The GMAT, short for Graduate Management Admission Test, is one of the most commonly required aptitude tests for admission to international business schools. While it is commonly associated with the application requirements of top MBA programmes, the exam can be a handy asset to have up your sleeve if you are planning to apply for a Masters degree programme.

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Know the basics about aptitude tests

Firstly, prospective Masters applicants need to be aware of the purpose of the GMAT and the way it differs from other graduate admission tests to determine if they should sit the exam. In a nutshell, this test is designed to measure the analytical thinking and problem-solving skills of business school applicants. It is important to understand that the GMAT does not focus exclusively on your skills in mathematics or knowledge of the English language. Although you will have to prepare well in both, it is certainly not an entrance exam for math-related programmes. Rather, the GMAT is used as a means for business schools to assess your ability and potential to perform well in business and management courses.

Read: What You Need to Know about the GMAT and GRE Tests

The exam is computer-delivered and consists of four sections, each with a different focus – Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA), Integrated Reasoning (IR), Quantitative section, and Verbal section. It takes 3 hours and 7 minutes to complete the entire test, but each section is timed separately. When it comes to scoring, PrepAdviser, the global preparation network for higher education applicants, says: “In your official score report, the Quantitative and Verbal scores are transformed into a scale ranging from 200 to 800. The scores that business schools require for admission to Masters or MBA programmes usually range between 500 and 650, but the average scores of admitted students are much higher and can reach about 700 in top MBA programmes.

So now that you have a better grip of the exam’s purpose and the content, how can you decide if you will benefit from taking the GMAT as a Masters applicant?

Take into account your field of study

To determine whether a good GMAT score will strengthen your Masters application, you need to think carefully about the field of study you wish to specialise in. If you are set on pursuing a Masters in Management, Finance, Consulting, or another business-related course, chances are that the GMAT will almost certainly be required for admission. These programmes are usually very competitive, and have a long history of relying on aptitude test scores to help them filter through the best application submissions. According to the 2018 GMAT Geographic Trend Report, a total of 33% of GMAT examinees sent their score reports to business Masters programmes. In addition, the international popularity of the exam is spreading. “On average, 156 new business Masters programmes accept the GMAT exam every testing year. This is more than double the growth experienced by MBA programmes,” the report explains.

Read: Getting a Masters Degree after a Bachelors in Another Field

Since the GMAT is used especially for business school admission, applicants who are headed to a non-business-related discipline for their Masters study will not have to worry about submitting a GMAT score report. Fields of study for which this aptitude test is not usually required include Humanities, Arts, Engineering, Computer Science, Law, and Medicine to name just a few. Nevertheless, if you have already acquired a good test score, do not shy away from sharing it with the Masters admissions committee as a well-balanced result can definitely add bonus points to your application. It may not be a decisive factor for admission, but it will still make a good impression by showcasing your analytical abilities and level of preparation.

Consider the specific school and programme

The last step in determining the importance of the GMAT for your Masters application is checking the specific admissions criteria of each programme you are planning to apply to. Narrowing down your options to a particular business area is not enough in helping you decide whether to sit the GMAT or not because different programmes have different test criteria. Even more importantly, programmes may differ in terms of the minimum score required for admission. Others could consider a test waiver: “We will consider your MS in Management Studies application without a GMAT or GRE score if you have taken some analytical coursework during your undergraduate studies,” explains the Boston University Questrom School of Business (US) website. Knowing these details will help you to establish a clear goal for your performance on the test as well as come up with a solid preparation strategy.

Read: The Graduate School Application Process in 5 Steps

If you have already consulted the information regarding aptitude tests provided by your chosen business schools, do not let it overwhelm you. Although taking the test can indeed be difficult, and it is highly recommended to start preparation early enough, the GMAT is just one of the several components that make up your business school application package. Admissions directors always look at your score as part of the bigger picture. As Kelly Wilson, Executive Director of Masters Admissions at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business (US), says for U.S. News & World Report: “The GMAT score and prior academic coursework often work hand-in-hand to provide insight into the candidate's potential for academic success.

So do you feel ready to take on the GMAT challenge and make your Masters application stand out? Check out the myriad of preparation resources and free materials available on PrepAdviser.