The GRE is a timed test. When it comes to Reading Comprehension, you may worry that you’re being tested on reading speed, too. While speed does matter, you don’t need to be a speed reader to excel in this section. So, how fast do you need to read?
First off, think about the pace in minutes per question. Your Verbal score comes from two sets of 20 questions that are 30 minutes per set. A good pace averages out to be about 1.5 minutes per question, with a range of 30 seconds to 2.5 minutes.
Thinking in Words Per Minute
Now consider that roughly half the Verbal questions are Reading Comprehension passages. On average, you get about 10 passages on the exam. Typically 5 passages in each 20 section set. The passage can be as short as 50 words or as long as 450 words. So either the length of our opening paragraph or the length of this entire post. The vast majority will be in the ballpark of 100-200 words and comes with 1-3 questions. Let’s use an example. Say you get a 200-word passage with 3 questions and you read 200 words per minute (wmp). Reading at that rate allows you to spend a little more than 1 minute on each question without straying from an overall pace of 1.5 minutes per question. Here’s the kicker: 200wmp is actually on the slow side. The average reading speed in the US is around 250-300wpm.
Okay, but what about the longer passages? Suppose you get a 450-word passage with 4 questions. Reading the passage at 200wpm, you can spend a little less than 1 minute on each question while maintaining a solid pace overall.
Speed Readers vs. College-Level Readers
The odds are that your reading speed if faster than 200wmp! After all, the average is around 250-300 in the general population. Among college students, that average goes way up to around 450wpm. A bonafide speed reader can average 1,000+ wpm! So even if you’re an ordinary undergraduate, you can probably read even the longest GRE Reading Comprehension passages in about a minute.
To ensure that 1-minute per-passage and per-question is enough to give you confident and accurate responses, you need to get to know the section. Familiarize yourself with the types of questions the passages will ask you! You should learn to recognize common passage components, such as arguments. Get comfortable with how the GRE tests reading comprehension and you’ll find that an average reading speed can be good enough for an above-average performance.
Want to try some tough Reading Comp questions? Want thorough answers and explanations? Here are some posts to check out.
- Doing GRE Reading Comp Exercises to Prepare for the Argument Essay
- Strengthen the Argument: A Reading Comp Challenge
- Weaken the Argument: A Reading Comp Challenge
- Deconstruct the Argument: A Reading Comp Challenge