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Introduction to the GMAT
The Graduate Management Admission Test, otherwise known as the GMAT, is a key piece to your business school application. This lengthy, computer-adaptive exam is almost certainly a requirement for that MBA program you’re applying to, and may very well make or break your application.
This test is an indicator to business schools that you are committed to grad school, and exemplifies your ability to succeed in business school. There is a strong correlation between GMAT scores and success in b-school.
The GMAT is composed of four sections relating to critical thinking and analysis. This will directly relate to the skills you’ll use for your MBA coursework.
This assessment scores the abilities of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, multi-source data analysis, and grammar. It also measures your analysis ability and evaluation of written material. Thinking critically and solving problems through reasoning is the crux of this assessment.
How Long is the GMAT Exam?
The four sections of this exam are Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA), Integrated Reasoning (IR), Quantitative (Q) and Verbal (V), taken in the order of your choosing.
The official GMAT time length, including two optional, 8-minute breaks, is 3 hours and 23 minutes. Prior to your examination time slot, you’ll want to arrive 30 minutes ahead of time for check-in purposes.
Each section is provided its own time limit, and at the beginning of your test, you’re able to choose the order in which you take the test from three options. The three variations that you can choose from are:
- Analytical Writing Assessment, Integrated Reasoning, Quantitative and Verbal
- Verbal, Quantitative, Integrated Reasoning, and Analytical Writing Assessment
- Quantitative, Verbal, Integrated Reasoning and Analytical Writing Assessment
GMAT Sections & Times
Because the test is split up into four sections, each section has their own time allowance. It is important to take these times into consideration when preparing for this exam. Practicing the assessment in the different orders that are offered might help you decide which order works best for you.
Analytical Writing Assessment
The analytical writing assessment section of the GMAT is an option for the first section or the last section, depending on which order you choose. In this part of the test, you’re allotted 30 minutes. This section assesses writing skills by providing you with an argument in paragraph form.
Instead of presenting your opinion on this topic, you’ll be asked to examine the author’s thinking and reasoning. The crux of this section is for the grader to determine whether or not you can successfully analyze and critique an argument using organization, logic and transitions.
This seems like a large task to complete in just thirty minutes; therefore, practice will be essential.
The integrated reasoning section consists of 12 total questions. For this section, you’ll also be granted 30 minutes time. Again, depending on which format you choose, you’ll have an option as to when this section occurs during your test session.
In this section, you’ll be tasked with answering questions around multi-source reasoning, table analysis, graphics interpretation and two-part analysis. According to The Economist Group, the main purpose of this section is to conceptually interpret and synthesize information that is presented to you in differing formats.
- Two-part analysis questions tend to be wordy, and they ask you to choose multiple correct answers out of a group. This hyper-focuses on your ability to carefully analyze whatever situation you’re given.
- Multi-source reasoning questions give you three different tabs to navigate, all while tasking you with using critical reasoning skills to answer questions.
- Graphic interpretation questions are exactly as they sound. You’ll be given a graphic, such as a chart, and you’ll be asked to interpret the meaning. In this question type, you’ll be given three choices and must choose the best response for two questions surrounding the one graphic.
- Lastly, table analysis questions provide you with an opportunity to sort through necessary and unnecessary data to answer three questions. The essential aspect of this section is getting used to the different ways that these questions are represented visually. Although they are all multiple choice, carefully reading directions and keeping track of time is essential for success here.
The quantitative section of the GMAT is one of the most time consuming portions, alongside the verbal section. The GMAT quant time runs 62 minutes, sporting approximately 14-15 data sufficiency questions and 16-19 problem solving questions. This section has 31 questions total, giving test takers approximately 2 minutes per question.
Like the others, the format of the test allows takers to choose whether to tackle this portion first, second or third. Because of the rigor of this section, it is important to focus your practice on your ability to complete these questions in the appropriate time window. As suggested in the last section, practice taking the assessment in each order to see what fits your needs better.
In this section, data sufficiency questions present you with a question and two different data statements. The idea is to figure out if the statements give you enough evidence to answer questions. Because of the time limit, these question types task takers with identifying essential information quickly.
Problem solving questions mimic classic standardized test questions. These questions will give you five multiple choices, and you must use your knowledge of basic mathematics to represent your quantitative and critical thinking.
The verbal section of this assessment is the longest phase. Test takers are given 65 minutes to complete 36 total questions. These questions consist of reading comprehension, critical reasoning, and sentence correction.
In this section, your goal is to show your strengths of written English, critical reading and argument analysis. For the 10 critical reasoning questions, your job is to read a set of statements and respond to a related question.
For the 14 sentence correction questions, you’ll be tasked with figuring out if some long and involved sentences contain errors, or if they don’t. Lastly, 12 reading comprehension questions will test your knowledge regarding the information, structure and author’s attitude. For each reading passage, you’ll be given 3-4 questions about the reading.
Final Answer: How Long Does the GMAT Take?
When scheduling the GMAT, expect to sit for just under 3.5 hours. When testing, your optional breaks will total up to 16 minutes, while the actual section times run 187 minutes. Although this is a substantial amount of time, it will seem like it goes by fast with the amount of work required.
Fortunately, there’s a variety of study options and practice tests available online. This will allow you to time yourself while answering the variety of different types of questions.
This important assessment will allow business schools to examine your analytical reasoning, critical thinking and basic readiness for an MBA program. Despite the length, a good score on this assessment will definitely take your grad school app to the next level.