9 Tips for Making It Through the Full GMAT Length
While you might spend months preparing for and obsessing over the GMAT, how much time will you actually spend taking it? This guide will discuss total GMAT length, as well as how much time you can expect to spend in the testing center.
We’ll also take a look at how many minutes you have per question, a key piece of intel since you’ll be responsible for getting to all of the questions in each section. Read on to learn everything you need to know about GMAT time, plus some tips on how to prep for this long exam.
First, how long is the GMAT overall?
How Long Is the GMAT? Total Time
The total testing time of the GMAT is three and a half (3 ½) hours. You’ll start with two 30-minute sections and then move on to two 75-minute sections. Each section is strictly timed, so you can’t get any additional time unless you set up accommodations due to a documented disability.
During the GMAT, you have the option of taking two breaks for up to eight minutes. You can take each break after about an hour of testing. The first comes after the Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) and Integrated Reasoning, and the second comes after the Quantitative section.
If you take advantage of both eight-minute breaks, then your total testing time will be 3 hours and 46 minutes. This chart shows the full GMAT length broken down into its four sections.
Your actual time in the GMAT testing room will be a bit longer, since you’ll take some time reading through additional screens that give instructions or ask you whether or not you want to keep your scores. Just like with each section of the test, each of these additional screens has a time limit.
How Long Does the GMAT Take With Additional Screens?
As you take the GMAT, you’ll read through a few additional screens. First, you’ll have the option of choosing five schools to receive your GMAT scores. These score reports are free, but any additional ones that you add after the test cost $25 each. You should take advantage of these free score reports, since you have the option of canceling your scores at the end of the test if you’re not satisfied with them.
After you select score recipients, you’ll be prompted to agree to a non-disclosure agreement. Following your electronic signature, you’ll move on to a tutorial screen that gives you instructions for the Analytical Writing Assessment.
This tutorial tells you how to write your essay in the response box, along with some tips for navigating the next screen. You have a 10-minute limit, but you should familiarize yourself with this tutorial before you take the GMAT. You can find the same screen at the start of the two practice tests on the free GMAT PrepSoftware.
After 10 minutes, the AWA section will automatically start. You can also click ahead at any point to start your essay. In addition to this tutorial, you’ll get brief instruction screens before the Integrated Reasoning, Quantitative, and Verbal sections. These screens have just a one-minute limit. Like with the AWA tutorial, you should go into the GMAT already familiar with these instructions.
After you finish the GMAT, you’ll be asked to confirm or re-enter your personal information. Then, you’ll get your unofficial score report, which tells you how you did on the Integrated Reasoning, Quantitative, and Verbal sections, along with your total scores (AWA has no effect on your total scores).
At this point, you can decide whether to keep or cancel your scores. You have just two minutes to decide. If you don’t select an option, your GMAT scores will be automatically canceled!
To prevent this from happening, you should go into the test with a clear idea of which scores you would keep and which ones you would cancel. Luckily, you can change your mind and cancel or reinstate your scores later, but you’ll have to pay a fee of $25 to $50 to do so.
Given all of these extra screens for instructions and agreements, how long does the GMAT take? You’ll likely be sitting at the computer in the testing room for a total of a little over four hours.
The GMAT is a long and demanding test, and you’re responsible for managing your time through each of the four sections. Read on to learn how many questions you have in each section and how to manage your pacing.
How Long Is the GMAT by Section?
When you take the GMAT, you’ll get just one question at a time. You can’t skip or go back to any questions, and you’re responsible for getting to all of the questions in a section before time is up.
To help you do this, you’ll see a timer with a tracker that tells you what question you’re on and how many you have left. If you don’t answer all of the questions in each section, your score will take a serious hit.
This chart shows you how many questions you have in each section to give you a sense of how much time you have per question. Keep in mind that it might not be the best strategy to divide your time equally among every different type of question, but this estimate gives you a good starting point for thinking about time management.
On average, you’ll have about two minutes per question. In the Integrated Reasoning section, you get a little more time per question, and in verbal you get a little less.
Obviously, the GMAT is a fast-paced test, and you need to manage your time and keep up your focus over several hours in order to do well on it. What can you do to sharpen your time management skills and prepare for the GMAT length? Read on for nine essential tips for time management before and during the GMAT.
How to Manage GMAT Time: 9 Key Tips
Not only does the GMAT ask tough questions, but it also challenges you to get to all of the questions in time. This kind of test is difficult for anyone, but it poses an extra challenge for people who have been out of school for a few years and haven’t taken a test in a while.
How can you polish your rusty test-taking skills? And what can you do as you take the test to work efficiently? Below are nine essential tips for time management on the GMAT. First, consider what you can to prepare for the test, followed by some advice for managing your time as you take the test itself.
