GMAT Preparation tips: Best ways to manage time

The GMAT Preparation series by GoGMAT for MBA Crystal Ball readers continues. In this post their GMAT tutors share some ideas on how you can manage the test time optimally, even if you haven’t mastered the entire GMAT syllabus.


GMAT Preparation – Time Management for the test

To realize the unimportance of time is the gate to wisdom, said Bertrand Russell.

To realize the IMPORTANCE of time is the gate to a high GMAT score, say I.

Those of you who have already taken the GMAT, or who at least have done some basic research on the test’s structure and organization, must know that the GMAT is a timed test. Completing it on time is crucial, as any question you leave unanswered will detract from your score. This takes us to the very first rule for GMAT success.

Rule #1: Never leave any questions unanswered.

It’s best if you never put yourself in a situation where you are left with two minutes of time and seven questions remaining, but if something like that should happen—guess. Your GMAT score will be higher if you answer all those questions randomly than if you answer one of them correctly and leave the rest unanswered.

To avoid this kind of painful situation, you must apportion your time per question. The best way to do that is to learn all relevant material, which brings us to the second rule for GMAT success.

Rule #2: Learn all relevant theory.

This may seem obvious, but the truth is that most students want to skip—or at most, skim—topics they find hard or unfamiliar. If you are puzzled by a coordinates question in geometry, for example, don’t run away from it. Use as much study time as you need to learn well the relevant theory. You won’t have time during the test to try to figure it out then. One question that gets you stuck can ruin everything by taking the time you could have used to answer five other questions, and that is where our next rule comes into play.

Rule #3: Know when to give up.

Persistence is worthy of respect, but so is the judgment to stop beating your head against a wall—judgment you will need on the GMAT. No one can know the correct answer to every single question on the test. If you have ignored Rule #2 (or even if you haven’t) and you see a question that you have no idea how to solve, don’t stare and sweat while time wastes. Just guess and move on. Similarly, if you are solving a question that you should know how to handle, but you have already spent more than two minutes on it, unless you are positive you’ll get the answer within the next 20 seconds, guess and move on. Since clock-watching also wastes time, of course, you need a fourth rule.

Rule #4: Practice a lot, and time your practice.

Timed practice will accustom you to time limits and help develop an intuitive sense of time. If you practice a lot, you will get used to common GMAT question formulations and learn to recognize the most common and most effective solution algorithms. Don’t practice thoughtlessly; review all tests you take, read explanations, and repeat the theory you needed to answer the questions you missed. Even if you answered a question correctly, read the official explanation in case there might be a more efficient approach that could save you time in future. This is where the GoGMAT platform is so valuable, offering advanced analytic tools that help you identify strengths and areas in need of improvement, suggesting topics to review for remedying weaknesses, and providing more than sufficient practice opportunities.

At GoGMAT we offer techniques that will help you save time on each particular question type. Listing them all would take more than an article, but here are four that are particularly effective.

–        Familiarize yourself with techniques like backsolving and picking numbers. These can save time on GMAT Problem Solving questions.

–        Memorize answer choices in Data Sufficiency questions. They are always the same, and there’s no need to read them each time. This should come naturally with practice and will save you valuable time.

–        Do not solve Data Sufficiency questions. The point of such questions is not to find the answer but to determine whether information given is sufficient to find the answer. In many cases, you have to do some calculations, but most often, you do not have to solve them until the end. Understanding the underlying math principles will nearly eliminate the need for any calculations at all. Practice, practice, and practice until your understanding of what’s needed is instinctive, and you will gain time on the test.

–        In Critical Reasoning questions, start by reading the question stem (the question) and only then proceed to the argument. This way, when you read the argument, you will already know what to look for: flaws in reasoning, missing links, etc.

These few tips alone should reduce your average time per question, with the core of your preparation based on the three principles that shape the design of GoGMAT’s platform: Study, Practice, and Analysis.

Good luck!

Continue learning on our GMAT preparation discussion forum. If you have any GMAT related questions about this post or any other GMAT topic, head over to the GMAT preparation helpdesk and shoot your queries.


GMAT Preparation Tips by GoGMAT
GoGMAT, founded in 2009, is an adaptive GMAT preparation platform developed by the best instructors in the industry (with 740+ GMAT scores and strong teaching experience). Find out more here: GMAT preparation courses

Sameer Kamat
Founder of MBA Crystal Ball | Author of Beyond The MBA Hype & Business Doctors Connect with me on Google+ | Twitter @mba_cb | Facebook

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