GMAT History

The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) is a standardized test widely used by business schools around the world to assess the qualifications of applicants for advanced study in business and management.

Origins of the GMAT

Early Beginnings

The Need for Standardized Testing

In the early 20th century, the expansion of higher education, particularly in business schools, created a need for a standardized method to evaluate applicants. Universities and business schools sought a way to assess the academic potential and readiness of prospective students, leading to the development of standardized tests.

Formation of the GMAC

In 1953, a group of nine business schools, including Columbia, Harvard, Northwestern, and the University of Pennsylvania, formed the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC). The primary goal of the GMAC was to develop a standardized test that could evaluate the abilities of business school applicants and help schools make informed admissions decisions.

Development of the GMAT

Initial Test Design

The GMAC collaborated with Educational Testing Service (ETS) to design the test. The first version of the test, known as the Admission Test for Graduate Study in Business (ATGSB), was introduced in 1954. The ATGSB assessed verbal, quantitative, and analytical skills, which were considered essential for success in business school.

Early Adoption and Growth

The ATGSB was initially adopted by a small number of business schools, but its use quickly spread. By the late 1950s, many leading business schools had adopted the ATGSB as part of their admissions process. The test provided a standardized measure of academic potential, which helped schools compare applicants from diverse educational backgrounds.

Evolution of the GMAT

Changes in Test Format

Transition to the GMAT

In 1976, the ATGSB was rebranded as the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT). The rebranding reflected the test’s growing importance and recognition in the field of business education. Along with the name change, the GMAT underwent several changes in its format and content.

Introduction of the Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA)

In 1994, the GMAT introduced the Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) section. The AWA required test-takers to write two essays, one analyzing an argument and the other analyzing an issue. This section aimed to assess the critical thinking and writing skills of applicants, which are important for success in business school.

Computer-Based Testing

In 1997, the GMAT transitioned from a paper-and-pencil format to a computer-based test (CBT). The switch to CBT allowed for a more flexible and efficient testing process. The new format included computer-adaptive testing, where the difficulty of questions adjusted based on the test-taker’s performance.

Continuous Improvements

Integration of Integrated Reasoning (IR)

In 2012, the GMAT introduced the Integrated Reasoning (IR) section. The IR section was designed to measure a test-taker’s ability to evaluate and synthesize information from multiple sources. This change was made in response to feedback from business schools, which highlighted the importance of data analysis and decision-making skills in modern business education.

Ongoing Updates and Enhancements

The GMAC continuously reviews and updates the GMAT to ensure it remains relevant and effective. Changes are made based on research, feedback from business schools, and evolving trends in education and business. The GMAC’s commitment to continuous improvement has helped maintain the GMAT’s status as a leading standardized test for business school admissions.

Impact on Business Education

Standardizing Admissions

Providing a Common Benchmark

The GMAT has played a crucial role in standardizing the admissions process for business schools. By providing a common benchmark, the GMAT allows schools to compare applicants from diverse academic and professional backgrounds. This standardization has helped ensure a fair and objective admissions process.

Enhancing Applicant Diversity

The GMAT has contributed to enhancing the diversity of business school applicants. By assessing skills rather than specific academic knowledge, the GMAT allows individuals from various fields to apply to business school. This diversity enriches the learning environment and prepares students for the multifaceted nature of the business world.

Influence on Curriculum Development

Focus on Analytical Skills

The skills assessed by the GMAT, such as critical thinking, quantitative analysis, and integrated reasoning, have influenced the development of business school curricula. Schools have placed greater emphasis on these areas to ensure their programs align with the skills needed for success in business.

Incorporating Technological Advancements

The transition to computer-based testing and the introduction of the Integrated Reasoning section reflect the increasing importance of technology and data analysis in business. Business schools have incorporated these elements into their curricula to prepare students for the technological demands of the modern business environment.

Key Milestones in GMAT History

1953: Formation of the GMAC

The establishment of the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) marked the beginning of efforts to develop a standardized test for business school admissions. The GMAC played a pivotal role in the creation and evolution of the GMAT.

1954: Introduction of the ATGSB

The first version of the test, known as the Admission Test for Graduate Study in Business (ATGSB), was administered. This test laid the foundation for what would become the GMAT.

1976: Rebranding to GMAT

The ATGSB was rebranded as the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), reflecting its growing importance and recognition in business education.

