GRE Verbal Reasoning – Tips to Master With Examples

Looking for help with cracking the GRE Verbal Reasoning section and landing your dream admits?

If so, then you have reached the correct blog. There’s no denying that most Indian test-takers do find the GRE verbal reasoning section pretty tough when compared to the quantitative section. Let’s look at some quick stats from the ETS’s July 2012- June 2017 report. The table below lists out the average scores of test takers across countries where the GRE is taken by a large number of students each year.

GRE Country wise Test Takers Statistics - GREedge

GRE Country wise Test Takers Statistics – GREedge

As you can see, Indian test takers scored the least in the verbal section when compared to the rest. Even though we have a large percentage of the population exposed to English on a daily basis, there exists a gap in learning. While everyday conversations help us improve general fluency a good GRE score requires deeper learning and a strong command over the language. This is partly due to the fact that the GRE’s vocabulary comprises as many as 3500 words, many of which hardly find use in day-to-day speech.

Indian test takers are noted to be naturally good with quants, it’s preparing for the verbal section that’s likely to take up the better part of your efforts, as well as act as the determining factor behind your final score. Some of the best universities require a strong GRE Verbal reasoning score and hence the command you have in the universal language to consider your application. Here is the list of some famous universities and their average GRE Verbal reasoning score requirement.

Famous Universities With Average GRE Verbal Reasoning Score

Famous Universities With Average GRE Verbal Reasoning Score

Download our eBOOK on “GRE Verbal Reasoning scores for Top 35 US Universities

 Structure of GRE Verbal Reasoning:

The intent of the GRE Verbal reasoning section is to test your ability to comprehend written text, form conclusions and figure out relationships between two or more parts of a sentence. There are two sets of 20 questions each and you get 30 minutes to answer each set.

The three types of questions that come on this section are:

  • Reading Comprehension (RC) – 10 questions/set
  • Text Completion (TC) – 5-6 questions/set
  • Sentence Equivalence (SE) – 4-5 questions/set

The following graph shows the time spent by students on preparing for the 3 topics of the Verbal section. As you can see, students spent most of their time on Reading Comprehension (RC). This makes sense because 10 out of 20 questions, or 50% of this section, are from RC Passages, with Text Completion (TC) and Sentence Equivalence (SE) questions comprising the rest. Vocabulary building is also a very important part of your GRE Verbal reasoning preparation as you’ll need to learn at least 1000 high-priority GRE words.

Download our eBOOK on “High Priority GRE Words

Learning just 30 GRE words per day can improve your vocabulary in a span of 30 days.  Check out WordBot now, a free vocabulary learning app that has the meanings of 3000+ GRE words along with picture guides, their synonyms, antonyms, and usage in sentences. Don’t be surprised even if find yourself learning even more than 50 words a day!  

GRE Verbal Reasoning Section Graph

GRE Verbal Reasoning Section Graph

To improve your skills on the verbal section, practice Reading Comprehension; review your passages and your answers after each practice session. If you add one English newspaper (The New Yorker, Arts & Letters Daily, or The Atlantic) to your daily schedule, it helps you to learn words in their proper context, enhancing your vocabulary and as a bonus, brushing up your knowledge of current affairs for the AWA section.

Download our eBOOK on “Ultimate Guide to Crack tough RC’s

The GRE Verbal Section comprises three sections out of which only two would be scored. However, test-takers have no way of determining which of the 3 sections is unscored. Each section has 20 questions and you will be given 30 minutes to answer each (Roughly 1.5 minutes for each question). Most of the questions are multiple-choice questions, where one of the five answers will be correct.

You can begin your preparation by understanding where you stand at the moment. Take a score predicting test here.

Tips and Tricks of the trade:

1. Sentence Equivalence (SE):

These questions could be challenging at moments as you might not be able to think of two words which when placed in a blank will produce sentences that have exactly the same meanings. There can be an approx. of 8 SE questions in the GRE Verbal section. The following are some handy tips to ace Sentence Equivalence questions:

  • As you read the sentence, fill in the word which you feel is most suitable, based on the context.
  • Notice the signal words like and, but, yet, since, thus, although and while. These words will help you to understand the context of the word, and hence, help you make a better choice.
  • Make reasonable guesses of the meanings of unfamiliar words.
  • Consider all the choices even if you are completely sure. You might come across an even more appropriate word.
  • Also, be careful while choosing a word. Many times test takers choose a word which doesn’t have a synonym in the group. Avoid this mistake at all costs.

Let’s understand with an example:

While serving in a place marred by bitter conflict, the high degree of alertness that they develop often gets so ingrained in the psyche of some of the serving soldiers that they continue to display the same sense of _________ in civilian life, often to the discomfort of those close to them.

  1. aggression
  2. distrust
  3. discipline
  4. assault
  5. suspicion
  6. restlessness

Correct answers:  B & E

Scoring conditions:

  • If you select any option other than B & E, you will not get any marks.
  • If you select either B or E and not both, you will not get any marks.
  • If you select both B & E, you will be awarded full marks for the question.

