Pacing - No one question matters unless you let it
I want to cover something that is vastly important and largely misunderstood. Time and time again I have encountered students struggling with this same issue, so it is worth addressing. Even though this topic pertains to the entire gmat exam, I am putting it in the quantitative section forum because this is the area where students are more likely to let it destroy their score.
No one question matters unless you let it. Reflect on that for a second, because it's super important, weird, true, and again...important. It is such a misunderstood concept. The GMAT exam is not testing your ability to "get all of the questions right," or to "get as many questions right as you can." The algorithm that computes your score is very complicated, and you can get the same percentage of questions right on two different exams and end up getting two vastly different scores. Things that tend to crush your score are a large string of consecutive incorrect answers, unanswered questions remaining at the end of the section (these actually hurt your score more than answering them incorrectly would), and a very low hit rate for the last 5 or 10 questions. These are all problems that are likely to arise if you spend way too much time on one/several questions.
On its own, each individual question is not actually that significant. The GMAT has 37 quantitative questions to gauge your ability level (currently ignoring the issue of experimental questions), so whether you get a certain question right or wrong doesn't actually matter much. Let's pick on question #17 for a second (just because it looked at me wrong!). If you start question 17, realize that it is not going your way, and ultimately make an educated guess after about 2 minutes and get it wrong...that doesn't hurt you much. You missed the question, but you didn't let it burn a bunch of your time and you live to fight another day (or in this case question). But if you start question 17, are struggling with it but decide that you know this question and you just need a little more time (e.g. "This is geometry, I am so good at geometry, I have to get this right!), then it will become very significant because it will kill your score. In this example let's say you spend 6 minutes on question 17, and you get it right! Congratulations! Except...you now are statistically not even going to get to attempt to answer two other questions because of the time that you spent on #17 (with an average of 2 minutes per question, you just allocated 3 questions' worth of time to this question). So your 1 question victory just got you 2 questions wrong! Loop in the concept of experimental questions, aka the fact that #17 may not even be a question that counts toward your score, and the situation gets even more depressing.
Pacing is critical, and your pacing on quant questions should very rarely ever go above 3 minutes. Spending an excessive amount of time on a question but getting it right is not a success; it is a bad strategic move. I challenge you to look at any practice tests that you have taken and decide whether you have let this happen to you. Were there a few questions that you spent way over 2 minutes on and got right, but then later in the test a bunch of questions that you had to rush on and therefore ended up missing, even though they may not have been that difficult?
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