Super-Effective GRE Reading Comprehension Strategies

Reading Time: 15 minutes

Honestly, tell us…when was the last time you read something excruciatingly boring and didn’t doze off?
You’re probably thinking, “Right now! When I solve the GRE Reading Comprehension passages!!”
We completely get it!
Reading about topics that you have absolutely no interest in, and moreover when you don’t understand squat – it can be annoying.
But you gotta do what you gotta do!
In this article, we are going to ease out things a little bit.
We will talk about importance of RC passages on the GRE Verbal, and how you don’t really need to know the background behind the passage, but ways to just get the answer right.
And to help put this theory into practice, we will additionally provide a few practice passage towards the end of this article 🙂
Reading this article will give you a very clear picture of how to tackle RC on the GRE.
So why don’t you grab some coffee (or a pen and paper – whichever works!) and get yourself comfortable.
Let’s get started!

Section 1 : Why do colleges care about Reading Comprehension (RC)?

Section 2 : How is RC tested on the GRE?

Section 3 : Challenges answering RC questions( & how to overcome them!)

Section 4 : Mapping an RC Passage

Section 5 : Question types on the RC GRE

Section 6 : Practice Passages for the GRE RC

Section 7 : Commonly Asked Questions


Section 1 : Why do colleges care about Reading Comprehension (RC)?

Incidentally, Reading Comprehension is the only question that appears on all major standardized tests.
Irrespective of the academic career you wish to pursue, you will always come across dense complex written material which you have to make sense of.
According to the Educational Testing Services (ETS), the RC in the GRE – “tests your ability to actively engage with the text, ask questions, formulate and evaluate hypothesis and reflect on the relationship of a particular text to other texts and information”
To put it in simpler words, the GRE RC passages test you on your ability to comprehend individual words and sentences, bifurcate the structure of main text and parts that relate to each other, identify the author’s assumptions and perspective – also consider alternate explanations, and reason from incomplete data to infer missing information.
The good thing about Reading Comprehension is you don’t really require prior knowledge on the subject matter – all the answers lie within the passage.
Why don’t you require the prior knowledge?
RC GRE passages are hand-picked by the ETS. The passages chosen are from diverse backgrounds – academics, non academica, fiction, arts and humanities, history, english literature – to name a few. The probability of you having read these passages before is bleak.
These passages are picked in a way to test your vocabulary, comprehension of complex ideas and sentence structures, and the speed at which you are able to complete answering a complete passage.
So fretting about not knowing the content is pointless.
What you should be looking at are tips and hacks that will help you answer the questions below to get the answer right, and of course – a high GRE score. 🙂
We’ve observed a lot of students waste ample time reading and re-reading the passage – when you have only 30 minutes in hand for the entire Verbal section, it might not be greatest of ideas.
But lucky for you, we have a few ways in which you can make the RC process way faster.
A lot of students have been pondering over the same question, “If we don’t know what passage is going to appear, how are we supposed to prepare for it, and even if I do prepare, how is it going to help boost my overall GRE score?”
Well, RC in the is one of the most important sections under GRE Verbal.
Unlike the comprehension passages you got in school, this one is 10x times harder.
We will be covering all these aspects – one at a time 🙂

Section 2 : How is RC tested on the GRE?

Reading Comprehension (RC) questions are one of the three types of questions in the Verbal Reasoning section of the GRE.
RC makes up for almost ⅓rd of the questions under the Verbal section.

Total duration : 30 minutes
Total no. of questions : 20
The split :
> Reading Comprehension – 9 questions
> Critical Reasoning – 1 questions
> Text completion & Sentence Equivalence – 10 questions
GRE Verbal RC passages vary in length – approximately 200-500 words – short one paragraph passages to three long paragraph passages.
Ideally, each passage is followed by 1-3 questions.
Whether you understand the passage or not, you need to be able to skim through it entirely and absorb only what is required to answer the questions below.
There are 3 question formats on the RC GRE:
–> Multiple Choice Questions – 5 answer options and 1 right answer

–> Multiple Response Questions – 3 answer options, upto 3 right answers – More than one right answer. Pick all the correct options to get the right answer.

