How long is the GMAT? The classic GMAT test lasts three hours, but the new GMAT is shorter by an hour and takes two hours to complete. The shorter GMAT is supposed to make it less stressful to take. Many of the as well as the have either started to accept the Graduate Record Examination (or GRE) or changed their completely and have gone test-optional, although there are few . The new GMAT has only three sections compared to the old test’s four sections, but even with the shorter exam, your GMAT prep will still have to be extensive. This article will not only look at how long is the GMAT, but also how long your prep should take.
The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) covers several areas that are designed to assess certain analytical, writing, quantitative, verbal, and reading skills in written English that are central to succeeding in any MBA program. It used to be the primary entrance exam to gain admission into MBA programs, but now many of the and the have started to change their requirements.
Many still require the GMAT, but it is not as important as it used to be to . In response to the decline in use, the Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC) has introduced a newer, shorter version of the test – the GMAT Focus. But whether you’re taking the older or the newer version of the GMAT, the content remains fundamentally the same, albeit with some differences in the question types and structure, which we’ll talk about more later.
The classic GMAT format contains four central sections:
- Quantitative Reasoning
- Verbal Reasoning
- Integrated Reasoning
- Analytical Writing Assessment
The Quantitative and Verbal Reasoning sections of the GMAT are the longest in both time (60-65 minutes) and number of questions (30 for each section); Integrated Reasoning and Analytical Writing both take 30 minutes. The other major change to the GMAT is that the Integrated Reasoning section has absorbed the Data Sufficiency sub-section of the Quantitative Reasoning and been renamed Data Insights.
The Analytical Writing section, which is a staple of many standardized tests as it is both an and a , has been removed entirely and is one of the reasons the new test is much shorter. In the Quantitative Reasoning section, your tested on your ability to understand, interpret, and analyze quantitative information.
These skills are covered by QR’s two sub-sections: Problem-Solving and Data Sufficiency, which are supposed to assess your proficiency in mathematics, algebra, and geometry. The are designed to test not only your mathematical skills but also your ability to reason quantitatively and solve problems in a real-world context, such as when making business or managerial decisions.
Verbal Reasoning is similar to Quantitative Reasoning in that this section gauges your ability to critically analyze written content rather than figuring out word problems and logic games similar to the . This GMAT section covers a range of topics and has three distinct sub-sections, which are Reading Comprehension, Critical Reasoning and Sentence Correction, although Sentence Correction will no longer appear on any of the new GMAT tests.
Integrated Reasoning is a section unique to the GMAT and its business-minded demographic. Being an effective business leader means having the ability to integrate information from multiple sources and formats, such as graphics, text, and tables, which will appear on the test in different combinations. The questions in this section (the old IR section had four sub-sections; but the new GMAT will contain a new section “Data Insights”, which we talked about above) are designed to evaluate your analytical skills and your ability to solve complex problems by synthesizing information.
The Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) will be eliminated from future tests, but it used to test your analytical skills by making you analyze an argument and writing an essay in response. In this section, as with the , you need to demonstrate your ability to critically evaluate and write coherent responses to the various scenarios, texts and prompts used during the GMAT to showcase your analytical and writing skills.
Quantitative Reasoning Questions
# of Questions: 31 questions
Time Limit: 62 minutes
Score Scale: 6-51
Every section of the GMAT has different question types, which you should familiarize yourself with as part of your . The questions run from the standard question stem followed by five multiple choice questions (Verbal Reasoning), while other include unique question formats, such as the Data Sufficiency questions in Quantitative Reasoning (now Data Insights). The Data Sufficiency questions are the most unique, as you’ll be assessed on your ability to analyze a problem and determine whether the provided data is sufficient to answer it.
For example, in the Data Sufficiency section, you'll be given a question and two statements. Your task is not to solve the problem but to decide if the statements, individually or together, provide enough information to answer the question. You could be asked whether a certain value is greater than another, and you’ll need to evaluate whether the given data is enough to make that determination.
