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Pacing/Timing Marks

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Joined: 14 May 2008
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Schools: Wharton (WEMBA East)
Pacing/Timing Marks [#permalink]

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New post 30 Jul 2009, 17:15
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I was reading another post about pace and timing and thought I'd post the method I used during practice CATs and the actual tests. Maybe it will help someone along the way. Plus this is keeping me from writing a case about SAS Institute that I clearly don't want to do tonight.

This borrows a bit from something I saw at MGMAT and then adapted for my own use. I initially did the simple ~2 mins for Q, a bit less than ~2 min for V, but this seemed to involve a lot of detailed mental record keeping or back solving--did I start this question closer to 43:00 or 44:00, etc. Was that a minute forty or fifty. WTH! I wrote down entry times next to question work on my pad, but this burned time during the test.

I just wanted a simpler acid test to figure out how far ahead or behind I was.

(As an aside: I probably could have simplified even further, I am always panic-levels of behind on Q and way ahead on V... that was the general form in reality.)

The basic rules are as follows:

  1. Q: 5 done by 1:05 then 5 every 10
  2. V: 6 done by 1:06, then 5 every 9
  3. Write the marks out on your board, every time

Once the clock started, the first thing I would do for every simulated test run is write out the timing points on my answer pad. During the real test, I did this during the time provided to review the instructions (I think this was 75 seconds or 2 minutes--I'm blanking after the fact).

You write out your timing marks and you can refer back during the test at any interval and better gauge pace. Sure you're smart and don't need to write out something so silly... but if you have N mental cycles to spend on the test itself, how many do you want to spend on calculating timing waypoints?

Quant is anchored to 1:05, so 10 minutes in you should be done with question 5. After that you should be finishing 5 questions every 10 minutes.

  • 5 1:05
  • 10 0:55
  • 15 0:45
  • 20 0:35
  • 25 0:25
  • 30 0:15
  • 35 0:05

And you have 5 minutes left for the last two, which, if you're like me, you won't be so worried about because you'll just be hustling with less than 5 minutes anyway.

Same deal for V. Anchored to 1:06, so after 9 minutes you've finished 5 problems.

  • 5 1:06
  • 10 0:57
  • 15 0:48
  • 20 0:39
  • 25 0:30
  • 30 0:21
  • 35 0:12
  • 40 0:03

Write it down. Just like I've listed above. This quick table is your pacing guide and you can trust it without thinking.

In terms of usage, I would consciously check my time very closely out of the gate. Mentally I'm thinking of my next waypoint or gate. I need to be at #5 by 1:05. When I cleared that one, say it was 1:04, I feel good that I'm on track and then zone in on the next goal: #10 done with 55 minutes left. Rinse, lather, repeat.

After you get through a few gates, you might find yourself able to relax a bit. You know you're ahead or behind and have a better feel. For me, as I mentioned, Q required me to make up time pretty frequently. The markers then became guideposts to my corrections. If I hit Q15 at 41 minutes, I knew I was 4 minutes behind, kind of a big deal. I could then focus on the next gate: I need to be closing on Q20 by 0:35. Sure this was only 6 minutes for 5 questions--I wouldn't close down that gap per say, but I would move with my best quickness and hope to close the gap. Maybe a guess on a long-work problem, maybe a quick solve without a check on something I felt confident on. The point is, if I could get to Q20 and have picked up time--say I hit #20 at 33:00, I was now only 2 off pace and had made up 2. Another aggressive set of 5 in terms of timing and I could be back on pace.

I can't say I stuck to time as the overarching factor. Sometimes I never made it all the way back to pace and I had to rip through the last 2 or 3 with some educated guessing. But I tried to stay on pace and it helped me. Another reason this felt valuable was because I could focus on my velocity and where I wanted to be (you're 3 ahead of pace or you're behind, make up 2 minutes) instead of spending mental cycles figuring out where I was (again, what time did I start this one, am what's 43:40 minus 1.5 minutes, etc.).

The only drawback is you have to flip back and find it if you need it. I wrote it on the cover page because it's easier to pick out from the rest in a frenzy. Ultimately, in practice I needed it more at the beginning to establish pace and less at the end to stay on it. So it was less of a nagging problem than it seemed initially.

Additionally, I could simplify the algorithm, to 5 every 10 minutes, but I kept remembering the rules as is because it made them easy to write out from memory in no time flat. 5 and 1:06, then +5 -9, if rote memorization didn't kick in.

So that's a ton of explaining, but it's dead simple to remember--it took a lot of the complexity I had been using away and let me focus on managing to pace and doing my best on the questions. Timing was my absolute critical success factor--when I managed it well, I did well. When I didn't, I sucked. I never found a lot value in trying to allocate RC budgets on the fly (x min per passage, y min per question, depending on paragraphs). This was just an easy way to figure out where I was on pace without having to think about it. It also was easy to industrialize and do the same way every single time until it became working habit.

Good luck, mind the gates. :)

Last edited by scorcho on 30 Jul 2009, 17:35, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Pacing/Timing Marks [#permalink]

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New post 30 Jul 2009, 17:26
This is an excellent post and great advice. I'll be incorporating this into my practice CAT sessions from now on. I've had timing issues on my last couple so hopefully this will allow me to stay on track. +1 :-D
Re: Pacing/Timing Marks   [#permalink] 30 Jul 2009, 17:26
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Pacing/Timing Marks

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