If you want to give yourself the best opportunity to score high on the GMAT, you need to establish and practice a pacing strategy.
Knowing how long you should spend answering each type of question and sticking to this timing will save you from having to randomly guess or leave questions blank at the end of a section – the worst fate your GMAT score could suffer.
A pacing strategy also helps you decide when you need to guess. As discussed in a previous post about the biggest GMAT mistake testers make, no one gets every question right on the GMAT and no one should try. Taking well-placed educated guesses on difficult questions ensures that you’ll have enough time to attempt all the questions and avoid careless errors.
The GMAT lasts for 3 hours and 30 minutes with two optional breaks that each last 8 minutes. The amount of time for each section and the amount of questions in each section break down as follows.
|Section||Number of questions||Time allotted|
|AWA||1 essay||30 minutes|
Unlike other standardized tests, you cannot go back to previously answered questions. Once you submit an answer, that answer is final. So how do you establish an effective pacing strategy? Employ these three strategies:
These strategies take a little practice. We’ve broken down each and provided timing tables for you to consult below.
Each question type has an ideal time range in which to answer it. Stay within this time range and you’ll have enough time to work on every question in the section. If you take longer than this time range, you’ll fall behind in your pacing and risk being in a pinch at the end of the section.
However, going faster than this range is also dangerous. Answering questions quickly (generally faster than 30 seconds), you’re more likely to make a careless errors. Faster is not always better on the GMAT.
Check out the following table to learn the ideal range of each question type.
|Question type||Average time||Time range|
|SC||1 minute, 15 seconds||45 seconds – 2 minutes|
|CR||2 minutes||1 – 2.5 minutes|
|RC||6 minutes||4 – 8 minutes|
|DS||2 minutes||1 – 2.5 minutes|
|PS||2 minutes||1 – 2.5 minutes|
Keep track of how long it takes you to answer each question type when practicing questions. Begin by tracking your time on each question and noting which type of questions you spend a lot of time on and which you answer quickly. As you practice more questions and track your timing, you’ll begin to build a sense of timing and when you’re hitting the ideal time range or falling outside of it.
A stopwatch can help you track and build your since of timing. Also, Prep4GMAT automatically tracks your pacing on each question you answer and provides timing feedback in its Analytics tool.
After you begin to get a feel for timing and know how long you should be spending on each question type, you can apply these skills to a practice test. While taking the practice test, monitor your pacing by periodically comparing the question number you’re on with the amount of time you have left to complete the section. In other words, by a certain amount of time into a section, you should have completed a certain number of questions.
Use the following benchmarks for the quantitative and verbal sections of the GMAT.
|Time left in quant||Near question number|
|60 minutes||7 – 8|
|45 minutes||14 – 15|
|30 minutes||21 – 22|
|15 minutes||28 – 29|
|Time left in verbal||Near question number|
|60 minutes||8 – 10|
|45 minutes||16 – 18|
|30 minutes||24 – 26|
|15 minutes||32 – 34|
These timing benchmarks will help to keep you on track during the actual exam, and you should practice following them on each practice test you attempt
During a test, if you find that you are behind, look for a question that is a weaknesses for you. Weaknesses are the best type of question to make up time on by taking a quick guess. Since you’re more likely to get a weakness question wrong, it’s better to guess and save time then to risk spending precious minutes trying to solve it only to still answer incorrectly.
Remember, no matter what, you’re going to miss around 40 percent of the questions on the GMAT, so it’s best to be tactical in which questions you do miss.
Make tough questions work for you by using them to buy time and reestablish your pacing so that you can concentrate on questions you know how to answer correctly.