The GMAC has consistently made efforts to change the GMAT to suit the needs and requirements of not only the schools that require the GMAT score but also the students writing the test. Although the test has retained its basic ‘gene’ as far as its components are concerned, it has boldly gone in for mutations that lend to the test a welcome newness and at the same time invite discussions about the outcome of the ‘change.’ Recently, the GMAC announced its decision to liberate the test from the shackles of a set arrangement of sections and instead to leave it to the test taker to plan what he wants to do first and what last. The change has been almost unanimously appreciated with most feeling that the change will ensure an overall better performance across all levels of test takers. Good luck then to all!!!!
But like any ‘new’ freedom, this freedom too has created confusion for some test takers. Hitherto used to the drill of completing the test in a pre-set order, test takers are at a loss how to decide the order in which to do the test. The disorientation is understandable to start with and it is important that test-takers begin to plan the order of the sections only after they are done with hard-core prep and are getting down to taking tests. At this point, one is better apprised of his strengths and weaknesses and can estimate how his individual temperament responds to time-pressure and intellectual challenges. All said and done, every test-taker is an individual and every individual is unique. Knowing oneself as a person and as a test-taker is the key to planning a test -order that optimizes one’s performance.
All the same, there are some ground rules that should be kept in mind while settling the order of the sections. First and foremost, do not forget that the test is inherently exhausting and no matter how great you are at the sections individually, the length of the test will take its toll on you and there is no way you can avoid the fatigue that you will experience in the last one hour. To minimize the repercussion of this, it is best to take the IR section in the 3rd slot and the AWA in the last slot. Each being a 30-minute section, the last hour – when one is struggling to keep afloat- is likely then to not be so disastrous. One because there are schools who do not emphasize the score required for these 2 sections and two because the scores of these sections do not impact the ‘800’ score that schools use as the first yardstick to measure an applicant’s worth.
Having slotted IR and AWA in 3rd and 4th position, you will do well to select between doing the math first and the verbal second (or vice versa) based on whether you want to use your early energy and enthusiasm for what you are good at or for what you are not so good at and which overall puts a greater demand on you. This is a difficult question and one best answered by you. All the same, my advice will be to go for the section that is your forte. A task well started is a task well finished. The satisfaction of having got off well leaves you in good shape to take on the next 75- minute section.
But remember- you are the Captain of the ship at that moment (and for the entire duration of the test!). Use your gut, your planning skills and your tenacity- and to some extent your risk-taking capacity- to make the moment rewarding. At Option Training Institute, Dubai, we constantly imbue learners with the belief that the GMAT is a thinking person’s test and that no amount of skill or knowledge will work if unaccompanied by coherent planning and effective time management. So when training for the test academically, also train for it strategically.