Classic GMAT vs GMAT Focus: The 7 Key Differences

May 2, 2024

The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), the parent body administering the GMAT, has announced that, as of January 31, 2024, the old GMAT will no longer be available. GMAT test takers now only have the option to take the new version of the GMAT, the GMAT Focus edition.

The introduction of the GMAT Focus Edition makes a lot of sense.

The number of GMAT test takers has been steadily dropping over the last few years, and it is the right time to introduce a shorter, more real-world-focused test. Almost an hour shorter, the GMAT Focus Edition is surely the next big thing.

gmat focus edition

Sounds simple enough, but there are still a ton of questions that you might have about GMAT Focus Edition.

“How is the GMAT Focus Edition different from the old GMAT?”

“Does having a GMAT Focus score increase my chances of admission to a business school?”

“Heck! How does this change affect me?”

Buckle up!

We’re going to look at everything you need to know about the difference between the old GMAT exam and the new GMAT Focus Edition.

What are the differences between the Classic GMAT and the GMAT Focus?

The Classic GMAT, which is the traditional format of the GMAT, had a broader focus on all test areas, while the GMAT Focus Edition is a targeted tool that concentrates on specific sections. GMAT Focus provides detailed feedback on strengths and weaknesses and helps candidates tailor their preparation effectively.

The main difference are:

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How is the GMAT Focus Edition different from the Classic GMAT?

Here are the 7 main differences between the two versions:

1. Three sections instead of four

The old GMAT had four sections:

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

However, the current version of the GMAT has three sections instead of four:

  • Verbal Reasoning
  • Quantitative Reasoning
  • Data Insights

The GMAT has introduced a new section called Data Insights that will have questions on data sufficiency, multi-source reasoning, table analysis, graphics interpretation, and two-part analysis.

Note: If you are familiar with the Integrated Reasoning Section (IR) from the old GMAT format, you will know that these are all question types that we have already seen in IR.

2. No AWA section

The Analytical Writing Assessment task or AWA, was a key component of the Classic GMAT test that focused on evaluating the candidates’ ability to analyze an argument and communicate their ideas effectively. However, the AWA lost its importance a long time ago. AI tools like Chat GPT have pretty much killed the need to have writing as a skill. Keeping this in mind, the AWA section has not been included in the new GMAT exam.

gmat focus edition

While this move will be celebrated by most candidates, the GMAT Focus Edition eliminating the AWA section has significant repercussions for GMAT applicants. By removing the AWA section, the new test shifts the focus towards other skills that are crucial in today’s business environment. This also means that applicants will need to showcase their proficiency in data analysis and reasoning more prominently to compensate for the absence of the writing assessment

So, overall, having one section less to tackle is good news. But since the AWA did not impact the total score, the impact of this change is minimal.

3. No Sentence Correction Questions

From a testing standpoint, Sentence Correction could help save a lot of time in the verbal section as most of these questions could be done within 90 seconds. You can’t do that in CR or RC questions. So it’s a bummer that Sentence Correction has been taken out of the GMAT exam.

But this could be good news for most test takers.

Navigating Sentence Correction questions was a daunting task, as it involved learning a ton of grammar rules. As if that wasn’t enough, once test takers pushed past the medium level questions, the grammar rules became tougher and less straightforward, making it difficult to have high accuracy in Sentence Correction questions.

By eliminating this hurdle, the GMAT Focus allows test takers to concentrate on other areas and boost their overall performance.

gmat focus edition

The removal of Sentence Correction questions from the Verbal section in the GMAT Focus Edition shifts the focus away from grammar skills and places more emphasis on other verbal reasoning skills like critical thinking, comprehension, and inference

4. No Geometry Questions

Wait! There is more.

Data Sufficiency questions from the Quantitative section have been shifted to the Data Insights section, and the quant section will now only have Problem Solving questions. This means no more Geometry!

gmat focus edition

This is also probably good news.

Normally, even though one sees only about 5 to 6 geometry questions in the traditional GMAT, there’s a lot of prep needed to learn to tackle these questions.

The GMAT has recognized that while arithmetic and algebra hold significant value in today’s world, geometry isn’t as crucial.

By simplifying the test, the new exam lets candidates focus on fewer but more important topics. This makes their GMAT preparation more efficient and effective.

