Time Management On The GMAT/GRE

Quick, what does the GMAT test? What about the GRE? Show of hands for math…for verbal? Ok let's take a closer look not at the content of the test but rather the intention of the test.

To do that, put yourself in the shoes of…oh, by the way, you can put your hands down now…put yourself in the shoes of the adcoms (admissions committee) at a blue chip business school or graduate program. What's your goal? Well, in the case of business schools you want to groom the corporate leaders of tomorrow. How important do you think it is for your students to know that a triangle has 180 degrees or that in a subjunctive sentence structure, the infinitive verb is used (sentence correction)? Not very, right?

What is important to an adcom admitting students into a management MBA is determining if they know how to…wait for it…manage! That is precisely what the GMAT tests–ability to manage time and information. How do you make decisions about the latter (information) with a limited supply of the former (time). To that end, the test supplies you with less time than would be needed to answer all of the questions given. This is especially true in the quant section.

The same story holds for the GRE. Particularly in the quant section, you will find that time is at a premium and mismanagement of it will cost you dearly. Does someone who is seeking admission to a PhD program in Art History need to demonstrate a facility with numbers? No, but what they do need to demonstrate is an ability to efficiently manage their time and make good decisions based on its limited supply. That is very much a graduate school skill adcoms look for, lest you end up languishing in their program for ten years hiding out from the real world (which does happen!).

When tutoring students in class or one-on-one, we always find that math studs and verbal aces have much more trouble with the test than practical decision makers who are willing to skip questions when needed and approach the test strategically vs. head-on.
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So, to summarize:

  • The GMAT/GRE is not a test of math and verbal, but of time and information.
  • Adcoms are concerned with gauging a students maturity with respect to management, not their ability to recall high school math or big words.
  • Don't use highfalutin words such as highfalutin.

What follows is a pacing metric that we find effective for students to be used for the quant portion of the exams.

GMAT QUANT (75 minutes, 37 questions):

Question #10: Should have 50-55 minutes remaining

Question #20: Should have 30-35 minutes remaining

Question #30: Should have 10-15 minutes remaining

GRE QUANT (35 minutes, 20 questions):

Spend the first 15 minutes on the first seven questions (quantitative comparison), as they are the easiest and you want to get easy points first (all questions count the same). Next, spend 20 minutes on questions #8-17, identifying two to three that give you trouble and quickly skipping them (a luxury not afforded on the GMAT). Use your last ten minutes to answer #18 (typically an easy graph question) and also one or two more that you initially skipped but believe, with some time, you could answer now. There should be two to three questions that you just flat out guess on by the time the clock expires. So really, you are handling 17 questions in 35 minutes (two minutes per question) instead of 20 questions in 35 minutes (1 minute 40 seconds per question). This is a BIG difference.

This timing metric should help you capture a few points you are currently missing due to rushing through more intricate questions. Good luck studying and, as always, if you have any questions about this or previous articles, contact us here.

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