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GMAT Structure: You have decided to pursue your dream management degree abroad, and all that stands between you and your dream business school is a good score on the GMAT and a stellar application. Over the next few weeks, we shall help you plan for your GMAT through a series of blog posts on test preparation strategies.

But before you start your GMAT preparation, it is essential that you know a few important things:

1. What the GMAT is all about
2. GMAT Structure
3. How the GMAT algorithm works
4. How the GMAT scores your performance

In this blog and the next, we are going to cover the above aspects in detail. A comprehensive understanding of these areas will help you structure your GMAT preparation.

1. What is the GMAT all about?

The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), as the name suggests, is a test used by universities as a part of their admission process for management programmes (such as MBA, MIM, etc). The test has been found to share a high correlation with candidates’ performance in the first year of management studies. So the first thing that you need to understand is that the GMAT structure is such that it tests not just your English or Quantitative skills – it tests your ANALYTICAL and LOGICAL capabilities — a necessity for all future managers. All the sections of the test are designed to challenge you on these skills.

1. GMAT Structure

There are four broad sections on the GMAT – Analytical Writing, Integrated Reasoning, Quantitative and Verbal – appearing in this sequence.

As you can see above, the GMAT is a 3.5 hour long test (excluding two optional 8 – minute breaks).

While the test does seem to be long, the good news is that the GMAT is a very well defined test. Unlike many other tests, it does not try to surprise students. This means that if you are well prepared and you are aware of the GMAT structure and all types of GMAT questions, you should be able to sail through the test easily.

a. GMAT structure: Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) Section

Objective of the section: To measure your ability to apply critical thinking and to communicate your ideas

Task: 1 Essay – Analyse an Argument

Duration: 30 Minutes

The analytical writing section consists of an Essay Writing task on analysing an argument. Most AWA topics that are administered to students (and therefore ones you can get too on the test) are already available on mba.com. You can check them out here.

The AWA prompt shall consist of an argument. You are supposed to analyse the line of reasoning and present a critique. The argument is often weak and contains logical fallacies, and your responses to such scenarios should be to analyse the flaws in the argument and suggest improvements. There are fixed templates that you need to follow (these will be explained in details in later blogs) while you respond to a GMAT AWA prompt.

AWA Scoring: The AWA is scored on a scale of 0 to 6 and is not a part of the GMAT total score on a 200-800 scale.

Is GMAT AWA important? Typically B-schools pay more importance to Verbal, Quantitative and Overall scores when compared to AWA. However, they still expect you to score beyond a certain threshold. We recommend that you score 4 or above out of 6 on AWA to be considered by good B-schools.

Another important thing to be noted is that the GMAT sends your AWA responses to your score recipients (B-schools you have sent scores to) who then can use the AWA tone, style and quality to compare with your application essays.

b. GMAT structure: Integrated Reasoning (IR) Section

Objective of the section: To measure your ability to interpret information presented in multiple formats from various sources. This is related to day-to-day data driven decision making skills that management graduates should demonstrate.

Number of Questions: 12

Duration: 30 minutes

This is a relatively new section in the GMAT, introduced in 2012. The IR section can include four types of well defined question types.

• Graphics Interpretation – Interpret information from a graph and choose the right answers from a dropdown list.
• Two-part Analysis – A question with two parts in it. You need to choose answers from a table.
• Table Analysis – Interpret information presented in a table and choose the correct answer – either yes or no, true or false, inferable or inferable.
• Multi-source Reasoning – Tabs containing data from different sources (say 3 emails) and respond to questions based on the data (yes/no, multiple choice).

IR Scoring: The score on an IR section is on a 1-8 scale and is not a part of the overall score (out of 800). The details of the scoring system will be covered in the next blog.

Is GMAT IR important? Since IR is a relatively new section, different B-schools treat IR scores differently. While some might treat it as an important factor, other schools might not. However, after the GMAT started announcing the percentile scores of IR apart from the raw scores, B-schools have started assigning more weight to IR scores than earlier. It is believed that the IR section will have a larger role to play in admissions.

Also, if you wish to work for large management consulting firms or banks once you graduate, try to do well in the IR section, since many of these firms (such as BCG) use the GMAT score (especially the IR score) as one of the hiring criteria.

c. GMAT structure: Quantitative Section

Objective of the section: To measure your ability to analyse numerical data.

Duration: 75 Minutes

The GMAT Quantitative section consists of 37 questions, with which your class 9-10 level mathematical skills are tested. There are two broad types of question on GMAT Quantitative section:

• Problem Solving – Mathematical problems consisting of 5-option multiple choice questions.
• Data Sufficiency – A unique type of question consisting of two statements, each containing data. You have to identify whether the given data is sufficient to answer a particular question. The 5 answer choices are same for all data sufficiency problems. Stay tuned to this blog to find out more about problem solving.

Out of the total 37 questions in this section, you can expect around 19-22 questions on Problem Solving and 15-18 questions on Data Sufficiency.

The two question types cover areas such as Arithmetic (numbers, percentages, ratio & proportion, rate & work, statistics, interest, mixtures), algebra, inequalities, geometry, basic solid geometry, basic coordinate geometry, sets, permutation and combination and probability.

Quatitative Section Scoring: The Quantitative section of the test is adaptive. This means that your performance in the current question(s) determine the level of difficulty next question(s). i.e., the next question that you see is generated based on your performance in the present question once you hit the ‘Next’ button. This is why the GMAT is a Computer Adaptive Test. You might thus get different scores even if you get the same total number of questions correct.

The Quantitative section is scored on a scale of 0-60. However, scores below 7 and above 51 is rarely seen. More than your raw scores, it is the corresponding percentile scores that really matter.

Is GMAT Quantitative score important? Yes, it is one of the most important sections on the GMAT and is also a part of the GMAT overall score out of 800. In fact, many of the B-school programmes assign more weight to the quantitative section score than other sections.

d. GMAT structure: Verbal Section

Objective of the section: To measure your ability to read and interpret written English passages, to evaluate reasoning arguments and to rectify English written statements.

Duration: 75 Minutes

The GMAT Verbal section consists of 41 questions on three broad types of questions:

• Reading Comprehension – Study a passage (approx 350 words) and respond to multiple choice questions asked on the passages. Almost all RC questions fall under well defined categories.
• Critical Reasoning – These questions test the reasoning skills that you apply on arguments. Questions typically ask you to strengthen or weaken arguments, draw inferences, find assumptions, resolve a paradox, etc.
• Sentence Correction – Here, a part of a sentence is underlined. This underlined part may or may not be grammatically correct. You need to retain the part if it is grammatically correct or replace it with a grammatically correct part from a given set of options.

All the three types of verbal questions have defined question types and each type has a defined solution approach.

Out of the total 41 questions in this section, you can expect around 15-16 questions on Sentence Correction, 11-12 on Critical Reasoning and 14-15 questions on Data Sufficiency.

Verbal Section Scoring: Like the Quantitative section, the Verbal section of the test is adaptive. The Verbal section is scored on a scale of 0-60. However, scores below 9 and above 44 is rarely seen.

Is GMAT Verbal score important? Yes, apart from being an important section by itself, it is a part of the GMAT Overall score out of 800. In fact, it proves to be Achilles Heel for many non-native speakers (especially people from India) who find the verbal section difficult while they score better on quantitative section.

Stay tuned for our next blog that talks about how the GMAT scoring system works.

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