2. Text Completion (TC):

Text completion type questions are a step up from the SE type. You will have to fill two or more blanks in a 5-6 sentence long paragraph. Choices are to be made from the list of words given and marks would be provided only if you choose all the correct options. Like the SE section, no partial marking system is applied.

Following are the tips for TC type questions:

  • Since the questions are lengthy and monotonous, break the text into smaller parts to digest quickly.
  • Understand the tone and context that is being aimed by the sentence. Read it 2-3 times until you grasp the context of the question.
  • Add your own word to fill up the sentence and then select the closest answer to that word.

Let’s try out an example and apply the tips:

Climate change has already led to the ________ of some bird species in parts of England, where intensively farmed land gives them no room to ______ to warming temperatures. Birds are facing a double-edged sword from climate change and declines in habitat quality as land management is making it harder for cold-associated birds to find cool corners of sites. As biodiversity across England _______________, stopping the destruction of habitat such as hedgerows and old orchards and creating new nature reserves can give opportunities for wildlife to adapt to global warming.

  1. A) disappearance            D) migrate G) is fostered
  2. B) evolution                     E) retaliate H) continues to fall
  3. C) conservation               F) adapt I) continues to spread

Correct Answer:  A, F & H

Scoring conditions:

  • If you select any option other than the correct ones, you will not get any marks.
  • If you select the correct option for blank (1) and the wrong option for blanks (2 or 3) or any other combination, you will not get any marks.
  • If you select the correct option for all the blanks, you will be awarded full marks for the question.

3. RC Passages:

One can expect around 5 RC Passages in each section which might vary in their length from 1 to 5 passages. These passages are picked up randomly from Scholarly journals, magazines, works of literature, politics, art, culture, textbooks, biographies, lifestyles, etc. These passages are composed well with complicated structure and advanced vocabulary. These passages make even a good reader break a sweat.

The three types of questions you will be answering are:

  • Multiple Choice questions with one correct option: You will be required to choose from a set of five answers.
  • Multiple Choice questions with more than one correct option: The twist with these types of questions is there is no partial credit provided for the answer. You will have to choose from a set of 3 answers out of which, one/ two/ even all three answers could be true.
  • Select in Passage: The answer to this question lies in the passage. You need to select a sentence in the passage that answers the question.

With 30 minutes dedicated for each section, whilst solving these passages, time is of ultimate value.

Download our eBOOK on “Ultimate Guide to Crack tough RC’s

 Following are a few tips if kept in mind can help you through GRE Verbal Reasoning section:

  • Introduction and Conclusion of long comprehensions: To develop an understanding of long passages, read the introduction and conclusion first. Often these are enough to give you sufficient hints to answer the questions.
  • Keywords and Context: If you find the keyword from the question in the text, read the preceding and succeeding sentences before forming a complete understanding. Then you can understand the intent and context of the author.
  • Save the most complex passage for the last: Know your strengths and weaknesses beforehand. If it takes you a longer duration of time to solve certain passages that talk about say: history. Then skip it and then come back to it after you are done with other ones. This rule is pretty much the same as what applied to your school board exams.
  • Stick to the information provided: Do not get carried away by your own opinions on the matter while answering a critical reasoning question based on the passage. Assuming information can be a self-destructive step while solving RC Passages.
  • Take notes as you read: While going through the text, take notes simultaneously and notice the keywords.
  • Misinterpreting the linking words: Every paragraph of the RC could be a turning point in the reading or it might simply support the preceding paragraph. Develop the understanding of linking words or phrases, like however, in contrast with, but, on the other hand, in addition, yet, in conclusion, and others.
  • Wasting time in comprehending useless information:  This often happens with long RC passages. If you try to unravel the complexity, you are caught in the trap. Skim through the comprehension once focusing your attention on the first and the last paragraph of the comprehension to understand the intent of the RC. Then, read all the questions and look for the keywords in the body paragraphs. Extracting only the meaningful information from a long passage is a skill that you’ll keep getting better at with practice.
  • Not taking notes: Test takers often don’t take notes and have to read the passage again. It wastes precious time. Take notes of significant points in the text as you go through RC the very first time.
  • Adding details of your own: Strictly remember that the answers if the questions asked would be available in the RC passage. Do not make assumptions and find the answer.

Let’s try to apply these tips in the example below:

Through her works, Abril Bolivar aimed to take the average middle-class reader from a state of ennui and indifference to a state of enlightenment. Long before terms such as socialist, feminist, and progressive intellectuals got their modern definitions, Abril championed the cause of the marginalized section of the late 19th-century Bolivian society such as peasants and laborers in her writing.

Since Abril’s rather premature death at 45, her work has acquired greater significance. Her novels have achieved cult status, some are even made into movies, and her short stories were lapped up by schools and colleges as an essential part of their curriculum. Even those with a cursory interest in literature find her novels and short stories appealing. What perhaps has not found as much appreciation is her disquisitions, especially those where she explains her art, her view of the world, and philosophy of life.

