GMAT Tip of the Week

Divide and Conquer

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

Rome wasn’t built in a day (which, when you think about it, isn’t a particularly worthwhile statement to make. Kids spend longer than that building treehouses and snowforts, yet people say that one of the greatest empires of all time wasn’t built in a day like they’re making an insightful statement. Such is the case with cliches…). Anything worth accomplishing takes multiple steps, and often times looking at the entire process is daunting enough to not want to begin, while looking at each individual step is just as overwhelming (“one down, thousands to go”).

On the GMAT, students have a tendency to wear down by seeing the process of completing sequences of 37 and 41 multiple choice questions in rapid succession, while others will monitor their pace-per-question on an ongoing basis, adding additional stress (and time-consuming pacing calculations) to an already exhausting process. With the quantitative section, for example, staring down a series of 37 questions in 75 minutes seems unmanageable, but trying to hold yourself to 2 minutes/question by breaking it down individually is a hard path to follow.

How can you best manage this process to keep yourself on pace, and to give yourself mental milestones to stay fresh? Look to one of the primary skills that the GMAT will feature: divisibility.

The 37 questions on the quantitative section break down quite nicely in to six sections of six, with a one-question “bonus” at the end*. It’s also a nice number for divisibility of time – with 75 minutes to complete the entire section, you can somewhat easily gauge your progress:

After question 6: 12:30 minutes
After 12: 25
After 18: 37:30
After 24: 50
After 30: 62:30
End of exam: 75

This schedule should be easy enough to remember if you want to jot down quick reminders to yourself, and helps you to break the test down in to either sixths or thirds so that you have built-in milestones to help you gauge your progress and feel a sense of accomplishment.

*NOTE: The creators of the GMAT confirm that there is a steep penalty for failing to answer a question – estimated at 5 percentile points for simply leaving one question unanswered. You must at least levy an answer to each question, but for pacing purposes, you may want to consider that having just enough time to guess on question 37 is at least acceptable, and having enough time to thoroughly complete it is ideal.

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