Fixing your GMAT Quant Timing Problem (Part 1: How to Think About Timing)

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Manhattan Prep GMAT Blog - Fixing Your GMAT Quant Timing Problem - Part 1 by Chelsey CooleyDid you know that you can attend the first session of any of our online or in-person GMAT courses absolutely free? We’re not kidding! Check out our upcoming courses here.


So, you’ve learned that timing is your number one problem on GMAT Quant. Even though you often get tough problems right, you just can’t get through a Quant section in 75 minutes or less, so your score doesn’t reflect your true ability. You have to fix this problem, or MBA admissions committees will underestimate you. How do you do it?1. The GMAC gives us relatively little data on its scoring algorithm, but here’s one thing that’s been confirmed definitively. (It’s pretty old information, so the exact numbers may have changed — but the degree of the effect is similar.)

If Arthur’s actual ability level in Quant is at the 70th percentile, and Arthur answers all 37 questions within 75 minutes, he’ll earn a 70th percentile score. Now, suppose that Bianca has the exact same ability level as Arthur, and she answers the first 32 questions exactly how he would. But then she runs out of time, and guesses randomly on the last 5 questions, getting 1 out of 5 correct. She’ll earn a 64th percentile score. And if Claire is also just as good at answering Quant questions, but she gets cut off after 32 questions — leaving the last 5 questions blank — she’ll earn a 55th percentile Quant score. That’s a loss of 15 percentile points. Depending on her Verbal score, that might make the difference between a 560 and a 600, or a 670 and a 710. That’s a big deal!

2. That’s how timing affects GMAT Quant scores in general. The next step is to understand how timing affects your score. Have you taken our free practice GMAT yet? If not, go for it! When you’re finished, take a break, then follow the review link on the CAT page (circled in the image below) to assess your timing.


Manhattan Prep GMAT Blog - GMAT Quant Timing Series Image 1


On the Quant review screen, start by checking out the rightmost column.


Manhattan Prep GMAT Blog - GMAT Quant Timing Series Image 2


That column represents your estimated ability level, as a percentile, at that point in the test. Look at the highest percentile you reached during the test. Then, look at where you ended. If you have a timing problem, you’ll see the numbers decrease as you rush through or guess on questions late in the test. I’ve reviewed tests for students whose scores dropped by 30 percentile points or more at the end of the Quant section, all because of timing.

3. Once you know how timing is hurting you, start to change your mindset. Take a moment to read — really read — What the GMAT Really Tests, by Stacey Koprince. Read the article, then put it down for a day or two, then read it again. It might seem silly to you at first: I’ve even had students read it and ask me if I’m just trying to make them feel better! But Stacey is actually sharing a hard truth that you have to internalize in order to beat the GMAT. If you don’t approach the GMAT as a test of strategy and reasoning, you’re leaving points on the table. MBA programs don’t care about high school math. They care about thinking, organization, and time management. That’s why the GMAT is designed to test those things.

Now, you should understand why Quant timing matters on the GMAT, why timing matters to you, and how to think about timing in a healthy, productive way. The next step: read the following articles in this series and learn which exercises and study habits will improve your Quant timing, and how to have great Quant timing on test day. Then, go take the GMAT, and earn the score that really reflects your skills! 📝


Want full access to Chelsey’s sage GMAT wisdom? Try the first class of one of her upcoming GMAT courses for absolutely free, no strings attached. 


Chelsey CooleyChelsey Cooley Manhattan Prep GMAT Instructor is a Manhattan Prep instructor based in Seattle, Washington. Chelsey always followed her heart when it came to her education. Luckily, her heart led her straight to the perfect background for GMAT and GRE teaching: she has undergraduate degrees in mathematics and history, a master’s degree in linguistics, a 790 on the GMAT, and a perfect 170/170 on the GRE. Check out Chelsey’s upcoming GMAT prep offerings here.

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