GMAT Tip: Shaved Seconds Add Up
When working through GMAT Quantitative problems, at times some students will comment, “well, I solved this problem this way, so that’s fine right???”
Totally. As we’ve covered in quite a few posts, there are always several different ways to get to the correct answer for a problem solving or data sufficiency question. However, there are ways that are more efficient than others, and it’s all about what you do “inside” your work on the problem that makes a difference.
Reality: the GMAT is a timed test. With oodles of time, it’s likely that a lot of us could get to the right answer. But the GMAT expects that you complete quantitative questions without a couple minutes, on average. This means that each question CAN be done within that time frame, but it’s more likely that a savvy, high-scoring test taker will average out to two minutes a problem.
There are quite a few problems, particularly in the 500 range, that can be completed in just a spare few seconds if you understand the core concept being tested. There are others that require a few calculations, but once you see the pattern or where a problem is moving, the right answer becomes apparent. And, lastly, there are questions in this space that are best accomplished working backwards from the answer choices, because those answers choices show us where to get started.
Completing these questions as quickly as possible is essential to “saving up seconds” for higher order thinking questions.
But, once we get to the more complex questions, where we save time is all on a) recognizing when we’ve taken the wrong path and need to circle back and/or b) having efficient scratch work.
Many students are so used to “showing the work” that they waste time in scratch work writing out steps they already understand or manually doing calculations in their heads, on their fingers, or simply, more efficiently. Saving seconds allows us to apply time where it is needed (setting up the problem, double-checking the right answer) supporting a high score.
Over the next few posts we’ll highlight questions that fall into this category. In the meantime, as you approach your quantitative practice, think – where can I shave seconds?