GMAT Tip of the Week: ASAP Test Taking Can Be Rocky (That’s Your Freaking Problem)

As Hip Hop Month draws to a close in the GMAT Tip of the Week space, it’s time to pass the torch to the new school; while Eminem, Tupac, the Wu Tang Clan, and other classic acts have taught you some important lessons about the GMAT, it’s time for the young bucks to impart some wisdom. So today we bring you an important message from A$AP Rocky, Drake, and Kendrick Lamar, who will show you one of the most common (f****g) problems that test-takers encounter while taking the GMAT.

In their incredibly-vulgar but even-catchier track “F*****g Problems,” they refrain “I love bad b******s that’s my f*****g problem; and yeah I like to f***, I’ve got a f*****g problem”. And in doing so, they (we promise) tell the familiar tale of GMAT pacing gone awry:

GMAT test-takers far too often go through easy-to-moderate level problems “A$AP”, which leads to a Rocky performance. Why? Because we love hard problems, that’s our effing problem. We’re in such a hurry to save time for the hardest problems out there that we make silly mistakes on the problems we should get right, then dump far too much time into the problems – those bad b*****s – that we probably wouldn’t have gotten right anyway.

Try this – look at your next practice test and see how you allocated your time. Your quant performance, for example, might look like:

Time taken….Correct/Incorrect

Because of the way the GMAT scoring algorithm works, missing “easy” questions – perhaps by going through them ASAP and not spending that extra few seconds double-checking your work – hurts you substantially more than getting really hard questions correct helps you. After all, the system has to assume that it’s possible for you to guess correctly on 20% of the questions way above your head, so it can chalk that up to “probability”, whereas when you miss easy questions that’s just on you. And if you look at this sample section breakdown, that’s likely what the user did – spending 1:22 and 1:12 on “easier” problems (those that came after another incorrect answer) and getting those wrong, while spending ~3 minutes on “harder” questions and not really helping the cause. Even that correct answer at the end came at the expense of some valuable time and may well have been a guess (or could have been guessed correctly, anyway.

The problem that many GMAT students have – and it’s human nature, so you just need to be aware of it – is that they disproportionately spend their time on those “bad b******s” hard problems and go through the easier problems a little too ASAP. In doing so, they often make just enough careless mistakes on the easier questions that their score suffers mightily. So how can you fix that? Let’s borrow a line from A$AP Rocky as he opens the song in question:

“Hold up, b*****s simmer down…”

What he means, obviously, is to spend that extra 5-10 seconds on early problems to “hold up / simmer down” and double-check your work to make sure that you didn’t make a careless mistake or dive right into a trap answer. Those seconds are more valuable to you in rescuing yourself from a silly error than they are in attacking a problem that you probably wouldn’t have gotten right, anyway. ASAP answers can be rocky.

Now, you may be asking “okay, I’ll spend an extra 5 seconds per question double-checking my work, but what if I’m already short on time – where does that time come from?”. And the answer is this – most students struggle to comfortably complete the full section in 75 minutes, but most could complete most of that section – maybe 33-34 quant or 38-39 verbal questions – comfortably in that time. So rather than rush through all 37 / 41 questions ASAP leading to a rocky performance, learn from A$AP’s next lyric:

“Taking hella-long, b***, give it to me now”

Meaning, of course, on problems that would take you a hella-long time to answer, rather than spend 2-4 minutes en route to what might end up being a blind guess, anyway, make your guess now (and make that thing pop like a semi or a nine…). If you know you can’t comfortably answer all the questions in 75 minutes, give yourself 2-3 time-saving “I pass” questions per section, and when you see something that seems labor-intensive and outside your comfort zone, blow in your 20% shot at a guess and bank that 2 minutes to make sure you do your best work on the problems that you should get right. It’s better to do your best work on 34 quant questions and completely blow off 3 than it is to do 90% effective work on all 37, as silly little mistakes on the easier questions will significantly hold back your score. If you can get a question right, get it right.

Naturally, this takes practice to implement, and so it’s important to get a feel for your own pacing (ideally you never need to guess, but realistically most students do at some point). Which is why the Veritas Prep practice tests include pacing statistics per question (your pace vs. the average pace for all users) *and* a feature entitled “The Three Easiest Question You Got Wrong” to help you determine which types of questions require that extra 5-10 seconds to make sure you’re not leaving those easy points on the table. With any pacing or “triage” strategy, you’ll need to practice to see how it works for you, and if ‘finding a test that’s real is your f**** problem, bring your practice to our Item Response Theory tests and maybe we can solve it’.

Most importantly, recognize that one of the biggest f**** problems test takers have on the GMAT is going through problems ASAP and leaving themselves vulnerable to silly mistakes and a rocky performance. Don’t bank the time for those “bad b*****s”, the hardest problems out there; instead, hold up/simmer down, double-check for silly mistakes, and maximize your score. We hope this pep talk turns into a pep rally as you celebrate GMAT success.

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By Brian Galvin