Guessing On GMAT Verbal Questions

You should follow me on Twitter. While you're at it, take a moment to subscribe to GMAT Hacks via RSS or Email.


When I discuss time management on this site, I'm usually focusing on the Quant section. There's plenty to think about on the Verbal section as well.

In a previous article, I laid out a basic scheme to help you plan the Verbal section. By spending a consistent amount of time on each Reading Comprehension passage and on each type of question, you can help ensure you'll finish all 41 questions in 75 minutes. But what if you're falling behind?

Choosing GMAT Guessing Targets

One key part of an GMAT guessing strategy is to decide quickly that you should guess on a question. If you spend two or three minutes reading the question and thinking about it, then guess, you haven't saved any time.

Sometimes that's necessary, and guessing may be better than spending another minute or two on a problem you don't understand, but it isn't the optimal solution.

Instead, think before the test about which types of problems take you the longest. If you really struggle with Sentence Correction, you may find that long sentences that are 100% underlined are the most time-consuming. If you don't get many of them right, you can use that as a key to your guessing strategy.

What Takes Your Time?

Other types of questions that you may find unusually time consuming:

  • Reading Comprehension "inference" questions. (Key words: "The passage suggests," or something similar.)
  • Bold-Face Critical Reasoning
  • Oddball Reading Comprehension question types, such as strengthen and weaken.
  • Any RC or CR problems that use the word "except," thus forcing you to find four correct answers instead of one.

On whichever questions suck up the most of your time, you may be best off randomly guessing as soon as you see them. Better to save time for a question at the end of the exam that might be something you're better equipped to handle.

As with GMAT Quant, the key thing to remember is that you don't need to get every question right. If you're struggling to finish the Verbal section, even once you're aware of how long to spend on each question, it may be time to start guessing.



About the author: Jeff Sackmann has written many GMAT preparation books, including the popular Total GMAT Math, Total GMAT Verbal, and GMAT 111. He has also created explanations for problems in The Official Guide, as well as 1,800 practice GMAT math questions.

Total GMAT Verbal

The comprehensive guide to the GMAT Verbal section. Recognize, dissect, and master every question type you'll face on the test. Everything you need, all in one place, including 100+ realistic practice questions.
Click to read more.