Taking the GMAT with Your Eyes Closed
June 18, 2012
The GMAT is a long test, but it can feel like it goes by quickly. You’re working straight through after all, at a rapid pace of 2 minutes per math problem, 4 minutes per quickly-scanned passage, and 1 minute per sentence correction question. You’re testing for three and a half hours, so your two eight-minute rests may not seem like enough. The solution? Take more breaks.
This may seem like odd advice, especially given that I’ve written blogs about shaving mere seconds off math problems. And certainly, seconds do count. But taking breaks on the test is similar to paraphrasing question stems and taking notes or reading passages: spending time to rest can save you more time on the rest of the test.
For starters, humans blink less often when they are staring at computer screens. This can result in dry eyes and eyestrain—the last thing you want to happen when you’re faced with a high-difficulty passage on, say, neuroscience. Additionally, human concentration is a limited resource. Focusing exclusively on the test and nothing else for 1:15 can be nearly impossible. And finally, top test-takers tend to breath slowly and regularly, and just taking a few seconds to take a deep breath can help you stay on target.
For these reasons, experienced test-takers will seldom work straight through a GMAT section without pause. Of course, the GMAT is still timed, and any time off from the test has to fit into that time frame. So my advice is this: four times during each test section, close your eyes and count to ten while breathing slowly. That still leaves 74 minutes 20 seconds to answer every question. And in all likelihood, your sharp eyes and sharp mind will improve your performance. If you can catch a detail on a single question and thereby avoid just one 40-second re-read, you’ve already made up for the missing time and taken a key step to Test Day success.