GMAT Gladiator

How to improve timing on the GMAT? I am really struggling with it.

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Time management is the process of organizing and planning how to divide your time between specific activities. Failing to manage the time optimally destroys your effectiveness and induces stress, finally leading to much lower scores one had targeted. Pacing on the GMAT is tricky for everyone and that’s the major factor what actually makes GMAT one of the best standardized tests available in addition to being computer adaptive. The GMAT ensures the test experience is universal, giving no unfair advantage to any candidate. The indispensable parts of the GMAT prep include Content Knowledge, Test Strategy, and Time Management. In spite of a sound content knowledge, it is very common for students to run out of time during their GMAT day. Not adhering to effective time management on the test day almost eliminates your chances to obtain your target score. This article discusses in detail about Time Management techniques that can be applied and steadily learnt during your GMAT prep phase, which can be finally applied on the GMAT exam.

The GMAT is a 203 minutes long marathon, including two optional breaks of 8 minutes each. Since GMAT is a computer-adaptive test, you cannot return back to any question again. Therefore, you cannot use the two pass strategy which most of us has been accustomed to and have been using as a weapon for time management in most of our academic exams and any other tests attempted so far. As a thumb rule, one should not get stuck on a particular question for more than three minutes during the entire duration of the test. These types of questions are intentionally put in the test to break your momentum and identify your decision making capability whether you get stuck on solving that question or move on. Instead one should make a strategic guess in these type of situations and move on. 

Leaving questions unanswered at the end of any section hurts the score more than even answering them incorrectly. Each unanswered question drops your score by 3 percentile. Hence, leaving questions unanswered is the worst thing you can do on the GMAT exam.

The first and foremost thing to improve on the timing is to understand the goal of the GMAT test. The GMAT tests your understanding of analyzing a situation and to determine the information needed to solve it. Understanding how to approach and solve problem is the key. The emphasis should not be on the final solution but rather your approach should be to critically think as to what GMAT expects out of that question. You need to think from the perspective of examiner as to why the particular question appeared on the GMAT. With guided practice, the same can be accomplished. The moment you start thinking and understanding the examiners point of view, the dreaded GMAT will unveil its beauty and you will really start to enjoy your GMAT prep phase with dramatic decrease in the time spent answering most of the questions.

Though GMAT allows the flexibility of choosing the order of sections to be attempted, we at GMAT Gladiator opine that the IR and AWA section should be attempted last. This is due to the fact that by the time you would have finished two sections on the GMAT (Quant and Verbal or vice versa) your brain would have already been grilled for more than two hours and your brain won’t be that efficient as it was during the beginning of the test. Though IR & AWA are important, the composite score of the Verbal and Quant section is what is most accountable when it comes to the admission process.

“Floor is more important than the ceiling” is a famous quote in the GMAT world. It means missing easy questions hurts much more than answering a hard question correctly. A pressurized time environment leads one to commit silly mistakes, answering the wrong question, and not fully solving the problem.  Sometimes a question asks for the parameter and we calculate the area. Similarly, sometimes the diameter is asked and radius is marked as the answer. So, give a diligent thought process and pay special attention to what is really asked? The GMAT questions are designed in such a way that an eye for detail is must or you end up spending valuable time on a question and answer it wrongly.

Also, one should create a benchmark for every section on the test. Many students keep on looking at the timer after each question to know if they are on right pace. This leads to a time waste and shift in your focus on a regular basis. Moreover, some questions actually need more time to solve than others. Breaking each section into 10 questions is a good idea. This will give you a fair idea whether you are rightly paced during the test or not. This takes into account all variety of questions, some you might be able to answer in less than a minute and some might take more than 2 minutes. Creating benchmarks kind of calculates the average to help you know whether you are rightly pacing the test.

Many candidates don’t attempt the IR and AWA section during their practice tests. Make sure you start giving your practice test as if it was a real GMAT test. This helps to build your mental strength which is actually very helpful during your actual exam day.

