Making Friends with Time on the GRE – Part II

In my last article, I suggested that you can seriously undermine your GRE preparation if you focus on timing too early in your studies.  In that article, I dealt solely with timing as it pertains to the quantitative sections of the GRE.  In this article the concepts can be applied to the verbal sections as well.

To begin, I believe that, in order to maximize progress, your GRE preparation should have 2 distinct phases.  Phase one is learning the required content (i.e., all definitions, concepts and laws).  Phase two consists of a combination of working on your timing and strengthening any weaknesses you may have with the content.  During both phases you should tackle practice questions, but during phase one you should take as long as you need to carefully read, understand, dissect and answer each question.

Now, does this mean you should throw away the clock during phase one of your studies?  No, the clock is still very important during phase one. The reason for this is that, on test day, your goal will be to spend approximately 90 seconds or less on each question in order to finish on time.  To accomplish this, you’ll need to know what 90 seconds “feels” like.  Sure, there will be a clock on your computer screen during the test, but if you’re checking it every five seconds to gauge your timing, then you’re not devoting enough attention to the actual questions.  So, during the test, you want to be able gauge your timing on a particular question without checking the clock.  To do this, you’ll need to train your internal clock.

So, if possible, get a watch or timer that you can set to ring (or beep or buzz or moo) after 90 seconds.  Then, when you begin working on a question, start the timer.  In most cases, the alarm will sound before you have had a chance to fully analyze and answer the question.  That’s fine.  Remember that, during phase one, your only goal related to time is to get a feel for what 90 seconds feels like.  You should find that within a few study sessions, you will develop a strong feeling for 90 seconds, which you can put to use on test day.

Once you have completed phase one of your studies, you can begin working on beating the 90-second guideline.  Just remember that 90 seconds is the average time you should spend on each question, not the definitive cut-off.  Since you will most likely answer some questions in well under 90 seconds, you can safely devote more than 90 seconds to the more complex or difficult questions.



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