Instead of five multiple choice answers, you’ll be given five answer options, which are the same for every DS question:
- (A) Statement (1) ALONE is sufficient, but Statement (2) alone is not sufficient to answer the question.
- (B) Statement (2) ALONE is sufficient, but Statement (1) alone is not sufficient to answer the question.
- (C) BOTH statements TOGETHER are sufficient to answer the question, but NEITHER statement ALONE is sufficient.
- (D) EACH statement ALONE is sufficient to answer the question.
- (E) Statements (1) and (2) TOGETHER are NOT sufficient to answer the question.
Verbal Reasoning Questions
# of Questions: 36 questions
Time Limit: 65 minutes
Score Scale: 6-51
The Verbal Reasoning section may take the shortest time to complete, as there is very little calculation or analysis needed. Instead, you’ll be given statements to read and then asked to either:
- Choose the correct answer to the question based on the information provided
- Assess the validity of a given statement and choose the answer that best corresponds to its premise
- Select an answer that improves the construction, meaning and clarity of a given sentence
Reading Comprehension questions evaluate your ability to understand and analyze written material. You’ll read passages on various topics and answer questions that assess your comprehension, critical reasoning, and inference skills. For example, you might be asked to analyze the main idea of a passage or infer the author's perspective, which is a common feature of nearly all graduate-level standardized tests from the to the and .
Critical Reasoning questions test your ability to analyze and evaluate arguments. You'll be presented with a short argument, and your task is to identify assumptions, strengthen or weaken the argument, or draw logical inferences. An example could involve assessing the validity of an argument and selecting an option that strengthens or weakens the conclusion.
Sentence Correction questions focus on your command of written English. You'll be presented with a sentence that may contain errors in grammar, syntax, or clarity, and your job is to select the answer choice that improves the sentence. For instance, you might be asked to identify the most grammatically correct version of a given sentence.
Integrated Reasoning Questions
# of Questions: 12
Time Limit: 30
Score Scale: 1-8
There are only twelve questions in the Integrated Reasoning section because you have to spend a lot of time analyzing the data sets for each question, which can take time; the IR section is also the only section where you’ll be able to use a calculator, so it is a challenging section, often, more so than the others. The IR section also has the largest number of sub-sections, even though it has the smallest number of questions.
There are four sub-sections within IR, which are:
- Graphics Interpretation
- Two-Part Analysis
- Table Analysis
- Multi-Source Reasoning
Just looking at the titles make these sections seems more challenging than the other ones, but the key to answering these questions is building up your analytical skills and also learning how to read information charts from various types of sources. The fact that you have a calculator can help you solve the trickiest questions, but you also don’t have a lot of time to devote to each question so you have to set a timeframe for how much time you should ideally spend on each of these questions.
# of Questions: 1 written essay
Time Limit: 30 minutes
Score Scale: 0-6
There are no questions in the Analytical Writing section and there are no word minimums or maximums to complete the essay; the only limit is the time limit, which makes this section challenging, as you can end up not having enough time to complete the essay, or not formulating any kind of argument or analysis by the time you finish. This means you have to go into the section – and all of them, really – with a set amount of time you can devote to each part of this section. To do this, you should break down the essay into smaller parts, let’s say five, such as:
- Reading the problem or statement
- Re-reading the problem or statement
- Formulating a thesis
- Writing an intro, body and conclusion
- Reviewing your work
If you divide the time limit by these sub-sections, you’ll see you have about six minutes to write the essay, which does not seem like a lot, but by the time you write the actual exam, you should be well-versed in writing a fast, coherent essay having practiced more than few times already.
You should go into your GMAT prep by thinking about what score you need to achieve to get into your preferred MBA programs, and what is realistic in the time you have – ideally, you should have at least three to four months of prep time. Once you have an idea of what kind of score you want to achieve, you can figure out how much time you can devote to preparing, which involves creating a study plan that is similar to the way you’re taught in undergraduate – familiarize yourself with new material (the GMAT sections; GMAT questions), study, review, and take an exam, or in the case of the GMAT, a practice test, and repeat.
