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GMAT Exam Format – GMAT Structure, Sections, and Question Type (2020 Updated)

This article answers all your questions about the updated GMAT Exam Format and Timing, Exam Structure, Sections, and Question Types. To start with, here’s how GMAC defines it – “The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) is a computer adaptive test (CAT) intended to assess certain analytical, writing, quantitative, verbal, and reading skills in written English for use in admission to a graduate management program, such as an MBA.” As per an update in 2017, you can take these GMAT sections in three different orders, on the basis of your preference.

According to the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) who owns the test, GMAT is a trusted and preferred part of the admissions process of more than 7,000 business and management programs worldwide.

This article covers the following sections:

  1. GMAT – Computer Adaptive Test
  2. GMAT Exam Format – Section-wise Distribution
  3. Section Order Selection
  4. New GMAT Exam Format – 2020 Update & Impact

GMAT format and structure

GMAT – Computer Adaptive Test

GMAT is a Computer Adaptive Test (CAT). This means that the testing software adapts to your performance as you progress through the test. Therefore, your performance on each question will determine the difficulty level of the next few questions in the exam. Consequently, the GMAT score is calculated on your ability level i.e. on the basis of the difficulty level of questions that you solve correctly and not just the number of questions that you get right.

Note – Only Verbal and Quant sections are computer-adaptive. IR and AWA are not adaptive in nature. Read our deep-dive on how the Computer Adaptive GMAT Works. Understanding the test is the first step towards acing it.

Each section starts with medium difficulty level questions. Based on your response, you will then receive an easier or more difficult question. Your score is a composite result which considers the difficulty of each question you got right and wrong. Because each question you answer directly affects the next question you get, the CAT does not allow you to go back to questions you’ve already answered. It only shows one question at a time and does not allow you to see the next question until you’ve answered the current one. Therefore, you must review each response before confirming and moving on to the next one.

If you are wondering how to understand GMAT Scores & Percentiles, here is what you should read!

If you are planning to take the GMAT, we can help you with a personalized study plan and give you access to quality online content to prepare. Write to us at acethegmat@e-gmat.com. We are the most reviewed GMAT prep company on gmatclub with more than 1900 reviews. Why don’t you take a free trial and judge for yourself?

GMAT Format 2020 – Section-wise DistributionGMAT Exam Format 2018 GMAT Structure

The GMAT Exam tests you on the following four sections:

  1. Analytical Writing Analysis
  2. Integrated Reasoning
  3. Quantitative
  4. Verbal

Here’s a brief overview of each of these sections in the format of GMAT:

  • AWA – “The Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) measures your ability to think critically and to communicate your ideas. During the AWA, you are asked to analyze the reasoning behind a given argument and write a critique of that argument”.
      • Duration: 30 minutes
      • Analysis of Argument for 1 Topic
  • IR“The Integrated Reasoning section of the GMAT measures your ability to evaluate information presented in multiple formats from multiple sources – skills you need to succeed in our technologically advanced, data-driven world.”
    • Duration: 30 minutes
    • 12 Questions of the following question types:
      • Multi-Source Reasoning
      • Graphics Interpretation
      • Two-Part Analysis
      • Table Analysis
  • Quant“The Quantitative section measures your ability to analyze data and draw conclusions using reasoning skills. The mathematics needed to understand and solve the questions in this section of the GMAT exam is no greater than what is generally taught in secondary school classes.”
    • Duration: 62 minutes
    • 31 Questions of the following question types:
      • Problem Solving (PS)
      • Data Sufficiency (DS)
  • Verbal –  “The Verbal section measures your ability to read and understand written material, to evaluate arguments, and to correct written material to conform to standard written English.”
    • Duration: 65 minutes
    • 36 Questions from the following topics:
      • Reading Comprehension (RC)
      • Critical Reasoning (CR)
      • Sentence Correction (SC)

GMAT Format 2020

GMAT SECTION NUMBER OF QUESTIONS TYPES OF QUESTIONS DURATION
Analytical Writing Assignment (AWA) 1 essay Argument analysis and communication in the form of a critique 30 minutes
Integrated Reasoning (IR) 12 multiple choice Two-Part Analysis, Multi-source reasoning, Graphic interpretation, Table analysis 30 minutes
Quantitative 31 multiple choice Data Sufficiency, Problem Solving 62 minutes
Verbal 36 multiple choice Reading Comprehension, Critical Reasoning, Sentence Correction 65 minutes

Now that you have an idea of the GMAT Exam Pattern, let’s focus on the other aspects of the GMAT Structure.

