The full length of the GMAT exam is 3 hours and 7 minutes, excluding two optional, 8-minute breaks. However, since most the vast majority of test takers utilize both breaks, your typical GMAT exam time will come to approximately 3 hours and 23 minutes.
The GMAT exam comprises four sections:
When you arrive at the testing center, you’ll have three options from which to choose the order you take the test:
Option 1: Analytical Writing, Integrated Reasoning, Quantitative, Verbal
Option 2: Verbal, Quantitative, Analytical Writing, Integrated Reasoning
Option 3: Quantitative, Verbal, Analytical Writing, Integrated Reasoning
The Quantitative Reasoning section of the GMAT is 62 minutes long with 31 multiple-choice questions. This leaves you an average of exactly 2 minutes to complete each question.
Many students practice GMAT quantitative questions with a 2-minute timer set on their phone to get a better sense of how long to spend on each question.
I have a word of warning to my tutoring students about this technique, however: Remember that you have an average of 2 minutes per quant question! Some questions may take less than a minute to complete, while others may require more than 3 minutes, even if you are working efficiently toward an answer. Don’t limit yourself to just 2 minutes on the most challenging questions.
The Verbal Reasoning section of the GMAT is 65 minutes and includes 35 multiple-choice questions, for an average of about 1 minute and 48 seconds per question.
However, the three types of questions in the Verbal section—Reading Comprehension, Critical Reasoning, and Sentence Correction—require widely differing times to complete. A good rule of thumb is:
The Analytical Writing and Integrated Reasoning sections each last 30 minutes, with no break offered between these sections. However, test takers may take 10 minutes to read the instructions before the AWA section begins, and may take 1 minute to read the instructions before the Integrated Reasoning section.
The Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) has just one prompt, where the test taker is asked to write an essay analyzing the validity of a provided argument. Test takers are asked to structure their thoughts, write an essay, and proofread within 30 minutes. Since the GMAT is taken on a computer, anything typed in the essay field will be automatically saved and submitted when the 30 minutes expires. Test takers may also choose to submit their entry earlier if completed within 30 minutes.
The Integrated Reasoning section contains twelve multi-part questions that must be answered within 30 minutes. Each question must be answered in order with an answer submitted, and you cannot return to a previous question. If the 30 minutes expires before you’ve finished the section, a penalty will be assessed for missed questions. However, if you’ve already selected an answer for the final question when time expires, your selected answer WILL count, even if you didn’t hit submit at the bottom of the screen.
As mentioned, there is no break between the AWA and IR sections of the GMAT, no matter which order you choose to take the exam. There are two optional, 8-minute, breaks between the other sections of the exam, and I recommend taking them!
The GMAT is a mentally exhausting exam, so using the breaks to stand up, use the restroom, and grab a quick drink and snack will help you maintain mental stamina throughout the test.
I even recommend doing a few jumping jacks or another aerobic exercise in the bathroom during your break to keep the blood flowing to your brain. (It sounds crazy, but it works!)
In addition to the official breaks, you’ll have 1 minute to read the instructions for each section before the time starts. The Analytical Writing Assessment has more detailed instructions, so you are given 10 minutes to read these instructions.
If you have prepared well prior to sitting for the GMAT exam, you may not need to read these instructions carefully, so this time may add to your breaks and help you maintain your mental stamina.
In April 2018, GMAC (the maker of the GMAT) announced that the exam would be getting shorter. It reduced the number of questions in the Quantitative Reasoning by six questions and in the Verbal Reasoning section by five questions. In turn, it reduced the amount of time provided for each section, so the time per question remained the same.
As business schools began accepting either the GMAT or the GRE exam for admissions purposes, GMAC found ways to make its exam more “test-taker friendly” to attract more test takers (and more revenue) each year. In reducing the number of unscored experimental questions in each exam, GMAC was able to make the test shorter.
GMAC claims that your score, however, is not affected by the new length of the exam, as the number of scored questions did not change.
In my experience, most test takers have celebrated the shorter testing time on the GMAT since it has rolled out. They find the shorter length of roughly 3.5 hours to be far less daunting and mentally exhausting than the previous length of nearly 4 hours.
However, maintaining a proper pace becomes even more important with the shorter GMAT length, because you have fewer questions and less time to catch up if you fall behind.
Knowing how long the GMAT takes and the timing for each section will enable you to prepare and succeed on test day.