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Everything you need to know about GRE time management


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To score well on the GRE, you must answer questions accurately and quickly. Despite all the preparation, if you are not able to answer all questions in the allotted time, you will not score well. So, an effective time management strategy is crucial to succeeding on the GRE.

But how do you manage your time effectively? How much time should you take to answer each question? What other pointers should you bear in mind to ensure that you complete the test in time? In this article, we discuss answers to all these questions, and more.

Before we move ahead, let’s look at the format of the GRE and understand the duration of each section.

Format of the GRE

The GRE consists of six sections and its overall testing time is approximately 3 hours and 45 minutes. There is a 10-minute break following the third section and a one-minute break between each section.


Number of questions

Allotted time

Analytical Writing Assessment Two tasks, which include

● one “Analyze an Issue” task
● one “Analyze an Argument” task

60 minutes (30 minutes per task)
Verbal Reasoning (Two sections) 20 questions per section 30 minutes per section
Quantitative Reasoning (Two sections) 20 questions per section 35 minutes per section
Unscored 20 questions per section Either 30 or 35 minutes depending on whether it is Verbal Reasoning or Quantitative Reasoning
Research Varies Varies

This means that you have an average of 90 and 105 seconds to answer each question on the Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning respectively.

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Now how do you divide this time between the various question types? Here is a guideline on the time that you must spend on each question of the GRE.

Question Type

Average time

Text Completion 30 – 90 seconds (basis the number of blanks)
Sentence Equivalence 45 – 60 seconds
Reading Comprehension* 2 minutes per question (This includes the time taken to read the passage)
Quantitative Comparison 75 seconds
Discrete Quant 2 minutes
Data Interpretation 2 minutes

* For reading comprehension, the recommended time is an average of 2 minutes per question, which includes the reading time. So, if a passage has 3 questions, you must take an average of 6 minutes to finish solving it.

Pointers for effective time management

1. Do not spend too much time on a particularly tough question

Remember that on one section of the GRE, all the questions carry the same marks. So, you gain no advantage in spending too much time on a particular question. Rather, this could become a serious pitfall as you would not have enough time to answer the other questions that follow, which could be much easier.

2. Understand the features of the test

To do well on the exam, you must be aware of all the features of the test. Let me list out a few for you.

  • The GRE is a section-adaptive test. This means that the level of difficulty of the second verbal or quantitative section is dependent on your performance on the previous verbal or quantitative section. Do bear in mind that the GRE is not question-adaptive.
  • You have the liberty of moving back and forth between questions within one section.
  • You can mark questions for review and come back to them later.
  • You can change or edit answers within one section.
  • There is no penalty for answering a question incorrectly.

3. Do not hesitate to make educated guesses

Because there is no penalty for guessing on the GRE, it is only logical that you make educated guesses if a question is taking too long to answer. Alternatively, you can mark a question for review and come back to it later provided that you have the time.

4. Analyze your strengths and weaknesses

Another decisive factor that will enable you to score high on the GRE is your ability to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. Let me elaborate.

Say, for instance, that in the Verbal Reasoning section, you are not very comfortable with Reading Comprehension. To offset this weakness, you must work doubly hard on the Text Completion and Sentence Equivalence questions, strengthening your grasp on the strategies and techniques to solve them in as less time as possible. If you are able to solve them in a total of 12 to 13 minutes, you can spend the rest of the 17 to 18 minutes answering RCs at your pace.

In short, you must play to your strengths so that they compensate for your weaknesses. This is not to say that you must ignore your weaknesses – you must certainly work on them and get better.

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5. Take full-length mock tests

There are a host of reasons for taking mock tests. They help you evaluate your preparedness, acclimate yourself to the test environment, and, more importantly, manage your time effectively.

The more mocks you take, the better you will get at the time management game. With more mocks, you will also be able to formulate your own strategy for managing time. For example, with more mocks, you’d know the order in which you’d like to attempt questions in a particular section.

6. Set 15-minute targets when taking mock assessments

While the Verbal Reasoning section lasts for 30 minutes, the quantitative section is a little longer – 35 minutes. When taking mocks, it might help if you set 15-minute targets for yourself and evaluate how many questions you have been able to solve in that time. For instance, for the verbal reasoning section, you must have completed at least 15-17 questions in this time.

Since 1993, Jamboree has been helping students ace the GRE test. If you are also planning to appear for the GRE and secure a seat in your dream college, Jamboree can help. Reach out to Jamboree consultants to know more.

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