Last week, I introduced the idea of timing on the GMAT. Today, we will look at the technique which helped me a lot in reducing my stress and improving my time management. Have a look, take away the main methodology and please feel free to adjust certain parts of it to suit your own purposes.
The main idea is less is more. I divide the test into 3 sections and try to limit thinking about my timing to only 3-4 times during the test. This way I make sure I got through a homogeneous set (short questions mixed with long ones) every time and I don’t get too involved with obsessive time checking.
Here are the basic steps:
- Do your first self-check after 25 minutes. Take 5-10 seconds to think and reevaluate your strategy. By now, you should be done with roughly 1/3 of the test. (i.e. you have solved 12-13Q in quant or 13-14 Q in Verbal).
- If you seem to be on track, keep the same pace for the next 25 minutes.
- If you see you have somewhat fallen behind, you know you should speed up a bit in the second third to make up for the loss. Have no stress; you still have 2/3 of the test ahead of you. Just start pushing yourself a bit more, make use of GMAT Aikido and other techniques to move quicker, but never ever panic. You are not even halfway through the test, plenty of time to improve your pacing if necessary.
- If you find out you solved more than 1/3 of the test for some reason (which is rare once you are shooting north of 650 but could happen), you know you could spend some extra time on stubborn questions during the second third, you have some cushion.
- Have one more check where you are once again after 50 minutes. Are you on 25-26th Q on Quant, or on 28-29th Q on Verbal?
- If yes, all good, just make sure you push hard and don’t slow down during the last third. Keep in mind you will most probably be more tired in the last third and might lose.
- If not, depending on how behind you fell, make the last 25 minutes count, it is crunch time… Especially if you are 4-5 questions behind, start seriously speeding up and make occasional guesses to be able to get through all the questions.
- Last check is during the last 5-10 minutes to make sure all is fine close to the finish line. The computer clock should also warn you once you have only 5 minutes left. Keep a closer look to time but don’t think too much, the only thing you have to remember is this: Once you have 2 minutes left, check how many you have left, if you have more than 1-2 questions, just guess all of your remaining questions to make sure you don’t have any questions unanswered.
So here are the basic steps of my strategy, thanks to the inspiration from good old Hornacek. I used this technique during all of exam trials, and it helped me a lot in reducing exam stress every time. The key factor is that you stop thinking all the time about how ahead or behind you are… You do it only 3 times during the test section. And during each interval, you have enough time and resources to correct the situation in a calmer manner in case you are slower than necessary. Give it a try, you could also fine tune the idea I laid out here by drawing extra inspiration from let’s say Michael Jordan. Let us know how it goes.
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.