GMAT Exam Structure and Timing: What to Expect on Test Day

The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) is a standardized exam commonly used for admission to graduate business programs, such as MBA programs. Understanding the structure and timing of the GMAT is essential for effective preparation and success on test day. This article provides an overview of the GMAT exam structure, including its various sections, question types, and timing considerations, to help test-takers know what to expect on test day.

1. Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA):

The GMAT begins with the Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA), which consists of one essay prompt that assesses your ability to analyze an argument. You will have 30 minutes to read the prompt, analyze the argument, and write your response. The AWA section measures your critical thinking and communication skills.

2. Integrated Reasoning (IR):

Following the AWA section is the Integrated Reasoning (IR) section, which evaluates your ability to analyze and synthesize information from multiple sources. The IR section consists of 12 questions across four question types: Graphics Interpretation, Table Analysis, Multi-Source Reasoning, and Two-Part Analysis. You will have 30 minutes to complete the IR section.

3. Optional Break:

After completing the AWA and IR sections, you will have the option to take an optional break of 8 minutes. Use this time to rest, recharge, and mentally prepare for the remaining sections of the exam. Note that the break is optional, and you can choose to proceed to the next section without taking a break.

4. Quantitative Reasoning:

The Quantitative Reasoning section assesses your ability to solve mathematical problems and interpret data. It consists of 31 multiple-choice questions, including both Problem Solving and Data Sufficiency question types. You will have 62 minutes to complete the Quantitative Reasoning section.

5. Verbal Reasoning:

The Verbal Reasoning section evaluates your ability to understand and evaluate written material, as well as your ability to reason and evaluate arguments. It consists of 36 multiple-choice questions across three question types: Reading Comprehension, Critical Reasoning, and Sentence Correction. You will have 65 minutes to complete the Verbal Reasoning section.

6. Total Exam Time:

The total testing time for the GMAT exam is approximately 3 hours and 7 minutes, excluding breaks and administrative tasks. However, including breaks and administrative tasks, the total time spent at the test center is typically around 3 hours and 30 minutes. It's essential to pace yourself effectively throughout the exam to ensure that you have enough time to complete each section.

7. Computer-Adaptive Format:

The GMAT is administered in a computer-adaptive format, which means that the difficulty level of the questions adjusts based on your performance. Each question you answer affects the difficulty of the subsequent questions. It's crucial to focus on answering each question accurately, as incorrect answers may result in easier subsequent questions and potentially lower scores.

8. Test Center Procedures:

On test day, arrive at the test center at least 30 minutes before your scheduled exam time to check in and complete any necessary administrative tasks. Bring valid identification (e.g., passport or government-issued ID) and any other required documents. Follow the test center's instructions and guidelines throughout the exam administration process.

9. Timing Strategies:

Develop timing strategies for each section of the exam to ensure that you allocate your time effectively. Practice time management techniques during your GMAT preparation to become familiar with the pace at which you should progress through each section. Monitor your time during the exam and adjust your approach as needed to complete each section within the allotted time limits.

10. Stay Calm and Focused:

Finally, stay calm and focused throughout the exam. Manage test anxiety by practicing relaxation techniques and positive self-talk. Pace yourself appropriately, read each question carefully, and avoid spending too much time on any single question. Trust in your preparation and approach the exam with confidence.


The GMAT exam structure and timing are designed to assess your analytical, quantitative, and verbal skills effectively. By understanding the format of the exam, familiarizing yourself with the various sections and question types, developing timing strategies, and staying calm and focused on test day, you can maximize your performance and achieve your target score. Prepare thoroughly, follow these guidelines, and approach the GMAT exam with confidence. Good luck!