Before the GMAT …
Consider these five tips for sharpening your time management skills as you get ready for the GMAT.
- Time Tip #1: Take Timed Practice Tests
The best way to get a sense of the rhythm of the GMAT is to take timed practice tests. The free GMAT PrepSoftware has two practice exams that emulate the real test, and you can find additional ones with other GMAT prep materials.
When you take a practice test, find a quiet space, use a stopwatch if you don’t have a computer-based timer, and try your best to simulate actual testing conditions. Being an efficient test-taker is a skill that you can develop with practice.
A lot of people have trouble getting to all of the questions in the GMAT, but a few actually have the opposite problem. If you find yourself rushing through and making careless mistakes, try to slow down, pay attention to details, and use the full amount of time you have to answer all of the questions.
There’s no need to finish with ten minutes still left in a section, since you can’t go back and revisit any questions that you’ve already answered. The only exception is the AWA section, when you should save a few minutes at the end to read over your essay, edit for grammar and organization, and revise any sentences that are unclear.
The more you practice with an eye on the timer, the better you’ll get at balancing time on the GMAT. Plus, practice tests are useful for gauging your score improvement, measuring your progress, and readjusting your study plan in the months before the GMAT.
- Time Tip #2: Find Test-Taking Strategies That Work For You
People who do well on the GMAT don’t just have a solid understanding of content. They’re also working strategically. Each section of the GMAT calls for its own skills and strategies to work efficiently and avoid careless errors.
In the verbal section, for instance, you could try the Veritas STOP method of reading the passages. Rather than focusing on every word, try to read with an eye for the passage’s structure, tone, organization, and purpose. By focusing on these main elements, you can read more quickly while still picking up the information you need to answer the questions.
In the quantitative section, you usually don’t have to solve “data sufficiency” problems. Solving a problem would be a waste of time if you can assess whether or not you have enough information without actually going through all of the steps.
Simple process of elimination can also be a useful strategy for many of the multiple choice questions, as well. If you can eliminate any answers as definitely wrong, then you might be able to focus in on the right one more quickly.
For instance, sentence correction questions in the verbal section ask you to fix a grammar error. If two answer choices serve the same function, then neither can be the right choice. Using process of elimination, especially when you’re unsure on a question, can help you zero in on the right answer, or at least help you make a more educated guess.
As you prepare to handle GMAT time, try out your own time-saving strategies and figure out which ones work best for you.
- Time Tip #3: Practice Using the GMAT Calculator
You can only use a calculator on the Integrated Reasoning section of the GMAT, and you can’t bring your own. Instead, you’ll use the provided on-screen calculator to solve any problems. If you’re not used to using a computerized version of a calculator, then you could lose valuable time here.
To make sure you can use it efficiently, you should practice before the test with the GMAT PrepSoftware or an online calculator, like the Google calculator. Using a hand calculator as you answer Integrated Reasoning practice questions won’t help you get ready for the real testing experience.
Practice first so you can make sure you don’t waste any time trying to use the calculator in the Integrated Reasoning section.
- Time Tip #4: Schedule Your Test at the Right Time of Day
Do you wake up ready and eager to take on the day? Or does your brain need a few hours (and a few coffees) to really get going? Fortunately, you have a lot of choice when you schedule your GMAT, and you can choose to take it either in the morning of the afternoon.
To make sure you can maintain focus and work efficiently over this three and a half hour test, you should register for the time of day when you’re most alert. Will you be able to think most clearly in the AM? Or do you focus better when you can sleep in and take your time getting to the test center?
Be intentional about when you take the GMAT to suit your schedule and choose the best time of day for you to focus and do well on this demanding test.
- Time Tip #5: Prepare for Test Day
Finally, you’ll also benefit from preparing for the test fully the night before. Get a good night’s sleep so you can focus the next day. Take the night to relax rather than doing any last-minute cramming. At that point, you’ve done all you can to prepare.
Try to eat a healthy breakfast with protein, and avoid sugar and caffeine that cause your energy levels and focus to fluctuate. You should also plan your arrival carefully, so that you’re not rushing in late and feeling frazzled.
Nutrition and stress have a big impact on our ability to concentrate. By preparing for the logistics of test day, you’ll set the conditions to feel confident, clear-headed, and ready to focus in on a challenging, three and a half hour exam.
During the GMAT …
What can you do as you take the GMAT to work efficiently and avoid wasting time? Consider the following four tips.
- Time Tip #6: Aim to Answer All of the Questions
As you know, you’re responsible for answering all of the questions in each section. You’ll just see one question at a time, and you can’t skip or go back to any questions.
