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GMAT Exam Pattern and Syllabus

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The GMAT exam is an abbreviated form of the Graduate Management Admission Test. It is conducted by the Educational Testing Agency or ETS, headquartered in New Jersey – this is the same agency that conducts the GRE and the TOEFL.

The GMAT exam is widely accepted by all top business, management, and economics schools for postgraduate studies. The test is conducted in more than 650 test centers across 114 countries. More than 200,000 people take the GMAT exam annually.

Read on to find out more about the pattern, scoring, and syllabus of the exam. We also have a few interesting tips and tricks listed in the end to help you with your preparation strategy.

Test Pattern and Scoring

The total duration of the GMAT exam is 3 hours and 30 minutes while the maximum score that can be awarded is 800 points. It is a computer adaptive test with both objective and subjective/descriptive sections.

There are four sections that the syllabus is divided into:

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gmat exam pattern syllabus and scoring
  • Analytical Reasoning
  • Integrated Reasoning
  • Verbal Reasoning
  • Quantitative Aptitude

Here you can find a detailed description of the test sections:

gmat exam sections
  1. The first section is the Analytical Writing Section. This section is 30 minutes long. It is a writing assessment where you must write an essay on a given topic. The score range is between 0.0 and 6.0.
  2. The Integrated Reasoning Section is next. It consists of 12 questions that must be answered in 30 minutes. The score range is between 1 and 8.
  3. The third section of the test is the Quantitative Aptitude Section. It consists of 31 questions that must be answered in 62 minutes. The score range is between 6 and 51.
  4. The last section or the Verbal Reasoning section lasts for a total of 65 minutes. It is, by far, the longest section with 36 questions. The scoring range is again between 6 and 51.


When it comes to understanding the marking scheme of the test, it can get a little complicated. However, we have it broken down for you below.

gmat marking scheme
  • Each essay in the Analytical Writing Section is scored at least twice – once by the computer and again by a human reader. The final score in the section is awarded as an average of the first two individual scores. They are reported at intervals of 0.5.
  • The Integrated Reasoning scores are based on the number of questions answered correctly in the section. Certain questions have more than one correct answer choice. In such cases, all correct answer options must be selected to score full marks. The scores are reported at intervals of 1.
  • The Quantitative and Verbal Reasoning section scores in the exam make up for the final total score of a candidate in the GMAT exam out of 800. Both these sections are item-level adaptive. This means that the difficulty level of a certain set of items in the test depends upon the candidate’s performance in the previous set. If the test-taker answers most questions correctly, then the difficulty level increases. Otherwise, it decreases. You will automatically earn a higher score by answering questions of a higher difficulty level.

Scores are reported at intervals of 1 for both of these sections with a standard error of measurement being 3 points.

  • Total scores in the test are calculators based on your performance in all the sections. They are reported in intervals of 10 with a standard error of 30-40 points. It is important to note that there is a penalty for not answering all questions in every section. If you do not finish the sections in their allotted time, you will be scored only for the number of correctly attempted questions.

GMAT Syllabus

gmat exam pattern and syllabus books on desks


We have already mentioned above that this section will have 1 question. Either a candidate will be asked to write an essay on a given topic or they must answer questions based on one. There is no particular syllabus for this section as the essay can be of any varied topic of interest.

However, it is important to remember that the students are marked here based on their quality of ideas, ability to organize and present those ideas, and providing relevant examples and backup ideas. They are also graded based on their usage of the language and how comprehensible their ideas are.

For the argument essay, the candidate must analyze the reasoning and present their argument. For the issue essay, the candidate is required to give an opinion in around 600 words.


GMAT integrated reasoning

The Integrated Reasoning Section in the GMAT exam has been introduced recently. It has replaced one of the essays in the analytical writing section.

This section doesn’t have a fixed syllabus either and it aims to evaluate a candidate’s abilities to interpret graphs, tables, charts, and other numerical and verbal information from different sources to obtain the correct answer.

Most questions in this section have multiple correct answers and thereby, all correct answer options must be chosen for each such question in order o be awarded full points. The 12 questions in this section are further divided into 4 main types.

Table Analysis: Here, data is provided in a tabular format and candidates must answer the given questions in either true or false.
Two-part Analysis: Here, candidates are required to choose their answers from multiple choices. There are two columns with data and the third column with answer options.
Multi-source Reasoning: Under these type of questions, information is given in different tabs that must be collated to answer a question from multiple options. Information can be provided in the form of tables, charts, etc.
Graphics Interpretation: Here, candidates must interpret a graphical image that consists of valuable data that needs to be used to answer the questions from statements given in a drop-down format.


The Quantitative Reasoning Section aims at testing the candidate’s quantitative skills, problem-solving skills, and abilities to interpret numerical data.

There are a total of 31 questions, further divided into multiple-choice questions of two types:

  1. Problem Solving
  2. Data Sufficiency

The topics in this section are:

ARITHMETIC: Real numbers, decimals, fractions, square root, percentages, and discrete probability

ELEMENTARY ALGEBRA: Linear equations, absolute value, exponents, and functions

GEOMETRY: Coordinate geometry, angles, circles, polygons

WORD PROBLEMS: Simple and compound interest, data interpretation and measurement problems, profit and loss, discounts
The topic list here is not exhaustive and consists of more topics of similar nature.


GMAT syllabus verbal reasoning

This section aims at testing a candidate’s reading, reasoning, and argument skills. It also checks your ability to correct incorrect sentences and statements based on standard Grammar rules and correct English.

The 36 questions in this section are divided into three main types:

Critical Reasoning: In these types of questions, candidates need to use their critical reasoning skills to understand an argument, interpret it, and then choose the correct answer from multiple choices.
Reading Comprehension: There is a 300-350 word long passage in this section that needs to be read thoroughly to be able to answer the multiple-choice questions that follow it.
Sentence Correction: To answer the questions in this type correctly, candidates must be well-read in English and also have a sound knowledge of Grammar in the language. They will be given sentences with an underlined portion that has been structured incorrectly. They must choose the right options from multiple answer choices.

Testing Strategies

gmat exam pattern testing strategies

Here are a few testing strategies to help you with scoring your desired points in GMAT for your dream school.

  1. The earlier you take GMAT the better as most of the math covered in the test is of the high-school level.
  2. The Verbal section is tougher than the quant so make sure that you practice it well. It is more difficult to score here than in the others.
  3. Make sure that you are used to taking a test on the computer.
  4. The first 10 questions of the test are extremely important as they either make or break your confidence. Make sure that you are calm and composed throughout the test.
  5. During your preparation, embrace the errors that you make, learn from them, and remember them to not repeat them further. Your errors can tell you exactly where you must work to improve your score.
  6. It is extremely important to be well aware of the format of the test, all types of questions, and the scoring scheme. You do not want to surprise yourself while taking the test. Research well.
  7. The ultimate tip, not only for GMAT but any other standardized test, is to practice as much as possible. There is an ample amount of materials available, make sure you make the best use out of them.

The GMAT exam is not as difficult as several reports make it to be. Constant practice, perseverance, and hard work can get you to your desired score. The GMAT scores are just one part of your application.

You must work on all aspects of your profile to make it to your dream school. Undoubtedly, a high GMAT score will give you an edge over the other students. But ultimately it is the quality of the overall application that will guarantee your acceptance and admission.







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