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GMAT Syllabus and Question Pattern

The GMAT exam aims to assess the eligibility of a student for MBA course or any masters course in the field of accounts, commerce, finance and business.

This standard computer adaptive test is considered as the criteria by many institutes, which definitely hints to its popularity, authenticity and acceptance.

In existence for over 60 years now, the format, syllabus and content of GMAT exam has undergone considerable change over time.

The latest and most noteworthy update, was the introduction of Integrated Reasoning (IR) section since 2012.

Sections of GMAT Exam

The GMAT exam constitutes the following four sections:

a) Quantitative (quant) section

b) Integrated Reasoning (IR)

c) Verbal section

d) Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA)

Time Duration of GMAT Exam

All the four sections of GMAT exam needs to be answered in a span of three and half hours. However, addition of breaks in between segments of the GMAT exam extends the total time to four hours.

A typical GMAT test day begins with the AWA section.

GMAT is also referred to as GMAT CAT or computer adaptive test because, two among the four sections of GMAT exam are computer adaptive and the rest are not.

Computer Adaptive Sections Quantitative and Verbal Section
Non Computer Adaptive Sections AWA and IR

Computer Adaptive sections of GMAT exam 

Quant and verbal are computer adaptive section of GMAT exam.

The first ten questions of CAT method are pre-selected. It depends on your performance on these ten questions, that determine the easy or difficult factor of the rest of the test.

If a student clears the standard level of first ten questions, then the computer comes up with harder questions. If a GMAT candidate, performs weak for the first ten questions of computer adaptive sections, then the level of questions are made easier by the computer.

In the computer adaptive approach, its not the number of questions answered that determine the score of a GMAT candidate. Its the sort and kind of questions that one answers which determines their score.

All questions of the computer adaptive section are inter related. However once you pass from one question to the next, there is no scope of reversing back on the machine.Once you confirm a certain answer for a question, that?s your final choice.

So, in the computer adaptive sections of GMAT exam that is, verbal section and quant – students cannot reverse, change, alter, erase, delete an answer after confirming it.

Non Computer Adaptive sections of GMAT exam

The non computer adaptive sections of GMAT exam are AWA and IR. The scores of these two sections are mentioned separately and not included in the cumulative total GMAT score.

Eagle eye view to each section of GMAT exam:

Under each broad sub head of GMAT exam, there are further sectors and areas based on which students need to prepare. Follow the chart below, to know more about each section of GMAT exam:

Sections Sub sections
Quantitative (Quant) Section
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Sentence Correction
  • Critical Reasoning
Integrated Reasoning
  • Mathematical Reasoning
  • Verbal Reasoning
Verbal Section
  • Arithmetic
  • Geometry
  • Algebra
  • Trigonometry
  • Mathematical Problems
Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA)
  • Essay/Argument Writing

Time Management of GMAT exam:

What is the time management of GMAT test?

The mainframe time division of GMAT exam is -

Section Time Frame
Quantitaive (Quant) Section 75 Minutes
Integrated Reasoning 30 Minutes
Verbal Section 75 Minutes
Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) 30 Minutes

The total time duration of GMAT exam rounds around three to four hours.

However, its tough for students to stick to the above time management plan for GMAT exam, despite continuous practice and conscious attempt.

So, simplify the suggested time management strategy is, to answer each question of GMAT exam (verbal and quant section) in a span of 2-minutes. That makes the total time allotted for Quant and verbal section come to ten minutes.

In case you take more than a minute to answer one question, you need to ace your speed for the following questions.

To pace up, educated or strategic guess to questions is considered a good time saving option.

Let?s know more about each section:

AWA (Analytical Writing Assessment):
AWA or the Analytical Writing Assessment is the first section on the GMAT. AWA examines your capability to think critically and express your ideas logically. You are given an Argument and you need to evaluate the reasoning behind the argument and pen down the analysis of that argument. The objective behind this section is to examine your writing, argument and logical reasoning skills, and clarity of the topic given.

AWA scores are not considered in the overall 200-800 Score. The AWA scores are given in the range of 0-6, with increments of 0.5.

IR (Integrated Reasoning Section):
The second section on the GMAT is the Integrated Reasoning Section, which was recently added on June 5, 2012. This section evaluates a candidate?s ability to analyze data and interpret information presented in different formats from various sources. These skills of analyzing useful data presented in the form of text, numbers or graphics are much valued in today?s world filled with huge amount of data.

The topics covered under this section are:

  • Table Analysis
  • Graphical Interpretation
  • Multi-source Reasoning
  • Two part Analysis

This section is a blend of both Verbal and Quant and just like AWA, even IR is not counted towards the overall 200-800 GMAT score. Instead, IR is rated on the score range of 1-8.

The Quantitative Section:
The third section on the GMAT is the Quantitative Section. This section evaluates your Quantitative reasoning and interpretation abilities and drawing conclusions out of Graphical data available. This section consists of two types of Questions:

  • Problem Solving (PS), where Questions are provided and answers need to be calculated.
  • Data Sufficiency (DS), where the test taker needs to evaluate whether the data provided is sufficient enough to solve the given problem.

Both these topics require fundamental knowledge of:

  • Arithmetic
  • Elementary Algebra
  • Geometry

Various Sub-topics under Quant are as follow:


  • Axioms and fundamentals
  • Number Systems & Number Theory
  • Multiples and factors
  • Fractions
  • Decimals
  • Percentages
  • Averages
  • Powers and radicals
  • Profit & Loss; Simple & Compound Interest
  • Speed, Time & Distance
  • Pipes, Cisterns & Work Time
  • Ratio and Proportion
  • Mixtures
  • Descriptive statistics
  • Sets
  • Probability


  • Permutation & Combination
  • Monomials, polynomials
  • Algebraic expressions and equations
  • Functions
  • Exponents
  • Arithmetic & Geometric Progression
  • Quadratic Equations
  • Inequalities and Basic statistics


  • Lines and angles
  • Triangles
  • Quadrilaterals
  • Circles
  • Rectangular solids and Cylinders
  • Polygons
  • Coordinate geometry

Verbal Section:
The fourth and the last section on the GMAT is the Verbal section. This section evaluates your reading and writing skills in standard written English. Verbal section consists of the following three types of Questions:

Reading Comprehension:

You will be given a passage and need to answer the questions based on that passage. These passages are usually 350 words long and based on subjects like social sciences, physical or biological sciences, and business-related areas (marketing, economics, human resource management, etc). Reading Comprehension evaluates your ability to comprehend words, sentences, recognize important arguments, draw inferences and generate conclusions.

Critical Reasoning:

Critical Reasoning is all about finding premises, assumptions and conclusions from the given passage. Critical Reasoning tests your reasoning skills and involves:

  • Constructing the Argument
  • Evaluating the Argument
  • Formulating a Plan of Action
  • Evaluating the Plan of Action

Sentence Correction:

In this type of Question, a part of the sentence is underlined and you will be given five answer options to choose from. To fair well in Sentence, you need to be well-versed with rules of written English Grammar such as nouns, pronouns, subject-verb agreement, modifiers, parallel construction, verb tense, prepositions, and so on. You must also showcase your caliber to recognize and correct the wrong expressions in the sentences.

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