GMAT Time Crunch: Tips on How to Handle 3 Hrs. 30 Min.

Now that you’ve reviewed how to defend an argument and how to solve for x, the next step in preparing for the GMAT is learning how to manage the time limit stress. But how do you really prepare for the timed element in each section?


Use the Timer as a Guide

The time limit for each of the 4 sections should be thought of more as a guide than as a restriction. When you’re writing for the Analysis of an Argument section, you have 30 minutes to write 1 essay. But instead of stressing yourself over the overall 30 minute limit for the essay, break up the process and allot each step with a time guide. For instance, you can allot 5 minutes to reading the prompt and to briefly outlining the bullet points of what you’re going to discuss in the essay. Then you can allot 20 minutes for writing the essay with 5 minutes left over for proofreading.

By breaking up the 30 minute time limit with a guide of how much time you will use in each step, the pressure of finishing an essay in 30 minutes can be lessened. The same strategy applies to the other sections of the exam as well. A time guide will keep you from worrying whether or not you are on track at any stage of the process.


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Don’t Psych Yourself Out

Regardless of how well prepared you are and how much you’ve studied for GMAT questions, you will come across a few questions that you won’t know the answer to. This could happen as soon as you begin the section or even toward the end of the section when you only have a few minutes left. In either case, refrain from worrying yourself about not knowing the answer right away and how it might affect your time.

Take a second to take a deep breath, confidently reminding yourself that you have prepared for this and that your results will reflect your preparation. If you still don’t know the answer after another minute, move on to the next question. Some questions require just a few seconds to solve whereas other questions require more time. Allow yourself some wiggle room in your time guide.

Once after you have finished the section and are going back over the questions that you’ve skipped, try to narrow down the choices. The process of elimination, or “solution behavior,” will help you make an educated guess and is always better than random guessing or omitting. Even if you have only a few minutes left and you still have 5 questions to answer, take a deep breath and try to narrow down your choices before selecting the answer that you think is best.


Utilize All Breaks

The GMAT allows for 2 optional 8 minute breaks. The first break is after the Integrated Reasoning Section (Section 2); the second break is after the Quantitative Section (Section 3). Although both breaks can be declined, you should utilize both of them. Giving yourself a break, especially after a long period of time concentrating, will help you maintain your focus for the sections to come.

Once you accept the option to take the break, quickly leave the testing room. The timer begins as soon as the screen asks you if you want a break. After leaving the designated test area, you can use the time wisely by stretching. Sitting in one place for too long can make you feel sluggish. Avoid this feeling by taking a few minutes to move around and get your blood pumping: reach down and touch your feet or stretch your neck by rolling your head a few times. But keep in mind to take note of your time. If you go over your allotted break, the additional time you take will be deducted from the next section. After 8 minutes, the test will start— with or without you.

Moreover, the GMAT begins with a tutorial. Even if you don’t need the tutorial, use the time as a way to stretch in your chair and to get comfortable. The tutorial is designed to not only educate you on how to take the test, but also to help you concentrate and focus on taking the test.

As a final note of dealing with the time crunch, remember that the stress and pressure you feel about each timed section can be completely controlled by you. Whenever you feel yourself losing concentration and worrying over how long you’ve just taken to answer question No. 27 in the Quantitative Section, take a deep breath and remain calm. Remember that you’ve prepared wisely for this exam and you’ll be just fine if you stick with your plan.


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This guest post was provided by an editorial team, including team members Dafe Ojaide and Jessica Edmondson, who writes on MBA programs online for University Alliance on behalf of Florida Tech. For more information visit


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