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The Lazy Thinking Behind the “2 Minutes Per Question” Plan
If you’re familiar with the format of the GMAT, then you know that the Quant section of the Test consists of 37 questions that must be completed in 75 minutes. At some point in the history of the GMAT, someone thought to him(her)self “37 questions in 75 minutes is about 2 minutes per question, since 75/37 = a little over 2 minutes… therefore I should plan to spend no more than 2 minutes per question…” That concept was the beginning of one of the laziest thoughts in the history of the GMAT: the idea that one of a Test Taker’s “goals” should be to answer every question in under 2 minutes. Beyond being a huge logical mistake, that type of thinking can be especially harmful to your overall performance on Test Day.
To start, certain questions can be solved relatively quickly – some in under a minute (and potentially in under 30 seconds). However, others are designed to take upwards of 3 minutes of solid work to solve (and that’s if you KNOW what you’re doing). It’s important to note that some of those ‘longer’ questions aren’t necessarily all that difficult, but the ‘set up’ time requires a lot of reading and note-taking, so the prompt naturally takes longer to correctly answer. If you were to try to rush through such a question (because your ‘goal’ was to answer it in under 2 minutes), then you could potentially make any number of little mistakes and get the question wrong. Knowing that certain questions can be answered quickly – and would thus allow you to ‘bank’ some extra time - it’s worth asking WHY you would still try to speed through a longer question and get it wrong?
Most of the ‘work’ that you’ll have to do in the Quant and Verbal sections is really about taking notes and ‘linking’ ideas. Yes, there will be some ‘math work’ too, but much of that work is fairly low-level (arithmetic or algebra). Test Takers who try to rush through the note-taking part of the process end up taking fewer notes and have to go back to reread the prompt (sometimes multiple times); THAT part (the reading and re-reading) can cause a severe pacing problem. In those situations, it’s ironic that the problem the Test Taker was trying to avoid (not spending too long on a question) is actually CAUSED by the manner in which that Test Taker chose to rush through the prompt in the first place (and ended up spending too much time anyway). The goal in these individual situations is NOT to be ‘fast’ – the goal is to be ‘efficient.’ By extension, you should stay calm, work diligently, take good notes, and take advantage of the proper Tactics and patterns that are applicable on the GMAT.
Some of the worst offenders in the realm of GMAT Test Prep will offer pacing advice that essentially tells you to spend “10 minutes on every 5 questions.” This type of blanket advice is generic and causes problems for many Test Takers. There are certain areas of each section of the Test that tend to frequently offer up a larger number of wordier/longer prompts to deal with. Any Test Taker who’s trying to follow the lazy ‘2 minutes per question’ advice will end up losing out on a lot of ‘gettable’ points and will almost certainly see a lower GMAT score than he/she wanted.
To maximize your overall performance, and avoid the pacing issues that the “2 minutes per question” thinking actually CAUSES, you have to train correctly to face the GMAT. The good news is that the GMAT is the same consistent, predictable Exam that it’s always been, so you CAN train to score at a higher level. One of the initial steps in that overall training process is to ignore the advice that 2 minutes per question should be a goal. The rest of the training involves working with the proper materials practicing Tactics and following advice that is actually useful. To that end, we’re here to help.
GMAT assassins aren’t born, they’re made,