GRE Timing Tactics

The GRE revised general test is a timed exam, that has several unique features. Unlike other standardized exams, you can skip between questions in a section, and you can review and change your answers as long as their is time remaining. Therefore, there are a few things that you should keep in mind to maximize your score.

In the exam, you are allowed to skip questions, and edit and change answers. While you may think this is a positive asset to the GRE exam format, it is important to think about how these features might inhibit your ability to finish all of the questions within a timed framework. Below are three points to consider when thinking about the skip/edit/change feature of the exam.

  • If you come across a question that seems difficult, and you are leaning towards skipping the answer, try answering it to the best of your ability. If you have the slightest hunch as to what the answer might be, go with your gut. You can always revisit the question once you get through the entire section. After you see a question for the first time, you might not have time to return to it later, so if you do not answer each question on the first attempt, there is zero chance that you'll get it right. Also, if you spend too much time going back and forth between questions, without at least guessing at an answer, you'll waste time as you have to revisit and reread each question.
  • On the exam you can mark questions that you would like to revisit. When you come across a difficult question that you feel like skipping, try and answer it, and then mark it, so you can revisit the question once you’ve finished the section. That way, if you do not have the time to revisit the question, you will have answered it, and there is a chance that you will get it right. Remember, you are not penalized for wrong answers.
  • Utilize your scrap paper. If you are uncertain about a question, if you feel like you may have answered a question incorrectly and want more time to evaluate that question, make a note on your scrap paper—it’s quicker and easier than marking the question digitally, and it allows you to distance yourself from the question on the screen, which can be a good thing once in a while.
  • Remember that the exam is timed. Don’t spend too much time on any question. Work towards answering the questions to the best of your ability and then utilize the time you have leftover. You may end up with an extra five minutes. If so, look back over the questions you marked—and then edit/change away!

Changing Answers

If you’re positive about changing an answer, do it. If you’re still uncertain, go with your initial thought, and then once you’ve finished the entire section, go back and revisit the ones you were uncertain about. Revisiting a question after you’ve finished the section is beneficial for two reasons: (1) you don’t waste too much time on any one question and (2) you give yourself some space and distance from the question. Many times when you’re so focused on a question, and you concentrate solely on the answer choices, you end up stuck in a specific way of thinking about that question and/or solution. If you give yourself some time away from that question, if you move on to other questions, when you revisit the question, you may be able to look at it through a whole new lens.

Answer All Questions

Your score is based on the number of questions you get right, the difficulty of the questions you get right, and the NUMBER of questions you answer correctly. This means that you always want to make sure that you answer every question on every section. The test is meant to be tough, and so it is assumed that most people will not have as much time as they hope on each question. As a rule, get into the habit of keeping track of time, and in the last minute, if you have more than a few questions that you have not yet answered, guess to make sure that all questions are answered. That way, you'll at least give yourself a chance to answer each questions correctly, because if you do not answer a question, then for sure you will not get it right.

Test
Tip
In the last minute of each section, if you have more than a few questions remaining, hurry and guess so that you answer every question.


Most importantly, don't panic. The exam is supposed to be hard, so keep that in mind. Always keep track of the time that you have left, and be conscious of how much time you spend on each question -- never spend more than 2 minutes on a question.