GMAT Syllabus & Exam Pattern | 2020-21

The Graduate Management Admission Test, more popularly called the GMAT, is a test conducted by the Graduate Management Admission Council, a.k.a. GMAC.

The purpose of this test is to measure a test taker’s aptitude for management education. This covers a wide span of abilities and capacities, ranging from leadership to problem-solving.

Unlike most public exams, the GMAT is not a test of how much you know; instead, it seeks to find out how well you can use whatever you do know.

Knowing a lot about a given field is of little consequence if you can’t apply your knowledge in real-time. On the other hand, if you don’t know how to handle a given situation, you’ll only get through it if you’re ready to learn and think on your feet.

So, the GMAT looks to gauge how you’d do in typically managerial positions.

If you’re wondering what Quant and Verbal skills have to do with that, think about this:

A manager is expected to be able to handle two things – people and numbers. What better way could there be apart from testing your quant and verbal skills to test whether you can do it?

Given this, the GMAT is attempted by graduates and young professionals who wish to pursue an MBA.

On this page, you will find details about:

  1. GMAT Exam Pattern
  2. GMAT Syllabus
  3. GMAT Dates
  4. When to Take the GMAT

Without any further ado, let’s jump right in! 

GMAT Exam Pattern

In April 2018, the GMAC made some fundamental changes to the way the GMAT functions, so we shall only discuss the new GMAT format here.

The GMAT takes three hours and seven minutes to solve if you take no breaks between sections. However, given the scope of the exam and its intensity, we recommend that you do take those breaks to reorient yourself.

Here’s the GMAT test pattern you should be preparing for, according to us:

  1. Quantitative Reasoning – 62 minutes
  2. Break – 8 min
  3. Verbal Reasoning – 65 minutes
  4. Break – 8 min
  5. Integrated Reasoning + Analytical Writing Assessment – 60 minutes

However, the GMAT Select Section Order can change this.

Basically, the Select Section Order option means that you can decide your own GMAT exam pattern!

Isn’t that awesome?!

This has affected percentiles massively. Solving easy sections first gives test-takers a confidence boost, thereby improving their chances of scoring better overall.

That’s why we recommend that you take up whatever you find easy first.

In any case, what you need to know is this:

The GMAT allows for two breaks of eight minutes each and has three main chunks: Quant, Verbal, and IR + AWA.

Notably, IR and AWA get 30 minutes each but they make up one single section with no break-time between them.

Oh and remember this: you can select the order of these sections but you cannot change the time you get per section.

For example, if you finish Quant in 55 minutes instead of 62, you can either hit ‘end’ and move on to the break or the next section, or you can just sit and use the time to reorient yourself. What you cannot do, however, is carry over the 7 remaining minutes to any other section.

Now, let’s look into what’s expected in each of these sections. 

GMAT Syllabus

As mentioned, the GMAT test takes a total of 3 hours and seven minutes to solve, not considering breaks. The highest you can score on this test is 800, the lowest being 200.

The GMAT is not a pass-or-fail kind of exam, which is why your GMAT score holds little value by itself. What makes your score truly valuable is how you performed compared to others. You can use GMAT score charts to understand how you did on the GMAT.

Now, let’s move on to figuring out what you need to study for each section of the GMAT.

Note: Since IR and AWA are quite different in terms of what they expect from you, we’ll take them as separate sections here.

        1.  Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA)

This is basically an essay section in which you’re presented with an argument. You are expected to write an analysis of the given argument. The twist here is that you’re not supposed to provide your own views on the topic in your analysis. Following is what the GMAT looks for in your AWA essay:

  1. Your writing skills and abilities
  2. Clarity and logic in your argument
  3. Overall relevance of your essay with respect to the given topic

Interestingly, your AWA score does not affect your GMAT score. That’s because AWA and IR scores aren’t counted towards the composite score. Instead, the score range for AWA ranges from 0–6, with increments of 0.5 points.

Here’s what AWA scores mean:

0: The essay is totally irrelevant or makes absolutely no sense.

1: Fundamentally deficient. The essay shows little to no reasoning and has numerous errors in language, grammar, and spelling.

2: Seriously flawed. The essay shows poor reasoning skills, does not develop ideas, is disorganized and has frequent problems in language, grammar, and spelling.

3: Limited. The essay shows some level of analysis but misses most of the important points and has some language, grammar and spelling errors.

4: Adequate. The essay contains an acceptable analysis of the argument but contains a few linguistic, grammatical or spelling errors.

5: Strong. A well-reasoned, well-organized critique of the argument with only minor writing flaws.

6: Outstanding. An excellent, well-articulated analysis that has few or no writing flaws.

Writing a good AWA essay is not very difficult but it does need practice. Take a look at our guide on how to write GMAT AWA essays for inspiration!

Next up, we’ll look into IR.

        2. Integrated Reasoning (IR)

Like it is with AWA, you’ll get 30 minutes to solve the IR section. This section requires a combination of both Verbal and Quant skills and is similar to the Data Interpretation (DI) section on the CAT.

Overall, IR will have 12 questions that can be divided into four types:

  1. Multi-Source Reasoning
  2. Graphics Interpretation
  3. Table Analysis
  4. Two-Part Analysis

Again, like it is with AWA, your IR score doesn’t affect your composite GMAT score because it isn’t counted towards that. Unlike the AWA, though, IR scores are given on a scale of 1 to 8.

