The GMAT: What to Expect

Last Updated Oct 3, 2007 4:12 PM EDT

After you've signed up for the test, paid the fee, and locked yourself in, it's time to start studying. Before you hit the books, here's a look at what you can expect.

The GMAT has three parts: An Analytical Writing Assessment, a Quantitative section, and a Verbal section. You have the option to take a 10-minute break (or less) between each section.

The writing assessment entails two essay questions: Analysis of an Issue and Analysis of an Argument. You have 30 minutes to write each essay (and no break between).

The essays are scored on a scale of 1 to 6.Wondering how a computer will determine your writing skills? The computer grades your essays first, but a human grader will do the same. If the grades differ vastly, a third human grader will score the piece.

The next section is math. You'll have 75 minutes to answer 37 multiple choice questions. There are two question types -- data sufficiency and problem solving.

The problem-solving questions are reminiscent of SAT math questions. They focus mostly on algebra and geometry, so don't worry about hunting up your old calculus textbooks.

The data sufficiency questions take a little more reasoning. They ask a question (e.g., "is the sky green?") and then list two statements (e.g., "the sky is a combination of blue and yellow" and "the sky is not black"). (Of course, the real test uses actual numbers and math, not this word-oriented blogger's type of examples.)

You then have to decide if you can answer the question using both statements, one of the statements, or neither of the statements. You don't have to actually answer the question, but you have to know how to answer it.

The last section is the verbal assessment. You'll have 75 minutes to answer 41 questions. You'll have three types of questions: Reading comprehension, critical reasoning, and sentence correction.

Reading comp is just what it says: You read a passage and answer questions about it. But don't get cocky: Both the passages and questions are a step above what you had on the SAT, and they required more attention than I originally expected.

Critical reasoning asks questions about arguments and support. For example, you'll be given a passage that states an argument and must choose which fact best supports -- or disproves -- the statement.

Sentence correction is also pretty self-explanatory. The test will have a statement with part of it underlined, and you must decide which of the offered versions is the most correct.

Next time: I'll share some pointers and lessons learned from taking -- and passing -- the GMAT.