Leave No Questions Blank on the GMAT Exam!

It turns out that answering every question on the GMAT exam is most more important now than it was when the test was in pencil-and-paper format. On the pencil-and-paper exam, test takers could maximize their scores by leaving questions blank. Because points were subtracted for wrong answers, students were taught not to guess wildly when they had no idea what the true answer was. With the switch to the CAT format, all of that has changed.

As you already know, you can't skip questions on the computerized version of the GMAT (unlike the pencil-and-paper exams). The scoring algorithm — specifically, the 'adaptive' element of the test — requires that you answer each question in order. Test takers can, however, come up short when time expires. The question is, is it better to guess at the remaining questions or should you leave them blank?

The Answer


As soon as you realize that you're going to run out of time, start choosing answers. The CAT version of the exam penalizes test takers heavily for leaving questions blank at the end. Statistically, it's better to guess than it is to leave questions blank (the opposite of what it was in pencil-and-paper format).

If You Blow the Timing

If you screw up the timing and have to guess at more than two or three questions, or if you leave questions blank, it's probably best to retake the test. I warn my students about the penalty for not finishing or for guessing at too many questions at the end, but still, some blow it. When they do, we talk over their specific scenario and decide whether they need to retake the exam. I know their performance level from practice tests, and if I believe they'll improve by retaking the exam and answering every question, I'll tell them to do so. They virtually always improve.

If you blow the timing and end up guessing at the end or leaving questions blank, you shouldn't accept your score. It's not representative of your ability. Retake the test and be more careful about allotting time. You have about two minutes per question, so monitor your pacing as you go.