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GRE Verbal Syllabus

The GRE Verbal syllabus is designed to test and estimate the skills that you have developed throughout your life, irrespective of the field of your study. In other words, it tests your linguistic, cognitive, analytical and general reasoning skills through their carefully selected set of questions. Comprising exactly half the GRE syllabus, the verbal section can be divided into three major sub-sections:

  • Reading Comprehension
  • Text Completion
  • Sentence Equivalence.
The GRE Verbal Reasoning section broadly measures your ability to
  • analyze and draw conclusions from written statements
  • identify and understand multi-layered contexts and their meanings and to draw reasonable assumptions from a given data.
This section is also a test of your vocabulary and knowledge of English Grammar requiring you to draw relationships between words, passages or concepts, requiring you to distinguish between the major and minor points in a passage. The key to a 160+ score in the GRE Verbal section is a good command over the GRE vocabulary and dedicating enough time to each section. However, mastering the 3500-word strong GRE vocabulary is what poses a challenge to most students, owing to the fact that not many of these words find use in day-to-day speech as well as the sheer magnitude of the task!
The GRE Verbal Section has two separate 30-minute subsections with 20 questions each. The topics that you are expected to cover to ace this section are:

  • Basic Sentence Structure and Parts of Speech : Nouns, Pronouns, Adjectives and Verbs
  • Tenses
  • Idioms and Idiomatic Expressions
  • Subject and Verb Agreement
  • Modifiers
  • Equivalence and Parallelism

Let us now give you a detailed insight into these sections, the type of questions from each as well what you can expect on the GRE.

Reading Comprehension

The Reading Comprehension section comprises almost 50-55 percent of the GRE Verbal Section. In Reading Comprehension, you will have to read a passage, which usually ranges between 150-500 words in length. The passage could be drawn from a vast range of topics that include technology, general awareness, historical events, anthropology, and sports among others. As a test taker, you will be analyzed on how well you can understand the passage and mark out important points to answer the questions that follow. You have to be able to draw relatable references between the sentences in the text as well as analyze substantial data and draw inferences even from what might not be explicitly stated in the passage.

There are three types of questions, which you can expect in the Reading Comprehension section. These are:
  • Multiple Choice Question – Select One Answer Choice
    These question types will have only one correct answer out of the given alternatives. You have to select the answer choice that accurately answers the question. Marking any choice other than correct option fetches you no score.
Philosophers don’t like to get their hands dirty. This goes back to Plato’s Republic, where the idea is that philosophers are the guardian class who play a supervisory role. I don’t think I could successfully sell that to anyone here, but the idea is that philosophers should not be thought of as entirely useless.

Question
What is the context in which the author uses the word, “sell,” in the passage?
A. To indicate the uselessness of a thought
B. To convince someone about something
C. To promote an idea
D. To indicate helplessness
E. To encourage people to think

Explanation:
The author gives his opinion on the supporting detail of this passage. Philosophers do not do much of physical work. The reason, as provided by Plato, is that they are like supervisors, who don’t have to do much of physical work. Such an idea cannot be convincing to anyone in the present age. But, it nevertheless, conveys that philosophers are not totally useless.
The word, sell, is used to indicate that the author cannot convince people in the present age (or sell the idea to people in the present age) of the idea that philosophers don’t do much work because they play a supervisory role.
So, option B is the right answer.

  • Multiple Choice Question – Select One or More Answer Choices
    These questions often provide you with multiple correct answer choices. You have to select all the answers that are correct. There may be one, two or more correct alternatives. Answering all and only the correct option choices will fetch you the full score. Note that there is no partial or negative marking system in place for these type of questions.
Today knowledge is created and consumed at a rate that would have been inconceivable a generation ago; instant access to the fruits of millennia of civilization now seems like a natural state of affairs. Yet we overlook just how unstable and transient much of this information is. Amid the proliferation there is also constant decay: phenomena such as "bit rot"―the degradation of software programs over time, "data rot"―the deterioration of digital storage media, and "link rot"―web links pointing to online resources that have become permanently unavailable, can render information inaccessible. This affects everything from holiday photos and email correspondence to official records: to give just one example, a Harvard study published in 2013 found that 50 per cent of links in the U.S. Supreme Court opinions website were broken.

