One Mean CAT
To quote the makers of the GMAT, “Time management is key.” Your timing skills could add or subtract 100 points from your score. Timing skills are important because the CAT (Computer Adaptive Test) has unusual pacing constraints:
- Double penalty for unfinished questions
The penalty for unfinished questions is severe (worse than getting a question wrong). You should pace yourself to make sure that you finish all the questions in the allotted time.
- No double checking
All answers are final. If you finish a section early, you cannot go back to double-check your earlier answers. For example, if you hurry and finish your section with 20 minutes left, you are stuck at the end of the test with 20 extra minutes. You could have spent that time double-checking your answers.
- No skipping
When you hit a tough question or get a mental block, you cannot skip the question without entering an answer. Instead, you have to trudge through it, guess, and hope you don’t waste too much time.
The GRE (another graduate school entrance examination) changed from a GMAT style CAT to a modified adaptive test in order to fix these problems (on the GRE you can move forwards and backwards changing your answers). Ultimately, the GMAT is not a user friendly test and requires much practice to get used to its awkward design.
Video Courtesy of (site-affiliate) Kaplan GMAT prep.
GMAT Pace Training Help
The problem with the above strategies (which are standard approaches taught by GMAT prep companies) is that it is very difficult to properly train to use them. For example, if you are on question 10 with 47 minutes left, are you on pace to finish the test?
GMAT students complained that they had trouble learning the right pacing and that they wasted their practice tests trying to master the GMAT CAT’s pacing strategies. Faced with these complaints, we developed the Test Pacer™ pace-training system and built it into our 5 GMAT CAT practice tests (see graphic to the right).
The Test Pacer tells you what question you should be on so that you finish the test on time. This way you can tell if you are going too quickly or too slowly at any time during the test. Moreover, you can measure if you are spending too much time on a given question. If you start a question and the pacer says 5.0 and you look at it again and the pacer says 7.0, you know you have spent double the amount of time normally required for a question.
Like a training wheel, the more you practice with the Pacer, the stronger your sense of timing will become. You can try out the pacer on our 5 GMAT CAT tests.