The questions on the GRE are broken down in a specific format. In order to do your best, it is important to know how to navigate through the different question types in order to max your score.
So let’s start with the beginning of a verbal section and work our way towards the end (the below is based on the computer-based, 20 question test, not on the paper-based pdf. tests or the two practice tests at the back of the 2nd. edition OG).
Text Completion breakdown (per section)
1-2 single-blank Text Completions
2-3 double-blank TC
1-2 triple-blank TC
Remember, you get the same number of points for the really difficult three-blank TC as you do the really easy one blank. That is not to say you won’t spend more time on a two-blank TC then on a three-blank. If you feel any one question is eating up an inordinate amount of time, then skip it and come back to it. The upside to this is not just saving time; often your brain is more likely to “get it” when, with fresh eyes, you look at the question again.
Reading Comprehension breakdown
The next grouping is the Reading Comprehension passages. I’ve broken these up not into the order they appear—as there is no consistent order—but the length of passages. Those passages that are less than 20 lines are short passages. Passages between 20 and 40 lines are medium passages. Finally, long passages are passages over 40 lines.
Across two verbal sections, here is a rough sampling off what to expect (my extrapolations are based on the actual 20 question-test).
RC breakdown (across two sections)
1 Long passage – 4 questions
5-6 Short passages – 1-2 questions each
2-3 Medium passages – 2-3 questions each
3-4 Critical Reasoning questions (short paragraphs)
The takeaway from this is to know that you can skip the very long passage, something I recommend doing, and come back to it if you have time. The idea is you will have more time to work on questions that are not as time consuming. What makes the long reading passage such a trek is that for all those 60-lines you only get 4 questions. On the other hand, the short passages are about 15-lines long and usually offer up about two questions. Then there are the Sentence Equivalence questions, which take very little time.
There will be a total of 9 SE across both sections. There really isn’t too much more than that. Keep in mind that SE typically requires the least amount of time. So as long as your vocab is strong, this is definitely a fertile patch, point-wise.
Remember that the numbers above are taken from a test that has 25 questions. The computer-based test will only have 20 questions, so you’ll have to adjust the numbers above (choosing the low side of the range will help bring the question number closer to 20).
Also, this is a high-level breakdown of the verbal section. In follow-up posts, I will deal with each aspect of the verbal section (TC, RC, etc.) in more detail.