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Timing Strategies on the GMAT [Master Thread]

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Timing Strategies on the GMAT


General Timing Strategies:

Almost all the problems that are given on the GMAT are not that hard. What makes it hard to solve them is that you have less than 2 minutes per problem and you rush, making careless, attention, calculation, and other errors. However, there is a solution - you can give yourself an advantage by preparing and saving or investing time where appropriate. Here are the musts:

  • Time yourself whenever you solve any questions. Whether you are solving 10 or just 1 question, make sure you are familiar with the ticking of the clock and pressure that it puts on you. You can use a variety of tools such as:

  • Try to Pause after reading a question. Esp. on the math section, after reading a question and before starting to solve it - stop for 5 seconds and instead of throwing yourself at it, take a casual look at it and think if an easier solution exists. Don't just rely on your reflexes, use your brain too. This trick will help you save time and also avoid some silly mistakes you may make by rushing to read the question. Even if you can solve only 1-2 questions, that will more than pay for the time spent.

  • Avoid guessing 2 questions in a row. If pressed for time - solve every other question instead of guessing the last 3. You can see what happens if you get multiple questions in a row wrong here: gmat-prep-software-analysis-and-what-if-scenarios-146146.html

  • Most Important Tip: Never ever ever spend more than 3 minutes on a single question. After 3 minutes, if you still can't see a solution, figure out an alternative approach, or start a guessing strategy. Be done by 3:10 - it will hurt for the rest of the test, and I could afford such luxury only once on the whole test. Plan and know your limits.

  • You need to be prepared that the timing will not go as you wish; you may get a hard start or a few questions in a row that will get you down, but you need to be flexible and adjust to the test, just as the test tries to adjust to you. Plan to be stuck. Plan to be freaked out. Plan to panic. Don't do it but have a plan for all of these situations. Know when it is time to move on. Prepare to face the expected.

  • If you have problems with timing - experiment! For example, you can take a test on which if you don't answer a question within 2 minutes, you simply move on. I took one like that, and what I did was guess when I was overtime on hard questions. My results that day, perhaps, were the lowest of all, but it allowed me to finish early and measure the time I had left as an "extra" time for hard questions. Another test you can take is "untimed" (some software simulators allow it) and take the time I needed on every question - this showed how much time i comfortably needed.

  • Don't spend your time looking at the clock or turning it on and off - instead check the clock 3 times only during the 75 min section - this will save you at least 30 seconds that you were going to use up and also a lot of worrying about not finishing on time. Try dividing the test into three sections (45 mins remaining – 12 questions done; 20 mins remaining – 25 questions done; 1 min remaining –37 questions done). This approach is designed to invest as much time as possible into the first 15 questions since you will most likely get stuck there or will need extra time to solve questions. You can experiment with your own time allocations on GMAT Prep or other tests. You can use this handy guide from MGMAT for you timing, checking yourself after question 10, 20, and 30. This will give you an idea how you are doing without causing you to worry every time you look at the clock.
    Attachment:
    timing-per-mgmat.png
    timing-per-mgmat.png [ 16.99 KiB | Viewed 47063 times ]
  • Finally, an obvious one - do not leave questions unanswered. Each unanswered question drops your score by 3 percentile points as confirmed by GMAC


