GMAT Exam: Sections, Syllabus, Format, Fees, Eligibility, prep tips, score, and percentile

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GMAT, or the Graduate Management Admission Test, is an essential part of the business school application process. A good GMAT score can help you stand out during the admissions process and indicates your ability to succeed in the classroom. In fact, 9 out of 10 MBA admissions decisions are made using a GMAT score. So, what is GMAT? 

GMAT is a multiple-choice, computer-adaptive standardized exam that measures your command of basic geometry, arithmetic, and algebra. Moreover, it also measures your ability to evaluate and analyze verbal and analytical writing skills. The exam lasts for about 3 hours and 7 minutes. 

GMAT

The total GMAT score ranges from 200 to 800, with 2/3rd of the test takers scoring between 400-600. The mean total GMAT score is 568. Quantitative and verbal scores range from 6 to 51, with an average score of 27 (Verbal) and 40 (Quantitative).  

More than lakhs of students take the GMAT exam every year, and the test score is used by more than 7,000 graduate programs worldwide. So, scoring a good GMAT score is crucial. It will help in presenting a solid case for your candidacy. Thus, you must understand the exam pattern, type of questions, the scoring system, and preparation tips for the GMAT exam. 

This article covers everything you need to know about the GMAT exam. Here is the outline of this article:

GMAT Exam – An Overview 

The full form of GMAT is the Graduate Management Admission Test. The computer-adaptive test assesses the candidate’s quantitative, verbal, and analytical writing skills. The GMAT Exam fee can range from $250 to $300, depending upon your location. You can either go to the test center or take the GMAT at home option. The exam structure and pattern for both formats are the same. The test is of approx. 3 hours 30 minutes including the two 8 mins break.

Here is a brief overview of the GMAT exam 2022:

GMAT Full Form Graduate Management Admissions 
Administrator Pearson VUE 
Developer Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC)
Type of test Computer-adaptive test 
GMAT Sections Quantitative reasoning, Analytical Writing Assessment, Integrated Reasoning, and Verbal Reasoning. 
Duration Approx. 3 hours 30 minutes, including breaks 
Breaks 2 breaks – 8 mins each 
GMAT Score range 200 – 800 
GMAT RetakesYou can take the GMAT exam no more than eight times in total. Moreover, you can take the GMAT once every 16 calendar days and no more than five times in a rolling 12-month period. 
GMAT Score Validity 5 years 
GMAT Fees $250 to $300, depending on the location
Level of difficulty Hard 
Rescheduling and cancellation servicesAvailable 
Skipping question No 

What is a computer-adaptive test?

Computer-adaptive tests are designed to adjust to your performance as you progress through the test. So, every time you answer a question, the computer reassesses your ability based on the difficulty level of all the previous answers. Based on your ability, the computer then selects the next question. Thus, your performance on a question will determine the difficulty level of the next few questions.

Why take GMAT? 

GMAT is the first step to getting into your target business school. It is one of the critical components of your application. Moreover, your GMAT score indicates your ability to succeed in your chosen program. A good GMAT score helps you to demonstrate your commitment and motivation. It measures your reasoning and critical thinking skills, the most relevant skills required to get into top graduate programs worldwide. In fact, the GMAT exam is the most widely used exam for graduate business school admissions and can even open opportunities for you post your graduation. 

The difficulty level of the GMAT Exam 

Scoring 700+ on the GMAT is difficult. GMAT 700 equals 88%ile, meaning only 12% of the test takers score above 700. The percentage keeps reducing as you go above 700.  GMAT 750 equals 98%ile, i.e., only 2% of all the test takers score 750! Looking at these stats indicates that GMAT is a hard exam. But, what makes it so difficult to crack?

Why is GMAT Hard? 

Well, firstly, the adaptive nature of the test makes GMAT hard. Your scores depend not only on the number of questions you have answered correctly but also on the difficulty level of the questions. So, two students may have the same number of correct responses, but their total GMAT scores might differ. 