–> Select in Passage Questions – clickable parts of the passage will be marked with an arrow on the main passage.

The first question format – MCQ – there is only one right answer – thus increasing the probability of you getting the right answer much higher compared to the second format.
In the second format, all answers could be right, or just 3 out of the 5 – if you get one answer option incorrect, you lose out on the entire question.
Now the third questions format, you need be extremely aware of how you go about selecting the line from the passage – reread the question if you have to, but make sure the sentence you pick is accurate.

Section 3 : Challenges answering RC questions( & how to overcome them!)

Reading passages and answering questions within a few minutes is not easy – you have to
read, process, comprehend, and answer.
To be good on the GRE RC, you need to realize that Reading Comprehension is extremely challenging both inherently and by design.
Let’s explore these challenges and ways to overcome them.

Limited Time

“Don’t spend too much time reading the passage” – we said. “ But I always thought I should, it’s important to understand what I’m reading, right?” – said one of our students.
The answer to why you shouldn’t spend too much time reading the passage is simple. You are awarded points for answering the questions below – NOT for comprehending every tiny detail the passage provides.
Your approach should be:
> Read the passage for surface level details i.e overall idea discussed, how many ideas transition through paragraphs and what the author’s perspective is.
> Read in-depth only if and when needed. If a question asks about a particular detail, you can always go back to the passage to find more about it. So don’t focus your energy towards absorbing the details, but only to grasp the highlights.
Now, let’s calculate how much time you should be allocating per passage:
You have only 30 minutes to finish the entire Verbal section – 20 questions – including Text Completion, Sentence Equivalence and Critical Reasoning.
Assume you have 3 RC passages with 3 questions each.
Let’s split the time you take to read and answer:
> 3 minutes – reading
> 5 minutes – answer questions
In total, you will take 24 minutes for 3 passages – 8 minutes per passage.
That, my friend, leaves you with only 6 minutes to solve the remaining questions.
Is that freaking you out a little bit? It should be.
Ideally, candidates spend over 8+ minutes reading and trying to dissect the passage.
On the GRE RC, time is of the essence- make every moment count.
To make things easier, start practicing RC passages when you start your GRE Verbal Prep.
Bring down the time from 8 minutes to 6 minutes per passage. That should give you an additional 6 minutes (totally 12) to figure out the rest of the Verbal section.
When you take the tests, keep a log of the:
> Time you take to read
> Time you take to answer
> Measure your accuracy
This is the simplest way to manage your time on the RC.

