GRE Pacing and Strategy: The Review Screen



One of the highly touted features of the Revised GRE is the ability of students to navigate freely within a test section. While the old GRE was (and the GMAT is) a Computer Adaptive Test, which required students to complete the test without skipping a question, the Revised GRE is a Section Adaptive Test, which allows students to skip questions and analyze the overall section on a review screen. But, as great as this feature sounds, you shouldn’t skip around. On the GRE, time is extremely valuable. Time spent hunting for an easy question is time wasted.

That is not to say the review screen isn’t a boon; it can be. Pacing is an extremely important part of GRE strategy, and the review screen can help you with that.

By test day, you should have an idea of how much time you will spend on each question. Here are some good guidelines for how much time you can afford on each problem type:

pacing table

Of course, that chart is a lot to try and keep in mind during the test so you won’t be sticking to that exactly. An easier rule to remember is, 1 minute 30 seconds per Verbal problem and 1 minute 45 seconds per Quant problem. You might think that is a short period of time, but it is all the time you will have on test day. As Jen Dziura points out in her excellent article on GRE time management, A good rule during studying is: If you can’t do it within the time limits, it doesn’t count. [That article is great. You should read it.]

You might be asking, what does this have to do with the review screen? Well, you can mark questions that you are unsure about, which makes it a lot easier to let go of the really tough problems. I find the question marking function incredibly liberating. When I reach my 2-minute limit on a problem, rather than wasting time on that problem, I mark it as unsure and then guess. This part is extremely important so I will repeat it in slow motion.

M A R K    I T    A S    U N S U R E    A N D    G U E S S

Don’t leave it blank. Choose an answer. Then continue. By doing this, you won’t waste time on problems that you can’t solve in efficiently. And, there is no penalty for guessing on the GRE, so you want to have a guess marked for every problem.

Once you have finished every problem (and only then), if you have time left, the review screen will allow you to navigate directly to a problem you couldn’t solve earlier. You don’t want to use time hunting for the easy problems, and you don’t want to waste time struggling on the hard ones. It is important to remember that the review screen can help you single out a few problems to double check, but only if you don’t waste time by trying to constantly skip around. Master this pacing technique and you will find the strict time constraints of the GRE somewhat more manageable. 📝

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