As you take the test, you’ll see what question you’re on. For instance, on the first question in the math section, you’ll see that you’re working on 1/37. You have an average of two minutes per question on the GMAT. However, it might not always make sense to divide your time equally.
In the verbal section, you might spend proportionally more time reading a passage than you do answering the relevant questions. These reading comprehension questions, furthermore, might take you longer than sentence corrections, especially if you’re fast when it comes to identifying and fixing errors of grammar.
As you take practice tests, you should take notes on how much time you tend to spend on each type of question. The more you practice and self-reflect on the test, the clearer sense you’ll have of how to divide your time.
If you find yourself wasting too much time on a question when you’re taking the GMAT, just take your best guess and move on. It’s better to guess on a question than to run out of time and not get to all of the questions in a section.
- Time Tip #7: Don’t Worry About How You’re Doing
The Quantitative and Verbal sections are adaptive, meaning that subsequent questions are chosen based on your performance. One common mistake test-takers make is trying to gauge how they’re doing in these sections. They assume that a question that feels easier means that they got the previous one wrong.
Don’t do this! First, it’s a waste of time trying to figure out the difficulty level of questions. Difficulty level can be subjective. A question may feel easier to you because you have a strong grasp of a particular concept, not because it’s actually an easier question according to the test-makers.
If you start to worry about doing poorly, then you can get in your head and end up worsening your performance. Besides, even if a question is easier, that doesn’t necessarily mean you got other questions wrong. There are experimental questions scattered throughout the test that are meant to test out material for future tests and won’t count toward your scores.
You should also ignore the rumor that the first ten questions in the quantitative and verbal sections are the most important (and if you’ve never heard it, then never mind!). All of the questions are equally important. Don’t spend more time on the first ten than any others.
As you’re taking the GMAT, try not to think about how well you’re doing at all. If you have to guess on a question that stumps you, don’t let it get in your head. Save all your mental energy for answering the question in front of you and forget about the ones that have already gone by. You’ll find out your scores soon enough.
- Time Tip #8: Make the Most of the Timer
As you take the GMAT, you’ll see a timer counting down how much time you have left in each section. The timer turns to a blinking display when you have five minutes left.
Use the timer to help you keep track and make sure you’re not wasting too much time on a question. If, on the other hand, you have ten minutes and just two questions left in a section, you know you can take your time answering both.
If the timer is too distracting, you can hide it. Most people find the timer useful so they can keep the same test-taking rhythm they developed on GMAT practice tests.
- Time Tip #9: Take Advantage of Your Breaks
While you might be tempted to power through each section one after another, you shouldn’t underestimate the usefulness of taking a break. The breaks are a great opportunity to clear your head, regroup, and shift focus to a new section.
Get up, move around, and give your eyes a break from staring at the computer screen. You can also drink water or eat food during breaks to help keep you going. The breaks help you reenergize after about every hour of testing.
If you don’t take a break, furthermore, you could end up getting distracted by people coming and going from the testing room. In these strictly timed sections, eight minutes of distracted test-taking could be a major drawback.
Show up to the testing center prepared with water and healthy snacks and make the most of your eight-minute breaks. Having the chance to move around and feel refreshed will help you keep up your stamina over this long test.
Now that you have a sense of what you can do before and after the test to improve your time management, let’s go over the key takeaways you should remember about the structure and length of the GMAT.
How Long Is the GMAT Test? Key Points
When your long-awaited GMAT test day finally arrives, you’ll spend three and a half hours before a computer taking the test. The first two sections are half an hour long, and the following math and verbal sections are both one hour and 15 minutes.
To give yourself a break, you have the option of leaving the test room (but probably not the test center) for a maximum of eight minutes after about each hour of testing.
The GMAT puts a lot of responsibility on test-takers. Because it’s a computer-based, and in some sections, computer-adaptive test, you’re responsible for getting to all of the questions before you reach the time limit. You can’t skip or return to questions, but instead have to keep pushing forward until you answer all of them.
While an average of two minutes per question may sound like a tall order, you can hone your skills by taking timed practice tests as you prepare. By practicing and reflecting on your experience, you can become a more and more efficient test-taker.
If you’ve made it until the end of this guide, then you’ve already taken an important step in your GMAT prep. Understanding how timing works on the test is key. By understanding how the sections are timed and developing a test-taking rhythm, you’ll set up the best possible conditions for yourself as you take the GMAT and get ready for business school.
What’s on each section of the GMAT? This GMAT format guide breaks down the skills and content of each section, plus you’ll find examples of every question type on the GMAT.
How should you study for the GMAT? Check out this comprehensive guide for a full GMAT syllabus, along with important tips for designing your personalized GMAT study plan.
What’s the total cost of the GMAT? Find out about registration cost and additional fees, along with advice on how to keep your total GMAT costs down.