Here are the skills this section is designed to test:

Deciphering relevant information presented in text, numbers, and graphics

Assessing appropriate information from different sources

Combining and arranging information to observe relationships among them and solving complex problems to arrive at a correct interpretation

You can check out our guide to GMAT IR during your GMAT preparation for more clarity.

Anyway, neither AWA nor IR will have much of an impact on your application. So, our advice is, don’t worry too much about both these sections.

The next two sections cover what really matters!

        3. Quantitative Reasoning (a.k.a. Quant)

Along with Verbal Reasoning, this section of the exam determines your composite score.

We know that most of you will likely freak out at the idea of having to deal with math. Don’t worry! The Math you need is what you learned in high school! Seriously, you just need to be clear on basic concepts, the rest is about applying what you know.

There are 31 questions, so you have 2 minutes per question. The two types of questions you’ll find are:

Problem Solving (PS): Standard questions for which you need to calculate answers.

Data Sufficiency (DS): For these, you don’t have to solve anything. All you need to do is interpret whether the given data is enough to answer the question.

Four areas of math are covered under the Quant section. Next, we discuss each on at length.

  a) Arithmetic

  1. Sub-topics tested on the GMAT are:
  2. Number Systems and Number Theory
  3. Multiples and factors
  4. Fractions
  5. Decimals
  6. Percentages
  7. Averages
  8. Powers and roots
  9. Profit and Loss
  10. Simple and Compound Interest
  11. Speed, Time, and Distance
  12. Pipes, Cisterns, and Work Time
  13. Ratio and Proportion
  14. Mixtures and Alligations
  15. Descriptive statistics
  16. Sets
  17. Probability

Even if you don’t recognize some or most of these terms, trust us, you’ve solved it before and it really isn’t that tough.

Let’s examine algebra next.

  b) Algebra

  1. Relevant sub-topics are:
  2. Permutations and Combinations
  3. Monomials, polynomials
  4. Algebraic expressions and equations
  5. Functions
  6. Exponents
  7. Arithmetic and Geometric Progression
  8. Quadratic Equations
  9. Inequalities and Basic statistics

Again, this probably sounds scarier than it really is. Next up: Geometry!

  c) Geometry

The Geometry concepts covered in the GMAT include:

  1. Lines and angles
  2. Triangles
  3. Quadrilaterals
  4. Circles
  5. Rectangular solids and Cylinders
  6. Coordinate geometry

To reiterate: this is not tough. You just need practice, that’s all! Check out our guide to GMAT Geometry if you think you need some direction.

That’s all there is to the Quant section. Isn’t it like we told you – just high school math! With this, let’s move on to the Verbal Reasoning section.

  d) Verbal Reasoning (a.k.a. Verbal)

This section has 36 questions that you have to solve in 65 minutes. Here’s what your responses will be assessed on:

  1. Reading and understanding the written material
  2. Reasoning and appraising the arguments
  3. Rectifying the written material in accordance with standard written English

Question types in the verbal section will be based on:

  1. Reading Comprehension (RC): You have to answer questions related to a given passage.
  2. Critical Reasoning (CR): A short passage is given. You need to find the premise, conclusion, assumption, etc.
  3. Sentence Correction (SC): A part of the sentence is underlined, and five options are provided. You need to spot the error and mark the right option.

This is all there is to know about the GMAT Verbal syllabus. It should get you through the section without trouble.

The next part of this blog will talk about GMAT dates and when to take the GMAT.

GMAT Dates

One of the most frequently asked questions about the GMAT is, what are the GMAT exam dates?

Now, this question works on the logic that the GMAT must be getting conducted en-masse on certain scheduled dates at some point in the year. Since the GMAT test is a public exam, this logic is sound.

However, the GMAT is a computer-based test that is conducted using software over the internet. This exam is not conducted en-masse, which means that you can decide the dates of your own attempt.

As such, it’s up to you to decide when you should take the GMAT.

When Should I Take the GMAT?

We recommend a simple plan of action to help our students figure out when to take the GMAT. There are several factors to consider.

Firstly, keep in mind that the more recent your attempt, the more reliable and relevant your score is considered to be.

So, you should time your attempt close to b-school application deadlines.

At the same time, you have to take into account that you might not get the score you want in your first attempt.

Accordingly, leave just enough time for a second attempt before you hit the b-school application deadlines.

Don’t forget to account for the time you’ll need to work on your MBA application essays – and don’t underestimate how much work that will involve, either.

Most people tend to think it’s as easy as writing a school-level essay. It isn’t. It takes a lot of soul-searching and many rounds of editing to create the perfect MBA application essay, no matter which schools you’re applying to.

Overall, we recommend that you speak to someone who’s done this before to get a realistic idea about the timeframe you should be looking at. Doing so tends to have a huge impact on the way people perceive their MBA journeys.

In fact, that’s why when you sign up for b-school applications with us, the first thing we do is assign you a personal mentor whose profile matches yours.

We hope you now have all the information you were hoping to find about the GMAT exam pattern as well as the GMAT syllabus and how to study for the GMAT

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