GRE Time Saving Techniques

Time is of the essence, they say. There are few areas in life in which this cliché is more pertinent than it is to the GRE.

Clever time saving strategies cannot fill in any deficits of knowledge the way learning a vocabulary list can. They can, however, help you perform much better on the anxiety-provoking GRE.

Skip the Long Passage

Each verbal section will have a long, difficult passage. You may be tempted to dive right in and give it your best. After all, tests are sequentially numbered. Shouldn’t you follow the order?

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Not at all. You should attempt to answer the easier questions first, or at least those that aren’t time consuming. Determining the difficulty of a question, or how time-consuming it will be, is difficult. But when you are dealing with a 70-line passage based on the changing role of serfs in 14th Century England, you know for sure that the passage and the questions are going to take a long time.

So save time, and brainpower, by skipping the long passage and coming back to it at the end. Your mind will be fresher for other questions on the test, and perhaps, most importantly, you won’t have that dejected feeling that usually follows after slogging through four inference questions.

GRE Time Saving - image by Magoosh

Skip the Tough Text Completions

With the GRE you want to attack the easy questions first, leaving the most time-consuming ones for later. For Text Completions the most time-consuming ones are the three-blank questions, which always come at the end. For instance, have a look at the PowerPrep test or the free on-line test. The eight-line, three-blank Text Completion comes at the very end.

Feel free to read it, and if you get it right away, great! If not, do not spend time stewing in the muddle of sentences. Later, if you have time to come back to it, your brain should be more likely to discern the paragraph’s meaning (after all, you have already read it once). If you don’t have time, don’t worry. That monster Text Completion is worth the same number of points of the easy one-blanker.

Come Back to a Tough Math Problem

Much like coming back to a long, tough Text Completion can help you save time so can returning to a tough math problem. What exactly constitutes tough differs for people. If you read and reread a question to no avail, then that is a tough question. If you keep looking at the answer choices but they do not match the answer you came up with, move on. If there is time you can have another go at it. Agonizing over one problem will only lead you to get frustrated. And there are few things more crippling than frustration on a standardized exam.

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6 Responses to GRE Time Saving Techniques

  1. Anish May 28, 2012 at 1:44 pm #

    Hey chris, what are features available on the actual test interface that could allow us to skip the question and attend it later as per our feasibility.
    please elaborate it.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris May 29, 2012 at 1:36 pm #

      You have a feature that allows you to exit a question. You are then taken to a screen that lists all the questions in that section. You can easily navigate to any question in the section from this screen. You will also be able to tell which questions you’ve completed, and which ones are not completed.

      Hope that helps :).

  2. kpatel May 14, 2012 at 10:23 am #

    Hey Chris,

    Good tips here! I took the GRE once and tried to do this in the math portion! But did not think about it at all for the reading portion, so thanks!

    During the math portion, i had about 3 questions unanswered and a minute to solve them. Would the best strategy be to try and guess on all 3 (if you know you don’t have time to merit 3 correct answers), or best to spend a minute on one question and leave the other 2 unanswered?

    I am going to complete more problems on magoosh and try to better time myself for my second taking, but wanted to know what you thought.


    • Chris Lele
      Chris May 14, 2012 at 11:44 am #

      Hi Kpatel,

      Good question! I don’t think there is a perfect answer, because if you happen to know the one question you end up with a definite point. I’d say take a quick glance at the first of the three problems. Is the concept something you are familiar with? If not, guess. Then look at the second one, and assess it’s relative difficulty. What you do not want to do is leave any blank. Even if you spend 45-seconds on the first one, that still gives you 15 seconds to guess on the next two.

      Hope that helps!

  3. abhay May 11, 2012 at 9:04 pm #

    Nice techniques Chris…i am sure they will be really useful in the exam.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris May 14, 2012 at 11:28 am #

      You’re welcome 🙂

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