Confusing Content

What are you doing to do if you get an RC passage that is highly tormenting? A passage you feel you need to re-read multiple times?
You enter the panic stage. And boom. 30 minutes gone!
Don’t worry. We are not going to let that happen to you.
We have identified 3 GRE prep tips that should help you better your RC skills.
> Familiarize yourself with the content style
GRE throws passages drawn from diverse backgrounds- history, astronomy, art and humanities, social sciences, biological sciences – among others.
Test takers find the subject matter of these passages extremely scary and overwhelming.
Honestly, the probability of you having read the passage is bleak.
So don’t let the unfamiliarity of the content stand in the way of your study plan.
Here are a few ways to help you stick to the ‘6 minute rule per passage’:
> Start reading A LOT – don’t stick to a particular genre – explore types of content out there
> Learn to map passages (we’ll explain passage mapping in the next section)
> Twin with the author – start reading from his perspective
> Read in between lines – only if required.
> Complicated Wording and Perspectives
GRE RC passages are often heavy duty- long sentences structures, complicated words, confusing ideas – purpose of the passage, difficult vocabulary – to name a few.
Let’s take this practice passage for example :
“ The discovery of what Loody has called the ‘enabling effects’ of literacy in contemporary societies tends to seduce the observer into confusing often rudimentary knowledge of how to read with popular access to important books and documents: this confusion is then projected onto ancient societies”
The whole paragraph is one big complex sentence. It consists of words like seduce, contemporary and rudimentary.
Next, try and map the passage to understand the gist of it.
Loody – the author talks about a theory he coined – ‘enabling effects’. He draws parallels between the contemporary (modern) and the ancient societies, and how one influences the other.
Mentally break it down into –
    • Words and meanings
    • Writers perspective – background
    • Points to ignore
Breaking the passage down will help process information faster and thus save on time.
The intent of the Reading Comprehension passage is seldom to check vocabulary.
When you do come across an unknown word while reading the passage, try figuring out what it means through context (if you aren’t able to – don’t worry about it – it’s probably not gonna be important!).
Although, there might be cases in which some words or terms may be of importance; in such cases ETS (the guys who set the test) will make sure an explanation or a definition is provided.
> Know the subtle difference
We call it the ‘Jugglery of Words’
Say for example the words ‘discuss’ and ‘debate’
Discuss is when two or more people get together to share and talk about ideas.
Describe is a detailed explanation of the subject – can be written or oral – you are explaining the logic to someone, not discussing it.
A lot of people confuse the both – and it’s not uncommon – it’s just the lack of knowing the subtle difference.
On the GRE RC, you have to understand the exact usage of words and phrases and what they exactly mean.
Even the slightest difference in your understanding will cost you a few points (scores).

High Mental Stress

Quick! What is the difference between cold-blooded and warm blooded animals?
If someone were to ask you that out of the blue, and expected a response within seconds you’d be taken off guard – it’s not that you don’t know what the answer is, it’s just you need to clear your head and think it through.
Keeping up with the time limit on the GRE RC is just like that.
You need to make quick right decisions.
The secret is to train your brain to stay calm under pressure – thus not affecting your performance.
GRE is a 3 hour 50 minute demanding and rigorous test.
To give the GRE, you need to be in the right state of mind and you need to be able to withstand an almost 4 hour-long test.
The only way to overcome the mental stress is to include RC passages as a part of your GRE study plan.
Constant practice will improve your working speed and thus your accuracy.
Remember, you aim is to answer the question correctly, not understand the content of the passage.

Section 4: Mapping an RC Passage

A measles-like virus is being cited as a likely cause for the mass dolphin die-off that’s been plaguing the U.S. East Coast this summer. Since July 1, 333 carcasses have littered shores from New York to North Carolina – a number that’s roughly 10 times more than normal for this time of year. Scientists don’t yet know how many dolphins have died offshore without reaching mid-Atlantic beaches, but it could be thousands. In July, NOAA declared the die-off an Unusual Mortality Event, which frees up federal funding and investigators to address the crisis.
Now, a NOAA team in charge of investigating the event is pointing to a type of morbillivirus as the culprit behind the bottlenose dolphins deaths. Morbilliviruses are responsible for measles in humans, rinderpest in cattle, and canine distemper in dogs, coyotes, wolves and seals. There is no easy way to identify morbillivirus infection just by looking at a carcass, so identifying the pathogen as the cause of the die-off involved a feat of molecular detective work using tissue collected from the dead animals.
While there are no unifying anatomical findings that point toward the pathogen, many of the animals washing ashore have suggestive lesions in their mouths, lymph nodes, brain, or lungs. Potter, and the others who conduct necropsies (animal autopsies), collect bits of these damaged tissues, as well as other organs.
So far, nearly all of the carcasses – 32 out of 33 – fresh enough to be analysed by these methods have tested positive for, or are strongly suspected of having, morbillivirus. Of those, genetic sequencing confirmed that 11 of the carcasses carry the cetacean form of the virus, which affects dolphins and porpoises.

