GMAT Question Format

Instructor: Jessica Keys
The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) has four sections, and each section contains several different types of questions. This article takes a comprehensive look at the areas these questions cover and how they are formatted. If you are preparing for this exam and want to know what to expect, or if you are just curious about how the GMAT works, read on!

Question Formats for the GMAT

With such a broad range of subjects, it naturally follows that each section contains different formats of questions. While the contents of the actual questions will be unknown until you sit for the exam, familiarizing yourself with each different question format beforehand is a good way to prepare as it will save valuable test time later on!

Section 1: Analytical Writing Assessment

In this section, you will be asked to write a single essay in which you critique a given argument. You may strongly agree or disagree with the author's position, but your task is only to analyze the techniques employed by its author; how does the argument arrive at its conclusion? Does it make a strong case or a weak case, and why? Does it apply valid evidence? Could the argument be improved? Are there alternate conclusions one could draw from the same pool of evidence?

While you may feel very passionately towards the given subject, it is important to remember that the objective of this section is to test your skills of analysis and argument evaluation. It is not an opinion piece.

Section 2: Integrated Reasoning

This section of the GMAT will test your ability to logically interpret different types of data as presented in a visual format--think graphs, pie charts, scatter plots, spreadsheets and so on! Some of the questions are mathematical in nature, but the test will provide a basic calculator.

The Integrated Reasoning (IR) section always contains twelve questions, which come in four different formats:

  • Table Analysis: This entails working with an interactive table of data. Just like with any other database, you can sort the data by its different attributes. You will have to make use of the sorting function to best answer three to four related true-or-false questions.
  • Graph Interpretation: These questions have you examining data represented as some kind of graph, such as a line graph, bar graph or similar pictograph/plot. Accompanying each graph are a few statements that you complete by selecting the best multiple choice options.
  • Multi-Source Reasoning: In this section, you are asked to draw a yes-or-no conclusion from a few different sources of information. You will be working with typical means of business communication, like memos and emails. Not all of the information given to you will be relevant, so it's important to read each source very carefully!
  • Two-Part Solution: This type of question may be a bit tricky to understand at first. Here, you are given a question that requires a set of answers (pick one from each given column), both of which must be correct in order to satisfy the question.

Note that while most of these questions contain multiple parts, you will only receive credit if you answer all parts correctly.

Section 3: Quantitative Reasoning

As suggested by the name, this is the most mathematical portion of the exam. However, don't be intimidated by the word! You will not be tested on advanced mathematics like trig or calculus. Do brush up on your arithmetic, geometry and algebra, and bear in mind that unlike the IR section, you will not be allowed to use a calculator!

Quantitative Reasoning features two question formats:

  • Data Sufficiency: First, the test poses a question, then offers two relevant statements. Assess the statements and decide if they provide enough information for a correct answer. You do not actually need to supply the correct answer; you are only deciding which (if any) of the statements contain sufficient data--and yes, not enough information is a choice!
  • Problem Solving: These are simply multiple choice math problems covering a gamut of topics, from basic arithmetic to geometry. Again, calculators are not allowed on this portion, but you will be given scrap paper.

Section 4: Verbal Reasoning

This is the final section of the GMAT and will test your ability to comprehend both reading and writing in the English language. This includes many skills, as assessed by this portion's three question formats:

  • Sentence Correction: You are given a sentence with certain parts underlined, followed by five different choices, four of which feature different ways to express the underlined section (the first choice is simply a repeat of the original). While keeping an eye out for clarity, word choice and basic grammar, choose which one of the five you think is the best way to phrase the sentence.
  • Reading Comprehension: Here, you will be given short passages to read, then three or four multiple choice questions to answer about each passage. These questions will diagnose your ability to infer details, make analogies and draw accurate conclusions based on a given text. The topic of this text may not necessarily be a familiar one, so your ability to process new information is also put to the test!
  • Critical Reasoning: This type of problem is all about arguments. Each item of this format begins with a paragraph or two that contains an argument, then asks you a multiple choice question. Such questions will vary, but are designed to test your ability to analyze an argument--for example, to find its strong or weak points, to evaluate its assumptions or conclusion, or to examine any logical fallacies.

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