How to Select the Best GMAT Section Order for You


The Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC) announced two changes impacting test-takers starting in July 11, 2017. Most importantly, students may now select the order of the GMAT sections. In addition, the test center profile you see immediately after the exam has been removed.

In this article, I’ll go over how the option to select GMAT section order works and how you can use it your advantage.


Select Section Order and Removal of Test Center Profile

Beginning on July 11, 2017 students who take the GMAT are now able to choose the order in which they complete the four sections of the exam (the Analytical Writing Assessment, the verbal section, the quant section, and Integrated Reasoning).

The GMAT sections are now available in three different orders: the original GMAT section order and two new possible orders. Here are the three GMAT section orders you are able to choose from:

  • Option 1: Analytical Writing Assessment, Integrated Reasoning, Quantitative, Verbal (original order)
  • Option 2: Verbal, Quantitative, Integrated Reasoning, Analytical Writing Assessment
  • Option 3: Quantitative, Verbal, Integrated Reasoning, Analytical Writing Assessment

You’ll be presented with the three section order options immediately before you take the exam (after you’re given instructions on how to complete the GMAT and have been asked to provide the names of your prospective schools). You’ll then have two minutes to select the order you want.

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You’re will also no longer be asked to complete a profile about your undergraduate academic history, personal demographics, etc., after you take the test. Instead, you will be able to fill out this information anytime before or after you take the GMAT at your profile on GMAC made this change to give test-takers a more streamlined and convenient experience at the testing center.


With the 2017 changes to the GMAT, you'll be able to select your own section order.
With the 2017 changes to the GMAT, you’ll be able to select your own section order.


How to Select Your GMAT Section Order

Now, you’re probably wondering what these changes mean for you. Let’s go over how you can choose the GMAT section order that works best for you and the other ways that this new flexibility will affect you on exam day.

Prospective business schools are not able to see what order you completed the GMAT sections in (the order you choose won’t be on your score report), and the order in which you take the sections will not affect how your exam is scored. So you don’t need to worry about selecting a certain section order to look more impressive.

Instead, you should select your GMAT section order based on your own strengths and weaknesses. This will look different for everyone. When you choose your GMAT section order, take your own testing patterns into account.

For example, a student with high testing anxiety who struggles with the quant section might choose Option #3 in order to get quant out of the way right away so they can focus fully on the subsequent sections.

Meanwhile, a student who’s comfortable and familiar with the verbal section might choose to complete that section first (Option #2) instead, using their easiest section as a warmup for later, more challenging sections.

A non-native English speaker who feels uncomfortable with writing at length might choose Option #1 in order to avoid burnout by the end of the exam, when they’ll have to complete a writing sample.

The bottom line is that you’ll have to pick what GMAT section order works best for you and your unique needs and skill set. There’s no “right” or “wrong” except what works or doesn’t work for you.

You should also definitely choose your section order before the day of the exam, so you can be well prepared for exactly what you’ll encounter when you take the GMAT. You should practice the order of GMAT sections you choose well in advance of exam day.


Use the GMAT Select Section Order to reduce your testing anxiety, not add to it.
Use the GMAT Select Section Order to reduce your testing anxiety, not add to it.


How Does This Affect Your GMAT Breaks?

Now that you’re able to select the order in which you complete the GMAT sections, your optional breaks are available at the following points during the exam.

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


Will GMAT Prep Materials Reflect This Change?

Official GMAT prep materials like the GMAT Prep Software and GMAT Exam Packs 1 and 2 have been updated to reflect the change in section order flexibility since July 31, 2017.

If you have already purchased or downloaded these products before July 31, 2017, you will be provided with a free software upgrade that will incorporate the changes into your existing downloads.


If you're looking to prep for the new GMAT changes, use prep materials accordingly.
If you’re looking to prep for the new GMAT changes, use prep materials accordingly.


The Bottom Line: GMAT Select Section Order

Being able to select the order in which you complete the sections of the GMAT will allow for more flexibility and choice on your part. Try out different options, choose wisely, and good luck!


What’s Next?

Not sure if you’re ready for GMAT exam day? Check out our 18 expert tips to rock test day.

If you’re looking to retake the GMAT, our guide to rescheduling the exam will help.

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For more information on the GMAT format, check out our guide to the four exam sections.

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Author: Laura Dorwart

Laura Dorwart is a Ph.D. student at UC San Diego. She has taught and tutored hundreds of students in standardized testing, literature, and writing.