Paragraph-wise explanation:
First – The opening statement – “A measles-like virus is being cited as a likely cause for the mass dolphin die-off that’s been plaguing the U.S. East Coast this summer.” – tells us that the passage is about dolphin die-offs and that there is an ongoing investigation to figure out the reason. We also know that 1333 carcasses is 10 times more than normal.
Second – This paragraph tells us that NOAA is investigating the issue. The rest of the information in the second paragraph – just skim through. If there is a question on the investigating team/complexity of the investigation, you come back and scan the it.
Third – While there are no unifying anatomical findings that point toward the pathogen, many of the animals washing ashore have suggestive lesions in their mouths, lymph nodes, brain, or lungs. Potter, and the others who conduct necropsies (animal autopsies), collect bits of these damaged tissues, as well as other organs.
Fourth – So far, nearly all of the carcasses – 32 out of 33 – fresh enough to be analysed by these methods have tested positive for, or are strongly suspected of having, morbillivirus. Of those, genetic sequencing confirmed that 11 of the carcasses carry the cetacean form of the virus, which affects dolphins and porpoises.
And that is how you go about mapping the passage.
Limit the time you spend mapping the passage to max. 2 minutes.
Let’s now move on to the types of questions you will see on the GRE RC.

Section 5 : Question types on the RC GRE

These are the 3 major types of questions that appear on the GRE RC.
We will explain what the question type means with the example of the passage above.

1. Big Picture Questions

Questions under this category test your ability to understand the main idea of the passage and distinguish it from the supporting ideas.
The idea behind the Big Picture question is to identify the primary purpose of the passage, and differentiate that from the secondary and tertiary purposes.
These questions will also test your ability to understand the structure and the tone of the passage.
Q – This passage is primarily concerned with:
Before going through the answer options, we will try to get the answer from our map.
Looking at the map, we know that the passage revolves around dolphin die-offs.
The author is giving us details of an ongoing investigation and some indicators and evidence to suggest that morbillivirus is the cause for the die-offs.
We will go through the answer options and pick the option closest to the answer we got from the map.
A. exploring possible causes for a phenomenon
B. illustrating the mechanism of propagation of infection by the morbillivirus in dolphins
C. Evaluating the actions taken by the NOAA with respect to Unusual mortality events
D. Providing evidence to suggest a likely cause for a phenomenon – Correct Answer.
E. Suggesting that the cetacean form of the morbillivirus is the only cause for the dolphin die offs.

2. Anchor-phrase Questions

Questions under the Anchor Phrase category will ask you to deal with information explicitly stated in the passage and with information implied in context-specific statements.
Basically, you need to answer with the literal meaning of words and sentences. And not try to be creative or illogical.
If you find an anchor phrase in a question, you will find the same phrase explicitly mentioned in the passage – your answer must be with reference to that phrase and not in general context.
Q. While there are no unifying anatomical findings that point toward the pathogen, many of the animals washing ashore have suggestive lesions in their mouths, lymph nodes, brain, or lungs. According to the passage, when the author says “many of the animals washing ashore have suggestive lesions”, the author is
A. Giving proof that the die offs are caused by the morbillivirus –
B. Indicating that infected dolphins show similar characteristic signs of infection in their bodies
C. Putting forth findings that help the NOAA team progress in its investigation of dolphin die offs – Correct Answer
D. Indicating that it is not easy to identify morbillivirus looking at a carcass
E. Suggesting that lesions in their mouths, lymph nodes, brain or lungs is the only reason for dolphin die offs
3. Inference-based Questions
Inference is information necessarily implied ‘in’ or ‘between’ context specific statements. It is based on information that may or maynot be explained in the passage.
So basically, you will have to read between the lines. However, you will have to understand the author’s perspective, and not make assumptions about content that is not relevant to the question or doesn’t exist in the passage.
Q. It can be inferred from the passage that the morbillivirus
We won’t get this information directly from the passage, so we’ll use the map for direction to identify areas on the passage we need to scan.
A. is the only pathogen that causes lesions in the organs of dolphins
B. has other forms apart from the cetacean form that can affect dolphins – Correct Answer
C. is more lethal, in its viral proliferation, to infected dolphins than to infected humans, cows, or dogs
D. is the cause of the mass dolphin die-off in the U.S East Coast
E. has been substantially more virulent than it was last year
So these are the 3 most commonly asked question types.
We’ll now provide you with practice passages where you can apply these techniques and give it a shot on your own.

