GMAT (Graduate Management Admissions Test) for PhD Study – A Guide |
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GMAT for PhD Study

Written by Ben Taylor

The Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) is a standardised test used to help select students for some Masters and PhDs at universities and business schools around the world.

It’s most commonly associated with MBAs and other Business Masters, but the GMAT is sometimes part of the entry requirements for doctoral programmes in Business, particularly in North America.

How does the GMAT work?

The GMAT is a computer-based test that measures candidates’ aptitude in written, numerical and reasoning tasks. Its four sections take just over three hours to complete:

  • Analytical Writing Assessment (30 minutes / 1 question) – This part of the GMAT consists of a short piece of writing that analyses a given argument.
  • Integrated Reasoning (30 minutes / 12 questions) – You’ll be tested on your ability to solve problems with several different kinds of data.
  • Quantitative Reasoning (62 minutes / 31 questions) – This section measures your mathematical skills, with questions on arithmetic, geometry and algebra. You won’t have access to a calculator during the test.
  • Verbal Reasoning (65 minutes / 32 questions) – You’ll answer questions that test your ability to understand and evaluate written material.

The Quantitative and Verbal Reasoning sections of the GMAT are both ‘computer adaptive’. This means that your performance during the test will alter the difficulty of subsequent questions.

For example, if you answer a problem incorrectly, the next question will be slightly easier. If you answer correctly, the following question will be slightly more difficult. Candidates will therefore receive a tailored set of questions, with the GMAT software adapting the exam to their ability.


The GMAT is aimed at students applying for postgraduate Business programmes, while the GRE (Graduate Record Examination) is designed for students in a range of disciplines, from the Arts and Humanities through to the Sciences.

Will I need to take the GMAT for my PhD?

In most cases, it’s possible to apply for a PhD without a GMAT score. However, if you want to study a DBA (Doctor of Business Administration) or other doctoral degree in Business or Management, you might find that the entry requirements for your prospective programme mention the GMAT.

It’s fairly common for North American and Australian business schools to require a GMAT score for admissions to Business-based PhD programmes. Usually, universities won’t specify a particular GMAT score in their entry requirements, but instead publish the average GMAT results of previous cohorts.

Admissions teams will look at your GMAT score alongside the rest of your application, so a below average result shouldn’t put you off from applying, particularly if you have an especially strong research proposal or academic performance.

Some institutions may offer a GMAT waiver for PhD students who have an exceptional academic background or years of professional experience. However, this isn’t common practice.

What GMAT score do I need?

Score profiles vary greatly from institution to institution and PhD to PhD. The mean GMAT score is 561.27, and the majority of candidates score between 400 and 600. If you want to apply for a PhD in Business at a top business school, you’ll probably find that the average GMAT score will be over 700.

GMAT preparation

Even though the GMAT tests your reasoning rather than your general knowledge, there are plenty of ways to revise and prepare for the exam. Practice papers and questions are available from the Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC), the company that organises the GMAT. Their free starter kit is a good place to begin your preparation, with two exams and computer adaptive technology.

You’ll receive a result for your mock exam that should hopefully give you an idea of where you stand in relation to your target score. If you decide that you need a more comprehensive preparation package, these are available too.

GMAT test centres

You can take the GMAT at hundreds of test centres around the world, offering a selection of dates throughout the year in which to sit the exam. Once you registered an account with (a website run by the GMAC) you can choose a convenient date and location for your GMAT.

There is a USD $250 fee to take the GMAT.

Online GMAT

In 2020 the Graduate Management Admission Council developed an online version of the GMAT in response to COVID-19. The online GMAT is designed to be taken from home making it an ideal alternative for anyone who isn’t able to attend a test centre. It’s available worldwide, with the exception of mainland China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea and Sudan.

In terms of format and content, the online GMAT is very similar to the normal version of the exam, but at two hours and 45 minutes long, it’s slightly shorter. It also doesn’t feature the analytical writing segment.

The online GMAT costs USD $200 to book. You can find out more about the online GMAT on

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Last Updated: 28 January 2021