Three Options for the GMAT Test Sections

Beginning July 11, 2017, test takers will be able to select the order in which they take the four timed sections of the GMAT exam.

Ever since the integrated reason section was introduced in June of 2012, the order has been:

  1. Essay
  2. Integrated Reasoning
  3. Math
  4. Verbal

Two New Options

This traditional order is still available, but test takers can now select from two other options as well:

Option 2:
  1. Verbal
  2. Math
  3. Integrated Reasoning
  4. Essay

Option 3:
  1. Math
  2. Verbal
  3. Integrated Reasoning
  4. Essay

Which Option Is Best?

When selecting the order for your exam, keep in mind that the integrated reasoning section and the essay ("AWA") section have virtually nothing to do with the admissions process. A great performance on those sections won't get you in, and a bad performance won't keep you out. Both the AWA and the integrated reasoning have been failures; they will never become a significant part of the MBA admissions decision.

So the question is, when do you want to take the two sections of the exam that actually matter — the math and verbal sections?

I've been teaching this test for a long time, and I've always lamented the fact that the verbal section comes last. By then, test takers are often fatigued and they struggle to stay focused on reading passages that are designed to be vague and confusing. So for me personally, I would dump the traditional format and put the essay and integrated reasoning sections last. That means selecting either option 2 or option 3. But which one?

A Tough Call

I've always liked the fact that we start the GMAT exam by writing a 30-minute essay that has absolutely no impact whatsoever on whether we get admitted to grad school. The essay and integrated reasoning sections give my students an hour to get warmed up before the exam actually starts to count.

But now that I'm putting the worthless sections at the end of the exam, which of the two important sections should I do first — math or verbal? That's going to have to be your call. What I suggest is that you start with your strongest section, in order to build your confidence and improve your overall performance. If you're stronger in math, start with math.

As For Me ....

When I first started studying the GMAT, I was clearly better at math. Now, having taught the exam for so long, I don't really have any weak spots left. I know every question type that can appear and every trick that the test writers can use. I've simply memorized the entire curriculum.

At the same time, I set a pretty high performance standard for myself: if I don't get an 800 I'm pissed. So what's the best strategy for me now that I can start with either math or verbal?

It's weird, but I don't yet know. After all, the change was announced just a few hours ago. I need to think about it.


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