GMAT in their place.
Palm Vein Identification
As a further security measure, your palm vein must be scanned onsite to verify your identity. Your palm vein is as unique as your fingerprints, and it is easily scanned using infrared technology. This verification is more accurate and less intrusive than fingerprint scanning, and ensures that the right person is sitting the GMAT.
Whilst this is not one of the official prerequisites for the GMAT, it’s perhaps the most important! Whether taking it for the first time or returning (for whatever reason), it’s extremely important that you’re well prepared for the test – particularly given the limitations on how often, and how many times, you can take it.
Let’s take a look at how you can best prepare.
Come Up With a Study Plan – And Stick to It
It’s important to have a clear, easy-to-follow study plan and make sure you follow it. A study plan helps you to get your head in the right space, identify your strengths and weaknesses, and work on improving the latter. It also gives you a real sense of progression, which will aid in building your confidence, and make sure that you know exactly what to expect when you walk into that classroom.
Identify Your Weaknesses and Work on Improving Them
It’s vital, as we touched up previously, to identify your weaknesses and get to work on improving them. You can take a GMAT mock test and find out which of the sections you find most difficult; these results can inform the shape of your study plan and make sure you’re making the most of your time to plug the holes in your GMAT abilities and ensure that you’re as well prepared for the test as possible.
Don’t Get Stuck on Single Questions
One of the worst things you can do during your GMAT is freeze up, agonizing for too long over a single question rather than moving on and making sure you finish the others. Allow no longer than two and a half minutes per question, and make sure you stick to this during practice sessions and mock tests.
Establish a Pacing Strategy
In the same vein as not allowing yourself to get stuck on single questions, it’s important that you pace yourself on a macro level. Work on answering questions accurately yet efficiently, and make sure that you are finishing each section of the GMAT in time. You are penalized for every section of the GMAT that you do not finish, and the more questions that are left unanswered, the harsher the penalty. That’s why it’s very important that you…
Establish an ‘Educated Guessing’ Strategy
Sometimes you’ll come across questions to which you’re not sure of the answer. This is not the time to panic and, as we pointed out, it’s not the time to agonize over it at the expense of other questions.
Your best bet here is to first rule out any answers that know are definitely wrong. From there, you can evaluate the remaining answers and decide which one you think is most likely to be right. Choose that answer and move on. Remember – it’s better to guess than to leave it blank, and it’s also better to guess than to prevaricate for too long!
Hone Your Mental Arithmetic Skills
Mental arithmetic is always going to be a handy skill to have, but this goes double for GMAT candidates – particularly given that you’re not going to have access to a calculator during the Quantitative Section of the test. During your practice exercises and mock tests, it’s important that you mimic the actual test conditions as much as possible – so that means no calculator. Mental arithmetic skills are like a knife, and practice is the whetstone.
Be Sure to Challenge Your Own Limits
Even when you think you’re completely prepared for the GMAT, don’t rest on your laurels. You should be pushing yourself all the time, even when (especially when!) supremely confident in your abilities. Nobody ever failed by preparing too much.
Study the GMAT Official Advanced Questions, which are a handpicked selection of 300 actual GMAT questions that are on the more difficult end of the spectrum. These questions will challenge all of the skills you’ve built up preparing for the GMAT, and they’ll make things much easier for you when the day comes to actually take the test – after all, it’s easier to run a half-marathon if you’ve spent months preparing with full marathons!
Consider Hiring a Tutor
Not everybody will want to do this – hiring a tutor is an extra expense, and it can sometimes be very hard to find a tutor that’s both competent and who gels well with you – but it’s well worth considering hiring a GMAT tutor in order to better prepare you for the test and meet all the prerequisites.
A good tutor can help you with several things we’ve already discussed in this article, from identifying your weaknesses to helping you develop a pacing strategy and – perhaps most importantly – coming up with a solid study plan. If you have the time to look for a good one and the money to pay for them, you really can’t go wrong hiring a good tutor.
Set Aside Time Blocks to Study
Similarly to sticking to your study plan, it’s important to establish a routine. Do you have an hour in the morning before going to school/work? Do you usually have some time in the evening?
Set aside whatever time you do have – preferably an hour a day at least – and use that time to study for the GMAT. It’s important to stick to your routines, so that you have an idea of the progress you’re making. And, as they say, practice makes perfect.
Set a Start Date for Your Studies
It’s a good idea to begin studying for the GMAT at least two months before your test date, and some people would even say that three months before is a good place to start. Whatever you choose, pick your start date and – much like all of the other preparation steps we’ve recommended – stick to it.
What Happens if I Fail the GMAT – Or I Don’t Want to Take It?
The sky has fallen, and you have failed that GMAT. Or alternatively, you have plenty of practical business experience, and you simply don’t feel that you need to take the GMAT. What are your options?
Thankfully, more and more business schools are offering MBAs without requiring that their candidates have passed the GMAT. While this has long been the case for online or part-time courses, it’s now also true of many full-time MBAs, which is great news for those without the GMAT.
It’s also possible, in many cases, to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) instead of the GMAT. Around 86% of business schools now express no preference between the GRE or the GMAT, making them both equally viable options for prospective MBA students.
Meeting all GMAT prerequisites and eligibility criteria should be your first step before beginning to prepare for the exam. Though prepping for the GMAT can be overwhelming and intimidating, it’s important to remember than even candidates who are less than sure about their ability to pass the test have a good chance as long as they have a good study plan and realistic goals. And, as we’ve seen, the GMAT itself is no longer the be all and end all. Explore your options and find out what is a good fit for you!