Tips for the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) Verbal Section

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The Graduate Record Exam consists of three subtests: Verbal, Quantitative, and Analytical Writing.  This article examines the the GRE Verbal section and provides tips for maximizing your success on this section.  The GRE Verbal section contains 3 types of tasks:

  • Reading Comprehension: These items tap the abilities required to read and understand the sophisticated prose commonly encountered in graduate school.  Expect to read a passage and then answer descriptive, interpretive, and analytical questions pertaining to it.
  • Text Completion: Good readers read while actively interpreting and evaluating the material, creating a picture of the whole and modifying it as they go. Text Completion items present a passage with omitted words and test the ability to fill the blanks and create a coherent, meaningful whole.
  • Sentence Equivalence: These items test the ability to reach a conclusion about how a passage should be completed on the basis of partial information.  Sentence Equivalence questions consist of a sentence with just one blank; find two choices that lead to a complete, coherent sentences with the same meaning.

Your knowledge of vocabulary and ability to use language will not guarantee a good score on the verbal section of the GRE. Learn strategies to help you approach questions with the right mindset, answer them quickly, and realize that no item is impossible.

Tips for Reading Comprehension Questions

  • Base your answers only on relevant information in the passage. Do not consider outside information.
  • Remember that passages are drawn from a variety of disciplines and sources. You are likely to encounter unfamiliar. Remember that all of the questions are to be solved with the material provided.
  • If you find a passage particularly challenging, skip it but be sure to return after you have completed the others.
  • Your first step in tackling reading comprehension questions should be to read the entire passage without consider the questions.
  • The first and last sentences of each paragraph provide important clues to the meaning of each passage.
  • Identify the structure of the paragraph by identifying significant words or phrases that signify the structure (such although or however) or are important in understanding the meaning of the passage.
  • Attempt to fill in the blanks in your own words, then see if the choices include similar words.
  • Consider completing the blanks out of order. If you find the first blank difficult, skip to the second. You might return to uncompleted blanks with a fresh perspective.
  • Reread each completed passage to ensure that your choices make sense and create a coherent paragraph.

Tips for Text Completion and Sentence Equivalence Questions

Try to complete the sentence on your own. Choose a word that makes sense so you. Then look at the choices to see if synonyms are offered.

  • Don't look only at answer choices with the same meaning. Also consider whether the choices fit coherently into the sentence. Remember that the resulting sentences should mean the same thing bu the word choices may not mean exactly the same thing.
  • First read the ensure sentence. Identify words that illustrate the structure of the sentence or seem important to understanding the meaning of the sentence.
  • Reread the resulting sentence(s) to ensure that it is logical, grammatically correct, and in the case of Sentence equivalence questions, mean the same thing.

The best preparation for the GRE Verbal Section is reading. By reading widely and deeply you will broaden your vocabulary and have a better understanding of the use of language. That said, GRE review books, practice exams, and classes will also boost your score.