Quant Timing Strategies

  • Know by heart the common percent values, square roots, powers, and fractions. This will allow you to save time on calculations - see this post for details: what-arithmetic-should-i-memorize-80128.html
  • If you encounter a hard question that you are not sure how to solve - be happy - you must be doing really well and on the right track. Celebrate and don't freak out. Take a pause and think of an un-usual/backsolving/etc solution to it.
  • After reading the question, it may help to review the answer choices with the following thoughts in mind: how far apart is the distribution (how precise the calculations need to be), potential tricks with answers such as \(\frac{1}{2}\) or \(\frac{-1}{2}\).
  • In quant it is fairly easy to remember/get familiar with Question Patterns. Some people are better at this than others, but you will notice that most questions have a pretty set pattern; knowing these will help you save time when solving them and thus most likely will increase your score. This is unfortunately only true about medium and easy questions. The hard GMAT questions tend to be fairly unique. My suggestion is that you know how to solve every question in the OG (not just remember the answer but actually know how to solve a similar question). If you have trouble with this, memorize a typical question and a solution. You can later recreate it and plug your new question into that format without wrecking your mind (true for probability and group questions for me at least).
  • Write intermediary calculations. I am slightly dyslexic and many other folks are it seems as well - if you have that issue, spend extra 3 secs writing your calculations down; see if that helps improve your accuracy at the cost of a few seconds
  • Math Revolution claims to have a very effective and non-orthodox approach to quant questions and timing, follow their experts on the forum to learn it or checkout their videos/course offering


Quant Question Approach in Short:

    1. Read through the question (take 5 seconds to look at it and the answer choices)
    2. See if you can apply any of the time saving techniques or quicker solutions
    3. Optional: Read the setup again and write out all the info you will need to answer the question (this helped me)
    4. Do not miss an important detail in the beginning of the question - this is a common catch in both Math and CR's
    6. If you are too stressed about time, and the test’s got you on the run, take away your eyes from the screen and try focusing them on your hands or the seam of your pants to regain your confidence
    7. Know how to solve every math question type (arithmetic, probability, word problems, etc)
    8. Before you go to the test center - take several full length tests with AWA. Know your limits - be realistic. Know how much you can spend on each question

Verbal Timing Strategies on the GMAT

You will need to define your own timing strategy on the verbal section since your timing on each of the questions types will depend on your proficiency, reading speed, grammar skills, etc.

  • Draw a grid on the scratch paper (A | B | C | D | E) for 5-10 questions and use it with hard verbal questions. (Make sure you do this during your break time or when the clock is not ticking). Then on the test, as soon as you eliminated an answer choice (for whatever reason, mark it on the piece of paper - esp helpful by the end of the verbal section when the brain can no longer function).

  • For SC, create a check-list of grammar topics that you most often fall for. For instance, if you have trouble with modifiers, run-on sentences, and plurals, make sure those are on top of your check-list to run through when you cannot identify a problem with SC (i.e. when A is the correct answer). Here is more details about options to create such list: distribution-of-sc-questions-strategy-85636.html. What i recommend is that you create an acronym or some other method that you can run each SC question through your checklist for errors. Write this acronym down on scratch paper pad so you do not have to rely on memory (do it during the break)

  • Get a handle on Scope, Assumptions, Inference, Conclusions. If you can master these, you will be able to save at least 5 minutes on the GMAT, and probably pick up as many as 5 points in your verbal score. Many answer choices are based on within/outside of scope - that's true for CR's and RC's. The same applies to assumptions, inference, and conclusions - many of the CR and RC questions are using these basic step stops to build questions and traps. If you can be flawless with these, you will be much better off. You the OG/Official questions to train your SCOPE ear.

  • Remember that the most time efficient strategy to approach questions is outlined in the guidebooks (Kaplan Verbal Workbook, MGMAT CR, MGMAT SC, MGMAT RC, GMAT Pill E-book and PowerScore CR, PowerScore SC, PowerScore Verbal Bible) - the basic strategies are all pretty similar in these guidebooks - FOLLOW them by the book, and by ever line. If the strategy says you need to re-read the question, that's what you do, and if it says you must read the question first - that's what you do as well. I see people making this mistake all the time - they try to cut corners and beat the system only to get mediocre inconsistent results