But along with familiarizing yourself with the test’s questions and format, another part of getting a good score is developing time management. You should also develop a schedule so you can have a set amount of time to devote to each question, and no more. Fortunately, for the new GMAT Focus, you’ll be able to go over all your answers, and change at maximum of three answers in each section. This new feature is even more reason to setup a timeframe, as any extra time you have can be used to review your answers to questions you weren’t sure about the first time around.
Total GMAT Score Range: 200-800
New GMAT Score Range: 205-805
Ideal GMAT Score Range: 680-740
Average GMAT Score (best MBA programs): 711
Average GMAT Score (first-time test-takers): 582
The best GMAT score for you depends on the specific requirements of the business schools you're eyeing, and what position on MBA rankings they occupy. Typically, the total GMAT score falls between 200 and 800, so anywhere between 700 to 800 is the most competitive, and indicates a strong performance. While the average total score for first-time test-takers hovers around 560, competitive business schools often seek scores in the 600-700 range or even higher.
To gauge what makes a good GMAT score, especially for the goals you have in mind (getting into a MBA program, being eligible for ) you should check the Class Profile of the school you want to enter and look into the average scores of admitted students. Highly competitive programs might expect scores above 700, while others could consider mid-600s as competitive. It's crucial to align your GMAT goals with the expectations of the institutions you're applying to.
But you should also keep in mind that your GMAT score is just one facet of your business school application. It is, undoubtedly, an important part and admissions committees will assess you based on your score, but they will also take into account your work experience (whether you’ve won any promotions and attended professional development courses), academic achievements, , and MBA personal statements.
While the new GMAT test is shorter by one hour, if you’re still in the cohort that will take the classic, three-and-a-half-hour exam you need to adopt strategies that will help you manage your time effectively throughout the exam. We talked about how you should create a timetable to help you allot enough time to each question, but you also have to build up your own stamina so you can keep your focus, especially when you are tired and feel like giving up.
The way you do this, as you would with training your body, would be to take practice tests, both timed and untimed. You have to simulate the actual testing environment, which means finding a quiet, distraction-free space with you and your computer, a timer so you can keep track, and adhere to the time limits given for each section. But this also means taking the two scheduled eight-minute breaks, so you can take a breather and gather yourself for the upcoming sections.
One way you can also prepare for how long is the GMAT is by being strategic with which section you start with. Before, with the classic GMAT, you’d be given three different orders to take the exam. Meaning, you could choose which section you started with, but you had to follow the pre-programmed order of sections after that.
Now, with the new GMAT Focus you can start with your strongest section (or weakest, depending on your preference) to get you warmed up (again, like training for a sport!) and then you can follow any path through the test. Starting with your strongest section is good because your mind will be mentally prepared to tackle the other sections. But starting with your weakest or most difficult section may also be good, as you’ll get those questions out of the way and then you can have an easier time completing the test.
When you have your , and are ready to take your exam, you have to make sure, although it may not happen, to be as physically and mentally-prepared as possible. Maybe you’re one of those people who cannot get any sleep before a big exam, or a job interview, or even an MBA interview, but you have to try to tire yourself out before the big day by doing some exercise, going for a long walk, swim, hike or bike ride.
Take a break from studying the day before the test because, if you’ve put in the time to prepare, there’s not much more you can learn or study in one day, so it’s better to take it off from studying. However, maybe you want to study, and stay fresh for the exam the next day, which is something that you can also do, if it suits you.
On GMAT test day, make sure you have all necessary documents: a valid ID, your appointment confirmation, and any other required items specified by the test center. But also make sure you don’t have any of the prohibited items, such as your phone, books or notebooks, pens and paper, as well as any food or drink, which are not allowed. You should also arrive early – at least half-an-hour early – to allow time for check-in procedures.
