A Quick First Step

(This is one of a series of GMAT tips that we offer on our blog.)

The year was 1995. Michael Jordan was finishing a lackluster career in baseball’s minor leagues, Cal Ripken, Jr. was putting the final touches on his “perfect attendance” record, OJ Simpson was trying on gloves in a courtoom, and Hootie and the Blowfish were, evidently, writing songs about the GMAT (which was not yet being administered via computer).

“Time…you ain’t no friend of mine,” they sang, in a way that GMAT test-takers know all too well. The GMAT derives quite a bit of its difficulty from the timed component, which prompts examinees to make seemingly-careless errors and to feel undue stress. What is the best way to deal with the timed component?

Years of working with GMAT students has led Veritas Prep instructors to note one common situation that test-takers face – they often spend too much time looking at a problem and agonizing over how they will approach it, and soon realize that the clock is ticking faster, causing more stress. Often times, it’s not the time that students spend solving the questions that causes the problem; it’s the time they spend before getting started.

How can you combat this? A major key is a quick first step – you should start by noting what you can do immediately, whether that entails assigning variables to unknowns, plugging in numbers, or setting up an initial equation. Simply by getting started, you will build some confidence and be able to work more quickly and effectively.

The second crucial aspect of beginning quickly is to note the errors you typically make when doing so. By beginning quickly, but knowing that, for example, setting up ratios tends to give you trouble, you can properly allocate the time that you save to the concepts on which you are most likely to err, yet still derive the benefit of a quicker overall progression through the exam.

For more help on the GMAT, visit Veritas Prep to find a prep course near you.