5. Fewer Questions. Lesser time

Feature Traditional GMAT GMAT Focus Edition
Quantitative Reasoning 31 questions, 62 minutes 21 questions, 45 minutes
Verbal Reasoning 36 questions, 65 minutes 23 questions, 45 minutes
Data Insights Not Applicable 20 questions, 45 minutes
Integrated Reasoning 12 questions, 30 minutes Not Applicable
Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) 1 essay question, 30 minutes Not Applicable
Total Questions 80 questions 64 questions
Total Duration 3 hours and 7 minutes 2 hours and 15 minutes

In the Classic GMAT, two sections – AWA and IR – did not contribute to the final score in the Classic GMAT. This means you technically wasted one hour of your time solving questions that actually did not matter. These two sections have now been removed in the GMAT Focus Edition.

So on the face of it, the GMAT Focus takes lesser time and has fewer questions.

But let’s not get sucked into the common misconception that this makes the new GMAT easier. There’s a lot more at stake in this exam, and you need to constantly have this on your mind.

With a total of 64 questions to be completed in 135 minutes, candidates have just about two minutes to complete each question. This means candidates will need to be super focused and very clear about the test-taking strategies they are going to follow or they will not be able to finish the exam on time.

6. Bookmark and edit questions

Two new features have been introduced in the new version of the GMAT.

The bookmark feature allows test takers to click on a particular question and bookmark it in case they want to revisit that question at the end of a section.

If you think about it, this is a small change, but it will reduce a great deal of stress.

Taking the GMAT can be quite nerve-wracking due to its adaptive algorithm. The algorithm decides the difficulty level of the next question based on the test-taker’s performance in the previous question.

This often causes stress, leading test-takers to spend too much time on a question or second-guess their answers.

However, bookmarking offers a sense of relief by allowing candidates to revisit answers, which eases the pressure to be sure about every single answer.

The edit feature allows candidates to edit up to three answers.

This is a feature that most candidates will absolutely love!

gmat focus edition

But now that test-takers can change up to three answers at the end of the section, they need to come up with a new plan to figure out which answers they want to change.

Thankfully, the limit of three prevents one from getting overwhelmed and attempting to change every response.

Note: This feature raises an intriguing issue that GMAC will need to address. As the GMAT is a question-adaptive test, the next question depends on the accuracy of the previous answer. Allowing test-takers to modify three responses could potentially disrupt the algorithm’s effectiveness and score scale, creating an interesting challenge for GMAC to resolve.

7. Select colleges after the test

In the classic version of the GMAT, candidates needed to select schools before taking the test.

In contrast, the new GMAT version gives test takers the flexibility to choose the MBA programs after seeing the scores on the test screen.

The candidates can first assess their total scores and individual section scores and then strategically identify the schools that best align with their performance. This eliminates the need for guesswork and allows test takers to make a more informed decision, thereby increasing their chances of securing admission to a program that best suits their abilities.

Now that we have discussed the difference between the two versions, let us have a look at the pros and cons of the GMAT Focus Edition.

Pros of the New GMAT Focus Edition:

  • The new GMAT Focus Edition will be shorter and have fewer questions, which may help reduce stress and make it easier to focus during the test.
  • The new GMAT Focus Edition will have a separate section called Data Insights that will test data analysis skills, a highly valued asset in business education and many industries today.
  • The new GMAT Focus Edition will have a new scoring system that focuses more on percentile rankings. This could create opportunities for students to apply with official scores without the bias of strict cut-offs.

Cons of the New GMAT Focus Edition:

  • There is still a lot of ambiguity surrounding the new GMAT Focus Edition, including the scoring scale and specific test-day strategies.
  • The new GMAT Focus Edition will have fewer questions per section, which may result in harder questions and a more sensitive algorithm, potentially making it harder to achieve a high score.
  • In the early days, there may be limited prep materials available other than the official guide, which may make it harder for test-takers to prepare adequately, especially for the Data Insights section.


In conclusion, if you’re already preparing for the GMAT, continue with your prep. Don’t lose momentum. If nothing else, CR, RC, and the quant section are not going to change. The rest you can always tackle with a little help.

Is there any other aspect of the GMAT Focus Edition that you’d like to find out more about?

Please comment and let us know.

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Frequently asked questions

Why did GMAC create a new version of the GMAT?

The new GMAT Focus Edition was designed to be more test-taker-friendly, shorter in duration, and to focus on skills relevant to business school admissions. It also aims to compete with the GRE, which has been gaining popularity among MBA applicants.

Can test-takers change their answers in the GMAT Focus Edition?