1. Develop a Strategic Study Plan
Developing a strategic study plan requires that you take at least one diagnostic or practice test before you start to divide your time and energies to one specific GMAT section over another. Knowing where your strengths and weaknesses lie is important to help you devise a study plan, but regardless of where you are strongest or weakest, you should try to devote an equal amount of time to all the GMAT sections. Once you have developed a study plan and schedule, you should be consistent with it and use every day to do something, even only a few hours of study can help you create the discipline and energy to take the real test on exam day.
2. Utilize High-Quality Study Materials
We talked about how you can choose to use paid or free test prep resources, but whatever you choose you should make sure that the materials you use come from reputable sources, or are officially endorsed by the GMAC. You should consult the GMAC website to find out what kinds of programs, tools and test-prep companies they endorse, so you can be sure that whatever materials you use mimic the actual exam.
3. Take Practice Tests Under Real Conditions
Conditioning yourself to take an exam under pressure or under a clock is one of the best ways to practice for the GMAT. You should regularly simulate the test environment by taking full-length practice exams, but you can also switch it up by taking untimed tests if you want to focus on getting the answers right without having added pressure. You should mimic actual test conditions, including time constraints and limited breaks, as well as removing distractions and prohibited items from your practice tests. Once you have done a few timed tests, you should analyze your performance, identify weak areas, and adjust your study plan accordingly.
4. Consider Professional Test-Prep Resources
There is a lot of controversy over whether you really need professional, premium, and paid GMAT prep resources, but the truth is they can help you develop a personalized study program, and there is evidence that they make a difference for students who use them. It is extremely hard to get a GMAT score that is above-average (above 700), so if you have your eyes on an especially competitive program (any of the M7 MBA schools, for example) you might want to explore reputable or options. Getting professional guidance from someone who has taken the test can provide targeted insights, personalized strategies, and expert advice to enhance your performance. Some companies even award scholarships that include their test-prep services for free, so you should inquire as to what you have to do to win these scholarships.
1. How long is the GMAT?
The classic GMAT used to take around three hours to complete, but the new GMAT Focus will only take two hours
2. Why is the GMAT shorter?
There are many reasons why the GMAT is shorter from the fact that it now has competition from the GRE (which has also been shortened) to trying to stay relevant to MBA admissions programs.
3. How can I prepare for the GMAT?
You can start preparing for the GMAT by taking a practice exam, and then designing a study program to cover each section of the GMAT equally. You should examine every single section and sub-section, along with understanding the content and motivation behind each question type, so you know immediately what the question is asking and which answer is correct.
4. Do I need to take the GMAT?
While some MBA programs do not require either the GMAT or GRE, if you want to get into the more elite programs in both the US and Canada, you will have to take one of the tests, as they are part of the admission requirements for most of the top business schools.
5. What is a good GMAT score?
A good GMAT score is anything close to or above 700. But if you look at the GMAT score ranges from even the best MBA programs they also accept students who score at or above 500. Regardless, you should strive to get as high a score as possible, especially above the average GMAT score of 582.
6. Will the new GMAT be scored differently?
Yes, the new GMAT Focus will have an altered score range, but the individual score ranges for each section will remain the same. The new score range is to demarcate those students who have older GMAT scores from those who take the new test.
7. Is the GMAT hard?
? Yes, the GMAT is hard, but if you’ve taken one thing away from this article is that it is not impossible. Whether you get the score that you want comes down to how much and how long you prepare, but if you come in with a plan and stick to it, you’ll be able to get the results you want, but maybe after a few tries – 28% of test-takers that the GMAT twice.
8. Is the GMAT worth it?
Yes, taking the GMAT is definitely worth it especially if you want to get into a good MBA program. You can also try taking the GRE, but the GMAT was made specifically for business school applicants, so its content is good preparation for the challenges of any MBA program.