Timing Strategies on the GMAT : General GMAT Questions and Strategies
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# Timing Strategies on the GMAT

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Timing Strategies on the GMAT

New and Updated thread is available here: timing-strategies-on-the-gmat-206035.html

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 regardless of the kind and difficulty level. However, you can give yourself an advantage by preparing and saving or investing time where appropriate.

• 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 fully engaging yourself, 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.

• 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

• Never ever ever spend more than 3.5 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 3.5 - it will hurt even with 3.5 mins and I would recommend that you do it only once per section.

• 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 fraked out. Plan to panic. Don't do it but have a plan for all of these situations. Know when it is time to cut bait.

• 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 secondss 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.

• 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 $$\frac{-1}{2}$$.

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

• 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 sometimes)
• 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
• 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 more usual when A was the correct choice).

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.

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.

Timing Strategies on the GMAT

New and Updated thread is available here: timing-strategies-on-the-gmat-206035.html

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Last edited by bb on 23 Sep 2015, 21:18, edited 17 times in total.
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Re: Timing Strategies on the GMAT [#permalink]

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27 Jun 2009, 19:54
BB - Can you please explain why point #4 under the Simple GMAT timing strategy is relevant. I'm sure it has something to do with the progression of the test, but please clarify if possible.
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Re: Timing Strategies on the GMAT [#permalink]

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27 Jun 2009, 20:57
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CaliCpa wrote:
BB - Can you please explain why point #4 under the Simple GMAT timing strategy is relevant. I'm sure it has something to do with the progression of the test, but please clarify if possible.

Very Fair question indeed.
The suggestion is based on a few assumptions about the algorith of the test and you are definitely welcome to poke holes in it.

Assumption: You get "penalized" for getting multiple questions wrong

If you are pressed for time and have 4 questions left but really have time only for 2, my suggestion is instead of answering questions 34 and 35 and then guessing 36 and 37 for Quant is to answer 34, guess 35, answer 36, and guess 37. This allows to stay at a relatively same level (or higher if you guess one right) than potentially dropping below the level you were at question 33 by getting multiple questions wrong in a row.
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27 Jun 2009, 22:09
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Gracias...

Interesting...I hope I dont have to use it, but if so, thanks for the advice.
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Yes, the worst thing you can do on a computer adaptive IRT-based test is get a string of bad answers in a row. Going Right, Right, Wrong, Wrong or Right, Wrong, Right, Wrong on the last four questions probably won't make any difference at all, but guessing, say, at the last ten questions in a row is typically much worse than spreading out those guesses throughout the test - provided you guess mainly at questions above your level, which is what people would surely do anyway (you shouldn't ever be guessing at a question that's too easy for you). It's best to pick your spots; if you're in the middle of the test, and a minute into a question you have no roadmap to a solution, that's a great time to use a fallback strategy to eliminate some wrong answers, take a good guess, and move on - then you're more likely to have time to answer questions at the end of the test that you'd know how to solve. It's only if you know you can finish the Quant section with a healthy amount of time to spare that it would be good to spend extra time on such a question.
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Re: Timing Strategies on the GMAT [#permalink]

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21 Jul 2009, 19:12
Does practicing a lot using a GMAT clock improves the time
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21 Jul 2009, 23:34
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eresh wrote:
Does practicing a lot using a GMAT clock improves the time

You should post this on in the GMAT Timer thread.
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Re: Timing Strategies on the GMAT [#permalink]

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09 Oct 2009, 23:14
thank you !
great !
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Re: Timing Strategies on the GMAT [#permalink]

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10 Oct 2009, 09:39
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This is great post.

But I think timing strategy for verbal (which is missing here) will also be of great help to us. Is such a thread already there??
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Re: Timing Strategies on the GMAT [#permalink]

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10 Oct 2009, 12:53
Hi mates,

I'm expecting the timing strategy for the verbal part

Regards
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Re: Timing Strategies on the GMAT [#permalink]

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10 Oct 2009, 13:23
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No pressure eh?

You guys are always welcome to start throwing things down and I will wrap it together.
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Re: Timing Strategies on the GMAT [#permalink]

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02 Nov 2009, 12:01
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After my first GMATPrep test, I realized that I was fast on quant and slow on verbal. So, I was also looking for precise Verbal timing strategies, though I couldn't find it here.

In the interests of sharing knowledge across borders, I'll repost the following:

1:30 for SC
2:30 for CR
6:00 for Short Passages
8:00 for Long Passages

(Credit where credit is due--this was originally posted by doclkk)

That probably ends up being a little slow, but I'll use this as a rubric for my next practice tests (OG, Kaplan), and report back with results.
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Re: Timing Strategies on the GMAT [#permalink]

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02 Nov 2009, 12:23
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bgs7b6 wrote:
After my first GMATPrep test, I realized that I was fast on quant and slow on verbal. So, I was also looking for precise Verbal timing strategies, though I couldn't find it here.

