Impact of Changing GMAT pattern on MBA Applications

Changing GMAT Pattern and Its Implications on MBA Admissions

The GMAT is the entrance test that is generally taken if you want to apply for an MBA in any of the business schools. A good score on the test will ensure that you get admission into the university or college of your choice.

While GMAT and fun may not always be used in the same sentence, studying for the exam with a plan will ultimately yield excellent results. Focusing on the four sections and going through various preparatory tests will work to build your confidence in taking the final test.

Why GMAT: GMAT is conducted by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) which is the global non-profit council for business schools. The GMAT exam not only measures your skill level but is relied on extensively by business schools all around the world. In the years it has been used, it has proven to be a reliable predictor of academic performance in business schools.

In addition, taking the GMAT exam shows business schools the commitment you possess to get into the MBA program, and prepares you in many ways for the rigors of the business program itself too.

Changes in GMAT
Changes ahead


GMAT In Its Current Form: You are given 3.5 hours to complete the GMAT exam that will test you on

  • Integrated Reasoning- 12 questions, 30 minutes
  • Quantitative- 37 questions, 75 minutes
  • Verbal – 41 questions, 75 minutes
  • Analytical Writing- 1 essay topic, 30 minutes

In the original format, this is the order that is specified and you needed to take the exam in the same order. However, GMAC, in an effort to improve the GMAT experience, has proposed a few changes in the exam pattern.

Recent Changes:

Select Section Order: The changed format of the GMAT has taken effect since July 11, 2017, and according to the change announced, candidates can select the order in which they wish to take the exam. What this does is that it offers the candidates the opportunity to customize the exam by attempting those sections that they are most comfortable with first.

So, the candidates can choose one of the below orders to attempt the exam

  1. Integrated Reasoning, Quantitative, Verbal and Analytical writing (this is the original order);
  2. Verbal, Quantitative, Integrated Reasoning and Analytical Writing or;
  3. Quantitative, Verbal, Integrated Reasoning and Analytical Writing


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Profile Questions: The second change is around the profile questions which are typically asked after you complete your test. To reduce the overall time taken to administer the test, this has now been scrapped. However, the profile questions which include information about your undergraduate degree, work experience etc. can now be accessed and/or updated on their official website ( These changes have been made effective since July 11, 2017.

Retaking the Test: GMAC has announced a lifetime limit of 8 GMAT exams. The good news is that they have advanced the time limit to take a re-test. You can retake a test within 16 days of an unsatisfactory exam while previously this limit was 31 days. If you have had a bad exam and your application dates are closing in on you, the changed rule allows you to attempt a re-exam quicker saving valuable time.


  • Allowing you to pick the order in which you want to attempt the tests gives you the comfort of starting with the section that puts the least stress on your brain thereby preserving your mental energy for the tougher sections later. Some people also prefer it the other way round – start with the most stressful section first, so you are fresh when tackling it, and then go on to the easier sections later, by the time you lose a bit of energy. The other advantage in this system is that you head into the tougher sections with confidence as you have tackled the easier sections well. The only exception to using this method is a situation when you have exam anxiety. In that case, you are much better off starting with IR (Integrated reasoning)/AW (Analytical writing) so that you can warm up to eventually tackle Verbal and Quantitative.
  • A huge part of cracking the GMAT is about managing your time effectively and conserving your mental energy, that you will do if you take Verbal ahead of IR/AW. While GMAC states that taking the exam in different orders maintains the integrity and quality of the scores, the fact remains that they use computer simulation to understand probabilities of a right answer or a wrong one. What it does not take into consideration is the exam stress and how tired a test-taker feels at the end of the exam. So, pacing yourself and timing the sections will help immensely.
  • The Select Section Order rule change will hugely impact the admission process to MBA colleges. Amongst the top three countries that take the GMAT tests, the US is followed closely by India and China. Looking at the previous year records, Indians and Chinese perform exceptionally well on the Quantitative section, but the Verbal scores are not as good. With this change, test-takers from these demographics also get a chance to perform better on their weaker section (usually the Verbal part).

The average GMAT scores at B schools are already quite high. For instance, Stanford’s latest average GMAT score is 737 (which will definitely increase as a result of the change), and in India, IIMs and ISB will see that the average scores will breach the 720 mark as well fairly soon.

Most of the business schools around the world look for GMAT scores to understand if you have what it takes to get the degree, and cracking the test is therefore pivotal. Preparation, however, is the only thing that matters. So, prepare well in advance and maximize your score irrespective of the order of the sections!

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