GMAT Impact: My Timing Is Killing Me on the GMAT

When it comes to the GMAT, raw intellectual horsepower helps, but it is not everything. In this weekly blog series, Manhattan GMAT’s Stacey Koprince teaches you how to perform at your best on test day by using some common sense.

You already know the timing is crazy on the GMAT, but I want to address something that I have been hearing lately from students—particularly those who have been studying for a while and are really struggling to make progress on practice tests.

My best timing was on my very first practice test.

How is that possible?

Here is what happens: Early on, you know what you do not know and so it is much easier to let go of the too-hard questions. Once you start studying, you will see something and think, “Oh, I studied that! I can get this one!” But it turns out that problem is still too hard—only, this time, you will not let go when you should. Do that a few times and the whole situation snowballs: you realize you are behind on time, you start to panic and rush, that causes careless mistakes, then you get stuck on another question because you feel like you are getting a bunch wrong, so you do not want to get this one wrong too… Now you are way behind, and then the section ends with a bunch of guesses or even blank questions.

I’m fine with Official Guide/untimed/shorter problem sets.

I am sure you will not be surprised to hear that we are all better when the timer is not ticking. Lots of people also discover that everything is fine when they are doing shorter problem sets. This, again, is to be expected—keeping track of your “global” time for five or ten questions is easier than doing do for 37 or 41.

So what do I do?

Task #1: Change your mind-set.

Believe it or not, this comes down to just one issue overall: your mindset.

Read the article “In It To Win It” right now. I am serious—not when you are done reading this current post. Right now. Then come back here. I will wait.

So what did you learn there? Put it in your own words before you keep reading.

Here is a little follow-on story for you. At the U.S. Open last year, Serena Williams won one of her matches by a score of 6-0, 6-0. For those of you who do not follow tennis, that is the equivalent of an 800 on the GMAT; she destroyed her opponent. A total of 89 points were played in the match. How many would you guess Serena won?

Serena won 60 of the 89 points, or just about two-thirds of the points played. In tennis, you can absolutely win big even when you lose a lot of points, just as you can get a great GMAT score even when you miss a lot of questions.

Task #2: Fix your timing.

Check out this two-part article all about time management. Here I will outline a few things to note.

Read the whole article and then start with the exercises in Section 4 (building a one-minute time sense). Stick with these exercises—a lot of my students will start but then stop when they have started to build a good time sense, and then they risk losing all of the progress they made.

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