Week 4- Let’s Talk: Test Day Time Management

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150 minutes… 2 1/2 hours…. 9,000 seconds…. and  78 questions.

That’s what the Verbal and Quantitative sections together look like on the GMAT. Sound like plenty of time? In my few practice tests, 150 minutes goes faster than you think (not to mention the whole test’s 4 hours). Which speedvsaccuracybrings us to the constant GMAT dilemma- Speed or Accuracy?

In favor of Speed: take a look at the computer adaptive make-up of the GMAT, and you’ll see that there are substantial penalties to your score for guessing or not answering questions. The timing of the GMAT allows for about 2 minutes per question on Quant, about 1 min 50 sec. on Verbal. But of course, some questions will take longer, and some (hopefully) will be shorter. Timing is something that can get better with practice- consistently timing how fast your 2 min/question goes will help you develop a guideline for speed on the test. Because let’s face it – even if you know the right way to solve a problem, if you run out of time to answer, it doesn’t count!

In favor of Accuracy: did you have a mother who constantly told you to slow down? I did… and from the one time I backed my car into the garage door (I had places to be!), I learned my lesson that sometimes, speed isn’t everything. Sometimes, it pays to measure twice and cut once (or look twice and hit the gas pedal once). The GMAT is very similar- getting an answer in 25 seconds flat doesn’t help much if your answer is incorrect. Taking the time to carefully read questions, find patterns, and commit to your problem solving strategy is usually a good use of time.

Well- I’m back where I started. Seeing both sides shows that the only way to approach a GMAT time strategy is with a careful balance of speed and accuracy. Over emphasize one, and the other suffers.

For me, I started my GMAT studying with a closer emphasis on accuracy. After all, I had to know the concepts before I worked on speed. Now that I’m over a month in, and a month away from my test date, I have begun taking a closer look at timing. Two minutes goes by quickly, but it is comforting to know that I’m starting to grasp the concepts now. If all else fails, there’s always something to be said for an educated guess or eliminating answers.

Obviously I don’t know all there is to know about GMAT Test Timing Strategy- but if you’re interested, the Manhattan GMAT Blog claims they have Everything you Need to Know about Time Management.

Overall, the only thing that I know for certain is that both speed and accuracy increase with practice. I’m going to keep at it with my free practice tests, and I’ll have to make sure my timer is handy!