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Pacing on the GRE Verbal Sections

Meet the Verbal section

On the Revised GRE section each verbal section consists of 20 questions. You will have a total of 30 minutes per verbal section, translating to 1.5 minutes per question.

So how do you allocate this time amongst the different questions? In order of LEAST time-consuming to MOST time-consuming we have:

  • One-Blank Text Completions
  • Sentence Equivalence
  • Two-Blank Text Completion
  • Short Reading Passage
  • Three-Blank Text Completion
  • Long Reading Passage

 

Pacing

This ranking is a rough estimate, meaning that a difficult sentence equivalence question may cost you more time than a straightforward three-blanker. To simplify things I will assign each of the sections above a different amount of time, giving a range to account for the difference in time for any given question type.

One-Blank Text Completions 20 – 45 seconds

Sentence Equivalence 20 – 60

Two-Blank 30 – 75 sec

Three-Blank 45 sec – 2 min

Short Reading Passage (including time to read passage): 45 sec – 1:45

Long Reading Passage 1:00 – 3:00.

 

What does this all mean? On Sentence Equivalence and One-Blank Text Completions spend no more than a minute. On Two-Blank and Three Blank spend an average of 1:20 – 1:30 minute. The extra time you saved in One-Blank and Sentence Equivalence use towards Reading Comprehension.

 

The low-hanging fruit

20 seconds to 3:00 minutes is a pretty vast range. Simply put, some questions are easy. and others fiendishly diabolical. The shocking thing is each question, from the one that you get in a blink of an eye to one that has you scratching your head till longer after the exam is over, are worth the same.

That point is so important I am going to repeat it again (in caps): EACH QUESTION ON THE GRE IS GIVEN THE SAME WEIGHT.

The takeaway? Do not spend 3 minutes agonizing over a three-blank text completion with the words hagiographic and pulchritude as answer choices.  If it’s a long paragraph with really difficult words SKIP IT!

That is, as soon as you see that the question is difficult, move on. Instead, go for the low hanging fruit. That is, the questions that are easier and take less time. The Revised GRE, after all, allows you to scroll from question to question. Make sure to take advantage of this function.

 

You do not need to attempt every question

Don’t freak out if you are unable to attempt every question. As long as you just guess some random answer, that’s fine. There is no penalty for guessing. There is, however, a penalty for rushing through a relatively easy question to try to answer every question. And that penalty is you get the easy question wrong. Anyways, you do not get bonus points for completing the test. So make sure to be accurate.

 

Takeaway

Each question on the GRE exam is worth the same so do not waste time trying to answer a difficult question. In general you should spend more time on Reading Comprehension passages than on the easier Text Completions.

 

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