Section 6 : Practice Passages for the GRE RC

We have compiled a series of GRE RC passages that we think will help you analyze your strengths and weaknesses.
GRE RC practice passages

Section 7 : Commonly Asked Questions


What are the total number of questions on the RC GRE?

On the GRE RC, you can get upto 1-5 questions – per passage. This primarily depends on how the passages and the questions are set by the ETS.

How do I manage time spent for an RC passage?

If you didn’t read the “Limited time” section above, here’s the gist.
Assume you have 3 RC passages with 3 questions each.
Let’s split the time you take to read and answer:
> 3 minutes – reading
> 5 minutes – answer questions
In total, you will take 24 minutes for 3 passages – 8 minutes per passage.
That, my friend, leaves you with only 6 minutes to solve the remaining questions.

Why is it important to prepare well for the RC section?

It is an important section on the GRE Verbal, and will help improve your overall score. However as the RC section is highly time consuming, you will have to train you mind with the tips/hacks mentioned above to help increase your speed.

What if I don’t know the meaning of certain words in the given passage?

Doesn’t matter. Try and understand what the author is trying to say in that particular context, and pick the option closest to the question asked.

Is RC question adaptive?

No, the RC on the GRE is not adaptive. Points are allocated per passage, not per question.

What are the types of questions on GRE RC?
There are 3 main types of questions on the GRE RC. 1) Big-Picture Question 2) Inference-Based Question 3) Anchor-Phrase Question.
To read more on the types of questions ( with examples) – skip to the “Types of Questions” section above.

What if I don’t understand the passage at all?

You don’t have to understand the complete passage. Learn how to map the passage instead.
Scroll to the example above to learn how to map the passage.

Are the questions within the RC passage counted individually or is the entire RC passage counted as 1 question by the scoring algorithm?

The score is calculated per passage – not per question.

Do I get marks for a partially correct answer?

No. You either answer correctly or you don’t. There is no in-between.

Are there any books/magazines that will help me improve my reading speed?

Reading speed comes with practice. Moreover especially for the RC, you need to learn to map the passage.
Try starting by reading posts from Business magazines, Finance blogs, any academic content you can lay your hands on, autobiographies, and so on. Make sure you pick heavy reads – so you won’t be cause off guard on the day of the test. This kind of reading will also help you understand the author’s perspective.
And is all we have to share on GRE RC. Just remember the ultimate goal is to get all the answers right without wasting time.
If you need help on the GRE Verbal, we are just a click away 🙂

GRE online Course Crackverbal

  • March, 25th, 2018
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Nailing GRE Reading Comprehension (Free Practice Passages)

Reading Time: 12 minutes

Below are 6 practice passages that include the various question types.
Give it your best shot, and if you are stuck – please leave a comment below and we will get back to you 🙂
Good luck!

Passage 1 :

