GMAT Exam Pattern & Syllabus

The Graduate Management Aptitude Test (GMAT) is a computer adaptive test (CAT) that’s used by business schools for admission to their MBA/ management programs. Therefore, GMAT questions are intended to determine if the test taker will be able to pursue a management degree successfully. That is why it is a must to understand the GMAT paper pattern.

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When we say that GMAT is a computer-adaptive test it does not just mean that a simple pen and paper test has been transferred to a computer screen. No, what it means is that you will initially be served with questions whose difficulty level would be average and depending on how you answer those questions, GMAT will “adapt” to your performance. In short, if you answer correctly, the computer throws up more and more difficult questions and if you answer incorrectly, you’ll be served with easier questions. This is the basic  GMAT paper pattern. However, please note that only the 3rd and 4th sections of the GMAT i.e. the Quantitative and Verbal sections are adaptive. The Analytical Writing Assessment and the Integrated Reasoning sections of GMAT are non-adaptive.

The 3.5 hour long exam has a variety of questions that will be used to assess your suitability to pursue an MBA program.


GMAT Paper Pattern & Syllabus

  • The following four sections of the GMAT have to be taken on a computer within 3 hours, 30 minutes.
  • You’re allowed to take 2 breaks in between the GMAT sections. Each break is of 8 minutes duration and if you’re not back on your seat before that, the test timer automatically starts ticking and you end up losing time from your GMAT.
Test SectionNo. of questionsTiming
Analytical Writing Assessment1 Topic30 minutes
Integrated Reasoning12 questions30 minutes
Quantitative Reasoning37 questions75 minutes
Verbal Reasoning41 questions75 minutes
Total Exam Time 3 hours, 30 minutes

Let’s understand each of these 4 GMAT sections in detail-  

Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA)

  • There will be just 1 topic to tackle in this section.
  • Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) requires you to analyse the logic behind a given argument and then write an essay explaining the argument.
  • This GMAT section will not just assess your writing skills but also your critical thinking skills. Remember that this section wants you to write a critique of the argument already presented, so DON’T write down your own views about it.

Integrated Reasoning (IR)

In an increasingly data-driven business environment, you will be faced with the need to make decisions based on information from multiple resources. So this particular section of the GMAT, “Integrated Reasoning” (which was introduced quite recently in the year 2012), tests your problem-solving and data analysis skills through the following 4 types of questions:

  • Multi-source reasoning – you’ll have to solve complicated problems by picking up information from various sources
  • Graphics interpretation – you’ll have to interpret the date given in the form of a graph/ image and arrive at a solution
  • Two-part analysis – a problem will be given that would have a two-part solution. You’ll have to arrive at answers to both the inter-related questions
  • Table analysis – you’ll have to sort the data given in the form a table to answer various questions

A single question in the IR section may have multiple parts; every part will have to be answered correctly in order to get the full marks. You have to answer all the sub-parts of a question in order to move on to the next IR question.

Quantitative Reasoning

This GMAT section will test your ability to solve numerical & data-related problems. The GMAT Mathematics syllabus is not very tough to crack. If you’re familiar with the maths topics taught up until secondary school (class 10) such as basic arithmetic, geometry, algebra & word problems; you can easily tackle the Quantitative section.

There are two types of questions given in mixed order throughout this section:

  • Problem Solving (PS): Questions of this type will test your mathematical skills acquired till class 10
  • Data Sufficiency (DS): You’ll have to look at the given information and judge whether it is sufficient to solve the problem

Verbal Reasoning

The Verbal section of GMAT will test your fluency in the English language through three question types:

  • Reading comprehension: Your ability to read and comprehend (understand) the written material is tested
  • Critical reasoning: Your ability to evaluate given arguments and reasoning is tested
  • Sentence correction: Your grammar skills, ability to construct clear and proper sentences is assessed

The verbal/ English syllabus for GMAT will require you to be well-versed in the following areas: Pronouns, Parallelism, Subject-Verb Agreement, Diction, Grammatical Construction, Idioms, Logical Predication, Verb Tense, Misplaced Modifiers etc.

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