Raise Your GRE Scores with Timing Strategies
How often do you work on a GRE problem only to guess wildly—or second-guess your answers—and choose an answer you knew was not right? While you won’t always get a right answer, especially with the timing constraints of the exam, you can increase the number of right answers you get to higher-difficulty-level GRE questions by learning to approach every problem systematically.
First let’s discuss this approach in terms of a problem set of 10 to 20 problems at a time. In your practice, as you start each problem, set a timer for 90 seconds. Evaluate the question and eliminate answers you know can’t be correct. Make sure you keep track, on your scratch paper, of what you eliminate. If you don’t, and you have to guess later, you may inevitably forget everything you did while you were relatively clear-headed.
Next, work on finding the correct answer to the problem. When your 90-second timer sounds, take no more than 5 seconds to write down the answer you would choose at this point.
Now, start your stopwatch (you probably have one built into your phone) and continue to work on the problem. Once you have your answer, record how much additional time you spent beyond the initial 90 seconds.
Continue on to the next problem, repeating these timing and strategy steps.
When you complete your problem set, check your answers against the answer key. First, determine how many correct answers you chose by the 90 second mark. Ask:
- How many more did you get right when you did not limit your time?
- How much extra time did you spend in total for how many more right answers?
- Probably most importantly: at what point (120 seconds? 150 seconds?) beyond which do you rarely get a correct answer no matter how much time you spend?
- What characterizes the GRE questions on which you spend too much time? Are they long word problems? Average speed? Probability? All-that-Apply? Reasoning reading comprehension? Three-blank Text Completion?
Do a few practice sets in this manner to get an accurate and complete assessment of your own GRE test-taking habits. Then, apply your self-knowledge to a GRE practice test. Make strategic guesses based on your personal score maximizing timing. Mark questions for Review that are sure to be time vampires for you or are the types of questions you rarely get right, then return to spend time on them only when you’ve finished the questions you are most likely to get correct within a reasonable time.
Employing this strategy can have a significant positive impact on your GRE scores. Let us know how it works for you!
 If your problem set includes Reading Comprehension items, adjust your practice timing to reflect Kaplan timing guidelines of an average of 2 minutes per question, including the time it takes to read the passage.