Admission to the MBA Program –

What is the GMAT?

Admission requirements for the MBA program at WHU

The Master of Business Administration: 130 colleges, universities, and academies across Germany offer 256 different MBA programs. Many prospective students wonder about the difference between the individual study paths and degree programs. Which one should they choose? And the choice of university is also an important decision. Besides the cost and the format, admission requirements for MBA programs are also a crucial factor. Most universities offering MBA programs have selection criteria that include a statement of purpose, professional experience, a personal interview, or even an admissions exam. Almost all universities have the GMAT and TOEFL or the GRE and IELTS as admission requirements. And so does WHU. So, what are these acronyms all about?

Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT)

– “The test that takes you places”

General facts about the GMAT

This test was developed by business schools, for business schools, with the aim of establishing a common standard. Around the world, 5,000 business schools – of which 2,300 alone are in Europe – use the GMAT as an admission requirement for their MBA programs. As a result, you’ll find testing centers all over the world; Germany, for instance, has testing centers in Berlin, Hamburg, and Munich, among others. The GMAT is hugely popular, as is the Master of Business Administration itself. In just the last two years, the participation rate has increased from 31 to 40 percent. The test format was originally developed in North America. It is exclusively conducted in English and is designed as a computer-adapted test.

The GMAT has an adaptive test format, meaning it aligns itself with the test taker. Here’s how that works: If a question is answered correctly, the next question will be more difficult. If that question is then answered incorrectly, the next question will be an easier one. However, you’ll also lose points in the latter scenario. So, this can become a pitfall. Indeed, it’s possible to achieve up to 800 points on the exam – but very few candidates actually do. In 2017, out of the 4,220 people who took the test, only 543 managed to score over 700 points. The average score in Germany is currently around 584 points. Most business schools require a GMAT score of 600 or higher for admission into their program.

It costs €250 to take the exam. You can retake the exam up to eight times in order to improve your score. However, you are required to wait at least one month between each attempt. The previous test results are not deleted; they are kept in order for you – and possibly the business school where you are applying – to track your progress.

What does the test assess?

The testing process generally focuses on your ability to comprehend, interpret, and connect different channels, sources, and information. It is designed to evaluate your specific problem-solving skills in relation to actual issues that arise in managers’ professional experience. After all, the objective is not simply to gain admission into a business school, but to prepare for the career that will follow your program of study. At least, this is how the GMAT is presented to its test candidates.

Specifically, the test is composed of four different sections. The first part involves writing an essay on a prescribed topic within 30 minutes. GMAT experts believe that you can actually prepare for this freer type of exercise format, as the text can follow a modular structure, which is read and evaluated by a special software.

The second section of the exam involves the correct analysis and interpretation of data and information. This part also lasts 30 minutes. The third section is mathematical in nature and involves drawing conclusions on the basis of text exercises and sets of data. Due to its complexity, this part lasts 62 minutes.

The final section primarily relates to language again. The objective is to draw the right conclusions, but this time from analytical texts. This serves to test your problem-solving and critical reasoning skills.  Additionally, sentences are provided in which alternative words must be identified and arguments evaluated. This part takes 65 minutes, similar to the mathematical part.

How is the test conducted?

Test takers are able to choose between the content independently and flexibly during the test, and are not forced to constantly jump back and forth between the test blocks. This should ensure a better workflow during the test. A structured approach and good time management are especially crucial for succeeding on the test. The total time for the test is 3.5 hours, but the average time allotted for each question is two minutes.

How can you prepare for the test?

As a rule of thumb, you should plan for a good 100 hours of preparation. Not just the test itself, but particularly the options for preparing for the test have become quite a lucrative business. There is a huge range of options when it comes to preparation courses and the corresponding literature (workbooks and preparation books). Since time management and the format of the test’s exercises play a significant role in your success on the test, it’s useful to practice with corresponding exercise formats. But beware: Taking these courses – whether a one-day crash course or a preparation course lasting several weeks – can quickly become very expensive. Here are just a few examples:

  • One-day training workshop: €150–200
  • 28-hour training week: €990
  • 40-hour training week: €1,190
  • One-week private lessons: €1,600

What are the points of criticism concerning the GMAT?

Considering the pricing listed above, criticism of the GMAT largely relates to the monetization of the examination process – for a test that nearly all business schools require of their applicants. A frequent complaint is that the prices don’t correspond to the actual service – namely, suitably preparing candidates for the test. Due to this monetization, among other reasons, some universities are moving away from this particular test. According to these universities, the GMAT assesses only a fraction of the skills needed for an MBA program, and the test results reveal little about a person’s qualities for a management role.

Critics claim the test does little to prepare candidates for the career that will follow their studies – contrary to the assertions of the testing organization. Universities that have rejected the exam as an assessment tool believe that the test results exclusively provide information about the candidates’ academic qualities. On the other hand, some of these universities are accused of dismissing the GMAT due to its impact on applications, since the demanding nature of the GMAT reduces the number of applicants to schools that require it for admissions.