GMAT Sections Overview

The GMAT is made up of four subsections, including the Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA), Integrated Reasoning, Quantitave Reasoning, and Verbal Reasoning. The AWA comprises of one essay question in which you are given 30 minutes to read and write an analysis of an argument for for its reasoning skills. The Integrated Reasoning section measures your ability to evaluate data from multiple sources and in multiple formats. Quantitative Reasoning measures your ability to problem solve and reason quantitatively, and Verbal Reasoning measures for reading comprehension, critical reasoning, and sentence correction.

Let's see break them down further to get a better understanding of what to expect from each section.

Test SectionNumber of QuestionsTime LimitQuestion TypesScore Range
Analytical Writing Assessment1 question/essay30 minutesAnalysis of an Argument/Write an essay0-6
(in 0.5-point increments)
Integrated Reasoning2 questions30 minutesGraphics Interpretation, Table Analysis, Multi-source Reasoning, Two-part Analysis1-8
(in 1-point increments)
Quantitative Reasoning32 questions62 minutesProblem Solving, Data Sufficiency6-51
(in 1-point increments)
Verbal Reasoning36 questions65 minutesReading Comprehension, Critical Reasoning, Sentence Correction6-51
(in 1-point increments)

At the beginning, test takers can choose between the following three orders of the sections:

  • Classic Order
    Analytical Writing Assessment, Integrated Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, and Verbal Reasoning
  • Verbal First
    Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, Integrated Reasoning, Analytical Writing Assessment
  • Quantitative first
    Quantitative Reasoning, Verbal Reasoning, Integrated Reasoning, Analytical Writing Assessment

After a Quantitative Reasoning Section, a Verbal Reasoning Section, or after a block of AWA + Integrated Reasoning, the candidate can take an optional 8-minute break if there is still part of the test left. Therefore, a test taker can take two breaks for up to eight minutes each when taking the test.

GMAT – Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA)

Mention the Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA), and you will soon see that this section on the GMAT is possibly the one with most polarizing opinions.
Essentially, a test taker is given 30 minutes to type an analytical essay, critiquing and evaluating a flawed argument, using the same skills you would in a Critical Reasoning Weaken argument question.

The AWA score is not factored into the general GMAT score out of 800. This is a separate score, awarded on a scale of 0 to 6, moving in half-point increments (that is, 0-0.5, 0.5-1, 1-1.5, etc). Both a computer and a human (or two if there is too great a disparity between the first two scores) will evaluate and grade your essay, and you'll receive your AWA score along with your official scores from GMAC, any time within 15 days of taking the exam.

GMAT – Integrated Reasoning (IR)

The goal of the Integrated Reasoning section is to measure your ability to comprehend and evaluate multiple types of information: textual, tabular, graphic, visual, quantitative, and verbal, that it applies quantitative and verbal reasoning to solve problems in relation to one another. This section differs from the Quantitative and Verbal sections in two ways. For one, IR comprises both quantitative and verbal reasoning. Secondly, the IR prompts use four different response formats instead of the more traditional multiple-choice format you will find on the Quantitative and Verbal sections.

The four types of questions used in the Integrated Reasoning section are Table Analysis, Graphics Interpretation, Two-Part Analysis, and Multi-source Reasoning.

  • Table Analysis
    Table Analysis will present you with a data table and statements about the table which you are to identify as accurate or not. In about two and a half minutes, you are expected to accurately analyze the statement.
  • Graphics Interpretation
    Similarly, the Graphics Interpretation section will present you with data, this time in a graphic form. Then, it will provide statements with blanks and drop-down menus to fill in the blanks which you can surmise from the date on the graph.
  • Two-Part Analysis
    In Two-Part Analysis questions, you will be presented with and verbal and quantitative analysis questions which you will be expected to draw two conclusions from one piece of information. In order to get credit for the question, you must accurately address both questions.
  • Multi-Source Reasoning
    Multi-Source Reasoning uses more than one piece of information to help inform the correct answer. Using the information from all of the sources, you are expected to draw logical conclusions about the information presented.

In a nutshell, the IR questions assess your ability to apply, infer, evaluate, recognize, and strategize information from multiple sources.

GMAT – Quantitative Reasoning (QR)

Quantitative Reasoning section of the GMAT exam tests your skill on two types of questions based on quantitative aptitude or, loosely speaking, mathematical proficiency.
Thirty-one questions are asked in the Quantitative Reasoning (QR) section. The QR section should be completed in 62 minutes; this means that you have on average two minutes per question to answer. The proficiency in mathematics in this section of the GMAT is expected up to the secondary or the high school level; you will not be asked questions based on higher-level mathematics. The GMAT lays more emphasis on how you analyze data and apply logic to solve the questions rather than labored math. The questions would be a mix of easy, intermediate, and hard difficulty levels.

There are two types of questions asked in this section: Problem solving and Data sufficiency. Each question type may have 14-17 questions on your GMAT test day.

