GMAT: A Brief History

Preparing for the GMAT can be stressful, exciting, exasperating, and mind-boggling. Why not take a break from GMAT test prep pressures and discover some of the history behind the exam that's causing you so much anxiety?

The GMAT has only been around since 1954. (That's right: Sam Walton, founder of the retail giant Walmart, never took the GMAT!) In 1953, nine business schools came together as the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) to create an assessment test so that they could be more selective of their business school candidates.

The test itself was developed by the Education Testing Service (ETS) and was at the time called the Admissions Test for Graduate Study in Business (ATGSB). In 1954 — the first year the test was offered — only 2,553 business school candidates took the test, with their scores going out to 54 business schools. By contrast, in 2008, the GMAT was administered over 250,000 times in 90 countries, with scores sent to over 1,900 business schools.

After that first test was administered, the popularity of the ATGSB grew — as did the number of members on the GMAC. Here are a few milestones in the history of the GMAT:

  • 1976 the ATGSB is renamed: The ATGSB is reborn as the more easily abbreviated Graduate Management Admission Test, or GMAT.
  • 1997 The GMAT becomes digitized: The pencil-and-paper GMAT is completely replaced by a computerized adaptive test (CAT) that chooses questions based on your previous answers. Because the GMAC has such a large store of test questions, each GMAT exam is nearly unique.
  • 2007 The GMAC goes international: The GMAC opens its first international office in London.
  • 2008 The ScoreTop.com scandal goes public: On June 23, 2008, the GMAC announces that courts have awarded them $2.3 million in a copyright infringement lawsuit against ScoreTop.com, which illegally published live GMAT test questions. The courts also give the GMAC the right to seize the ScoreTop.com domain and a hard drive containing ScoreTop's billing and other information. After in-depth investigation, the scores of 84 GMAT test-takers are invalidated for cheating.

What does the future hold for the GMAT? The GMAC is currently working on the "Next Generation GMAT." Although the details are still sketchy, the GMAC hopes to build on the current GMAT in order to incorporate advances in test technology and science and to account for new areas of business management that didn't exist a decade ago. Completion and launch of this Next Generation GMAT is currently slated for 2013.