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GMAT Exam overview and question types: Analysis and tips from an expert

GMAT Exam overview and question types: Analysis and tips from an expert

The GMAT exam is an essential part of the application process, especially because schools trust it. You must prepare adequately for these exams to improve your chances of getting into the school of your choice. The first and most crucial step in your GMAT journey is understanding what is expected of you and how best to get there. In this article, we’ve done our best to cover everything you need to know about the GMAT exams, including expert tips and analysis on how to prepare for your tests.

Keep reading!

GMAT Logistics – online and in-person

Exam structure and policies

The GMAT exam policies are universal for both online and in-person exam administration. Usually, the exam takes approximately three and a half hours. The paper includes four parts: the Quantitative, Verbal, Integrated Reasoning, and the Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) sections. As soon as you complete the exam, you’ll be provided with an immediate preview of your score. However, the preview is unofficial, and your official scores will be provided after seven business days.

It’s exceedingly unlikely that there will be major deviations from your unofficial score preview. Even then, this is done to vet your score. The seven-day period also allows enough time for the AWA section of your GMAT exam to be marked and scored. Your scores will remain valid for up to five years after the test date and you have a maximum of five attempts in every 12-month rotating period. Normally, candidates are given eight-lifetime attempts. The exam can only be taken once every sixteen days, whether online or in person.

Online GMAT Exams

The online GMAT is remotely proctored through Pearson VUE. You will have the same sections and the exact ordering options in the online exam as in the in-person GMAT exam. You will need both a digital and a physically erasable whiteboard for the online exam. As per the exam requirements, you have to produce your whiteboard of specific dimensions, roughly 30cm×50cm or 18×12 inches. The online digital whiteboard can be relatively useful for taking notes in the verbal section because it may be faster for you to type. Even then, it has limitations when it comes to manual processing of some of the math required for the quantitative section.

As opposed to the in-person exam, it is essential to note that at the moment you cannot cancel your online GMAT exams. However, you have a score preview function that is available before you select whether or not you want to send it to schools. There is only one retest available if you do the test online. So if you do two online administrations, you will have to go to an in-person location for all subsequent attempts.

Test center GMAT exams

For this type of GMAT exam, you’ll be provided with a five-page dry-erase spiral laminate notepad for scratch work. It is a laminated menu that you can use a dry erase marker on but can’t erase. If you exhaust all the space available in your notepad, you will have to ask for additional space. The test-center exams offer an enhanced score report as a possibility and that gives you more details of what your exact score was.

The official test-center exam report can be canceled for up to 72 hours. The test center exam can also be taken earlier than the online exam’s 16-day limit. You can take an online exam and you don’t have to wait for 16 days to take a test-center exam if you want to give the exam another try immediately.

GMAT section order options

Order #1

  1. Analytical Writing Assessment – 30 minutes
  2. Integrated Reasoning – 30 minutes / 8 minutes break (optional)
  3. Quantitative Reasoning – 62 minutes / 8 minutes break(optional)
  4. Verbal Reasoning – 65 minutes

Order #2

  1. Verbal Reasoning – 65 minutes / 8 minutes break (optional)
  2. Quantitative Reasoning – 62 minutes / 8 minutes break(optional)
  3. Integrated Reasoning – 30 minutes
  4. Analytical Writing Assessment – 30 minutes

Order #3

  1. Quantitative Reasoning – 62 minutes / 8 minutes break(optional)
  2. Verbal Reasoning – 65 minutes / 8 minutes break (optional)
  3. Integrated Reasoning – 30 minutes
  4. Analytical Writing Assessment – 30 minutes

GMAT Adaptivity defined

GMAT has question variability. This means that your performance on quantitative or verbal reasoning problems dictates the difficulty of each subsequent problem. So it is impossible to skip or return to any question in any GMAT section owing to this aspect of variability. Your answer to one question dictates the nature of the next question you’ll be answering.

Strategic implications

There are many strategic implications of the adaptivity of the GMAT exam. First, the initial quantitative or verbal problems dictate the difficulty level and matter more in your overall score. The exam is meant to determine your proficiency level earlier on, and you have an opportunity to get ahead of the game if you do better earlier rather than later. You also have to make a guess on every question because you can’t move to the next question if you don’t have some input for the said question. Check your pace approximately every 10 questions to make sure you have a chance to finish the whole exam. Failure to complete any of the sections negatively impacts your overall score.

GMAT scoring overview

Quantitative Reasoning

Individual scale 0-60 / Realistic scale 9-51

50th Percentile = 45 / 90th percentile = 50

Verbal  Reasoning

Individual scale 0-60 / Realistic scale 6-45

50th percentile = 28 / 90th percentile = 40

Integrated Reasoning

Individual scale 1-8

50th percentile = 5 / 90th percentile = 8

Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA)

Individual scale 0-6/ ½ point increments

50th percentile = 5 / 90th percentile = 6

Overall score

Quantitative and Verbal combined / Scale 200-800 / 10 point increments 

50th percentile = 590 / 90th percentile = 710

While the realistic scale for verbal reasoning is slightly lower than that of quantitative reasoning, there’s a better chance to grow at the higher end of the verbal reasoning section. That said, your primary objective should be to improve your quantitative reasoning to the mid-forties for you to be competitive in that section, before shifting over to the verbal section and mine as many points as possible at the high end of that curve. 

A 50th percentile score of 5 in the AWA is sufficient to get you into any school. Only the Quantitative and the Verbal scales combined go into the overall scale of 200-8010-point increments. The integrated reasoning and the AWA are of no consequence here. However, that does not mean you neglect them completely. Take your time and address these sections and you will never have to take the GMAT again based on these sections alone.

What is your target GMAT score?

The big question is, “What is a good GMAT score?” And the answer is, “Good enough to get you into your program.” So the first thing you need to do is research median scores and ranges for your target business schools. Knowing your target is the most important step as you begin your GMAT journey.

Above everything else, don’t forget that your performance in any GMAT exams depends on how well you prepare for the tests. That’s why it would be of great help to get hold of some study resources to prepare for your exams. At AnalystPrep we offer rich study materials for GMAT exams that you can access at any time. You can check out our packages if you’re planning to take your GMAT exams anytime soon.



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