Secondly, time pressure is another factor that increases the difficulty level of the GMAT exam. For example, Quantitative reasoning has 31 questions to be answered within 62 minutes. Even if you divide the time equally per question, you have 2 mins to answer. 

*Please note that you don’t need to take 2 mins to answer a question. The timing will depend on the difficulty level of that question. 

Lastly, the content and format of the GMA make it a challenging exam to crack. GMAT questions are misleading and can trick you into focusing on the wrong things. You can easily fall into such traps and end up spending your valuable time on the test day. Besides, there are four sections on the GMAT testing different skills and abilities. So, you must be on top of your game in all the sections. 

GMAT Syllabus and Format 

The GMAT syllabus for 2022 includes topics from Verbal, Quant, Integrated Reasoning, and Analytical Writing Assessment. In total, there are four sections on the GMAT, with 80 questions to answer:

  1. Quantitative Reasoning
  2. Verbal Reasoning 
  3. Integrated Reasoning 
  4. Analytical Writing Assessment
GMAT sectionsDuration (Mins)No. Of Questions Question Types 
Quantitative Reasoning6231Problem Solving and Data Sufficiency 
Verbal Reasoning6536Sentence Correction, Critical Reasoning, and Reading Comprehension 
Integrated Reasoning 3012Two-part analysis, Graphic Interpretation, Table Analysis, and Multi-source Reasoning 
Analytical Writing Assessment 301Analysis of an Argument 
Total 18780

Quantitative Reasoning 

The Quantitative Reasoning section on the GMAT exam tests your ability to analyze data and draw conclusions using reasoning skills. It includes 31 multiple choice questions on problem-solving and data sufficiency:

Problem-solving questions measure your ability to use analytical reasoning and logic to solve quantitative problems on topics such as algebra, arithmetic, geometry, and more. 

Data sufficiency questions measure your ability to recognize relevant data and analyze the quantitative problem. You will be given a problem followed by a question or two statements. You need to decide whether the data in the statement given is sufficient to answer the question asked. 

The total duration to complete the Quant section is 62 minutes. 

Verbal Reasoning

The Verbal Reasoning section on the GMAT exam tests your ability to comprehend and read written material. It evaluates how you reason arguments and how effectively you express your ideas in written English. It includes 36 multiple choice questions on Reading Comprehension, Sentence Correction, and Critical Reasoning:

Reading Comprehension questions measure your ability to understand statements and words and draw logical inferences based on the relationship between significant points. It includes short or long passages where you need to analyze it and answer 3-4 multiple-choice questions. 

Critical Reasoning questions measure your ability to make and evaluate arguments and draw a plan of action. It includes a short reading passage, usually less than 100 words. You need to evaluate which of the five answer options:

  • Weakens or strengthens an argument
  • Strongly damages or supports the argument 
  • Tells why the argument is flawed 

Sentence Correction questions measure your language proficiency. These questions will present a sentence with all or a part of the sentence underlined. You will be given five options, and you need to choose the correct option for the underlined sentence. 

The total duration to complete the Verbal section is 65 minutes. 

Integrated Reasoning

The Integrated Reasoning section measures how well you analyze the data to solve complex problems. It tests your ability to:

  • Analyze information presented in text, graphics, and numbers
  • Evaluate relevant information from different sources
  • Synthesize and manipulate information from multiple sources to solve complex problems
  • Organize information to see a relationship and solve the various interrelated problem 

The total number of questions asked under Integrated Reasoning is 12. You will have 30 minutes to complete the section. Here are the types of questions asked under the GMAT Integrated Reasoning section:

  • Table Analysis 
  • Graphics Interpretation 
  • Multi-source Reasoning 
  • Two-Part Analysis 

You will have 30 minutes to complete the GMAT IR section.

