The GMAT cost today 250$, and you can register online on the official website. http://www.mba.com/mba/TaketheGMAT . Once you register to the site (not to the exam), you can download a software package with 2 sample exams and some exercises. You can take the GMAT in the test center near you in any business day, in 2 different time slots (morning and noon). You can take the GMAT each month (7 times a year).
The GMAT has 3 sections.
1. Essays - 2 English essays. 30 minutes for each essay. One is to tell your opinion on a day-to-day topic. The other is to explain why a claim is logically false. The grade for both your essays is 0-6, and a score of 4-5 should be OK. The grade for essay is given seperately from the GMAT grade, and only after 2 or 3 persons have read your essays and graded them.
2. Quantitive part - 37 questions in 75 minutes. You see only one question at a time and can't go back. All are multiple choice questions with 5 answers. The topics are geomatry, statistics and probability, percents, relations, problem solving, numbers theory, etc. All in pretty basic level (nothing in academic level). But you only have about 2 minutes for question.
There is a special type of questions: Data Sufficiency. You are given 2 statements and a question. Based on the two statements you must decide if the statements are sufficient to answer the question together, each one alone, or not sufficient.
3. Verbal part - 41 questions in 75 minutes. All are multiple choice questions with 5 answers. There are 3 types of questions: Reading Comprehension - read a short articles and answer some questions about it; Sentence Correction - You are given a sentence with a part underlined. You must decide if the underlined part is correct or choose between 4 alternatives - this will test your grammer; Critical Reasoning - You are given a statement or a short story (couple of senetences) and a question that you need to answer (for example "What can strengthen/Weaken the statement?").
The Score System
You get 4 scores - Essays (0-6), Quantitve (0-60), Verbal (0-60), and GMAT (0-800).
The GMAT score is a combination of the quantitive and the verbal parts. In the quantitive - a score of 48-52 (maximum - in the computerized tests it is impossible to score higher) is sufficient. In the Verbal a score of 40-50 should be enough. For the essays you should score more than 4.
For example: Quantitve 50 and Verbal 40 earned me a 740, while Quantitive 50 and Verbal 34 earned me a 660.
What Score Do You Really Need
About 700. Some business schools will admit candidate with 620, while others will not admit candidates with 770 GMAT. For example, I got a 740 and was not admitted to all the schools I had applied to. It is important to understand that the GMAT is only one of many components of the application. However, a high GMAT score will compensate on weaknesses in your application. For example, if you have a low undergraduate GPA, a 720 GMAT might compensate on that.
If you want to do an Israeli MBA you don't need to do the essays, and some schools don't even need the verbal score. Check the business school you want for more information (but the score would be something like 500-550, and more than 45 in the quantitive)
I did bad. Should I do it again?If you scored less than 620 you should definitely do it again. Most of the times you can improve your weak points in a month and score much higher. Most schools take into account the highest score, but receive all your scores!!! If you take the test 5 times it might look suspicious. If you got 400 because you did not prepare yourself, they might see it in a bad way.
If you received more than 700, it is ok - don't bother. If you did the exam twice and got 680, you might want to stop and work on the other important components of the application. It depends on your background.
The GMAT is an adaptive test - that means that the computer will generate the questions as you go. If you answered well on a question you would get a harder question next. If you answered wrong you will get an easier question next. No-one knows the exact algorithm. It is said that the difficulty level of the last question is your grade (you need to answer correctly a hard question in the end in order to do well on the test).
Here are some guidelines: You start from an average question. The first 10 questions decide your general level - so it is important to answer correctly on those. After that you get questions for your level. Failure to answer consequent questions will lower your grade substansially (if you have to make mistakes - spread them around). If you fail to answer all the questions you get a severe penalty.
Time is critical - You don't want to finish early and rest for 20 minutes because it means that the test went easy for you and you did not get to your potential difficulty level. Although I am strong in math I worked very hard in my quantitive part, and finished just on time. That means that I got difficult questions (to solve in 2 minutes) and I couldn't get more difficult - because I would not complete on time. You need to practice your timing before taking the exam.
Also don't waste your time on one question - it is sometimes more benefitial to spend only 2-3 minutes on the questions and make a guess, than to waste 10 minutes on the answer and get it right - because the next question will be harder and you won't have enough time to finish your exam.
Don't try to predict how well you are doing. They plant pilot questions (they test new questions on you) everywhere. Those questions do not count, and they are not in the correct difficulty level. You will not have any idea how well you did until the exam is over - but you will get the grade immidiatly on your screen when you are done with all parts (except for the essays).
How to study
I did a GMAT course with Kidum (an Israeli company). Their website is http://gmat.kidum.com/. It was good - I did not need the quantitve course (but I did it anyway), and I really improved on the verbal section. For the essays they give you nice templates that you learn by heart, and then you just fill in the blanks based on your topic. You practice 3 or 4 essays and you are done.
We used the ETS official book (which is sufficient in my opinion), and Barrons (not so good). Now they use Kaplan (I heard it is harder).
The course cost about 1000$ (4000 NIS). Which means that I might have done the GMAT 5 times for that price (not recommended - but maybe 2 times would have been enough).
If you are not sure whether to take a course, I suggest you download the software from the GMAT website, and do one of the sampel tests. Skip the essays, and do the Quantitve and Verbal. Don't take rests, and don't cheat (yourself). The sample exam is very similar to the real test, and the score you get might give you an indication of where you stand.
If you feel you can handle the quantitive section, you might want to consider a verbal course. If you got 600 in this exam, you might not need a course at all - simply solve problems from ETS books, and then take the exam. I suggest you practice at least 4 sample exams before the real thing.
Pick Schools to Send the Grade
Before you take the test you choose 5 MBA programs you want to send the grade to. If you later on decide on different schools, you can ask the GMAT guys to send it to additional schools (for the nice price of 25$ per school). So it is nice to pick the schools you are going to apply to, but not crucial.
This is your TODO list:
Read my post. Download the sample exams from the official website. Do the test and see your initial level. Either take a course or study yourself. Practice several sample tests. Do the exam once or twice. Get 700.