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What Should I Expect During the GMAT™ Exam?

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Taking the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) helps demonstrate your commitment to advancing your education and your readiness for the rigors of a graduate business program.

What is the GMAT exam? The GMAT exam is an assessment of the skills you need to perform in business school and helps predict 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. Follow along for key information about what the in-person, test-center GMAT exam experience is like.

Understand the Process for the GMAT exam check-in

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

  • Full name using the Roman alphabet
  • Date of birth
  • A recent recognizable photograph
  • Your signature

Just to be safe, bring along the confirmation email or letter you received after securing your GMAT exam date. Testing staff will also 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.

GMAT 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 exam, including breaks. Prohibited items include, but are not limited to, cellphones, music players, watches, books, notes, and study guides.

You will receive up to five erasable noteboards and a noteboard pen for use during your GMAT exam. 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

What’s on the GMAT exam? The GMAT exam structure consists of three sections with a total testing time of 2 hours and 15 minutes:

  • Data Insights (45 minutes) the Data Insights section measures your ability to analyze and interpret data and apply it to real-world business scenario.
  • Quantitative Reasoning (Quant, 45 minutes) the Quant section measure your algebraic and arithmetic foundational knowledge and how you apply this knowledge to solve problems.
  • Verbal Reasoning (Verbal, 45 minutes) the Verbal section measures your ability to read and comprehend written material and to reason and evaluate arguments.

The full testing experience takes under 2 and a half hours to complete, including one (1) optional 10-minute break, which you can take after the first section OR after the second section. If you take your break after the first section, you will not have the option to take another break after the second section. During the break, remember to remain in the test building and designated locations, which typically include the locker area, the test center lobby, and the nearest restroom.

What to do before the GMAT test begins

On test day, you will see the Select Section Order prompt. This appears after the navigation tutorial and immediately prior to beginning your GMAT exam. You can take the exam in whatever section order you prefer, which ultimately totals six section-order choices. 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.

During the GMAT assessment

Once you start your GMAT exam, an onscreen clock will count down your remaining time. Be sure to track your progress and keep pace throughout the exam. All sections of the test use computer-adaptive testing, which means the program selects your next question based on your previous responses. With the Question Review & Edit feature, you will be able to bookmark and review as many questions as you want, and you can change up to three answers per section with any time you have remaining at the end of a section. 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.

Not sure of an answer on the GMAT test? Good news, there’s a strategy for guessing.

GMAT scores and score reports

Once you complete your exam, you will see your unofficial score report with your Quantitative, Verbal, Data Insights, and Total Score.

Unlike the previous version of the GMAT, whether you take the exam at a test center or online, you have the flexibility and control to review your Official Score before deciding whether you want to send it to schools. You will receive an email notification once your Official Score Report is available in your mba.com account. If you would like to send your score to schools, you can search for and select the programs you wish to send your score report. You must send your (up to 5) free score reports within 48 hours of your Official Score being made available on mba.com.

Additional test-day information for the GMAT exam

Educating yourself on what to expect on the day of your GMAT test is an effective way to avoid unnecessary and stressful surprises. The information discussed in this article is helpful, but there are other resources that you should explore to ensure you are fully prepared. Here are a few to get you started:

  • The GMAT Exam Policies & Procedures is your single source for all the policies, procedures, and rules that apply to the entire GMAT testing experience.
  • Location-specific regulations to ensure you know the rules at your specific test center.
  • GMAT testing rules agreement will help you understand test policies and avoid violations that could result in your score being canceled.
  • Interactive GMAT exam tutorial shows you what the test center screens will look like during your exam.
  • FAQ overview addresses the most commonly asked questions about what to expect at your GMAT test center.
  • GMAT test-day checklist provides a handy recap of what to prepare for and remember on your scheduled GMAT test date.
  • GMAT exam-taking strategies and best practices to keep you confident, focused, and on track.

Now that you know what to expect on exam day, do you feel prepared to take the actual GMAT test? Answering questions from past GMAT exams is a surefire way to ensure you are primed and ready to go. Check out your GMAT practice test options today.