Analytical Writing Assessment

The Analytical Writing Assessment section of the GMAT tests your ability to think critically and communicate your ideas through an English essay. You need to analyze the reasoning behind a given argument and write a critique of that argument. This GMAT section includes one question that you need to finish in 30 minutes. The argument on the test consists of a wide range of topics related to business or other subjects like art. 

GMAT Section Order 

You get to choose the order you want to take the GMAT. Three are three options available:

Order 1 Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA)Integrated Reasoning (IR)Quantitative Verbal 
Order 2 Quantitative Verbal Integrated Reasoning (IR)Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA)
Order 3 Verbal Quantitative Integrated Reasoning (IR)Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA)

GMAT Scores and Percentiles 

The total GMAT score range between 200 and 800, with an increment of 10. For instance, 680, 690, 700, 710, and 720. Only 1% of the total test-takers score 800 on the GMAT.

The total scores are based on your performance in the Quant and Verbal sections. Thus, your Integrated Reasoning and Analytical Writing Assessment scores are not included in the total GMAT score calculation. 

The average total GMAT score is 568, with around two-thirds of the test takers scoring between 400 to 600. The Verbal and Quantitative scores range from 6 to 51, with a one-point increment. The average score is 27.26 and 40.7 for Verbal and Quant, respectively. Only 1% of the test takers score above 46 on the GMAT verbal, whereas 3% of the total test-takers score 51 on the GMAT Quant. 

The score for your Quant and Verbal reasoning is based on three factors:

  1. Number of questions you answer
  2. The difficulty level of the questions you answer 
  3. Number of correct answers

The Analytical Writing Assessment section score ranges from 0.0-6.0, with an interval of 0.5. Around 12% of the total test-takers score 6 on the GMAT AWA. The average GMAT score for the AWA section is 4.43. 

The Integrated Reasoning section score ranges from 1 to 8, with 1 point increment. Around 10% of the total test-takers score 8 on the IR section. Here is a brief overview of the GMAT score range for each sub-section:

GMAT Section GMAT Score Range Average GMAT Score
Verbal Reasoning 6 to 51 27.26
Quantitative Reasoning 6 to 51 40.7
Integrated Reasoning 1 to 8 4.6
Analytical Writing Assessment 0 to 6 4.43

GMAT Score Percentile 

Your percentile ranking indicates the percentage of test-takers that you performed better than. For instance, a total GMAT score of 780 is about 99%ile. Similarly, a GMAT verbal score from 45 to 51 is 99%ile. 

The GMAT percentile rankings are recalculated every summer using exam data from the prior 3 years. So, your percentile ranking may change next year, but your GMAT score remains the same. 

Take a look at the table below that represents the total GMAT score percentiles and sub-section percentiles based on test-takers scores between January 20218 – December 2020.

GMAT Score and Percentile 

Total GMAT ScorePercentile RankingTotal GMAT ScorePercentile Ranking
800 – 760 99%49022%
75098%48020%
74097%47018%
73096%46016%
72094%45014%
71091%44013%
70088%43012%
69085%42011%
68081%41010%
67080%4009%
66076%3908%
65072%3807%
64066%3706%
63064%3606%
62061%3505%
61057%3404%
60053%3304%
59049%3203%
58046%3103%
57042%3002%
56039%2902%
55036%2802%
54034%2702%
53030%2602%
52028%2501%
51026%240-220 1%
50024%210-2000%

GMAT Verbal and Quant percentile ranking 

Percentile Ranking Quant Percentile ranking Verbal Percentile ranking 
5197%99%
5087%99%
4974%99%
4867%99%
4759%99%
4656%99%
4553%99%
4447%98%
4344%98%
4239%96%
4137%94%
4035%90%
3931%88%
3829%84%
3728%82%
3625%80%
3522%75%
3421%70%
3320%68%
3217%65%
3115%60%
3015%58%
2913%55%
2812%50%
2710%45%
2610%42%
258%38%
248%35%
237%31%
226%29%
215%25%
205%22%
194%18%
184%17%
173%14%
163%11%
153%9%
143%8%
132%6%
122%4%
111%3%
10 to 9 1%2%
8 to 7 1%1%
60%0%