Since the Hawaiian Islands have never been connected to other land masses, the great variety of plants in Hawaii must be a result of the long-distance dispersal of seeds, a process that requires both a method of transport and an equivalence between the ecology of the source area and that of the recipient area. There is some dispute about the method of transport involved. Some biologists argue that ocean and air currents are responsible for the transport of plant seeds to Hawaii. Yet the results of flotation experiments and the low temperatures of air currents cast doubt on these hypotheses. More probable is bird transport, either externally, by accidental attachment of the seeds to feathers, or internally, by the swallowing of fruit and subsequent excretion of the seeds. While it is likely that fewer varieties of plant seeds have reached Hawaii externally than internally, more varieties are known to be adapted to external than to internal transport.
1. The author of the passage is primarily concerned with
A) discussing different approaches biologists have taken to testing theories about the distribution of plants in Hawaii
B) discussing different theories about the transport of plant seeds to Hawaii
C) discussing the extent to which air currents are responsible for the dispersal of plant seeds to Hawaii
D) resolving a dispute about the adaptability of plant seeds to bird transport
E) resolving a dispute about the ability of birds to carry plant seeds long
2. The author mentions the results of flotation experiments on plant seeds most probably in order to
A) support the claim that the distribution of plants in Hawaii is the result of
the long-distance dispersal of seeds
B) lend credibility to the thesis that air currents provide a method of
transport for plant seeds to Hawaii
C) suggest that the long-distance dispersal of seeds is a process that requires
long periods of time
D) challenge the claim that ocean currents are responsible for the transport
of plant seeds to Hawaii
E) refute the claim that Hawaiian flora evolved independently from flora in
other parts of the world

Passage 2 :

Recent studies of sediment in the North Atlantic’s deep waters reveal possible cyclical patterns in the history of Earth’s climate. The rock fragments in these sediments are too large to have been transported there by ocean currents; they must have reached their present locations by traveling in large icebergs that floated long distances from their point of origin before melting. Geologist Gerard Bond noticed that some of the sediment grains were stained with iron oxide, evidence that they originated in locales where glaciers had overrun outcrops of red sandstone. Bond’s detailed analysis of deep-water sediment cores showed changes in the mix of sediment sources over time: the proportion of these red-stained grains fluctuated back and forth from lows of 5 percent to highs of about 17 percent, and these fluctuations occurred in a nearly regular 1,500-year cycle.
Bond hypothesized that the alternating cycles might be evidence of changes in ocean-water circulation and therefore in Earth’s climate. He knew that the sources of the red-stained grains were generally closer to the North Pole than were the places yielding a high proportion of “clean” grains. At certain times, apparently, more icebergs from the Arctic Ocean in the far north were traveling south well into the North Atlantic before melting and shedding their sediment.
Ocean waters are constantly moving, and water temperature is both a cause and an effect of this movement. As water cools, it becomes denser and sinks to the ocean’s bottom. During some periods, the bottom layer of the world’s oceans comes from cold, dense water sinking in the far North Atlantic. This causes the warm surface waters of the Gulf Stream to be pulled northward. Bond realized that during such periods, the influx of these warm surface waters into northern regions could cause a large proportion of the icebergs that bear red grains to melt before traveling very far into the North Atlantic. But sometimes the ocean’s dynamic changes, and waters from the Gulf Stream do not travel northward in this way. During these periods, surface waters in the North Atlantic would generally be colder, permitting icebergs bearing red-stained grains to travel farther south in the North Atlantic before melting and depositing their sediment.
The onset of the so-called Little Ice Age (1300-1860), which followed the Medieval Warm Period of the eighth through tenth centuries, may represent the most recent time that the ocean’s dynamic changed in this way. If ongoing climate-history studies support Bond’s hypothesis of 1,500-year cycles, scientists may establish a major natural rhythm in Earth’s temperatures that could then be extrapolated into the future. Because the midpoint of the Medieval Warm Period was about A.D. 850, an extension of Bond’s cycles would place the midpoint of the next warm interval in the twenty-fourth century.
1) According to the passage, which of the following is true of the rock fragments contained in the sediments studied by Bond?
A. The majority of them are composed of red sandstone.
B. They must have reached their present location over 1,500 years ago.
C. They were carried by icebergs to their present location.
D. Most of them were carried to their present location during a warm period in Earth’s climatic history.
E. They are unlikely to have been carried to their present location during the Little Ice Age.
2) In the final paragraph of the passage, the author is concerned primarily with
A. answering a question about Earth’s climatic history
B. pointing out a potential flaw in Bond’s hypothesis
C. suggesting a new focus for the study of ocean sediments
D. tracing the general history of Earth’s climate
E. discussing possible implications of Bond’s hypothesis
3) According to the passage, Bond hypothesized that which of the following circumstances would allow red-stained sediment grains to reach more southerly latitudes?
A. Warm waters being pulled northward from the Gulf Stream
B. Climatic conditions causing icebergs to melt relatively quickly
C. Icebergs containing a higher proportion of iron oxide than usual
D. The formation of more icebergs than usual in the far north
E. The presence of cold surface waters in the North Atlantic
4) It can be inferred from the passage that in sediment cores from the North Atlantic’s deep waters, the portions that correspond to the Little Ice Age
A. differ very little in composition from the portions that correspond to the Medieval Warm Period
B. fluctuate significantly in composition between the portions corresponding to the 1300s and the portions corresponding to the 1700s
C. would be likely to contain a proportion of red-stained grains closer to 17 percent than to 5 percent
D. show a much higher proportion of red-stained grains in cores extracted from the far north of the North Atlantic than in cores extracted from further south
E. were formed in part as a result of Gulf Stream waters having been pulled northwar