1994: Introduction of the AWA

The Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) section was added to the GMAT, assessing test-takers’ critical thinking and writing skills.

1997: Transition to Computer-Based Testing

The GMAT transitioned to a computer-based test (CBT), introducing computer-adaptive testing and enhancing the testing process’s flexibility and efficiency.

2012: Introduction of the IR Section

According to, the Integrated Reasoning (IR) section was added to the GMAT, measuring test-takers’ ability to evaluate and synthesize information from multiple sources.

Continuous Updates

The GMAC has continuously updated the GMAT to ensure its relevance and effectiveness, incorporating feedback from business schools and adapting to changes in education and business.

GMAT Today

Test Structure

Sections of the GMAT

The GMAT currently consists of four main sections:

  1. Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA): One essay analyzing an argument.
  2. Integrated Reasoning (IR): 12 questions measuring data analysis and synthesis skills.
  3. Quantitative: 31 questions assessing mathematical reasoning and problem-solving skills.
  4. Verbal: 36 questions evaluating reading comprehension, critical reasoning, and sentence correction.

Scoring System

The GMAT is scored on a scale of 200 to 800, with separate scores for the AWA, IR, Quantitative, and Verbal sections. The total score is based on the Quantitative and Verbal sections.

Test Preparation

Study Materials and Resources

Numerous resources are available to help test-takers prepare for the GMAT, including official guides, online courses, practice tests, and study apps. These materials cover all sections of the test and provide strategies for improving performance.

Test Preparation Courses

Many companies offer GMAT prep courses, ranging from self-paced online courses to live classes and one-on-one tutoring. Popular providers include Kaplan, Manhattan Prep, The Princeton Review, and Magoosh.

Role in Business School Admissions

Importance of GMAT Scores

GMAT scores are a critical component of business school applications. They provide a standardized measure of academic potential and readiness for advanced study in business. High scores can enhance an applicant’s profile and increase their chances of admission to competitive programs.

Holistic Admissions Process

While GMAT scores are important, business schools also consider other factors in the admissions process, such as undergraduate GPA, work experience, essays, recommendations, and interviews. A holistic approach ensures that schools select well-rounded candidates who are likely to succeed in their programs.

Future of the GMAT

Adapting to Changes in Education and Business

Emphasis on Technological Skills

As technology continues to transform the business world, the GMAT may evolve to place greater emphasis on technological skills and data analysis. This shift would align with the increasing importance of these skills in business education and practice.

Integration of New Testing Formats

The GMAC may explore new testing formats and technologies to enhance the GMAT’s effectiveness and accessibility. For example, the use of artificial intelligence and adaptive learning technologies could further personalize the test-taking experience.

Expanding Access and Inclusivity

Global Reach

The GMAC is committed to expanding access to the GMAT worldwide, ensuring that candidates from diverse backgrounds can take the test. Efforts to increase the availability of test centers and online testing options will help achieve this goal.

Reducing Barriers

The GMAC may continue to work on reducing barriers to test preparation and access, such as providing more affordable study materials and offering fee waivers for candidates with financial need. These efforts will help ensure that all prospective students have the opportunity to succeed on the GMAT.

Collaboration with Business Schools

Aligning with Curriculum Changes

The GMAC will continue to collaborate with business schools to ensure that the GMAT aligns with changes in business education curricula. This collaboration will help ensure that the test remains relevant and effective in assessing the skills needed for success in business school and beyond.

Incorporating Feedback

The GMAC values feedback from business schools, test-takers, and other stakeholders. This feedback is essential for continuous improvement and innovation, ensuring that the GMAT remains a trusted and valuable tool for business school admissions.


The GMAT has a rich history, evolving from its origins as the ATGSB to its current status as a leading standardized test for business school admissions. Over the decades, the GMAT has undergone significant changes, adapting to the needs of business schools and test-takers. Its impact on business education has been profound, providing a standardized measure of academic potential and helping schools select qualified candidates.

As the GMAT continues to evolve, it will remain a critical component of the business school admissions process, ensuring that candidates possess the skills needed for success in advanced study and business practice. The GMAC’s commitment to continuous improvement, inclusivity, and collaboration with business schools will help ensure that the GMAT remains relevant and effective in the ever-changing landscape of business education.

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