GMAT Integrated Reasoning percentile ranking 

Integrated Reasoning scorePercentile ranking 
890%
779%
664%
548%
431%
318%
28%
10%

GMAT AWA percentile ranking

Analytical Writing Assessment Percentile ranking 
688%
5.581%
557%
4.547%
418%
3.512%
34%
2.53%
0.5 to 2 1%

GMAT Score Validity 

The GMAT score is valid for 5 years. Once you take the GMAT exam, you can see the total GMAT score, verbal, Quant, and IR score. Your official score report will be available within 20 days, which will include your AWA scores. 

You can take the GMAT up to five times a year, but there should be a gap of 16-days between each test. In total, you can take GMAT 8 times. 

When you see your scores after taking the GMAT, you will have 2 minutes to accept or cancel them. What happens if you don’t choose? Automatically, your scores will be canceled. If you accept the score at the test centre, you will also receive a print-out of your unofficial score report. 

GMAT scores are available for reporting for up to 10 years. So, if you took the GMAT 7 years ago, you can still ask for your score report. 

GMAT Cost 2022 

The GMAT Exam fee in India is $275. However, the total cost of GMAT is more than $275 after considering other services like cancellation, rescheduling, additional score reports, and ESR. Moreover, your GMAT exam fee is also based on your location. For example, the GMAT fee in China, Malaysia, Brazil, and Egypt is $250, whereas it is $285 in Iceland and Switzerland. The fee in the USA, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand is similar to India, i.e., $275. You can check out the cost of GMAT in your location here. 

GMAT Preparation Tips 

With a strong GMAT score, you can stand out in the admissions process and may even qualify for scholarship opportunities, reducing your financial burden. So, how to crack the GMAT exam? 

A solid study plan and an effective test prep strategy can help you get a high GMAT score. Make sure to set a GMAT study plan early in your MBA journey. Take into account the application deadline of your targeted business school, and give a good amount of time to prepare for the GMAT. But, how long does it take to prepare? 

Well, it depends on your learning ability and how much time you have to prepare for the GMAT.  For example, a working professional preparing for the GMAT exam might take longer than someone with no prior commitments other than preparing for the GMAT. On average, students who got admits from business schools gave themselves 3-6 months to prepare. 

Here are some tips to prepare for the GMAT:

  • Know your strengths and weaknesses by taking a mock test. After analyzing your ability, focus on areas where you lack. 
  • Keep track of time. Pacing yourself is paramount to your GMAT success. If you know that the Quant section will be challenging for you, refine your Quant skills and make sure you execute them quickly.
  • Build sub-section-wise ability.
  • Study smartly. Develop a plan that includes when to study and what to study. 
  • Learn how to let go of a question. GMAT is a time-based exam, and there is a penalty for not completing test section. So, if you are stuck on a question that takes more than 2.5 minutes, do not invest more time in it. Remember to stick to your pacing strategy.
  • Use the process of elimination. If you are unsure of the answer, don’t waste time on it. Rule out the wrong answers to get closer to the correct one. 
  • Work on improving your mental math for time-saving.
  • Practice easy, medium, and hard level questions.

GMAT Exam – FAQs 

What does the GMAT exam test? 

The GMAT exam is designed to test skills that are important to business school management programs like MBA. The test assesses your analytical, verbal, and quant skills. 

Am I eligible for the GMAT exam? 

To be eligible for the GMAT exam, you should be 18 years and above.

How much does the GMAT cost?

Based on your location your registration fee can change. The registration fee for the test is $275 in India, excluding other costs like scheduling and cancellation fees. 

What is the full form of GMAT?

The full form of GMAT is Graduate Management Admission Test. 

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