The GMAT frames questions based on the concepts of Arithmetic, Elementary Algebra, Elementary Geometry, and Elementary Statistics.

  • Problem Solving (PS)

    Problem solving (PS) questions may not be new to you. You must have seen these types of questions in your school or college days. The format is as follows: There is a question stem and is followed by options, out of which, only one option is correct or is the best option that answers the question correctly.

    PS questions measure your skill to solve numerical problems, interpret graphical data, and assess information. These questions present to you five options and no option is phrased as "None of these". Mostly the numeric options, unlike algebraic expressions, are presented in ascending order from option A through E, occasionally in descending order until there is a specific purpose not to do so.

  • Data Sufficiency (DS)

    For most of you, Data Sufficiency (DS) may be a new format. The DS format is very unique to the GMAT exam. The format is as follows: There is a question stem followed by two statements, labeled Statement (1) and Statement (2). These statements contain additional information.

    Your task is to use additional information from each statement alone to answer the question. If none of the statements alone helps you answer the question, you must use the information from both the statements together. There may be questions that cannot be answered even after combining the additional information given in both the statements. Based on this, the question always follows standard five options which are always in a fixed order.

GMAT – Verbal Reasoning (VR)

The Verbal Reasoning (VA) section of the GMAT exam tests your ability to read and comprehend published material, build reason and assess arguments, and correct sentences to express content effectively in standard written English. The Verbal Reasoning (VR) section asks 36 multiple-choice questions, which need to be completed in 65 minutes.

There are three types of questions in the Verbal Reasoning (VR) Section: Reading Comprehension (RC), Critical Reasoning (CR), and Sentence Correction (SC).

  • Reading Comprehension (RC)

    You are given a passage to read and then answer questions about the content, comprehension, and structure of the passage. Reading Comprehension questions are intermingled with Critical Reasoning and Sentence Correction questions in the Verbal section.

    Although it may look like the easiest part of the Verbal section, the time constraints make this part very challenging. The topics of the passages are rather dry, coming from Natural Science (Astronomy, Physics, Biology, etc.), Social Science (Philosophy, History, etc.), Business (Business History, Marketing, Economic Theory, etc.), and other assorted topics. The passages presented to you are written in a typical GMAT style, which is to say that it may not be very enjoyable. Even a passage on a topic of business, which may interest you, and which you plan to study in Business School, will not be an easy ride for you. You will need a careful approach to succeed at these questions. This book deals with such an approach in detail.

    On the GMAT, you can expect to see at least three RC passages. Each passage may ask you 3-5 questions; that means 11 to 14 reading comprehension questions of the total 36 questions in the Verbal section. The passages come in two forms: long passages and short passages. Long passages are 300-350 words in 3-5 paragraphs, while short passages are 200-250 words in 2-3 paragraphs.

    The questions may ask to suggest a title for the passage, or state the central idea, or identify the author's primary purpose in writing a part of a sentence or a paragraph; understand a specific detail from the passage, or cite a fact used in the passage; understand the implied meaning of the information presented by the author, or identify the intended meaning of a word or a phrase used figuratively in the passage; to reason and evaluate arguments.

  • Sentence Correction (SC)

    Sentence Correction (SC) is one of the three types of questions in the GMAT Verbal section. GMAT Sentence Correction questions examine your understanding of grammar, style, and overall sentence structure in standard written English. There are usually 11 or 14 Sentence Correction questions in the GMAT Verbal section. Sentence Correction practice is a very important part of GMAT Verbal success.

    GMAT Sentence Correction sentences most commonly include errors that are based on the intended meaning and certain grammar topics. Though after reading grammar, some may think that the GMAT may ask correct spelling, vocabulary, correct usage of articles and preposition; however, it is not so. The GMAT focuses on the following concepts: Subject Verb Agreement, Intended meaning, Pronoun Reference and Agreement, Verb Tenses, Modifiers, Parallelism, Idiom, Comparison, Rhetorical Construction, Redundancy, Concision, and Conjunctions & Mood.

  • Critical Reasoning (CR)

    Critical Reasoning (CR) is one of the three types of questions that make up the verbal section of the GMAT. A CR question comprises a logic-based argument, which is 2-5 lines short passage, and a specific instruction followed by five options; only one of them is correct.

    In most CR questions, the author of the argument presents a point of view – a conclusion and supports it with evidence – premise(s). The argument may contain background information, and even counter-premise(s); however, the sole purpose of the argument is to advocate the conclusion, which is supported by at least one premise.

    There are usually between 11 and 14 Critical Reasoning questions in the verbal section. Critical Reasoning practice is a very important part of verbal success. Knowing that there are 36 questions in the verbal section to be completed in 65 minutes, on an average, each question should be done in 108 seconds; however, in this case, it does not make sense to allocate equal time for all questions. You must instead make sure that compared to SC questions, you allot more time for CR questions, as they demand deep thinking.