What’s Tested on the GMAT Verbal Reasoning Section?

person's hand gripping and open book

This post was updated in 2024 for the new GMAT.

The GMAT Verbal section consists of 23 multiple-choice questions (with five answer choices each) in 45 minutes. So, you have about 1 minute and 57 seconds to answer each Verbal question the GMAT throws at you. But, the time required to answer those questions will vary since different question types will demand more or less time. You’ll encounter two GMAT Verbal question types: Reading Comprehension and Critical Reasoning. Keep reading to learn about what’s tested on GMAT Verbal and the frequency of each question type and topic!

What are the GMAT Verbal question types?

Here, again, are the two types of GMAT Verbal questions: Reading Comprehension questions and Critical Reasoning questions. Note that within each of these broad categories are subtypes of questions, which are important to be able to identify in order to use the best strategy. Below, we’re going to look at the two broad types and their subtypes.

Reading Comprehension

Out of the 23 Verbal questions on the GMAT, you should anticipate 13 or 14 to be Reading Comprehension questions. The passages may be up to 350 words and will have 3 or 4 associated multiple-choice questions. The subjects of the passages are typically about social sciences, physical or biological sciences, or business/economics. Luckily, you don’t have to be an expert in these topics before taking GMAT Verbal. There are six question categories, from finding the main idea of the passage to identifying the author’s tone. To prepare for Reading Comprehension in GMAT Verbal, check out How to Study for Reading Comprehension.

GMAT Reading Comprehension Question Types

Here are the five most common types of Reading Comprehension questions on the GMAT:

  • Inference (identify information that is implied in the passage, but not directly stated)
  • Detail (identify information that is directly stated in the passage)
  • Primary Purpose (identify the main purpose the whole passage serves)
  • Organization and Function (identify the purpose of a smaller part of the passage, or identify the way that the whole passage or parts of it are organized)
  • Analyze the Argument (analyze the strength of an argument made in the passage)

A Note about EXCEPT Questions and their Frequency

Students often ask us about EXCEPT RC questions on the GMAT. These questions ask you to select the one answer that is incorrect instead of the one correct answer. Typical wording would be something like “all of the following is true EXCEPT….” It is possible for Inference, Detail, Organization & Function, or Analyze the Argument questions to have this EXCEPT pattern. But if you find this format of question difficult, I have good news: only a few of GMAT Reading Comprehension questions fall under this category.

Critical Reasoning

Of the 23 Verbal questions on the GMAT Focus, 9 or 10 will be Critical Reasoning questions. Each Critical Reasoning question begins with a passage that is usually fewer than 100 words. Your mission is to analyze the argument presented in the passage, determining which answer makes the argument stronger, weaker, flawed, or whatever specific task the question asks you to complete. There are eight question categories. For a detailed breakdown of this question type and the smaller question types within it (plus additional practice!), read our Introduction to Critical Reasoning article.

How long is the GMAT Verbal? What is the timing of each Verbal section?

The total time for the GMAT Verbal section is 45 minutes. With 23 GMAT Verbal questions to contend with, you’ll have between one to three minutes to complete each question, so pacing yourself is key!

Here’s what we suggest for timing for GMAT Verbal:

  • For Reading Comprehension questions, allow 6 minutes for a set of 3 questions, or 8 minutes for a set of 4 questions, plus 2-4 minutes to read the passage.
  • For Critical Reasoning questions, give yourself 90 seconds to 3 minutes.

Like GMAT Quant, the questions are adaptive, so you might see more and more challenging ones if you’re doing well. If you’re having trouble finishing the verbal section within the time limit, check out our Ultimate Guide to GMAT Pacing.

The max score you can achieve for the GMAT Verbal section is 90, and the average of your Verbal and Quant scores forms your overall GMAT score, which is on a 205-805 scale. With Verbal counting towards one of the more important scores that MBA programs are looking at, you’ll want to be prepared for all the GMAT Verbal question types by test day.

If you’re not sure how you’d do on Verbal, you can get a baseline score by taking a free Practice test. After taking steps to improve your score.

We’ve also compiled our Verbal practice questions and top tips to help you get ready!


  • David Recine

    David is a Test Prep Expert for Magoosh TOEFL and IELTS. Additionally, he’s helped students with TOEIC, PET, FCE, BULATS, Eiken, SAT, ACT, GRE, and GMAT. David has a BS and MA from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and an MA from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. Early in his career, he worked for Disney Consumer Relations, later moving on to become a business banker at Wells Fargo. Once David discovered his passion for education, he started teaching K-12 ESL in South Korea. He soon branched out into adult learning, teaching undergraduate and MBA-level communication and writing classes at American universities. During this time, David also taught business communication to employees at Hyundai, Cargill, and Nestle, and trained English teachers in America, Italy, and Peru. His work at Magoosh has been cited in many scholarly articles, his Master’s Thesis is featured on the Reading with Pictures website, and he’s presented at the WITESOL (link to PDF) and NAFSA conferences. Come join David and the Magoosh team on Youtube, Facebook, and Instagram, or connect with him via LinkedIn!

More from Magoosh