Be Brave but Not Stubborn (GMAT timing)

To Conquer Timing and Mental Game: Be Brave but NOT Stubborn

When first started as a GMAT tutor in New York, I didn’t think as much about the mental game or even timing strategy.

Those were things I addressed if someone asked. And generally, I didn’t have a well reasoned approach to these “softer” GMAT skills.

I thought more linearly about the test and focused on building up content, learning strategies, and then drilling on practice tests.

Know your stuff and you will do well!

And that’s partially true.

GMAT content is important. You’re going to have solve questions that rely on some basic math and will certainly be made easier by using some specific strategies.

Same on the verbal.

There are some basic grammar rules you’ll need. And understanding basic arguments will certainly help.

Yes, your reasoning skills are key. And that’s on quant and verbal.

But you can make your life so much easier and your potential higher by working on some basic timing strategy and developing a healthy competitive attitude.

In some cases these two things can make or break your GMAT score.

All goes out the window if you don’t have a solid timing strategy and mental game

Of course, some people breeze through without thinking about much of this stuff.

But, that number is vanishingly low.

And even amongst very smart people a great number benefit from improving timing and mental game.

Ok, back to strategy!

We talk a lot about how no question is worth it. And, if you’re stuck, move on.

Don’t wage too many wars (if any).

You’ll waste time and treasure (effort/energy).

That’s all true.


You can’t live in fear

The moment there’s adversity you can’t just run away.

If you are behind on time a little bit you can’t just white knuckle the steering wheel, smash on the gas pedal, and hope for the best.

I mean, you can, but that generally doesn’t turn out well.

Cowardice will infect the entire section or test even.

Now you might be thinking: he said no question is worth it, if stuck move on, don’t wage wars… and now be fearless?


Just because you should be relatively light on your feet, agile, doesn’t mean that you should be running away when you feel a little lost.

We have to confront that feeling (like confronting a bully).

You need to learn how to stand your ground. That doesn’t mean spin your wheels.

It means, take your time, take a breath, read carefully, re-read portions that require another look, make diagrams, make lists, write out equations, and think a little bit.

Now, if you’ve done your due diligence and you haven’t narrowed down to an answer then it may be time to saddle up.

You’ve got other questions to work on.

We’re not fleeing in despair.

We’re making an informed decision and deploying resources effectively.

But remember that we want to be BRAVE not stubborn

Good: I’m going to give it my best shot because I believe that I have chance.

Bad: I should be able to solve everything therefore I will sit here and stew until I do (while my score suffers).

So there’s a balance.

You want to be brave so that you give yourself a chance to solve everything and nurture your confidence.

So that you aren’t drained by fear.

So that you aren’t always working off balance from your back foot. You want to lean in. Trust yourself.

But, be honest

If you’ve:

-Applied your GMAT tools.

-Organized everything as best you could.

-Taken a moment to think about the information

Maybe take another gander at the question text to see if you missed anything.

But if you still haven’t hit the mark.

Time to move on!

You’ve put in an honest effort and now you have other fish to fry.

Yes, you still need to be expert in all of the basic content

Timing and mental game can make or break your GMAT score.

They can help you be more consistent from practice test to GMAT day.

But they don’t replace your content skills. They enhance them.

So, get your house in order in terms of content but also makes sure to have a solid timing strategy and healthy competitive attitude so that you can be an agile test taker.

Even if you master your competition skills you won’t be invincible

It’s OK to be afraid. And anxious. Your GMAT score matters.

And it’s important to you. So again, it’s natural to feel some pressure.

And even if you have mastered this “brave but not stubborn” idea and your are an “agile” test taker” you still may get off balance every once in a while.

You may even feel like you don’t remember any GMAT strategies right before your test.

That’s all OK.

This is about being high percentage. Not perfect.

We say: perfect is the enemy of GREAT.

Hopefully you have found this useful and have taken away some bits that will help you achieve your goals.

There are a ton of other strategy articles in the GMAT blog.

Feel free to follow up with any questions in the comments. Good on your GMAT prep!