Be Your Own GMAT Tutor: Time Management

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Having tutored standardized tests, specifically the GMAT, for ten years, I’ve found that time management is one of the key areas that distinguishes consistent high performers. 

Managing time is a central challenge of the exam and comfortably completing the exam (without rushing the final quarter) is necessary to score well. 

There are two components of managing time on the GMAT: allocating time effectively across the section and allocating time correctly across a question.

Allocating time to a section. 

Whenever I tutor a new student, I insist that he or she memorize “section splits” for the quantitative, verbal, and integrated reasoning section. 

The quantitative section is composed of 37 questions in 75 minutes.  If we assume 2 minutes per question, a perfect pace would imply the following:

Time passed

Questions completed

15 minutes

7

30 minutes

15

45 minutes

22

60 minutes

30

75 minutes

37

Verbal is slightly more variable because different question types demand different amounts of time.  That said, accounting fro 41 questions, the table is roughly the same:

Time passed

Questions completed

15 minutes

8

30 minutes

16

45 minutes

25

60 minutes

32

75 minutes

41

Finally the 12 integrated reasoning questions should be budgeted as follows: 

Time passed

Questions completed

5 minutes

2

10 minutes

4

15 minutes

6

20 minutes

8

25 minutes

10

30 minutes

12

Memorize the above tables, and check in with yourself at the relevant splits.  Calibrating to this pace early in your practice will allow you to replicate it on the actual GMAT.  Knowing where you should be to complete the exam on time will allow you to focus on the exam and not time management.

Allocating time to a question type.

Time should be allocated to questions as follows:

Question type

Time budget

Sentence correction

75 seconds

Critical reasoning

2 minutes

Reading comprehension

2 minutes

All quantitative questions

2 minutes

Integrated reasoning

2.5 minutes

The time budget above implies two things. First, never (ever!) spend more than 3 minutes on a question.  Remember that it’s possible to score a 750 by getting only 80% of questions correct and a 700 by getting 60% of questions correct.  Learn to guess intelligently, walk away, and regroup.  Don’t burn your time for a second question. 

Success on the GMAT requires this discipline – a willingness to forfeit questions for the greater good.

Second, learn to gauge your progress on a question so that you can react appropriately before your time is up.  Because most GMAT problems allow two minutes, develop a sense for what 2 minutes feels like and how the answer progress should proceed over that time.  I encourage students to think in the following way: 

Time passed

You should…

30 seconds

Understand the question.  If you don’t guess and move on!

1 minutes

Have tried one approach.  Either try a second approach or move on!

90 seconds

The end should be in sight.  If it isn’t, guess and move on!

2 minutes

The answer should be imminent.  If it isn’t, guess and move on!

2 minutes thirty seconds

Guess and move on!!!

The short of it is that allowing yourself to get a few questions wrong allows you to get many questions right. 

Performing well on the GMAT is far more about attention to time than perfection (or even wildly high aptitude). 

When you study for the GMAT, always time yourself in a way that promotes your sense of timing. If you do ten questions, set a stopwatch to 20 minutes.  If you do five questions give yourself ten minutes.  Internalizing the 2-minute cadence can help tremendously.

~ Boston GMAT Tutor

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