GRE Verbal Reasoning consists of two 30-minute sections, each with 20 questions. This means that you get a minute-and-a-half on average to solve each Verbal question. However, there are about a million different question types and formats on the GRE, some of which require more work than others. For instance, Text Completion questions with two blanks will take longer than Text Completion questions with one blank, and Text Completion questions with three blanks will take longer than Sentence Completion questions with two blanks. Similarly, the first Reading Comprehension question of any passage will be on your screen longer than any other question for the same passage, since you need to read the passage before you even start working on the question. All told, this means that you shouldn't stick to a rigid 90-second time limit for every question.


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So how can you ensure that you stay on track in terms of timing? The first strategy is somewhat counterintuitive: invest time at the beginning to save time later on. There are certain steps in the process of solving a GRE Verbal question that are more valuable than others and that make the following steps easier and quicker — we want to spend most of our time on those steps.

The first valuable step is interpreting what the question is really looking for and what information you already have. Jumping too quickly into solving it is a sure way to miss out on the fundamentals of the question. For Text Completion and Sentence Equivalence, you want to invest your time in interpreting the relationships between the blanks or between a blank and another part of the sentence. For Reading Comprehension, you want to invest your time in skimming the passage and interpreting as you go before even looking at the questions. Then, for each question, you want to invest your time in interpreting what the question is asking for.

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The second valuable step is predicting. On GRE Verbal, jumping straight into the process of elimination is a guaranteed waste of time and a sure way to fall into the test maker's wrong answer traps. For Text Completion and Sentence Equivalence, you should try to work out how you would fill in the blank if you had no answer choices. For Reading Comprehension, you should work out how you would answer the question if you had free rein. These predictions don't have to be perfect — you don't need to find the perfect word or the most coherent answer. You just need a clear idea of what you're looking for in the correct answer. Then all you need to do is match your prediction with an answer choice — no need to spend extra time getting convinced by wrong answer traps.

Check out the video for the other steps Erika recommends to improve your GRE timing strategy.