  • The best strategies for me were:
    • CR - read the question first and mark on a piece of paper the type of question (W for weaken, S for strengthen, A for assumption, etc)
    • CR - after reading the passage - read the question again and answer it WITHOUT reading answer choices - BEST TIP EVER (if I had to pick one). After that, you only have to find it in the list - very quick and efficient. Learn how to do this.
    • SC - the fastest strategy is to pick an error just from reading (without having to go through answer choices) then again, you are just picking from a list - faster than analyzing each answer choice (though possible only on easy and mid-level questions)
    • RC - paraphrase each paragraph, take notes as you go - helps to remember the text and not go back
    • RC - spend more time reading the first and last sentence of each paragraph and ask yourself - why was this sentence/paragraph placed here? What is author driving with it? Are you seeing any logical issues/flaws with it?
    • RC - don't go back to the text (if you have read it carefully - you will not have to) - fastest and most reliable way through RC
  • I find reading a few thousand pages a good way to prepare to and save time on the verbal section:
    • You read faster - helps with every section
    • Better digest large volume of text - helps with RC
    • Your ear is trained better - helps with finding errors in SC's
    • You're a less boring person to talk to :wink:
  • Don't waste too much time on Idioms as they are not emphasized in the GMAT any more, but know the common ones that will help you understand text better
  • If you are an international student, it is a good idea to know every word that you meet in the question text. Write them in a notebook - word, and definition with an example of how you encountered it. It takes time, but by the time you're done with one word, you will remember it


Verbal Question Approach in Short:

Sentence Correction (SC)
My personal strategy was to spend 45 seconds on SC's (read question once, identify the problem, phrase it in my mind, and find the correct answer that matched the one I made up). Usually I could hit these in 30-45 seconds and in 20% of cases needed as much as a minute and a half to identify the correct one (this was esp true when A was the correct choice and I could not spot an error).

Critical Reasoning (CR)
I spent 1:30 on each CR question. I could crack half of them in 30-45 seconds but the other half took closer to 2 minutes, so it was averaging about 1:30.

Reading Comprehension (RC)
All of this was building up towards the section I had the most problems with - reading comprehension. I knew that I needed 0:45 x 15 for SC's, 1:30 x 14 for CR's and that left 40 minutes for RC, which meant I could spend 10 minutes per passage. I would read the passage very carefully and spend probably 5-6 minutes doing and not feeling rushed as I knew I could read any passage in that period of time. After finishing the text, I knew I had 1 minute for each question so I did not need to rush either. On the Verbal, I did not really keep track of the clock when moving from question to question, but I would note the time when I start the RC passage and made sure I did not go over the 10 min interval by the end.


Good Luck to you on the GMAT.
This thread is a revision of a previous thread that I have earlier posted on timing strategies.
This post references an article from Manhattan Prep about time management
Another good resource is a series of posts by Veritas Prep on the GMAT Timing
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New post 04 Oct 2015, 12:01
Hi bb,

In verbal sometimes I am left with 5-6 questions at the end. I know this question looks absurd but even after a lot of effort I am unable to improve any further.

Which one is better? Shall I skip alternate question after 30th question or shall I answer in normal pace till Question 35 and then guess?

As I read at http://gmatclub.com/forum/gmat-prep-software-analysis-and-what-if-scenarios-146146.html, weightage of last questions is not that high in comparison to questions before them, but so many questions wrong in a row also doesn't look fine to me. (Scenario 4:What if you get all the LAST 6 questions incorrect? Result: v44).

Please guide.
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New post 10 Oct 2015, 16:40
hello everybody!!!

I have this question that i have never seen adressed before.

How possible is it that RC questions will appear near the end of the verbal section.For example,around questions 35-41???

I am thinking that a better strategy that takes into account the aforementioned concern would be one that allocates at least 2 minutes for the last 3-4 questions..


Has anyone witnessed RC qs appearing near the end?
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Timing Strategies on the GMAT [Master Thread] [#permalink]

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New post 10 Oct 2015, 17:39
Hi Panavee,

Since the Randomizer delivers questions randomly (relatively speaking), you won't know exact when to expect an RC passage/questions to show up. However, it's quite common for an RC 'block' to show up once every 10 questions or so, so it's likely that you'll get your last RC passage at some point in the last 11 questions (or so).

