GRE Verbal

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In this article, we will talk about the Verbal Reasoning section of GRE. So, if you want to know how to improve your GRE verbal score, this is how you will do it. 

Let’s start off with what exactly is the concept behind the Verbal Reasoning section of the GRE. According to the official ETS website, Verbal Reasoning questions aim to “test your ability to analyze and evaluate written material and synthesize information obtained from it, to analyze relationships among component parts of sentences, and to recognize relationships among words and concepts.

So, how does the GRE do it? They do it through three distinct types of questions: 

  1. Sentence Equivalence 
  2. Text Completion
  3. Reading Comprehension 
  • Sentence Equivalence: You’re given a single sentence with a blank. You have to replace the blank with two answers from the options. These two answers have to complete the sentence in a way that the meaning of the sentence remains the same. Remember that you won’t get partial credit if one of your chosen options is correct. You will have to choose both correct answers to receive credit.

Here, it is important to realize that the answers would not necessarily be synonyms of each other. In your options, you will likely see synonyms. That is there to trick you. 

Seemingly different words can ALSO complete a sentence in a way that the meaning of the sentence remains the same in both scenarios. 

Consider this sample GRE verbal question from the ETS website: 

“Although it does contain some pioneering ideas, one would hardly characterize the work as __________.”

  1. orthodox
  2. eccentric
  3. original
  4. trifling
  5. conventional
  6. Innovative

Now, although is a key word here because it will help you make sense of how the sentence is going to end. Another key word is pioneering. That means the sentence is saying that even if it had pioneering ideas, it was NOT “really pioneering.” The words closest to meaning pioneering are original and innovative. Hence, those are the correct choices. 

Now, notice here that “orthodox” and “conventional” are also synonyms. But being synonymous doesn’t necessarily mean they are also correct answers, although, if you use them, the sentence will mean the same. What this means is, the sentence doesn’t only need to form similar meanings, but also be logical, coherent, and meaningful. 

  • Text Completion: Text Completion questions also have blanks to be filled, but these are different from the Sentence Equivalence questions. The Text Completion questions from the GRE Verbal section basically tests your ability to understand and process the given information to fill in the rest of the missing words from the sentence to make the sentence coherent and meaningful. 

Text Completion questions have three phases: questions with a single blank, questions with two blanks, and questions with three blanks. In these questions also, you will not receive credit for partially correct answers (in the questions where you have to pick answers for two or more blanks). 

The best strategy to solve these questions is reading the entire sentence or sentences. Then, before looking at your options, try to fill in the words yourself. After doing that, look at the options to see if there’s any similar word given in the choices. 

Another strategy is to use conjunctions and transition words/phrases to form a meaning of the sentence. These keywords will make the job easier for you by helping you identify whether the word in the blank will be “positive” or “negative.”

Let’s look at a sample question from the ETS: 

Vain and prone to violence, Caravaggio could not handle success: the more his (i)__________ as an artist increased, the more (ii)__________ his life became.

Blank (i)Blank (ii)
(A) temperance(D) tumultuous
(B) notoriety(E) providential
(C) eminence(F) dispassionate


Here, there are a couple of keywords/moments. The “colon” basically tells us that the succeeding phrase of the sentence will explain or detail what is mentioned before it. That means, one of our correct words will have some connotation of “pain/violence” within it, and the second word will have a connotation of “success.” 

Thus, eminence directly means fame or success, and tumultuous means disturbing or violent. Hence, these two are the correct choices. 

Another thing to remember is that the choice of one word does not depend upon the second. That is to say, A & D, B & E, and C & F, are not pairs. So, don’t pick F incorrectly just because you know the correct word for Blank i is C. 

  • Reading Comprehension: This is perhaps the most popular and difficult of all three Verbal Reasoning question types. There is so much that can go wrong with Reading Comprehension questions, even though most of us have been dealing with it since school.

This question type makes up at least 50% of the whole Verbal Reasoning section of the GRE. So if you want to know how to improve your GRE verbal score—the key is to acing the Reading Comprehension questions!

This question type tests your ability to read and assess information, form linkages, and grasp the main and supporting ideas of the passage. You will be given either one or a combination of passages from short, mid-length, to long passages. 

Longer passages will contain more questions with it. This is the question type you will want to familiarize yourself with most and devote more effort and time into perfecting your reading and assessing skills for it.

The best tip one can give to tackle these questions is to read wide and read deep. Passages can come from a lot of different subjects such as art, history, physics, biology, etc., so one has to be prepared for anything. 

Some test-takers feel that their passage is “dry” or “boring”, and end up not paying attention to it or taking interest in it. What will help is developing your reading skills such that you can grasp information and identify ideas even if the subject is not of your interest. 

The questions associated with Reading Comprehensions are of various types: asking for the main idea of a passage, asking for certain evidence from the passage, asking for a meaning of a word in context, and more. 

We talked about the three popular question types in the Verbal Reasoning section of the GRE! Now that you know what skills and abilities are required to ace these, you should get started on practice!