July 14, 2011:
In my last article, I suggested that you can seriously undermine your GMAT preparation if you focus on timing too early in your studies. In that article, I dealt solely with timing as it pertains to the quantitative section of the GMAT. In this article the concepts can be applied to the verbal section as well.
To begin, I believe that, in order to maximize progress, your GMAT preparation should have 2 distinct phases. Phase one is learning the required content (i.e., all definitions, concepts and laws). Phase two consists of a combination of working on your timing and strengthening any weaknesses you may have with the content. During both phases you should tackle practice questions, but during phase one you should take as long as you need to carefully read, understand, dissect and answer each question.
Now, does this mean you should throw away the clock during phase one of your studies? No, the clock is still very important during phase one. The reason for this is that, on test day, your goal will be to spend approximately two minutes or less on each question in order to finish on time. To accomplish this, you’ll need to know what two minutes “feels” like. Sure, there will be a clock on your computer screen during the test, but if you’re checking it every five seconds to gauge your timing, then you’re not devoting enough attention to the actual questions. So, during the test, you want to be able gauge your timing on a particular question without checking the clock. To do this, you’ll need to train your internal clock.
So, if possible, get a watch or timer that you can set to ring (or beep or buzz or moo) after 2 minutes (or 1:45 for verbal questions). Then, when you begin working on a question, start the timer. In most cases, the alarm will sound before you have had a chance to fully analyze and answer the question. That’s fine. Remember that, during phase one, your only goal related to time is to get a feel for what 2 minutes feels like. You should find that within a few study sessions, you will develop a strong feeling for 2 minutes, which you can put to use on test day.
Once you have completed phase one of your studies, you can begin working on beating the 2-minute guideline. Just remember that 2 minutes is the average time you should spend on each question, not the definitive cut-off. Since you will most likely answer some questions in well under 2 minutes, you can safely devote more than 2 minutes to the more complex or difficult questions.