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GMAT Exam Overview: Order Sections, Adaptivity, and GMAT Scoring

In the following article, we’re going to talk about the strategic implications of the GMAT's structure and scoring system. If you haven’t read part one of this overview, we encourage you to start with that first. You can either read this article or watch our GMAT Exam Overview video on YouTube.

GMAT Section Order Options

There are three potential order options:

Order #1

  • Analytical writing assessment - 30 minutes.
  • Integrated reasoning - 30 minutes (optional 8-minute break)
  • Quantitative reasoning: 62 minutes (optional 8-minute break)
  • Verbal reasoning: 65 minutes 

Order #2

  • Verbal reasoning: 65 minutes (optional 8-minute break)
  • Quantitative reasoning: 62 minutes (optional 8-minute break)
  • Integrated reasoning - 30 minutes
  • Analytical writing assessment - 30 minutes

Order #3

  • Quantitative reasoning: 62 minutes (optional 8-minute break)
  • Verbal reasoning: 65 minutes (optional 8-minute break)
  • Integrated reasoning - 30 minutes
  • Analytical writing assessment - 30 minutes

There is no objective answer regarding which order option is preferable. The best choice for you will depend on your personal preference and test-taking strategy. The main consideration to keep in mind, however, is whether you want to jump right into the most important sections or warm up with sections that are lower stakes. 

GMAT Adaptivity

The GMAT features question variability, which means that your performance on each quantitative reasoning or verbal reasoning problem dictates the difficulty of each subsequent problem. With this in mind, it's impossible to skip or return to any questions in any GMAT section, because how you perform on a prior question dictates the content of your next one. 

The Strategic implications of this are myriad:

  • Do your best from the start. The earlier quantitative and verbal problems dictate the level of difficulty and matter more in your overall score. The exam is trying to determine your proficiency level early on and doesn't know how good you are at different content areas, so you have an opportunity to get ahead of the game if you perform better earlier rather than later.
  • Guess on every question you aren’t sure about, because you can't move on to another question until you do. 
  • Check your pacing approximately every 10 questions to guarantee that you have an opportunity to complete the full exam. Your score will be negatively impacted if you do not complete the sections, so make sure that you do so with enough time to at least click through and guess at the end.

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GMAT Scoring

Each section of the exam features a different scoring scale:

Quantitative reasoning

  • Individual Scale: 0-60
  • Realistic Scale: 9-51
  • 50th Percentile: 45
  • 90th Percentile: 50

Verbal reasoning

  • Individual Scale: 0-60
  • Realistic Scale: 6-45
  • 50th Percentile: 28
  • 90th Percentile: 40

Integrated reasoning

  • Individual Scale: 1-8
  • 50th Percentile: 5
  • 90th Percentile:8

Analytical writing assessment

  • Individual Scale: 0-6 (.5 point increments)
  • 50th Percentile: 5
  • 90th Percentile: 6

Overall Score

  • Quantitative and Verbal Combined: 200-800 (10 point increments)
  • 50th Percentile: 590
  • 90th Percentile: 710

Now that you know the range of possible scores within each section, it’s time to identify what your targets are. 

GMAT Target Score

Knowing your target score is a critical step in your GMAT Journey because you want to know where to direct your efforts as you study. To identify your target score, research medium scores and ranges at your target business schools. Visit official program websites, email admissions departments, and don’t be afraid to call admissions officers directly. 


We hope this example was helpful! To see all of our GMAT videos, please check out our YouTube playlist. For further information about MyGuru's proven GMAT tutoring approach, visit the GMAT prep page on our website. To learn more about the GMAT and grad school admissions in general, visit our GMAT admissions blog. Happy studying.

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