Time Management Advice for the GMAT
Successfully completing the GMAT to obtain the score you need requires a tiered plan of action developed over the months and weeks leading up to your scheduled test date. Integrating an effective time management strategy that works with your strengths is crucial.
Start early without time constraints
Aim your focus on learning the content likely to be tested early in your test preparation. Time management techniques may be of little use if you cannot confidently answer the questions. Initial preparations for the exam also include learning how the test is structured, what the directions for each section will be, and how you can best address the challenges of each part. Plan to work on many sample problems in the early days in order to be rock solid on the content and the structure of the various sections of the test before you turn to strategies for time management during the actual exam.
Move on to a timer
Once you are confident about content and understand the patterns of the questions, start working through practice problems with a timer. The quantitative section of the test has 37 questions with 75 minutes to finish, while the verbal section has 41 questions and provides 75 minutes to work. Each question you consider should take you no more than two minutes to read and answer.
Many experts on GMAT time management will suggest spending just 90 seconds per question before switching into a rational guessing mode approach. If you begin practicing this you will likely become adept at eliminating wrong answers and making an educated guess during those last 30 seconds before moving on to the next question. Doing this calmly and persistently with difficult questions may keep you fresh for the next.
Use a timer set to two minutes and begin assessing your skills in this area. One suggestion that may help is the "two reading rule," allowing only one re-read of a question before answering or taking an educated guess.
Use computer model practice tests
After you internalise the two-minute strategy, begin taking practice tests on the computer. Plan to do this several times, so budget your time in the weeks before the test. Block out a full three hours with no interruptions, and take each practice test using the question by question routine you have already mastered.
Keep a log of how many questions you have left at the end of each section and work hard each time you take another practice run to reduce the number. Do not make the mistake of consistently finishing all the questions prior to the end of the time either, as this may mean you have rushed a bit when you could have used the extra time.
You have achieved the right balance when you are feeling a little pressed for time at the end of a section but have the time to answer every question. You cannot go back and check all of your work, so it is better to internalise the time you have for each question and give each question its due.
If you notice that you are lagging in the quantitative section, spend some time brushing up on your basic computation skills. Make sure you are confident with your calculations. Many websites can suggest a list of GMAT math formulas. Search and then review and see your speed increase.
Stick to the two-minute rule
Even if you feel you can quickly make a decision on a category of questions, such as the data sufficiency sets, resist the impulse and allocate roughly the same amount of time for each question. If you find yourself inching past two minutes, cut your losses and make the best choice under the circumstance and move on. If you are steady and consistent you are much more likely to score well.
Using this plan gives you a purpose and structure to your test preparations. Following it step by step and investing time in repeated practice could give you the best chance at allocating your time wisely during the test, increasing your odds of performing well.