Prior to July 11, 2017, all test-takers had to take the test in that exact order as defined by GMAC. However, this is no longer the case. We’ll now discuss the order in which you can take the GMAT sections.

GMAT Structure – Section Order Selection (GMAT exam Sections)

GMAT Structure - GMAT Exam Format - Select Section Order | GMAT Pattern 2018

The original order before GMAC introduced the “Select Section Order” feature was: “Analytical Writing Assessment, Integrated Reasoning, Quantitative, Verbal”. Now, there are the following three options from which you can take the GMAT: The Select Section Order feature was designed to allow GMAT test-takers to put their best foot forward and take the test based on their strengths and testing preferences. This is GMAC’s attempt to help you build comfort and confidence on exam day. You can choose the order in which you want to take the sections, just before your exam begins.

  1. Original Order – Analytical Writing Assessment, Integrated Reasoning, <Break 1>, Quantitative, <Break 2>, Verbal
  2. Verbal, <Break 1>, Quantitative, <Break 2>, Integrated Reasoning, Analytical Writing Assessment
  3. Quantitative, <Break 1>, Verbal, <Break 2>, Integrated Reasoning, Analytical Writing Assessment

As per GMAC, “There is no “correct” or “recommended” section order to select. This choice simply gives you more control and flexibility.” For more details, please refer to this article on GMAT Exam Format – Select Section Order.

GMAT Structure – GMAT Exam Format

Order 1 Order 2 Order 3
Analytical Writing Assessment Verbal Quantitative
Integrated Reasoning
8-min break (optional)
Quantitative Quantitative Verbal
8-min break (optional)
Verbal Integrated Reasoning Integrated Reasoning
Analytical Writing Assessment Analytical Writing Assessment

If you’re looking for the right strategy to ace the GMAT, attend our GMAT Strategy webinar, where we help you create a plan to achieve your target score on the GMAT.

GMAT Exam Format – 2020 Update & Impact

In the new GMAT format, the GMAT test is shorter by 30 minutes (made effective from April 16, 2018). GMAC has reduced the total time duration of the GMAT from 4 hours to 3.5 hours. The change in this new format has been made in the Tutorial Screens and the Quant and Verbal Section (scored out of 800).

In this article on the new GMAT exam format update, we have tried to answer all your questions about the latest update in the exam format and its impact on scoring and sectional break up. The article also addresses a major concern among the re-takers – “Is RC the most important section on GMAT Verbal now?“. Attend our Verbal Verbal RC Strategy Webinar to know the answer.

This article covers most of the basics of the GMAT Exam that you need to know. For further reading, please visit the official GMAT site. You can also read the following articles on:

  1. Section-Wise Details and Question Types
  2. GMAT Eligibility Criteria
  3. GMAT Cost and Fees
  4. GMAT Score & Statistics
  5. GMAT Score Reports
  6. GMAT Books and Resources
  7. GMAT Test Centers
  8. GMAT Exam Day Tips

If you have any doubts regarding the format of GMAT, GMAT Exam Structure or need help with planning your GMAT Prep, feel free to write to us at acethegmat@e-gmat.com.

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GMAT Format FAQs

How many sections are there on the GMAT exam?

There are four sections on the GMAT. They are:
1. Quant
2. Verbal
3. Integrated Reasoning
4. Analytical Writing Assessment

How many sections on the GMAT Online?

GMAT Online has 3 sections. There is no AWA section on the GMAT Online.

What’s the duration of GMAT and GMAT online?

The duration of in-center GMAT is 3 hours 7 minutes and that of GMAT Online is 2 hours 37 minutes.

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