Gee whiz, now I’ve got to take a GMAT?

Before you can head off into the business world, MBA in hand, you’ll need to get into business school. And the first step to that is taking the GMAT.

The exam, short for Graduate Management Admission Test, assesses verbal, math and analytical writing skills. “We look at the GMAT as a good quantitative record of a candidate’s ability — whether they’ll be able to handle the coursework,” explains Christopher Storer, director of admissions at the Boston University School of Management. “It’s an initial starting point.”

Taking the test will put you out $250, and you should probably plan on taking it more than once, Storer suggests.

“I’ve seen people take it well over 13 or 14 times, but I honestly think that’s a waste of money. Your score isn’t going to change dramatically,” he says. “But it can go up dramatically from the first to the second or third time.”

One reason for that is the unusual format. The computerized test adjusts to your ability level: Answer hard questions correctly and more hard questions will show up — and the other way around. Only one question is displayed at a time, and there’s no skipping or going back.

“For many people, the problem isn’t the material, but the intimidation factor of the computer-adaptive test,” says Rakesh Gupta, dean of the Adelphi University School of Business on Long Island, New York. “All of the material is something they’ve seen before. It’s just a question of refreshing.”

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