# Determining How Much Time to Spend on GMAT Quant Questions On the GMAT, you will be asked to answer multiple questions in a relatively short period of time. One of the main difficulties test takers have with the GMAT is that they run out of time before finishing all the questions. For the quant section in 2019, there are 31 questions to solve in 62 minutes, which gives an average time per GMAT quant question of exactly two minutes. Since you don’t want to finish at the 61:59 mark (unless you’re MacGyver), you can figure two minutes per question as a good target, but ideally you’re solving a few GMAT questions in less time than the “official” average time per question. The good news is that most GMAT questions can easily be solved in less than the two minutes per question you are allotted.

Unfortunately, many test takers struggle with the basic question of “how much time should I spend per question on the GMAT?” as there are dozens of different theories online and various suggestions from friends and coworkers who’ve taken the exam before and who have “cracked the code.” Many people swear that the first few questions are the only ones that matter. Others tell you the middle of the exam is irrelevant and you should speed through it. One popular piece of advice is to skip any question that will take you more than 4 minutes, as many test takers end up spending four or five minutes on questions that they ultimately get wrong. This is usually because they do not understand what they are trying to solve, so they’re trying to interpret the question, translate it into more familiar language, and solve it all at once. Needless to say, this is a recipe for wasting a lot of time on a single GMAT question.

One important thing to remember is that you won’t have a calculator on the exam, so blindly executing mathematical equations will be an exercise in futility. Most GMAT questions could easily be solved if only we had 5 minutes per question. While this is true, it’s akin to saying we’d be Canadian if only we’d have been born in Canada (and likely more polite and colder, eh). It’s true, but it doesn’t help the current situation because it ignores the situation at hand. Yes, almost anyone can write all the numbers from 1 to 100 in 5 minutes, or list the 32 possibilities of flipping 5 coins on a piece of paper, but time is of the essence and any precious seconds you save on question 5 can potentially help you on question 25. So your overarching goal should always be to spend as little time as necessary to get a question right on the GMAT.

If the numbers seem large, the first thing to do is to determine whether the large numbers are required or just there to intimidate you. The difference between 15^3 and 15^13 is staggering, and yet most GMAT questions could use these two numbers interchangeably, because the actual number is irrelevant. What the GMAT is likely testing here is probably unit digits or common factors, so breaking the number into some amount of threes and fives is all you need to do to solve the question quickly. Recognition of common GMAT themes is a big way to reduce your average time per GMAT question!

Once you determine whether the bloated numbers truly matter, you need to ascertain how much actual work is required. If the question is asking you for something fairly specific, then you might need to actually compute the math, but if it’s a general or approximate number, you can often eyeball it. It doesn’t take very long to determine that 3/11 is a bigger number than 3/13, so don’t be fooled into trying to put the fractions on a common denominator of 143! The same numerator on a larger denominator will yield a smaller number. It’s like ordering a pizza for your family and your ingrate cousins invite themselves over, all of a sudden there’s less Hawaiian pizza for you (is that a bad thing?). Understanding these mathematical properties helps you save time and brings down your average time per question because you’re shortcutting a lot of rote calculations.

Even if you end up having to execute calculations, you can usually estimate the correct answer and then scan the answer choices. We recall a fun question from a past Official Guide that was concerned with the number of seconds in an hour. While multiplying by 3,600 is not impossible without a calculator, it is time-consuming for the average GMAT student, so perusing the answer choices can help narrow down the options. Furthermore, we would argue that estimating and eliminating impossible answer choices is very much the goal of the GMAT. You, the test taker, will never be faster than a computer, so any brute force approach you undertake will necessarily be inefficient. What you possess that computers don’t (yet??) is critical reasoning, the ability to ascertain and estimate based on incomplete data. This is what the GMAT is trying to measure and improve among test takers – efficiency and critical thinking matter in business, so the GMAT is often testing how you can think critically to solve a question in considerably less time than the brute force method would suggest you need to take.

Even in Data Sufficiency, determining how precise the calculations need to be can save you a lot of time and aggravation, and will shorten the average time you take on a question. There are no various numbers to browse through, but the idea of estimating and shortcutting still applies in many questions. Data Sufficiency problems also typically take less time to complete than Problem Solving questions, so you can reduce your time per question on these unique GMAT questions by having a solid approach to cutting through the Data Sufficiency abstraction.

Let’s take a look at a question that can be somewhat daunting because of the numbers involved, but is rather simple if we correctly determine what needs to be done:

If 1,500 is the multiple of 100 that is closest to X and 2,500 is the multiple of 100 closest to Y, then which multiple of 100 is closest to X + Y?

(1) X < 1,500

(2) Y < 2,500

(A) Statement 1 alone is sufficient but statement 2 alone is not sufficient to answer the question asked.

(B) Statement 2 alone is sufficient but statement 1 alone is not sufficient to answer the question asked.

(C) Both statements 1 and 2 together are sufficient to answer the question but neither statement is sufficient alone.

(D) Each statement alone is sufficient to answer the question.