GMAT: The Best Time Management Strategy

One of my friends wanted to learn driving. However, nobody was willing to teach him. Why?

Well, probably because he had a peculiar condition: he wanted to begin learning at 60mph.

Some people may not consider him very wise, but he had his logic. He reasoned that since he wouldn’t derive any satisfaction from driving unless he could drive at 60mph, there’s no point in his learning to drive at 10 or 20mph. Why bother to learn to drive at 10 or 20mph when you want to eventually drive at 60mph?

I know a person who stopped going to the school the day he learnt that one has to be a graduate or a post-graduate to get a good corporate job. Why bother going to school if you’re not going to get a job because of it? Why not go directly to college? Well, that’s what the person wanted to do.

You may think these people are mistaken. However, they had their logic.

And not so fortunately, I see a similar logic followed by a number of GMAT aspirants.

A significant majority of the people already have a target score in mind when they start preparing for GMAT. Generally, this score is above 700 and sometimes 750+. Let’s say Peter is one of these guys with a target of 720+.

Peter reasons out that to score 720+, he’ll need to be able to solve some of the toughest questions on Quant and Verbal sections within 2 minutes per question. He reasons that he doesn’t need to worry about easy or medium level questions since he won’t see many of them on his test anyways. He can just focus on the difficult questions and try to solve them within 2 minutes each. Gradually, with practice, he’ll get to his goal.

Just as, gradually, an 8-year-old who hasn’t been to school would understand the subjects of college!

How likely is it for Peter to succeed?

Not very, I think.

There is an old story about two Greek islanders vying to become the strongest man on the island.

One trainee bought a newborn calf. The other laughed at him. How could a calf help his rival train? But every day the wise trainee lifted it. Every day the calf got a little bigger and heavier, but he could still lift it because it was only a little bit heavier than the previous day. After a year, the wise trainee saw the calf was now a bull, but he could still lift it.

In the meantime, the unwise trainee had tried every day to lift a bull.

He had failed every time.

The point I’m trying to make is that timing yourself and solving the most difficult questions from the beginning is a bad strategy, based on a flawed reasoning that doesn’t apply to any domain of learning.

When you learn to drive, the first things you learn are the names and the functions of the various parts, and how to operate various parts such as a clutch, a gear etc. We can call this stage “Conceptual Stage”.

Then, you begin to apply your conceptual knowledge to increasingly higher speeds. As your skills improve, you feel comfortable even at higher and higher speeds. We can call this stage “Application Stage”.

And then comes a stage when you can drive at your desired speed without compromising on the safety. We can call this stage “Timing Stage”.

These are the three stages of learning applicable to all domains of learning. This is the way learning happens. And this is the way you should prepare for GMAT. I explain how you can apply this three-step approach to ace GMAT in this article:

However, people try to master all the three stages at the same time, not surprisingly leading to unpleasant results. What would happen if you try to increase your speed when you haven’t built your skills to a sufficient level?

Your chances of crashing will increase. Right?

The same thing happens when we try to improve our timing without building our skills: our accuracy suffers. It becomes an either-or situation: either you have accuracy or you have timing. In such a case, no matter what you choose, your score suffers. In the latter case, you get questions incorrect and in the former case, you end up leaving or skipping questions.

However, it need not be an either-or situation. You can have both.

How? How can you drive at 60mph without increasing your chances of crashing?

By becoming a better driver. By increasing your skills.


Similarly, the way you improve your timing without compromising on your accuracy is by building your skills, by learning, by mastering the concepts and the approach. When you do so, the questions that looked medium will start looking easy and the questions that looked difficult will start looking medium.

Do you think you would face a lot of timing problems in dealing with easy or medium level questions?

About Chiranjeev Singh

An Alumnus of IIM Ahmedabad and with scores of 780 (2017) and 770 (2013) on GMAT and 99.98%ile on CAT, Chiranjeev is one of the most qualified GMAT tutors in India. Chiranjeev has earlier served as Director of Curriculum at e-GMAT. Chiranjeev has been helping students ace GMAT since 2012. He follows a concept-based methodology to teaching GMAT and is very committed to student success. You may contact him for any private GMAT tutoring needs at He conducts online sessions for students across the world.

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