1. Starting July 11, 2017, test takers have the opportunity to choose the order they want to take the four sections of the GMAT. Up until then, GMAT candidates have had no flexibility at the test center on the day of the exam. Aside from accepting or turning down the optional 8-minute break between sections, candidates have abided to a strict procedure on test-day: arrive 30 minutes prior to the test, check in, scan your palm vein pattern, and bite your nails until the test starts. Once the test was completed, candidates were required to fill out 4-5 pages of personal information before receiving their unofficial test score.

    In an attempt to make the test experience a little better, the Graduate Management Admission Council, GMAC, has released a new and improved version of the GMAT by revising the test order and interface with the launch of their new feature: Select Section Order.


    What’s New?

    The personal update information screens have been removed to expedite the process at the test-center and deliver scores as quickly as possible.

    Further, test takers have the opportunity to choose the order of the four sections of the GMAT, opting to choose the order of the sections of the test that makes them most comfortable. In a pilot study conducted by the GMAC in 2016, “85 percent of participants surveyed expressed that this new feature boosted their confidence prior to even taking the exam,” according to Ashok Sarathy, Vice President and Product Manager at GMAC.

    Once implemented, test takers will decide at the test center which of the three orders they would like to take their test in. Order #1, depicted below, is the original order. Order #2 and #3 are the new optional orders that test takers can choose.

    Order #1 Order #2 Order #3
    Analytical Writing Assessment Verbal Quantitative
    Integrated Reasoning
    Optional 8-minute break
    Quantitative Quantitative Verbal
    Optional 8-minute break
    Verbal Integrated Reasoning Integrated Reasoning
    Analytical Writing Assessment  Analytical Writing Assessment

    What should I take into consideration?

    Choosing your best order requires that you combine your past experience with various parts of the test with some knowledge about the characteristics of each part of the test. The aspects that have to do with what you learned about your real-time performance will be better understood as close to the real test as possible (according to careful research of your experience with the Official GMAC mocks). Thus, the decision of the best order should be made the day before the test. Until then, you should practice various scenarios.

    As for the “objective” characteristics of the test, here’s what to consider:

    Analytical Writing

    Analytical writing is very important for non-native English speakers. Why? Because universities want to make sure that their application essays were actually written by the candidates. If there is a large disparity between someone’s GMAT Analytical Writing section score and his or her application essays, then it’s probably safe to assume they enlisted a lot of outside help to write their application.

    Then why should native English speakers be required and want to take it? Research shows that writing at the beginning test reduces stress and increases focus. It’s also a good way to wake up (because the GMAT is usually taken in the morning) and warm up for the rest of the test, if taken first, as in Option 1.


    Integrated Reasoning

    Since its introduction in 2012, the IR section has been the subject of many different, sometimes contradictory, rumors concerning its importance, ability to predict candidates’ prospects of being accepted to business schools, and consequently, the importance of preparing for it.

    Vineet Chhabra, Director of Product Management at the GMAC, states in an exclusive interview with examPAL that “while [IR] isn’t included in the Total Score, it can be a valuable means to differentiate oneself and stand-out from other similar candidates,” meaning you should definitely take it seriously! He also notes that IR is the best predictor of success in business school, having the highest correlation between success in certain parts of the test and graduate grades. Moreover, IR requires the most focus by far, which is why it was put on the test in the first place.



    Test takers who feel very confident about their quantitative ability may choose to start with this part if it helps them warm up quickly and secures their confidence. Those of you who are not too good with math may decide to start with this section if you are more focused in the beginning of the test than towards the end.



    Verbal has the same considerations as with the Quant, although for non-native English speakers the element of warming up might be even more crucial, as there’s a lot of text to read and analyze. This is usually not a good section for non-native English speakers to start with.


    Which Sections Order Should I Choose?

    The obvious question now is: in which order should you elect to take the GMAT? It’s important to remember that there is no “correct” or “recommended” section order to select, but rather it is a personal decision depending on your own strengths and weaknesses.


    Original Order #1:

    Order #1 may be the best option for you if you’ve been preparing for the GMAT in the original order and you feel comfortable with it. Why change things up if you’ve been comfortable with the way you’ve been practicing? If you want to take AWA and IR first, whether to get them out of the way, to solve them while you’re laser-focused, or to use them to “warm up” for the rest of the test, then you may want to take the GMAT in the original Order #1. If you aren’t sure which order to take and all seem equally as encouraging or daunting, stick with the original order! No need to complicate things.


    Order #2:

    If you feel as though you do NOT need to warm up for the test, start with the section that requires the most focus and ability. If you struggle with Verbal, take it first so you can tackle your toughest section while your mind is fresh going into the exam. Then move on to Quantitative and culminate the test with IR and AWA. We also recommend doing this order if you’re strongest in Verbal, to start off the test confidently. Nonetheless, if you’re a non-native English speaker you may want to start with another section to set your fastest reading pace in motion.


    Order #3:

    If you feel as though you want to jump right into your toughest section and need no warm up, Order #2 or #3 is for you. If Quantitative is your most challenging section, take it on first in Order #3 and get it out of the way. Then, with a fresh mind and your most formidable section completed, you can move onto Verbal, and ultimately IR and AWA. Alternatively, if Quant is your strongest section, you may want to begin with that to continue confidently into the following sections.


    In summary

    For a test with 3 different parts, there should be 6 ways to arrange the test. However, there are only three options provided. So, if your ideal option is not one of the three order options, choose the order that you think is second-best, using our guide to Select Section Order.

    As we said, there is no right or wrong section order to choose, so you cannot make a “wrong” decision! Choose the order that makes you feel most confident and comfortable about the GMAT and keeps you in the right mindset. Whether you want to tackle your hardest section first or get your easiest section out of the way, you cannot go wrong. This new update to the GMAT was implemented to benefit you! This decision should not be a source of anxiety or stress, so be sure to make up your mind about which order to choose at least one day prior to the exam.

    Good luck, and we hope this helps! Head over to examPAL.com to start studying for the GMAT today!

    Erica Jaffe
    Erica Jaffe is a Marketing & Students Success Manager at examPAL

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