How to Select the Right GMAT Section Order

How to Select the Right GMAT Section Order

If you are a business school candidate you probably already know that you can choose the GMAT section order. But how do you make this important decision?

The possibility of picking the GMAT section order is welcome because it gives you more control and helps you feel more comfortable on test day. At the same time this choice carries a big responsibility because now it’s up to you to decide.

However, you need not stress over it too much. A pilot programme run by GMAC, the organisation that owns the GMAT exam, found that changing the order of the sections of the exam had no impact on scores. This means that you cannot make a wrong decision. It is really a matter of choosing the order that suits you best.

And while the choice depends on your preferences and test-taking methodology, there is one thing all candidates should do, namely choose their preferred GMAT section order long before they sit the test. You definitely don’t want to agonise over choosing the right order just before the exam.

What changed?

GMAT test-takers have been able to choose the order in which they take each section of the official exam since July 11, 2017. GMAC was testing this feature out throughout 2016.

Check out: Test Takers to Be Able to Choose GMAT Section Order

Students now have the flexibility to select the order of the sections of the GMAT exam from three options:

Order 1: AWA, IR, first break, Quant, second break, Verbal Order 2: Verbal, first break, Quant, second break, IR, AWA Order 3: Quant, first break, Verbal, second break, IR, AWA

The section order selection takes place at the test centre on exam date, immediately prior to the start of the GMAT exam.

Explaining the reasons why it introduced the change, GMAC said that the Select Section Order feature has been commonly requested and strongly favoured throughout its research.

It should be noted that the AWA and IR sections come as a block and cannot be split. The AWA/IR combination comes either first or last. The same goes for Quant and Verbal: whichever order you pick, you can’t put a section between Quant and Verbal.

Choosing the order

So, how do you choose the right section order on the GMAT? The truth is that there is no one best order for everyone. The choice actually depends on your preferences, strengths, weaknesses, and your way of taking exams. Some people may prefer to take their easiest section first to build up their confidence and “warm up” for the other sections. Others may prefer to do their most difficult section first so they can tackle it with a fresh mind.

Here are some suggestions that may help you settle on a GMAT section order:

Think through your strengths and the testing strategies

The choice of the GMAT section order is largely based on self-knowledge. If you can do math when you are tired but feel that you have to be fresh for the Verbal section, maybe Order 2 is the best choice for you. Conversely, if you know that you need to be alert for the Quant section, probably Order 3 is right for you. The traditional Order 1 starts with an essay, but the latest changes now enable test takers to save the essay for last if they so wish. If you believe that you can give the AWA section your best shot after going through three energy-sapping GMAT sections before that, you are free to choose between Order 2 and Order 3.

Check out: What You Need to Know About the GMAT Exam

Take AWA last

Veritas Prep experts advise that native speakers should consider taking the AWA section last. However, this advice does not apply to non-native speakers, because a high performance on AWA will also make a difference to their test score report.

Tackle most difficult section first

Mike McGarry, Magoosh's GMAT expert, advises test takers to first deal with those sections that they perceive as challenging.

My general advice is that if one section is a huge challenge for you, maybe you should get that section out of the way first: with this in mind, order #2 might be better for many non-native English speakers, while order #3 might be better for American math-phobes.

Of course, there is another way of looking at this. If you know that a challenging first section would undermine your performance in the other sections, then it would be wise to save this section for later.

If you can’t decide, do Verbal first

If the above deliberations confuse you more than they help you pick an order, then it’s probably best to start with the Verbal section first. If one GMAT section requires concentration and undivided attention, it is the Verbal section, which involves tasks such as deconstructing elements of arguments and reading mundane passages. Your ability to focus will diminish as the exam goes on, so getting this section out of the way first makes a lot of sense.


It’s up to you to decide

Ultimately, it’s up to you to make a decision, and as already stated, you cannot make a bad decision. Try out the different order options to find out which one is most appealing to you. Official GMAT prep materials like the GMAT Prep Software have been updated to reflect the change in section order. Whatever your choice may be, make sure to decide weeks before the actual exam. If you have prepared properly for the exam, the GMAT section order is just a minor detail. Just walk confidently into the testing centre and give your best.



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