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GMAT & GRE Time Management Strategies

Well, this article is kind of an antithesis, really. Students focus a lot on what the correct time management strategies for a test like the GMAT or GRE should be. And why do students focus on a strategy?

The answer is simple – these are timed tests. Had it not been so, there would not have been any talk about strategy. But let us pause for a moment and try to answer this question:

“If the concepts are themselves weak, can a test-taking strategy help?”

So, we start with the most important part of time management strategies – concepts!

1. Get your concepts right

I understand that it isn’t that easy for everyone to learn all concepts of Quantitative and Verbal and excel in that. I am not asking anyone to do that either. 

All I am saying is make sure that you go through the different topics and try to learn all the “basic concepts” properly – at least this will help you to understand the difficulty level of a question and you would be able to take an informed decision (during the test) whether it is worth spending time on the question or not.

Most often time is wasted because students spend time on questions which they assume are easy, but are not – simply because they do not understand the underlying concept or the trick involved.

What basic concepts are we talking about?

  • Quantitative: Basics of percentages, ratios, rates, quadratics, sequences, combinatorics, geometry (only for the GRE), etc.
  • Verbal: Scope, assumptions, inference, conclusions (CR), tone, main idea (RC), vocabulary knowledge (GRE) etc.

2. Expose yourself to the various types of questions that are tested

This is in continuation to the above point. Having seen the variety of questions that have appeared in these tests, and remembering how you approached those while practicing, will help you to save tons of time.

How do you think people end up finishing a test like the GMAT before time? (I did it – completed the QA in 30 minutes and still got Q51)

The fast-performers are aware of the variety of questions (and concepts) tested in these exams and once they look at a question, they immediately make that connect and apply the same procedure. Note that, it is not about memorizing a formula and using it:

“it is about remembering a particular concept and the approach and then applying it in the proper context”

3. Lots of practice

An obvious extension of the above point – how can you make the connect (discussed above) so fast? – Obviously with lots of practice. For an important test like the GMAT or the GRE, you definitely need to give it time. Do not expect to start studying one fine morning and become an expert in a week, or even a month.

Everyone has a different timeline by when he / she becomes competent or proficient in these tests. Do not start with a set idea in mind – do not think that just because some popular institute mentioned 2 months is enough, you also need 2 months! Well, you may need 2 weeks or maybe 6 months! Give it the time.

“A poorly cooked dish isn’t something you would eat just because you are in a hurry”

4. Strategies during the test

So! Here we are – at the test center. We want to ensure we give our best. The previous three points have laid the foundation for that. We just need to ensure we carry on the legacy. Time management strategies during the test: 

“Make sure that you do NOT spend an unnecessary amount of time on any question. If you have focused on the concepts and have put in enough practice, you would know how to get out of such situations – use of answer choices (elimination by logic), use of approximations, and smart guesswork.”

GMAT Focus
SectionTimeNo. of QuestionsTime / questionMax time spent
Quant45 mins212 min 8 sec+ 1 to 1.5 min
Verbal45 mins231 min 58 sec+ 0.5 to 1 min
Data Insights45 mins202 min 15 sec+ 0.5 to 1 min
SectionTimeNo. of QuestionsTime / questionMax time spent
Quant #121 mins121 min 45 sec+ 0.5 to 1 min
Quant #226 mins151 min 44 sec+ 0.5 to 1 min
Verbal #118 mins121 min 30 sec+ 0.5 to 1 min
Verbal #223 mins151 min 32 sec+ 0.5 to 1 min
Essay30 mins130 minNA

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