Each of the two scored Verbal sections you will encounter on the GRE consists of approximately 20 questions in 30 minutes – obviously, that gives you (on average) 1.5 minutes per problem, but keep in mind that during that time you will also have to read and process several Reading Comprehension passages.
Each of the two scored Quantitative sections consists of approximately 20 questions in 35 minutes, or 1 minute 45 seconds per problem. Many students have serious difficulty completing 20 problems in this amount of time.
GRE is section-level adaptive, meaning that your performance on your first verbal section will determine the difficulty of the next verbal section you receive, and your performance on your first math section will determine the difficulty of the next math section you receive. Fortunately, there is no penalty for guessing on the GRE, so there is no reason to ever leave a question blank. If you run out of time, save the last thirty seconds to randomly guess on the last few. If you use the “mark” feature to flag a question for review, pick a random answer anyway, just in case you don’t have time to come back.
Here are some good guidelines for how much time you can afford on each problem type:
|Sentence Equivalence||45 seconds|
|Text Completion||30-90 seconds, depending on the number of blanks|
|Reading Comprehension||1 min 30 seconds|
|Quantitative Comparisons||1 min 15 seconds|
|Discrete Quant||2 min|
|Data Interpretation||2 min|
On the GRE, if you can’t perform within the time limits, your hard work simply won’t result in the score you want. A good rule during studying is: If you can’t do it within the time limits, it doesn’t count.
On both Verbal and Quant: Always use a timer when practicing! This means using a stopwatch when doing practice problems on paper, and taking online practice tests under standard testing conditions. Because you’ll be taking an exam under rigid time constraints, it will be important to strategically manage your time — even during practice sessions. Although the revised GRE that debuted on Aug. 1, 2011, allows you to go back and review your answers within a section, you’ll need to make sure you leave yourself enough time to complete all the questions within each section.
One important consideration for managing your time is that it’s important to have extra focus on the early questions of the math and verbal sections. If you answer these early questions correctly, the computer-adaptive testing system will provide you with more high-value questions, which will help you achieve a higher score. If you get them wrong, however, you’ll be stuck with lower-scoring questions. For the first 10 or so questions, move slowly and double- or triple-check your answers. However, you should always keep an eye on the clock, making sure you have enough time to finish.
Don’t waste your time trying to guess whether the questions on the exam are getting harder or easier. Moving deliberately through the exam will help increase your score; trying to get into the computer’s head will not.