Is GMAT really Tough?

Is GMAT tough

Is GMAT really tough?


Is GMAT really tough? We can say that GMAT is not tough, but quite challenging.

Why? Because the GMAT exam is a general and standardized test, which is available to anyone, from any background, who chooses to appear for it. It is also the standardized test that is widely used to select candidates appearing for the GMAT exam, for a rigorous MBA/Master’s program.

The GMAT exam has been structured in such a way that it assesses some key features to be desired from future managers. The GMAT exam consists of four sections – Integrated Reasoning, Analytical Writing, Verbal, and finally, Quantitative skills. The exam is set for a duration of three-and-a-half hours, making it technically longer, though seemingly shorter.

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There are four sections to independently score your abilities.

  • Analytical Writing Assessment: 30 minutes on a scale of 0 to 6, with an independent score, not contributing to your final 800.
  • Integrated Reasoning Section: 30 minutes on a scale of 1 to 8, evaluating your Analytical Skills and Data Interpretation skills. This section receives an independent score, not contributing to your final 800
  • Quantitative Section: 62 minutes for 31 questions, measuring your basic arithmetic, algebra, and geometry powers.
  • Verbal Section: 65 minutes for 36 questions, measuring your reading, critical reasoning, sentence correction and comprehension capabilities.

For a better insight, check out our article on GMAT Syllabus, New Format & Pattern.

The maximum score for the GMAT exam is 800. GMAT scores include a percentile ranking system in the context of all test-takers. So, for instance, out of the 767,833 test-takers in the period of 2015-2017, a score of 800 was in the 99th percentile. Only 1% of all test-takers managed to score the perfect score. Whereas, 200 came out at the 0th percentile indicating that everyone secured a score over 200. All the percentiles, for scores over 550, are tabulated below.

GMAT Score Percentile
800 99%
750 98%
700 88%
650 75%
600 57%
550 41%

When a GMAT applicant asks the question “How hard is the GMAT?”, she really wants to know how hard is it to crack the GMAT exam and get a high enough score to achieve a cut-off, which will keep her apart from the crowd. We will also talk about what are the difficult aspects that make the GMAT exam not tough but quite challenging for GMAT aspirants. We will also discuss few simple strategies to overcome the challenges.

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What makes the GMAT exam tough?

There are 3 words to describe what makes the GMAT exam tough.

  • Timing
  • Strategizing 
  • Accuracy


The GMAT test is rather long, there is no doubt about this fact,  to keep your mind focused and ready to face every challenge that comes your way. So, while you are preparing for the GMAT exam, you need to be aware of the number of questions to attempt within the given time limit. Because even with the 3+ hour time duration in the exam, you may experience a shortage of minutes.

The Analytical Writing Assessment section, or AWA, takes some time to read and then write a structured and logical essay, which takes a lot of practice in analyzing data and presenting it in different kinds and solving 12 questions, all within another 30 minutes of the Integrated Reasoning(IR) section. The 31 questions in quant, and 36 questions in verbal, also seem too tight for the 60+ minutes duration each.

So clearly, timing is one of the most crucial aspects to consider if you want to succeed in the GMAT exam. The only solution for this is to practice a lot. The secret is in the aspirant, who spent in practising and perfecting the techniques that will help him/her achieve their goal score, each time they appear for the mock tests.


Each and every section in the GMAT exam needs a different approach to tackle the problems in the best way you can. Thorough preparation is the only way you can save yourself from the challenging hurdles of the test. Here are a few quick pointers to help you plan your strategy accordingly.

  • Quantitative Section: It is not only just about assessing your math skills, but also how you approach any given problem. Each problem is unique and no “typical” solving method can save the day.
  • Verbal Section: The GMAT verbal section contains verbal knowledge. You will be tested for Reading Comprehension, understanding the key message and interrelationships between the various entities involved in the essay, all while keeping track of the time.
  • Analytical Writing Assessment (AWA) Section: This is the only section with open responses. The rest of the GMAT is, thankfully, multiple-choice. You are either right or wrong. The AWA (Analytical Writing Assessment), along with the IR (Integrated Reasoning), are also the sections that do not contribute to the 800 GMAT score. So, many candidates tend to ignore the AWA and IR preparations, leaving a mark to let a couple of b-school rejections. The quality of your AWA essay often acts as a window to your reasoning and logical abilities.
  • Integrated Reasoning (IR) Section: 12 questions, with 2-3 associated “tasks” containing four different varieties of data interpretation. This needs practice and an eye for data visualization.

Choosing the best order of GMAT sections

The traditional order of the sections was by default set to AWA, IR, Quant and finally Verbal. Therefore, test-takers didn’t have the option of rearranging the order, to begin with, those sections that would have boosted their confidence.

The GMAT people have now introduced a new feature that allows the test-takers to choose between three arrangements. All you have to do is practice your best order and choose your preference of order from one of the three below, at the exam centre.

  • AWA, IR, Quantitative, Verbal (original order)
  • Verbal, Quantitative, IR, AWA
  • Quantitative, Verbal, IR AWA

So, identify your strengths and weaknesses, and work on them by practising a lot, know what you can do with them, and then use your skills for a greater score.


The best plans for timing and strategy are NOT worth it IF you end up making silly mistakes. GMAT is a Computerized Adaptive Test (CAT), which means you will only get as good as you get. If you make mistakes on easy questions, you will not be given a difficult question, affecting your final score. As for the IR section, it is not computer adaptive. Each of the 12 IR questions has multiple parts and you will not get partial credits if you answer any part incorrectly. So, focus on accuracy.


The GMAT exam is not so tough if you are well prepared. The exam is designed in such a way that it filters out future managers. The basic concepts of problem-solving, time management and stress management become clear, which begins the first step towards a career that makes use of these qualities.

So, train yourself to handle the physical and mental exhaustion associated with the GMAT exam.

Good Luck!

Check out the complete GMAT syllabus and Section-wise Preparation Tips

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