I generally recommend a fairly even time split between passage and questions. So for a short passage, that would be 3 minutes to read and 3 minutes for the questions, and for a long passage it would be 4 & 4. (There will never be 10 questions, so this isn't an issue.) This doesn't necessarily mean 1 minute per question. Some general questions, for instance, can be answered fairly easily in 30 seconds or less.
How long *you* take will depend on a few factors. How fast of a reader are you? How comfortable are you with the material in this particular passage? What kind of note-taking are you doing? In general, an extra minute or so is fine if it increases your understanding of the passage--you may well earn that minute back by tackling the questions faster & more easily. However, don't get bogged down trying to understand all of the details of the passage. Your goal should be to come out of the reading with two things established:
1) What is the point of the passage?
This is different from "What is the topic of the passage?" (a much simpler question). You need to determine what the author's overall point is. This should encompass the ideas in every paragraph of the passage. The best way to get to this is to make sure that you have a rough idea of what each paragraph is saying, and then take a moment at the end to synthesize this information. If you just say "It describes a theory about snakes," that probably won't be enough. What is the theory? What is the author's perspective on the theory? Is the theory criticized, championed, fine-tuned, compared to others?
2) Where should I go to answer each question?
You want to have a strong enough sense of the content of each paragraph that you are able to quickly identify where to look to find the answer to any question. I often compare this to getting familiar with the layout of a library. I may not know all of the information contained in my local library, but I know what part of the library to visit to find that information. The same thing here--if you have a strong enough sense of each paragraph, you will know where to re-read to find your answer. On specific detail or inference questions, you don't want to fall for the trap of trying to answer from memory, and you don't want to read too much, or look in the wrong place. Find the relevant portion and go back to the answer choices with a strong sense of what you're looking for!
I hope this helps!
Dmitry Farber | Manhattan GMAT Instructor | New York
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