Question
Which of the following examples best fit(s) the main idea of the passage? (Choose all that apply.)
A) The CD game that played in an old version of the Windows software does not work with the latest version of the operating system
B) The floppy drive does not work with modern computers thus denying access to the music albums stored in the floppies
C) A hard drive with a large amount of data falls down and breaks, thus losing all data

Explanation:
Today knowledge is created and consumed at a rate that would have been inconceivable a generation ago; instant access to the fruits of millennia of civilization now seems like a natural state of affairs. Yet we overlook just how unstable and transient much of this information is... These lines describe the main idea of the passage. The examples of bit rot and link rot stand for the various forms of outdated technology that is responsible for rendering online data useless. This is because data available in these technological forms are no longer accessible as the change in technology has made them difficult to get to.
From these clues, you realize that Option A, !IThe CD game that played in an old version of the Windows software does not work with the latest version of the operating system, and option B, The floppy drive does not work with modern computers thus denying access to the music albums stored in the floppies, are the correct answers.
Option C exemplifies loss of data due to mishap, not because of technological change. Hence, this option is not applicable.

  • Select-In-Passage
    You will be provided with a description or a statement and you will be required to mark a sentence or portion from within the passage that best fits the description. There is only one right answer in these type of questions and your ability to understand and relate words and sentences will be tested. A correct selection will fetch you a full score while any incorrect selection will not yield any score.
The demise of Hamilton's interlinear books leaves an untimely lacuna in our educational system. The Hamiltonian book was designed to maximize the amount of information available to the reader of a foreign language. Hamilton's interlinear format offered a "royal road" to the great texts of Greece and Rome. His format could serve as a template for access to all of the world's important texts in an era when these texts are in precipitous decline.

Question
Select the sentence from the passage that expresses the disappointment of the author.

Choices
A. The demise of Hamilton's interlinear books leaves an untimely lacuna in our educational system.
B. The Hamiltonian book was designed to maximize the amount of information available to the reader of a foreign language.
C. Hamilton's interlinear format offered a "royal road" to the great texts of Greece and Rome.
D. His format could serve as a template for access to all of the world's important texts in an era when these texts are in precipitous decline.

Explanation
The question asks for the sentence that expresses the disappointment of the author. The whole passage might imply the same but think of which sentence among these options would best summarize his disappointment. Option D might be true but it is one of the various losses as result of the demise of Hamilton's interlinear books. Same reason can be applied to option B and C. If option D cannot be the right answer neither can option C or option B. Hence option A is the right answer. It is the very first sentence of the passage and best expresses the Author's disappointment.


You can expect at least 1-5 passages from the Reading Comprehension section. Let us now look at, and understand some typical Reading Comprehension question patterns:

The United States is commonly referred to as a melting pot, a society in which people from different societies blend together into a single mass. Some sociologists prefer the term,“multicultural,” pointing out that even if a group has lived in this country for many generations,they probably still retain some of their original heritage. The term, “multiculturalism”, recognizes the original heritage of millions of Americans, noting that Americans who are originally from other societies do not necessarily have to lose their individual markers by melting into the mainstream.

Q. Which of the following is true with regard to the concept of “melting pot” as mentioned in the passage?
a. A melting pot is essential for stability in society as groups loyal to their native heritage could cause fractions
b. The term “melting pot” refers to the culmination of different cultures into one single, blended culture wherein each does not retain any individual traits of their original heritage
c. The concept of the melting pot recognizes the fact that American citizens originally from other societies do not lose touch with their heritage
d. Though conceptually interesting, a melting pot is not practical as it is difficult for groups to forget that original cultural affiliations
e. The concept of melting pot is all about diffusion rather than simple unification ofcultures

In the above question, as you can see that this is a Select One Answer Choice type question which means that out of the given choices, only answer is correct.

In the question above, answer choice E is the correct choice.

Selecting choice E, will earn you the full score for this question. Selecting A, B, C or D will yield no score at all.


Let's evaluate another example.

Some scientists claim that mankind's brain power has reached its peak. Simon Laughlin, a professor of neurobiology, has said that the brain must consume energy to function and that these requirements are sufficiently demanding to limit our performance. Far-reaching powers of deduction demand a lot of energy because for the brain to search out new relationships, it must constantly correlate information from different sources. Such energy demands mean there is a limit to the information we can process. The cleverest people have the best wiring, with messages carried very quickly between different parts of the brain.

