The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) is a standardized computer-adaptive test set established by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC). It's intended to assess certain analytical, writing, reading, quantitative, and verbal skills for use in the admission process of more than 2,400 institutions worldwide.

Acquainting yourself with the structure and format of the GMAT is an essential step towards preparing for it effectively. This article explores the traditional GMAT format, discussing its different sections, question types, scoring system, and handy strategies to tackle it efficiently.

Keep in mind that GMAC announced plans to launch new "GMAT Focus Edition" in late 2023. This will be a more streamlined and practical option for both business schools and applicants. We will discuss these changes in this article as well.

GMAT Format Now

The traditional GMAT format can be broken down into four sections: Analytical Writing (1 essay topic), Integrated Reasoning (12 questions), Quantitative (31 questions), and Verbal (36 questions), with a total exam time of 3 hours and 7 minutes. Below is an overview of every section so that you can understand each of them and know how to prepare.

Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA)

The AWA section assesses your ability to think critically and communicate your thoughts. In this section, you will be presented with an argument. You then must write an essay that evaluates that argument and the reasoning behind it. You will have to demonstrate your critical thinking and communication abilities.

  • Duration: 30 Minutes
  • Analysis of Argument for 1 Topic

Analysis of Argument Example

The following appeared as part of a campaign to sell advertising time on a local radio station to local businesses:

“The Cumquat Café began advertising on our local radio station this year and was delighted to see its business increase by 10% over last year’s totals. Their success shows you how you can use radio advertising to make your business more profitable.”

Discuss how well-reasoned you find this argument. In your discussion, be sure to analyze the line of reasoning and the use of evidence in the argument. For example, you may need to consider what questionable assumptions underlie the thinking and what alternative explanations or counterexamples might weaken the conclusion.

Integrated Reasoning (IR)

The Integrated Reasoning section of the GMAT measures your ability to evaluate information in different formats, such as graphics, text, and numbers. It includes multi-source reasoning, table analysis, graphic interpretation, and two-part analysis. You are expected to synthesize large amounts of data to solve problems. There are 12 questions in total that a candidate has to solve in 30 minutes. It means a candidate has to solve an integrated reasoning question in an average of 2.5 minutes, which is not much time.

Duration: 30 minutes

12 Questions of the following question types:

  • Multi-Source Reasoning
  • Graphics Interpretation
  • Two-Part Analysis
  • Table Analysis
Graphic interpretation example

Source: GMAT Club

Refer to the pictograph of a survey of students at Central Community College. Each symbol represents 10 students in a sample of 300.

Complete each statement according to the information presented.

1) If one student is selected at random from the 300 surveyed, the chance that the student will be under 30 or a high school graduate or both is (select) [options: 1 out of 6; 1 out of 3; 2 out of 3; 5 out of 6] * Correct answer 5 out of 6

2) If one student is selected at random from the 300 surveyed, the chance that the student will be both under 30 and a high school graduate is (select) [options: 1 out of 6; 1 out of 3; 2 out of 3; 5 out of 6] * Correct answer 1 out of 3

Quantitative Reasoning (QR)

The Quantitative Reasoning section measures your capacity to use reasoning to analyze data and reach conclusions. It is divided into two sections: Problem Solving and Data Sufficiency. It has 31 questions with a 62-minute time limit. Both kinds of questions require a basic understanding of geometry, elementary algebra, and arithmetic. There is no need to panic about complex mathematical problems since the difficulty of the questions comes from the logic and analytical skills needed, not the underlying math skills.

Duration: 62 minutes

31 Questions of the following question types:

  • Problem Solving (PS)
  • Data Sufficiency (DS)

Salaries for employees at ABC Company: 1 employee makes $25,000 per year, 4 employees make $40,000 per year, 2 employees make $50,000 per year and 5 employees make $75,000 per year.

What is the average (arithmetic mean) salary for the employees at ABC Company?