Below are the section specific strategies you can apply to improve on your pacing on the GMAT. 

Quantitative Section:

The GMAT is not a test of calculations. Calculators have been made specifically for that. The GMAT tests your understanding of basic mathematical concepts and their application in this section. The following strategies might prove fruitful with regards to saving time on the Quant section

  • Data Sufficiency Questions:

As the name implies, the main objective of Data Sufficiency questions is to determine whether the given information is sufficient to answer a given set of problem. Many candidates make the mistake of treating this section as a problem solving section and hence consume a lot more time than that is actually required. For example suppose we are given a question where we are provided with three sets of equations. However, the number of variables provided in the statement is only two. So, instead of solving the equations, we should be pretty clear that the given set of information is insufficient to answer the question. Also candidates make a lot of silly mistakes in these questions by skimming through the question stem and not having an eye for detail which is very important for each and every question that appears on the GMAT. 

If you understand the fundamental strategy to approach the Data Sufficiency questions, you will end up saving a significant time which is the most important resource on the GMAT exam.

  • Problem Solving:

If there was no time limit on the GMAT exam, majority of the candidates would have been able to perform much better. However, consistent accuracy under strict time constraints is what GMAT tests. 

It is a good practice to glance at the options before actually solving the question. If the options are widely spread, you can make approximations on the calculation front, which will help you save a lot of time. Also, many candidates straight away jump into problem solving right after reading the question. Instead, take a pause for about 5-10 seconds after reading the question and try creating a mental roadmap as to how the question should be answered. With practice, this strategy works wonders in reducing the time answering many of the questions.

Verbal Section:

In the verbal section, no one strategy fits all. One should develop their own strategy during their prep phase. Mostly the strategy adopted is saving time on SC section and utilizing the time saved on the RC section of the GMAT.

  • Critical Reasoning:

One technique that is quite effective for this section is the Pre-thinking. After going through the argument and the question stem try coming out with your answer before looking at the options. This is what pre-thinking is all about. In case your answer matches or aligns with any of the answer options, you can be pretty sure that the answer you will select will be right.

  • Sentence Correction:

One of the most commonly committed mistakes on this section is going through all the answer options. When we follow this process, by the time we read the last option our brain is fatigued on reading the same information again and again and we get confused in making a decision. Instead, one should learn the technique of vertical scanning where in you can eliminate at least 3 of the 5 given options. This leaves you with at most two options to evaluate. This helps in saving time and increasing the accuracy on the SC section of the GMAT.

  • Reading Comprehension:

This section plays the major role in distinguishing between a good verbal score and an average score. Many people advocate skimming the passage to complete it quickly. We advocate reading the passage slowly, comprehending the maximum information possible, and one should take small notes of important things mentioned in the passage. Make sure that the need to re-read the whole passage again should never arise, which might prove disastrous considering the time limit of the section. 

We at GMAT Gladiator have been pioneers in providing world-class online as well as one-on-one classes for the GMAT exam. It gives us great contentment to see our students realize their aspirations and potential through our guidance. We have catered to almost all parts of the globe as far as our students are concerned. Our students have got admitted to the most prestigious schools a child aspires to study. We have years of experience behind our back, which only increases our drive and confidence with each passing year to provide the best education for the GMAT exam. We have always believed that success is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. Since every person is unique, we at GMAT Gladiator also believe that every person has the potential though it just needs to be identified, nurtured, and polished. Each individual has unique strengths and weaknesses. The most important thing for a tutor or guide is to identify the gaps a candidate has and to work upon them slowly and steadily because both the gaps and the grasping power of each child is different, which cannot be identified in group classes. This is by far the most important thing required for a GMAT prep and that’s the reason we don’t do group classes, as we want to be sincere to our profession and one approach does not fits all. For us, money is not the only criterion, but imparting and imbibing valuable education to each person is our prime focus. 

Our point of view – GMAT can be aced, but that surely requires the guidance of top GMAT instructors, which can effectively make a difference in your GMAT prep.