In the interests of sharing knowledge across borders, I'll repost the following:

1:30 for SC
2:30 for CR
6:00 for Short Passages
8:00 for Long Passages

That probably ends up being a little slow, but I'll use this as a rubric for my next practice tests (OG, Kaplan), and report back with results.

Verbal is very different from Quant, so be careful following someone else's timing as your strengths/weaknesses may not be aligned.

For instance - this person spent only 6 mins on a 3-4 question RC - that means 2 mins on passage and 1 min per question - . That's too tough for me and most others since RC seems to be one of the most time consuming/tough sections.

here was my approach:
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. I would spend 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. All of this was building up towards the section I had the most problems with - reading comprehension. I knew that I needed 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 alotted time by the end.

it is posted here: gmat-study-plan-go-from-650-to-80235.html
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Re: Timing Strategies on the GMAT [#permalink]

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02 Nov 2009, 13:01
Thanks bgs7b6 for motivating me to add the Verbal tips.

If there is something that helped you, please share your strategies and tips - I will add them to the first post with Kudos
Thanks!
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Re: Timing Strategies on the GMAT [#permalink]

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02 Nov 2009, 13:51
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EXCELLENT breakdown, thanks bb!

I'll run through one of the Kaplan or OG tests with the absolutely fantastic TestGrid4GMAT timer, and see which schedule proves effective.
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02 Nov 2009, 14:00
Cool.
Here is the Timer/Grid: new-gmat-practice-grid-11448.html

Also, there is Walker's GMAT Timer - give it a shot.
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Re: Timing Strategies on the GMAT [#permalink]

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02 Nov 2009, 15:02
Thanks bb!

I did try out Walker's timer, but I favored the more-detailed recording of careless error/concept error and notes, and the highlighting of "slow" answers, which are allowed by TestGrid4GMAT. Though Walker's is more of a "quickie app," TestGrid4GMAT is more detailed in allowing me to clearly see how I got it wrong (I record the concept type in the notes: e.g., geometry, algebra, etc.), and that's certainly what I need for my error log with T-32 days and counting to D-Day!
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Re: Timing Strategies on the GMAT [#permalink]

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02 Nov 2009, 15:36
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bgs7b6 wrote:
Thanks bb!

I did try out Walker's timer, but I favored the more-detailed recording of careless error/concept error and notes, and the highlighting of "slow" answers, which are allowed by TestGrid4GMAT. Though Walker's is more of a "quickie app," TestGrid4GMAT is more detailed in allowing me to clearly see how I got it wrong (I record the concept type in the notes: e.g., geometry, algebra, etc.), and that's certainly what I need for my error log with T-32 days and counting to D-Day!

Sounds good. You can also use this resource for OG 12 error log (again not as detailed, but it has all of the categories, etc)
gmat-club-guide-to-the-gmat-official-guide-12th-ed-85956.html
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Re: Timing Strategies on the GMAT [#permalink]

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03 Nov 2009, 11:12
Just remembered that I kept "score" for my GMATPrep test #1 on the verbal section! Here's a breakdown (again, thanks to the fantastic TestGrid4GMAT!):

Total time spent per question type--
SC: 23:07 (mm:ss)
CR: 22:21
RC: 22:32 (4 RC passages in the test, 3 passages with 3 questions, 1 passage with 4 questions)
Spare time left over at the end of the test was 07:00. (Note: the extra time wouldn't have helped me; I only flip-flopped on answering one of the questions.)

Not sure if it's what GMAC intended, but I used roughly the exact same amount of time on all three areas...

SC average amount of time per question: 01:22
CR average: 02:02
RC average: 01:44
RC average time spent answering the first question of the RC series: 02:49
RC average time spent answering each question other than the first: 01:15
RC average (deduced) time spent reading the passage: 01:33
RC average amount of time spent on each 3- or 4-question series: 05:38

For frame of reference, my score was Q42, V39, 660 total.

In summary, this demonstrates a pretty close fit to the above strategy of:
1:30 for SC
2:30 for CR
6:00 for Short Passages
8:00 for Long Passages
(Although, I would just say a flat 07:00 for each RC passage to keep it simple.)

And while I'm sure that my #s don't have universal application, I hope this data helps at least one other person sketch their Verbal timing strategy.
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Re: Timing Strategies on the GMAT [#permalink]

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09 Nov 2009, 14:02
All of this was building up towards the section I had the most problems with - reading comprehension. I knew that I needed 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 alotted time by the end.

Hi there brilliant piece of advice - Please refer to bold above as reference to my question which is:- how many passages are there in the real test then?

Thank you
Re: Timing Strategies on the GMAT   [#permalink] 09 Nov 2009, 14:02

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# Timing Strategies on the GMAT

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