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Problem Solving (Part 1: Format and Strategy)

In the following article, we’re going to delve into problem-solving best practices for the GMAT exam. You can either read this article or watch the corresponding video on YouTube. To make things easier to digest, we’ve broken the contents of the video up into 2 parts. In this segment, hosted by one of MyGuru's most experienced GMAT tutors,we will specifically discuss the frequency and format of problem solving questions and their strategic implications. In segment 2, we’ll discuss the problem solving process and work through some examples. 

Question Frequency and Format

Problem-solving takes up approximately 50% of the 31 questions in the quantitative reasoning portion of the exam. For every problem solving question, you’ll have five options and one correct selection. The answer choices can be numeric values, variables, or even ranges—and your strategy should be directly informed by which of these formats you’re working with. 

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Strategic Implications

As previously mentioned, note the format of your choices to select the most efficient approach possible. If your answer choices are fractions, for example, it would be inefficient to translate them to decimals and back. If you’re working with ranges, on the other hand, it might be a waste of time to try and solve for a specific numerical value. By identifying how the answer types factor into your strategy at the outset, your savvy mental calculations will save you precious time and energy in the long run. 

You have 62 minutes to complete the 31 questions in the quantitative section. This means that, on average, you'll have approximately 2 minutes per question. This does not mean, however, that you have a maximum of two minutes for each of these questions. Due to the varying difficulty of each problem, some should take less than 2 minutes, enabling you to take a maximum of 3 minutes on the more challenging problems. 

Check your pacing after every 10 quantitative questions. This will give you peace of mind without the constant distraction of timing yourself on every single question. Due to the exam’s adaptivity function, earlier questions have a greater impact on your final score. This means you should take a little more time for the first 10 questions and the least amount of time for the last 10 questions. To be specific, we recommend working at the following pace:

  • First 10 ~2:25 Average | +/- 38:00 Left
  • Second 10 ~2:00 Average | +/- 18:00 Left
  • Final 11 ~1:40 Average


We hope this overview of the problem solving questions on the GMAT has empowered you to strategize with newfound confidence. Remember to read parts 2 of this article, where we will discuss the problem solving process and work through a few examples. 

To see all of our GMAT videos, please check out our YouTube playlist. For further information about MyGuru's proven GMAT tutoring approach, visit the GMAT prep page on our website. To learn more about the GMAT and grad school admissions in general, visit our GMAT blog. Happy studying.

If you are looking for more excellent videos on key GMAT concepts and GMAT test-taking strategies, along with hundreds of practice questions, consider the self-paced GMAT prep course we built with Analyst Prep.

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