Abril, in one of her speeches at a literary conference of Latin American writers, said that she did not subscribe to the “art for art’s sake” school of thought. In light of the themes she chose to write, this would give the facile impression of Abril being a pamphleteer for a cause. However, her language is more of an aesthete than an ideologue. Her writings express the restlessness of an artist and not the certitude of a propagandist.

Based on the information provided in the passage, the author most likely believes Abril’s work to be:

  1. A fine blend of art as well as a social discourse
  2. More biased toward social causes rather than aesthetics
  3. More of cult literature following among movie-makers, students, and those with a cursory interest in literature
  4. A propagandist that would leave the reader in a state of restlessness of an artist
  5. Less interesting as compared to her disquisitions on her art, her view of the world and philosophy of life.

Correct Answer: Option A

Scoring conditions:

  • If you select the incorrect option(s) / sentence, you will not get any marks
  • If you select all correct choices, you will be awarded full marks.

4. Vocabulary

There are more than 3000 GRE words that you will have to learn. Though you won’t ever be directly tested on these words separately, GRE verbal reasoning comprises questions which can be solved only if you are familiar with their meanings. Without a vocabulary of GRE words, the chances of making a mistake grow several times. Let’s take a look at the graph of actual GRE verbal reasoning scores obtained by test takers who prepared with GREedge vs. the number of words learned by them.

GRE Vocabulary - GRE words

GRE Vocabulary – GRE words

Words Seen: Words that they have only seen, but not mastered.

Words Mastered: Seen the word & mastered using WordBot, by taking a test in GRE Style.

The graphs make it pretty clear to get a 160 above on the verbal section; you need to master the words with practice tests.

Download our eBOOK on “How to learn GRE Words to score 160+ in Verbal

 3 pointers that can lead you to improve your GRE Vocabulary:

Following are some most effective ways to keep in mind during this tenacious process of learning:

1. Choosing the right word-list: English is a vast language and mastering it all with a limited amount of time available might not be feasible. However, there’s still a lot you can achieve through smart work. Hence, right at the beginning, you need to select the correct list of GRE words. Basing on the frequency of their appearance on the GRE, apps like Wordbot have a compiled list of words along with their meanings accompanied by picture-guides that can assist your learning.

2. The technique of mastering words: Let’s discuss exactly how big this list that could get you through GRE verbal reasoning is. There are around 3000 GRE words that you need to learn while preparing for the verbal. Mugging is not the solution for a list this large, at least not for the majority of them.

    1. Redefine Definitions: The dictionary definition of the word might not be that interesting and you might find it hard to keep those words in mind. So, reinterpret the definition given by the dictionary in your own words, you will realize that learning a definition written by you is comparatively easy to learn.
    2. Use the words in your daily life: Once you have learned a few words, try to add them to your daily conversations. As you carry your flashcards, think of the scenarios where you can use those words. Make sentences with them; say them out loud so that you familiarize yourself with the tone of that word.
    3. Keep a list: Type out the unfamiliar words several times a day. Scribble it on the back of your notebook, text that word to someone; or write an essay containing that word.
    4. Revise and Repeat: Remembering 1000s of words can be challenging and you will start forgetting the words you learned first as time passes by, so remember to revisit the words from time to time to keep them in your memory.

3. Use apps: There are several apps that are designed to make this boring process into some type of game. They help you keep track of your overall development.

Apps like Wordbot from GREedge are premeditated to provide you with assistance throughout the process of your learning. They not only operate with a list but also test you from time to time keeping your memory intact throughout the months of your preparation.

Some other tips for prepping for GRE Verbal Reasoning:

  • Knowing where you stand: Take a practice test and know where you stand at the moment. It will help you find your strengths and weaknesses and the degree of improvement that you actually require. It can be helpful in deciding how rigorously you need to address your existing vocabulary. Since GRE vocabulary comprises words that aren’t used in your day to day life, even if you realize you have a great deal of learning to do, don’t lose hope and start today.
  • Start a habit of reading editorials: Newspapers like the Hindustan Times, The Economist has great articles in their editorials which can help you improve your vocabulary as well as keep you updated with the current events. It will help you with the other sections of your GRE Test as well. If you can, develop a habit of reading good books.  There is no better way of learning words than seeing them in their very own context.
  • Don’t focus only on Vocabulary: It will amount to at max 50% of your score but the rest would come from your comprehending ability, your capability of understanding the context, and of course, reading speed. So prepare and practice RCs well.
  • Assess yourself: Before going for the actual test, take practice tests and mock tests to get a better understanding of your state of preparation as well as the GRE time structure. These texts are important as the way you will be giving your exams would be entirely different from how you speak or write English in your daily life.

Download our eBOOK on “Ultimate guide to crack GRE Verbal Reasoning

Now that you have got what you need to begin your battle against GRE Verbal reasoning, how about you give it a try? Remember, practice is the key and no matter what, don’t give up! You are already a step closer to your dream GRE score.

So select a good application to supplement your learning and start today! Keep this guide handy if you feel it can be of help. 

All the best!


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