What Should I Expect During the GMAT Exam?

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Taking the GMAT exam helps demonstrate your commitment to advancing your education and your readiness for the rigors of a graduate business program.

The test assesses the skills you need to perform in b-school and helps predicts your likelihood of academic and professional success. A good GMAT score can help you stand out in the competitive admissions world. So how can you best prepare for success on exam day? The first step is knowing what to expect.

A worry-free check in

To ensure a smooth check-in process, plan to arrive at least 30 minutes before your exam appointment. Upon arrival, you’ll need to present appropriate and valid identification in order to sit for your exam. Your ID must be current, legible, and include the following identifiers exactly as you provided when making your test appointment:

  • full name
  • date of birth
  • a recent photograph
  • your signature.

Testing staff will take your photograph, and, where permitted by law, they'll ask for a palm vein scan, which will be used to confirm your identity any time you enter the testing room.

Testing room and materials

After checking in, you will store your belongings and find your workstation. Personal items are not permitted in the testing room; You may only bring your ID, locker key, a light sweater, and prescription eyeglasses. Furthermore, you cannot use or access any devices or testing aids throughout the duration of the exam, including breaks. Prohibited items include, but are not limited to, cellphones, music players, watches, books, notes, and study guides.

You will receive the equivalent of five erasable noteboards and a noteboard pen for use during your assessment. If you fill up the provided noteboards, the test administrator will collect the used ones and give you replacements. In general, you may not leave your workstation while timed sections of the test are being administered. If you have an emergency, raise your hand and notify the test administrator.

The GMAT exam structure

The GMAT exam consists of four sections with a total testing time of three hours and seven minutes:

  • Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA, 30 minutes) - AWA measures how you analyze an argument in written form
  • Integrated Reasoning (IR, 30 minutes) - IR measures your ability to synthesize and analyze information
  • Quantitative Reasoning (Quant, 62 minutes) - Quant measures data sufficiency and problem solving
  • Verbal Reasoning (65 minutes) - Verbal measures reading comprehension, critical reasoning, and sentence correction skills

The full testing experience take about three and a half hours to complete, including two optional 8-minute breaks. You can choose to not participate in the breaks, and instead continue on to the next section of your exam. If you exceed the time allotted for your breaks, the excess time will be deducted from the next section of your test. During breaks, remember to remain in the test building and in designated locations, including the locker area, the test center lobby, and the nearest restroom.

Test-day decisions

On test day, you'll have two decisions to make: which programs you'll send your score report to, and what order you want to take the test.

1. Prior to starting your GMAT exam, you will select up to five schools/programs to receive your Official Score Report, which will be sent within 20 calendar days of your test. This service is included as part of your exam, but once you’ve made your selections, they cannot be changed.

2. You will see the Select Section Order  after you select the schools to send your score report, after the navigation tutorial, and immediately prior to beginning your GMAT exam. You will have three section order options and two minutes to make a selection. If you do not make a selection within two minutes, the first order will be selected. To help you decide, we suggest that you think through your strengths and the testing strategies that work best for you. Your options include:

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

Completing your exam

Once you start your assessment, an onscreen clock will count down your remaining time. Be sure to track your progress and keep pace throughout the exam. The Quantitative and Verbal sections of the test use computer-adaptive testing, which means they select your next question based on your previous responses. You won’t be able to change your answers once you move to the next question, so if you’re stuck, choose the best answer you can and move on. If you don’t finish in the allotted time, you will still receive scores as long as you have worked on every section. Keep in mind that your scores will reflect the number of questions answered and will decrease significantly with each unanswered question.

Scores and score reports

Once you complete your exam, you will be see your unofficial score report for four of your five scores: Quantitative, Verbal, IR, and Total Score (based on the Quantitative and Verbal sections). AWA scores are not included on unofficial score reports but are reported on official score reports. Again, you will be given two minutes to decide whether to cancel or accept your score, and if the time expires before you make a selection, your score will be canceled. If you accept your score at the test center, you will receive a print out of your unofficial score report prior to leaving the test center. We recommend that before arriving at the test center, you determine what score you're willing to accept. Click to view a sample unofficial score report and for more information about scores and score reports.

Do you have more questions?

The GMAT Handbook is your single source for all the policies, procedures, and rules that apply to your GMAT exam experience. If you’re looking for rules specific to test centers near you, check these location-specific regulations. We also recommended that you familiarize yourselfwith the GMAT Examination Testing Rules Agreement to understand the test policies and avoid violations that could result in your score being canceled. Finally, watch the interactive GMAT exam tutorial, for an idea of what the test center screens will look like during your exam.

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