Possible Answers:

1) $ 55,000

2) $ 53,500

3) $ 46,250

4) $ 58,000

5) $ 48,640

*The average is found by calculating the total payroll and then dividing it by the total number of employees. The correct answer is A) $55,000.

Verbal Reasoning (VR)

The Verbal Reasoning section assesses your capacity to comprehend written material, analyze arguments, and format written work in accordance with accepted written English standards. You have 65 minutes to answer 36 questions in three formats: Sentence Correction, Critical Reasoning, and Reading Comprehension.

In the summer of 2003, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago was temporarily shut down for maintenance which had caused their bathroom to accumulate mold and to produce an unpleasant odor.

A) Due to heavy rains of the summer, which had caused their bathroom to accumulate mold.

B) Because of the heavy summer rains, which had caused their bathroom to have an accumulation of mold.

C) Due to the summer’s heavy rain, which had resulted in the bathroom’s accumulation of mold.

D) Because the heavy rains of the summer had caused the bathroom to accumulate mold.

E) Because of heavy rains that were causing the bathroom’s accumulating mold.

GMAT Exam Format and Scoring

There are three different options for taking the GMAT exam and you can choose any of the options just before the exam begins. It’s important to make a decision based on your strengths and test-taking preferences, so be sure to choose accordingly.

Your options are:

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

The table below includes more details about the scoring and timing of each test section.

Exam Section Time Limit / Number of Questions Question Types Score Range
Analytical Writing Assessment 30 minutes, 1 question Analysis of an Argument (50%), Issue Essay (50%) 0-6 (in 0.5-point increments)
Integrated Reasoning 30 minutes, 12 questions Graphics Interpretation, Table Analysis, Multi-source Reasoning, Two-part Analysis 1-8 (in 1-point increments)
Quantitative Reasoning 62 minutes, 31 questions Data Sufficiency (50%), Problem Solving (50%) 6-51 (in 1-point increments)
Verbal Reasoning 65 minutes, 36 questions Reading Comprehension (60%), Critical Reasoning (20%), Sentence Correction (20%) 6-51 (in 1-point increments)
Total 3 hours 7 minutes 80 questions 200 - 800

GMAT Changes

GMAC announced that major changes are coming to the GMAT exam format and structure, but the current GMAT test format will continue to be offered through early 2024 and any previous scores will still be good for five years. Here is everything you need to know about the anticipated changes.

Shorter GMAT Test Format

The new “GMAT Focus Edition” will consist of three 45-minute sessions. This new testing experience will be nearly one hour shorter than the current GMAT for an improved test-taking experience.

No More Written Essays

The updated GMAT will no longer include the AWA/essay section. All questions will be multiple-choice.

New Data Insights Section

This new section will test candidates' skills in areas such as data analysis, data interpretation, data visualization, and data-driven decision making and will effectively replace the Integrated Reasoning section on the current exam.

More Flexibility

You will have the ability to take the exam in any order. It will be divided into 45-minute sections, and you will have the ability to bookmark a question so that you can return to it later during the exam.


The GMAT is a well-structured and comprehensive examination that assesses a candidate's abilities across multiple skill areas. The four sections of the GMAT, namely Quantitative Reasoning, Verbal Reasoning, Integrated Reasoning, and Analytical Writing Assessment, each evaluate a test-taker's readiness for business school.

Understanding the GMAT format is essential to preparing effectively and performing well on the exam. By familiarizing yourself with the structure, time limits, question types, and scoring system, you can develop targeted study strategies and optimize your performance. The GMAT is changing, so it's important to understand the differences between the old and the new formats in order to evaluate your options and prepare for the test ahead of time.


The GMAT format can be broken down into four sections: Analytical Writing (1 essay topic), Integrated Reasoning (12 questions), Quantitative (31 questions), and Verbal (36 questions).

Changes are expected to take effect in the late part of 2023. The new format will phase out the old one.

There is a total of 80 questions in the current GMAT.

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