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The GMAT: Everything You Need To Know

Welcome to “The GMAT: Everything you need to know”. This article is aimed at people who are starting to research the GMAT and going to business school. You will receive an overview of the different sections, how it is scored, your results and the costs.

The GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) provides schools with information about applicants’ readiness for graduate-level academic work. 

In a mix that includes algebra, geometry, basic arithmetic and grammar, the exam measures your ability to solve problems through information analysis and critical thinking, two capabilities that are essential to obtain a good result in the exam, not to mention be successful in business. 

GMAT sections and score

The test is developed by GMAC and administered via a computer. It is multiple choice and it is also computer adaptive, which means that the exam will give you questions based on how you’ve answered previous questions. It is divided in four different sections:

  • Verbal
  • Integrated Reasoning
  • Analytical Writing Assessment
  • Quantitative

When taking the test, you can choose the order of the sections from three different options:

  1. Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA), Integrated Reasoning (IR), Quantitative, Verbal.
  2. Verbal, Quantitative, Integrated Reasoning, Analytical Writing Assessment.
  3. Quantitative, Verbal, Integrated Reasoning, Analytical Writing Assessment.

Two of the sections are scored separately: The Integrated Reasoning section is scored on 1-8 scale (in one point increments) and the Analytical Writing Assessment section is scored 0-6 (in half-point increments).

The Verbal and Quantitative sections are scored on a 0 to 60 scale and they are combined to generate a score from 200 to 800, with 10-point increment. This score from your Verbal and Quantitative sections is the most important score for admissions.

It is advisable to take a look at the average GMAT score of admitted applicants to the MBA programs you are considering. For example, the most competitive programs have students with a score of 710 or higher, which represents about 10% of all test takers. The top 25% of students get a score of up to 650 and the top 50% get a total score of 580.

Click here for more on the average GMAT scores for the top schools in the USA and Europe  in 2018 and 2019.

Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA)

This section evaluates your writing skills and its score is not included in your 200-800 score.

  • Duration: 30 minutes
  • Score range: 0 to 6
  • Task: “Analysis of an argument”

Here you will be given a brief argument and you have to criticize the author’s point of view by analyzing the evidence and reasoning. The key to getting a good score in this section is to identify the different parts of the argument and develop your ideas in an organized and logical way.

Integrated Reasoning (IR)

  • Duration: 30 minutes
  • Score range: 1 to 8
  • Questions: 12 in total 
    • Two-Part Analysis questions
    • Graphic Interpretation questions
    • Multi-Source Reasoning questions
    • Table Analysis questions


This section evaluates your knowledge of basic math concepts, including arithmetic, algebra and geometry.

  • Duration: 62 minutes
  • Score range: 0 to 60
  • Questions: 31 in total 
    • Data Sufficiency questions: Includes a question and two statements of data. You have to determine whether the statements provide enough data to answer the question.
    • Problem Solving questions: Includes a question and five possible answers. You have to use math concepts including algebra and geometry to solve the question.


This section evaluates your argument analysis skills, reading comprehension, and command of written English. 

  • Duration: 65 minutes
  • Score range: 0 to 60
  • Questions: 36 in total
    • Critical Reasoning questions: You will be presented with an argument or a series of statements and a question. You have to make and evaluate arguments, through a logical analysis of the evidence and conclusions.
    • Reading Comprehension questions: You will have to read a text about a specific topic (social science, business, physical science, or biological science), and answer 3 or 4 questions about it in order to prove your critical reading skills.
    • Sentence Correction questions: Here you will be presented with long sentences. A segment, or all of the sentence will be underlined, and you will be asked to determine if the sentence is correct as written, or if one of four alternatives is better. The sentence may contain no errors, or it may contain one, two, or more errors.

Scoring process

GMAT is a Computer-Adaptive Test, which means it adapts to your performance as you are taking it. When you begin the exam, the computer gives you a question of medium difficulty. If you answer the question correctly, the difficulty in the following question will increase. Otherwise, it will serve up easier questions instead. The score is determined by an algorithm based on your correct/incorrect answers as well as the difficulty of the questions. 

You are not able to skip questions and return to them later, which means you have to answer difficult questions and you have to do it quickly, otherwise you could risk running out of time before you finish the exam.

After you take the exam, you’re immediately given an unofficial score. You’re then given the option to keep your score, which will be immediately sent to the programs that you selected at the beginning of the exam, or cancel your score. If you cancel your score, the programs that you selected prior to the exam will not be notified.

Your results and the costs of the GMAT

The GMAT is administered via Pearson VUE centers. You will receive your unofficial results immediately after completing the exam. These unofficial results are sufficient to send to programs and start your application process. Schools will ask for your official score reports before later during the admissions process. The official results of the exam can take up to 20 calendar days to be sent.

You can take the test every 16 days, and up to five times in a period of 12 months. Aside from these restrictions, you can take the exam as many times as you’d like. The results are valid for a period of five years.

The cost of the exam is currently $250 and includes sending score reports to up to five programs of your choice. 

If you need help with the GMAT or the admissions process we can help.  For more information on our different GMAT products see:

  • GMAT private classes – see the stories of Will, Teddy, Jessica and Nico and how they approached their GMAT journey with Merchant.
  • Merchant Academy – a GMAT teaching innovation that makes taking the GMAT, like an MBA. Click to find out more about the Merchant Academy format.
  • Merchant GMAT Hall of Fame – a gallery of some of our clients over the last eight years.

For admissions help see some of the client stories on our admissions page.

Take the next step in your career today.

Anish Merchant

CEO & Co-Founder

- "Preparing for the GMAT and applying for an MBA requires a tremendous commitment, and that doesn’t take into consideration the personal challenges our students must face when deciding if they want to leave their friends, families, and native cultures behind to advance their careers abroad. An MBA is not for everyone and that’s precisely what makes this advanced degree so valuable. 

For these reasons, we at Merchant only work with students we are confident have what it takes to succeed throughout the preparation and application processes.

Given an increased demand in our services, we do not have the ability to offer free consultation services to unserious applicants. If you are interested in learning more about Merchant, please fill out this form. After reviewing your LinkedIn profile, our team will be in touch with you if we feel you are a good fit for our services."