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GMAT time management strategy – The two readings rule

Add the two readings rule to your GMAT time management strategy techniques. If you don’t know what it is, the GoGMAT experts share details about this in for MBA Crystal Ball readers.

GMAT time management strategy – The two readings rule

One of the first steps in preparing for any exam is getting to know its structure and format. By now, you most likely already know that the GMAT Quantitative section has 37 questions to be answered in 75 minutes, and the GMAT Verbal section has 41 questions and a further 75 minutes. Intuitively, most test takers therefore divide one by the other, to find that they can spend an average of about two minutes per question in the GMAT Quantitative section, and just under that in the Verbal.

Not so intuitive, however, is recognizing that the GMAT exam does not work like a quiz show that doesn’t start the clock until after you have had an opportunity to understand the question. The GMAT time per question approach works differently compared to a quiz. Your exam clock starts ticking as soon as you open a section, and it never stops ticking, including while you are reading questions.

That clearly implies that you should be working on not only your problem solving skills but also your reading and comprehension skills. This kind of practice, combined with applying the Two Readings Rule, will help you pace yourself in that race against the clock.

You’ve probably already timed yourself answering GMAT practice questions. Have you timed yourself reading questions? Are you aware of how big a chunk of a question’s two minutes you spend on just reading it? Some questions are written specifically to be hard to read or comprehend. If you fail to exercise the necessary discipline, these questions can act as time traps.

If you don’t have an effective GMAT time management strategy in place, you can find yourself pressed for time not necessarily because problems take too long to solve but because you don’t recognize and protect yourself against these time traps. Have you noticed that time seems to pass more slowly when you’re solving than while you’re reading? That’s because solving is mostly thinking, so you’re more aware of the passage of time. While you’re reading, time just slips away unnoticed, which is why it is so important to prepare for that essential component of the testing process. Like money, time saved is time earned—additional time for actual problem solving.

Here’s how can you avoid the time trap. Stick to the Two Readings Rule. The Two Readings Rule tells you to read any question twice and only twice. If you don’t understand a question, read it again—once. After that, if you still don’t understand it well enough for the answer choices to make sense, guess and move on. Two readings are enough.

Keep in mind that questions that are hard to grasp in two readings are likely to fall into the “hard” categories. This means that if you don’t understand the question by the second reading, the time you will waste trying to understand it—and remember how time flies when you’re reading—could prevent you from getting to one or more questions later on, which punishes your score much more than answering that “hard” question incorrectly would have.

Your score is not based solely upon correct answers but rather upon your whole performance, weighing the number and difficulty of questions answered. Answering all the Quantitative questions and getting 15 of them wrong will usually yield a better score than skipping the last 15 questions and answering the first 22 correctly.

The Two Readings Rule has a flip side you should also notice. It limits your wasted time AND it suggests the importance of a second reading. You often gain better insight into question and a clearer understanding of its intention through a careful, thorough second read. You also are likely to correct errors such as misreading “thrice” for “twice” or “no” for “now” or “not.” Of course, as time runs short, a single reading may be all you allow yourself when a question is clear and the correct answer easily selected.

While an attentive second reading trades time for a valuable second look at a question, a third reading would at best trade excessive time for a correct answer plus increased anxiety about time throughout the remainder of the section. That third reading, in short, is very rarely worth what it costs. You are much better advised to take a guess and move on if you are still stumped by a question after the second reading.

Have a go at it yourself. Try a practice exam applying the Two Readings Rule and another disregarding it. You may be surprised by how your score is improved by such simple discipline. Hope this helps you strengthen your GMAT time management strategy.

Study hard, study well, practice all the necessary skills, and good luck!


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

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Sameer Kamat
About Sameer Kamat
Founder of MBA Crystal Ball. Author of Beyond The MBA Hype & Business Doctors. Here's more about me. Follow me on: Instagram | Linkedin | Youtube

1 thought on “GMAT time management strategy – The two readings rule”

  1. Really interesting share. Going to try this and see if it really yields results, but sounds logical enough. Thanks Sameer.


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