How the NBA Can Help You Track Time Efficiently on Test Day – Part I

GMAT PracticeToday I would like to share from personal experience some advice on how to efficiently track your time and control your pace while not getting too stressed out about how well you are doing on the GMAT. Time management is crucial to success on your GMAT exam.

Let’s start with the analysis of the issue at hand:  timing on the GMAT test in general, and why tracking your time and controlling your pace is also important.


  • On the GMAT, your speed and exam stamina will seriously be tested once you start soaring north of 600-650. In my personal experience, finishing the quant section in a timely fashion is a real challenge. However, depending on your reading comprehension skills and how tired you are, pacing through the verbal section could become a challenge as well.
  • You need to master various techniques to make sure you don’t run out of time. Moving on once you spend 3- 3.5 minutes on a question is good, eliminating choices on complex questions you have difficulty figuring out is better, swallowing your pride and passing questions you can’t crack is necessary.
  • Trying to be quick is not enough alone though. Besides using all your weapons in your arsenal to crack the questions, you also need to know how much time you have left and pace yourself. After all, you don’t want to be too slow or too quick, you are not allowed to come back to earlier questions on the GMAT.

Pacing and tracking time might look simple but the devil is in the detail. And I know about this from 1st person experience. Enter past Seckin’s futile pacing efforts.

Back in the day, when I was doing practice tests, I used to check my watch after nearly every question to see how well I was doing. This meant I would check my clock every 3-4 minutes. That was a wrong tactic on several grounds.

Firstly, the time calculation took me time and stressed me out. Once I check my clock, thoughts start racing in my head like “I solved 11 quant questions in 24 minutes, this means I have 51 minutes to solve 26 questions, I’m 3 minutes behind, oh man, oh man…” Finding out how quick I was took me another 15 seconds each time! And for verbal the calculation was even more difficult. You need get through 41 questions in 75 minutes, which means 1.83 minutes per question, go figure this one out after every answer! Plus while doing all these checks, especially towards the end of the test, I was feeling more and more stressed regarding time management. And that is bad news big time for GMAT success. As we mentioned in several other blog posts, a super critical factor of success on test day is positive psychology. Once you lose your confidence and start panicking, you could kiss your high score goodbye. I was doing the opposite and was making several stupid mistakes especially in quant as I was too involved with tracking time.

Also, checking my clock after every question was misleading. On the GMAT, some questions are easy, some are hard, and some are very hard. And their locations are random. You might face 5 very difficult questions in the beginning of the test, each of which might require 2.5-3 minutes. Checking your clock after these 5 questions and thinking you are falling behind is a wrong assumption. In reality, your sense of time will be only correct once you solve more than 5-10 questions. This way you will come across both difficult and easy questions which would create a more homogeneous group. Especially this fact made me think that I should definitely change my approach.

So in short, the more you check your clock and think about it, the deeper you sink. Imagine a point guard in basketball or a quarter back in football. If he is checking the shot clock all time how could he effectively focus on the game itself? Interestingly, my revelation came one day when I was watching an old time NBA game. It was the last possession of the game where the good old Jeff Hornacek from the Utah Jazz made sure he used all of the 24 seconds and still score on the last second. A closer look showed me he checked the clock only 2 times during the play and for the rest he listened to his inner rhythm. That made me shout “Voila!”… Thanks Hornacek. I should also salute his phenomenal haircut which always makes me wonder and helps my creative thinking. You wonder how old Jeff Hornacek could help your score as well? Please read part 2 of this blog post to find out how it could all work out next week.

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Seckin Kara began teaching for Veritas Prep in 2006 when he was a student at Brown in Providence, RI. Upon graduating, he went on to teach for us in London, Berlin, Amsterdam, and Frankfurt. After years of finance and banking, he left that career to pursue his passion of education forged largely from his interactions with Veritas Prep students, and can now be found teaching GMAT classes in his homeland of Turkey.