What is the GMAT exam pattern and syllabus 2023?

Updated on: Nov 9, 2022

The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) is a well-respected way to demonstrate your English skills.

It’s taken by more than 200,000 candidates around the world every year as part of their applications for graduate management programmes.

But what is the GMAT syllabus and how does knowing it help you prepare for the test?

More than 2,400 schools and colleges accept the GMAT as proof of English skill and it can be either taken online or at test centres in 114 countries. It’s been the most widely-used test of its kind for MBA admissions for the last 60 years.

The GMAT exam pattern assesses your English reasoning, verbal, analytical, and quantitative skills. It is a computer-based adaptive test with scores ranging from 200 to a maximum of 800.

Here’s everything you need to know about the GMAT exam pattern and syllabus:

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The GMAT exam pattern explained

There are four separately timed sections in the GMAT exam, which break down as follows:

SectionTime limitQuestionsQuestion typesScore range
Analytical Writing Assessment30 minutes1Analysing an argument0-6 points
Integrated Reasoning30 minutes12Interpreting graphics, analysing a table, multi-source reasoning, two-part analysis1-8 points
Quantitative Reasoning62 minutes31Problem solving, data sufficiency6-51 points
Verbal Reasoning65 minutes36Reading comprehension, critical reasoning, sentence correction6-51 points

You can take the test in three different orders:

  • Analytical Writing Assessment, Integrated Reasoning, Quantitative, Verbal
  • Verbal, Quantitative, Integrated Reasoning, Analytical Writing Assessment
  • Quantitative, Verbal, Integrated Reasoning, Analytical Writing Assessment

The Quantitative and Verbal Reasoning sections of the GMAT exam are computer adaptive tests. The computer will tailor itself to your ability, making it more or less difficult based on how you are answering the questions. Here’s how that works:

The first question you face will be set at a medium difficulty level.

If you answer it correctly, the computer will raise the difficulty level for the next question. If you get it wrong, the next question will be easier.

As you continue through the test, each new question’s difficulty will be based on your previous answers throughout the test.

Because of this process, there’s no way to skip a question or go back to the previous question to change your answer.

The purpose of the computer adaptive testing is to give the most accurate reflection of your abilities possible.

The GMAT syllabus explained

There are four main areas of the GMAT syllabus, so now we’ll go into more detail about what each of them mean and how you can best prepare for them.

Analytical Writing Assessment - This section takes 30 minutes and gives you the task of analysing the reasoning behind an argument. You then need to write a critique of it and are measured on how well you think and communicate your thoughts in English.

The subjects covered in the possible arguments are general ones relating to business or other topics. But don’t worry, you aren’t expected to be an expert in the subjects talked about, it’s how you write about the argument that counts.

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In this section of the GMAT, you’ll be asked to discuss how well-reasoned the argument was. This should involve looking at what the person is trying to argue in favour of and what evidence they give to support themselves.

To give yourself the best chance in the Analytical Writing Assessment, take the time to read and evaluate before planning out your response. Don’t just dive into writing it, but also remember you’ve only got 30 minutes.

Try to save yourself time to re-read your response and make sure you are happy with it.

Integrated Reasoning - The GMAT is created for business schools, so Integrated Reasoning demands more than other tests. Here you need to prove that you can assess large amounts of data and make the right decisions based on what you can see.

The Integrated Reasoning section tests how well you can evaluate and organise information from different sources to see relationships and solve complex problems. There are four types of questions you’ll face here with 12 in total. These are:

Multi-Source Reasoning - These measure how well you can examine different types of data from many sources and use them to answer questions. You might need to pick out discrepancies or decide whether the data is relevant to the question.

Table Analysis - You’ll be given a table and asked to sort and analyse it to decide what information is relevant.      
Graphics Interpretation - You’ll be presented with information in a graph and asked to analyse it, finding relationships between data, etc.

Two-Part Analysis - This part looks at how well you can solve complex problems which can be quantitative or verbal, or both.

Verbal Reasoning- This section has 36 multiple choice questions and you have 65 minutes to complete it. You’ll be measured on your ability to read and comprehend written material and express your ideas. You don’t need to have particular knowledge of the subjects covered in the questions.

There are three types of question in the Verbal Reasoning section:

- Reading Comprehension - You’ll be given a passage to read and tested on your ability to identify and understand the main idea, supporting ideas, inferences, application, logical structure and style. Subjects can include social sciences and humanities, physical and biological sciences or business.

- Critical Reasoning - This section looks after how well you can make and evaluate arguments as well as coming up with or assessing a plan of action. They are normally based on reading a short passage and picking out which answer option strengthens or weakens the argument.

- Sentence Correction - This tests how well you can identify correct expression in sentences. You’ll be given a sentence to analyse with options to choose from offering five ways to rephrase that sentence (or part of it). You need to select the one that has the best grammar, word choice and sentence construction.

Quantitative Reasoning - This section tests your ability to use mathematical reasoning to solve quantitative problems. You’ll get 31 multiple choice questions with 62 minutes to complete it. There are two types of Quantitative Reasoning questions:

- Problem Solving - These measure your ability to think logically to solve quantitative problems.

- Data Sufficiency - Here you will be measured on how well you analyse a quantitative problem and decide whether you have enough data to solve it.

How to prepare for the GMAT exam pattern

Now you know what the GMAT syllabus includes and how the exam pattern breaks down, here are some tips to help you prepare.

Get used to working on a computer - The GMAT is an intensive test taking place for just over three hours on a computer. If you aren’t used to using a computer for long periods of time, you could find this exhausting, particularly under exam conditions. So it’s a good idea to get practice in order to avoid mental fatigue.

Take practice tests - There are practice GMAT tests available to help you get familiar with the syllabus and exam pattern, so be sure to make use of these. The more you practice, the less daunting it will feel to face these types of questions in the real exam.

Use a timer - While practicing, make sure you keep an eye on how long you are taking to answer each question. In the test itself you will be given a time duration and don’t want to lose out on points by losing track of time.

Learn from your mistakes - The practice tests give you the chance to identify which parts of the GMAT syllabus are your strengths and weaknesses. If there are sections you struggle on, focus on these ahead of taking the test. You should also get into the habit of reading your answers back and proof-reading them.

How is the GMAT scored?

When you have taken the test you’ll receive an Official Score Report that breaks down your results based on the GMAT exam pattern.

SectionScoresHow it is scored
Analytical Writing Assessment0-6By professional essay markers and a machine algorithm.
Integrated Reasoning1-8Based on the number of questions you answer correctly.
Quantitative and Verbal6-51Based on the number of questions you answer, how many are correct and what difficulty level you were working at.
Total200-800These are based on the Quantitative and Verbal sections and are reported in intervals of 10 points.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you retake the GMAT?

You can retake the GMAT if you don’t get the score you needed the first time. However, you can only take the test eight times in total and only five times in one calendar year. You also need to wait 16 days between attempts. If you’ve scored the perfect 800 points, you need to wait five years to retake the test.

How long do you have to wait to get your results?

Immediately after your GMAT exam you will see a Score Preview with four of your five scores (Quantitative, Verbal, Integrated Reasoning and Total Scores). You will have two minutes to accept or cancel them. If you accept them you’ll get a print-out of your Unofficial Score Report. This gives you an indication of your performance but cannot be used for applications. Your Official Score Report will be available within 7 business days.

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