And as an aside, if you're practicing the proper Tactics, then you should have far MORE than 2 minutes for the final 3-4 questions.

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Last edited by EMPOWERgmatRichC on 16 Nov 2015, 14:32, edited 1 time in total.
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New post 11 Oct 2015, 16:05
thank you very much Mr. Cohen.I just need to clarify that I meant about 2 minutes for EACH question.

I reread what i wrote last night and it seems like i meant 2 minutes altogether :D lol wouldn't that be a tragedy!!
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rohitmanglik wrote:
Which one is better? Shall I skip alternate question after 30th question or shall I answer in normal pace till Question 35 and then guess?
I don't think that either strategy is particularly good. You could spread those guesses out over the entire test. That'll give you enough time to attempt most of the last 10 questions without resorting to such excessive guessing.
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On the real thing I got rc passage at the end. After q 35. This was stressful. I rushed through the passage of 2 tech paras once and answered 3 questions by eliminating 2 at most wrong answers and then guessing. Lol
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New post 19 Oct 2015, 15:50
shasadou wrote:
On the real thing I got rc passage at the end. After q 35. This was stressful. I rushed through the passage of 2 tech paras once and answered 3 questions by eliminating 2 at most wrong answers and then guessing. Lol


thank you very much for your input.I guess i will have to count in the back of my head how many passages have appeared already until I get to four.
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New post 16 Nov 2015, 02:25
Panavee wrote:
shasadou wrote:
On the real thing I got rc passage at the end. After q 35. This was stressful. I rushed through the passage of 2 tech paras once and answered 3 questions by eliminating 2 at most wrong answers and then guessing. Lol


thank you very much for your input.I guess i will have to count in the back of my head how many passages have appeared already until I get to four.


I keep 4 ticks on my scribbling pad and strike them off as I see a new RC. perhaps that might help you?
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New post 16 Nov 2015, 08:56
the problem with guessing is that on real GMAT, there are experimental questions..and from what I understood, on verbal that's ~9-10 questions. If you make a random guess on those questions - you will likely get a good score, but if not..you will get disappointed with your score..
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New post 18 Apr 2016, 11:23
Hi!

I have been giving some test now and the thing that happens with me is I finish the Quant Section around 5-6 mins before time and the Verbal Section around 10-12 mins before the time finishes....so my question is kind of different, how do I slow my speed down?
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DrumKing wrote:
Hi!

I have been giving some test now and the thing that happens with me is I finish the Quant Section around 5-6 mins before time and the Verbal Section around 10-12 mins before the time finishes....so my question is kind of different, how do I slow my speed down?


I had similar "problem" on the real GMAT.
I was done with the question 8 on quant at the minute 72. I was on question 32 with 35 minutes left. I saw some pretty tough DS and PS questions on geometry and VIC's...I spent ~4 minutes on each 35 and 36 question. It was amazing how i could answer the tough questions while completely blacked out on simple questions..I saw 2 of them..and I really couldn't believe I could not get the correct answer...(given 2 sides of a triangle, what might be the third side)
I finished Quant 25 minutes earlier, and Verbal 12 minutes earlier. I should have taken more time to review my answers on Verbal...but on the other side..I did not see any tough enough questions to make me think more than a minute and a half...exception - 1 CR question...result Q49/V30
my opinion - finishing early is not a good sign..use the time to maximize your result.

p.s.
Draw a grid on the scratch paper (A | B | C | D | E)

this technique saved me ton of time on verbal.
drew during the break on the first page for 20 questions
then again on the 3rd page
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New post 18 Jul 2016, 00:59
helped me figure out the mistakes i made on timing, thank you for sharing this, very useful
Re: Timing Strategies on the GMAT [Master Thread]   [#permalink] 18 Jul 2016, 00:59
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