Passage 3:

Tocqueville, apparently, was wrong. Jacksonian America was not a fluid, egalitarian society where individual wealth and poverty were ephemeral conditions. At least so argues E. Pessen in his iconoclastic study of the very rich in the United States between 1825 and 1850.
Pessen does present a quantity of examples, together with some refreshingly intelligible statistics, to establish the existence of an inordinately wealthy class. Though active in commerce or the professions, most of the wealthy were not self-made but had inherited family fortunes. In no sense mercurial, these great fortunes survived the financial panics that destroyed lesser ones. Indeed, in several cities the wealthiest one percent constantly increased its share until by 1850 it owned half of the community’s wealth. Although these observations are true, Pessen overestimates their importance by concluding from them that the undoubted progress toward inequality in the late eighteenth century continued in the Jacksonian period and that the United States was a class-ridden, plutocratic society even before industrialization.
1. According to the passage, Pessen indicates that all of the following were true of the very wealthy in the United States between 1825 and 1850 EXCEPT:
A) They formed a distinct upper class.
B) Many of them were able to increase their holdings.
C) Some of them worked as professionals or in business.
D) Most of them accumulated their own fortunes.
E) Many of them retained their wealth in spite of financial upheavals.
2. Which of the following best states the author’s main point?
A) Pessen’s study has overturned the previously established view of the social and economic structure of early-nineteenth-century America.
B) Tocqueville’s analysis of the United States in the Jacksonian era remains the definitive account of this period.
C) Pessen’s study is valuable primarily because it shows the continuity of the social system in the United States throughout the nineteenth century.
D) The social patterns and political power of the extremely wealthy in the United States between 1825 and 1850 are well documented.
E) Pessen challenges a view of the social and economic systems in the United States from 1825 to 1850, but he draws conclusions that are incorrect.

Passage 4:

