How to improve your GRE reading comprehension speed

Posted by on November 14, 2014 in GRE Reading Comprehensions | 5 comments

In nearly all the GRE courses that I have conducted over these years, the one thing that I have found most students struggle with is the problem of time management on the GRE verbal section – and each time the culprit is the reading comprehension questions. We all know that time is of essence on the GRE exam – it not only tests your reading and analytical skills but also your time management that one can only develop with practice. The question therefore naturally is – how do we hone our time management skills?

Well, before anything, let’s make it clear that you have almost 2 minutes for each comprehension passage. This demands a quick read and the ability to grasp the basic message in no time. As a matter of fact, the slower you read, the poorer your comprehension span gets. The aim is not to read thoroughly and understand everything – the objective is to read quickly and get a “feeler” of what the passage is about. Moreover you should give up the habit of reading a line and then translating it to Urdu (in your mind) to understand further.

To begin with, you need to read more to increase the speed – by reading more I don’t just mean that you need to read 10 articles each day, instead you need to read in a stretch to increase your attention span. I advise students to read for an hour at least each day to improve your stamina as well as your reading ability. You would be surprised at how much your brain can allow you to read. Just spend 75 minutes of your day on reading, and you will see how it enhances your reading power!!! Also, read 2 or more pages at a speed faster than usual, and this practice will surely increase your reading speed.

You have an eye span while you are reading. Widen that up!! Instead of reading word by word, try to take in more words each time. You can also group the things of the same context. This is known as working in thought units. It helps your mind to compartmentalize the related material and this way it gets easier to work and think in an organized manner rather than getting it all jumbled up in the head.

Start relying on your recognition of words – don’t use a dictionary if you come across a hard word; simply use your understanding of the context. You need to pick up on configurations and this comes with the practice of reading faster and faster. These will boost your speed up. Moreover most of us have the habit of reading out a loud – this will only hamper the reading process. In two minutes, you cannot read it out loud and comprehend. Going back over the passage, that is regression, just wastes your time. Speed up, you only have 120 seconds.

Do not fixate your eyes on every word, just read along. It is very usual to not have a uniform speed, since every passage is different. Some are found harder than others. So to be effective, adjust your rate of reading according to the passage. This basic stuff is bound to help you become a better reader. Start practicing today to get a good score, but before anything get your eyes tested. Make sure no physical weakness comes in way.

Good luck for the exam!!


  1. Avatar

    Hi Talha I did a Manhattan practice test and got Q-159,V-149.
    My quantitative preparation is approximately at last level ,all I need is to revise the main formulas regarding to geometry.
    And still has lot to do with verbal specially vocabulary.Now I want to ask with these practice scores where could I go in actual gre ,plz keep in mind my preparation level .
    And in Manhattan practice test the data Interpretation was too much tough and I could answer only 2 correctly out of 6.Is the real data interpretation questions are this much tough?

    • Avatar

      Hi, Yes Manhattan tests are very close to the actual GRE scores – their DI is also the same level. However the Manhattan mock test verbal section is too hard on the vocabulary. Actual vocabulary is much easier.

      • Avatar

        Thanx for your response sir

  2. Avatar

    Hi, I’m just wondering that what sources you suggest to read? what articles or magazines?

    • Avatar

      Hello – and

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