Yes, test-takers can bookmark and change the answers to up to 3 questions per section in the GMAT Focus Edition. This is in contrast to the traditional GMAT where answers cannot be changed once submitted.

How is the scoring system different in the GMAT Focus Edition?

The GMAT Focus Edition introduces a new score scale ranging from 205 to 805, with each score ending in a 5, unlike the traditional GMAT’s 200-800 range. Additionally, all three sections (Quantitative, Verbal, and Data Insights) contribute equally to the total score in the GMAT Focus Edition.

What are the changes in question types in the GMAT Focus Edition?

The GMAT Focus Edition excludes Geometry and Sentence Correction questions, incorporates Data Sufficiency into the Data Insights section, and focuses on Critical Reasoning and Reading Comprehension in the Verbal Reasoning section.

How long is the GMAT Focus Edition compared to the traditional GMAT?

The GMAT Focus Edition is significantly shorter, with a total testing time of about 2 hours and 15 minutes, compared to the traditional GMAT which lasts a little over 3 hours.

Are old GMAT scores still valid with the introduction of the GMAT Focus Edition?

Yes, old GMAT scores will remain valid for 5 years, and the new GMAT Focus Edition will be gradually accepted by more business schools over time.

How does the GMAT Focus Edition's Data Insights section differ from the traditional GMAT's Integrated Reasoning section?

The Data Insights section in the GMAT Focus Edition focuses on analyzing data and interpreting charts, graphs, and tables, while the Integrated Reasoning section in the traditional GMAT includes questions that require multiple skills like quantitative reasoning, verbal reasoning, and graphical interpretation.

Is the GMAT Focus Edition more challenging than the traditional GMAT?

The GMAT Focus Edition may be considered more challenging for some test-takers due to its focus on critical thinking and data analysis, while the traditional GMAT may be more challenging for others due to its longer duration and broader range of question types.

How often can I take the GMAT Focus Edition compared to the traditional GMAT?

Just like the traditional GMAT, the GMAT Focus Edition can be taken up to 5 times within 12 months, with a minimum of 16 days between each attempt.

Can I use the same GMAT prep materials for the GMAT Focus Edition as for the traditional GMAT?

While some GMAT prep materials may still be relevant for the GMAT Focus Edition, it’s recommended to use prep materials specifically designed for the GMAT Focus Edition to ensure familiarity with the new format and question types.

Do all business schools accept the GMAT Focus Edition?

While the GMAT Focus Edition is gradually being accepted by more business schools, it’s important to check with the specific schools you’re interested in to ensure they accept the new format.

How does the GMAT Focus Edition's test-taker-friendly format benefit students?

The GMAT Focus Edition’s shorter duration and flexibility to change answers may benefit students by reducing test anxiety and providing a more comfortable testing experience.

How does the GMAT Focus Edition's focus on data analysis align with the business school curriculum?

The GMAT Focus Edition’s emphasis on data analysis and critical thinking aligns with the skills needed for success in business school and in the workplace.

Can I still use the same practice tests for the GMAT Focus Edition as for the traditional GMAT?

While some practice tests may still be relevant for the GMAT Focus Edition, it’s recommended to use practice tests specifically designed for the new format to ensure familiarity with the new question types and scoring system.

How does the GMAT Focus Edition's new Data Insights section measure analytical skills?

The GMAT Focus Edition’s Data Insights section measures analytical skills by presenting test-takers with data in various formats and requiring them to interpret and analyze the information.

How does the GMAT Focus Edition's new format align with the changing needs of business schools?

The GMAT Focus Edition’s new format aligns with the changing needs of business schools by emphasizing critical thinking and data analysis skills, which are increasingly important in the business world.

How does the GMAT Focus Edition's new format affect the cost of the exam?

The GMAT Focus Edition’s new format does not significantly affect the cost of the exam, as the registration fee remains the same as for the traditional GMAT.

Is a mini GMAT available?

There is no test called the “mini GMAT” as such. However, some people do refer to the Executive Assessment (EA) as the “mini GMAT” since it is a shorter test compared to the GMAT. However, the EA scores can only be used by candidates who have several years of work experience and a great deal of seniority and want to apply to Executive MBA programs. This test cannot be used as a replacement for the GMAT Focus Edition Test.

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Written by Nitha J

Nitha, our verbal mentor at Crackverbal, blends creativity and expertise to guide students in mastering English and critical thinking. With her background in content writing and teaching, she's committed to your success in verbal communication.


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