Q. According to the passage, which of the following are true?
A. Environmental impulses travel slower in smarter people and faster in those who are lessintelligent
B. Formation of efficient networks within the brain seems to be associated with high IQ
C. Becoming smarter means improving connections between different brain areas, but meeting energy needs could still pose a limit

As evident from the usage of the word 'are' in the question, it is likely that there are multiple correct answers to this question!

In the question above, options B and C are the correct choices.

Hence, selecting choice B and C, will earn you the full score for this question, whereas selecting A or B or C alone will fetch you no score at all as there is no partial marking system.

Text Completion

The Text Completion section not only assesses your ability to reason with the information provided, but it also evaluates your ability to interpret and form meaningful sentences or complete text by filling in the blanks from some given answer choices. The section also tests for the candidate’s vocabulary by selecting words or short phrases to fill the blanks. While the structure of these questions may look like simple 'Fill in the blanks' questions, you will be provided with an almost identical set of answer choices which when filled, should form a coherent and meaningful sentence or passage.

You can expect at least 8 questions from Text Completion, with roughly a minute to solve each.

Let us now go through a typical sentence equivalence question and its scoring mechanism to give you a better understanding.

One of the constant sources of ______ concern for most governments is that of tax evasion. The problem lies in the fact that as a taxpayer, you know what your income is, but the revenue collector does not. So you have an incentive to _______ your income report.

A. ethical
B. legal
C. fiscal
D. manipulate
E. be truthful of
F. estimate
The Text Completion sentence consists of two blanks. You will have to select words from the given answer choices to fill the blanks so that the resulting sentence is coherent and meaningful.
In the above question, option C and option D are the correct answer choices. If you select only these two options, you will be awarded the full score. If you select either option C or option D or any other combination of answers, you will not be awarded any marks.

Sentence Equivalence


Just like Text Completion questions, Sentence Equivalence questions assess the ability of a candidate to reach a relevant conclusion of a sentence or a passage based on partial information. Sentence Equivalence questions consist of a single sentence or a passage with single or multiple blanks. You will be provided with 6 answer choices out of which you will have to select any two choices, both of which form a complete and meaningful sentence within the paragraph. It may seem like looking out for words or synonyms, but once again, the key to scoring in this section is by working on building a strong vocabulary.

You can expect at least 12 questions on Text Completion and Sentence Equivalence, 6 out of the 20 questions in each of the 2 sections, which will be divided between single and multiple correct answer type questions.

Take a look at this typical Text Completion question and its scoring pattern!

One could understand Schumann's _________ state of mind when he failed miserably to connect to anything that the antiquated copy of "The Backpackers Guide to India" was taking about.
Options
1. stymied
2. analytical
3. disappointed
4. cynical
5. melancholic
6. dispirited

The above question asks you to select the most suitable word(s) from the given set of choices.

In the question above, option 3 and option 6 are the correct answer choices.

Selecting both, options 3 and 6, will fetch you the full score whereas, selecting either option 3 or option 6 or any other combination will not yield any score.
For more GRE-style Verbal Reasoning questions, along with answer choices and their explanations, download the ultimate GREedge eBook now!

An Effective GRE Verbal Prep

At GREedge, we have a plethora of questions on GRE Verbal Reasoning from each of the 3 sections: Reading Comprehension, Text Completion, and Sentence Equivalence to help our students prepare for a high GRE score, right from the comfort of home! Each student gets 2 dedicated personal trainers for fast and effective doubt-solving as well as help with understanding the question pattern. At present, we have over 3323 questions on GRE Verbal Reasoning, with more questions being added every day to provide students the ultimate resources for a power-packed GRE preparation!

GRE Verbal Prep

Wondering how to begin your preparation? Almost every student has several doubts in mind when starting with their GRE preparation. What should the first step be? How to prioritize and allocate one's prep-time to each section? Why is the GRE called an adaptive test and what does it mean? We have discussed all of these in the next section, along with the topic-wise weight of each section! Click here to give it a read!

Looking to build your vocabulary? Download the GREedge eBook containing 1000 High-Priority GRE words for free!

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