The evolution of intelligence among early large mammals of the grasslands was due in great measure to the interaction between two ecologically synchronized groups of these animals, the hunting carnivores and the herbivores that they hunted. The interaction resulting from the differences between predator and prey led to a general improvement in brain functions; however, certain components of intelligence were improved far more than others. The kind of intelligence favored by the interplay of increasingly smarter catchers and increasingly keener escapers is defined by attention — that aspect of mind carrying consciousness forward from one moment to the next. It ranges from a passive, freefloating awareness to a highly focused, active fixation. The range through these states is mediated by the arousal system, a network of tracts converging from sensory systems to integrating centers in the brain stem. From the more relaxed to the more vigorous levels, sensitivity to novelty is increased. The organism is more awake, more vigilant; this increased vigilance results in the apprehension of ever more subtle signals as the organism becomes more sensitive to its surroundings. The processes of arousal and concentration give attention its direction. Arousal is at first general, with a flooding of impulses in the brain stem; then gradually the activation is channeled. Thus begins concentration, the holding of consistent images. One meaning of intelligence is the way in which these images and other alertly searched information are used in the context of previous experience. Consciousness links past attention to the present and permits the integration of details with perceived ends and purposes. The elements of intelligence and consciousness come together marvelously to produce different styles in predator and prey. Herbivores and carnivores develop different kinds of attention related to escaping or chasing. Although in both kinds of animal, arousal stimulates the production of adrenaline and norepinephrine by the adrenal glands, the effect in herbivores is primarily fear, whereas in carnivores the effect is primarily aggression. For both, arousal attunes the animal to what is ahead. Perhaps it does not experience forethought as we know it, but the animal does experience something like it. The predator is searchingly aggressive, inner-directed, tuned by the nervous system and the adrenal hormones, but aware in a sense closer to human consciousness than, say, a hungry lizard’s instinctive snap at a passing beetle. Using past events as a framework, the large mammal predator is working out a relationship between movement and food, sensitive to possibilities in cold trails and distant sounds — and yesterday’s unforgotten lessons. The herbivore prey is of a different mind. Its mood of wariness rather than searching and its attitude of general expectancy instead of anticipating are silk-thin veils of tranquillity over an explosive endocrine system.
1. The author refers to a hungry lizard primarily in order to
A) demonstrate the similarity between the hunting methods of mammals and those of nonmammals
B) broaden the application of the argument by including an insectivore as an example
C) make a distinction between higher and lower levels of consciousness
D) provide an additional illustration of the brutality characteristic of predators
E) offer an objection to suggestions that all animals lack consciousness
2. It can be inferred from the passage that in animals less intelligent than the mammals discussed in the passage
A) past experience is less helpful in ensuring survival
B) attention is more highly focused
C) muscular coordination is less highly developed
D) there is less need for competition among species
E) environment is more important in establishing the proper ratio of prey to predator
3. According to the passage, improvement in brain function among early large mammals resulted primarily from which of the following?
A) Interplay of predator and prey
B) Persistence of free-floating awareness in animals of the grasslands
C) Gradual dominance of warm-blooded mammals over cold-blooded reptiles
D) Interaction of early large mammals with less intelligent species
E) Improvement of the capacity for memory among herbivores and carnivores
4. According to the passage, as the process of arousal in an organism continues, all of the following may occur EXCEPT
A) the production of adrenaline
B) the production of norepinephrine
C) a heightening of sensitivity to stimuli
D) an increase in selectivity with respect to stimuli
E) an expansion of the range of states mediated by the brain stem

Passage 5:

The work of English writer Aphra Behn (1640–1689) changed markedly during the 1680s, as she turned from writing plays to writing prose narratives. According to literary critic Rachel Carnell, most scholars view this change as primarily motivated by financial considerations: earning a living by writing for the theatre became more difficult in the 1680s, so Behn tried various other types of prose genres in the hope of finding another lucrative medium. In fact, a long epistolary scandal novel that she wrote in the mid-1680s sold quite well. Yet, as Carnell notes, Behn did not repeat this approach in her other prose works; instead, she turned to writing shorter, more serious novels, even though only about half of these were published during her lifetime. Carnell argues that Behn, whose stage productions are primarily comedies, may have turned to an emerging literary form, the novel, in a conscious attempt to criticize, and subvert for her own ends, the conventions and ideology of a well-established form of her day, the dramatic tragedy.
Carnell acknowledges that Behn admired the skill of such contemporary writers of dramatic tragedy as John Dryden, and that Behn’s own comic stage productions displayed the same partisanship for the reigning Stuart monarchy that characterized most of the politically oriented dramatic tragedies of her day. However, Carnell argues that Behn took issue with the way in which these writers and plays defined the nature of tragedy. As prescribed by Dryden, tragedy was supposed to concern a heroic man who is a public figure and who undergoes a fall that evokes pity from the audience. Carnell points out that Behn’s tragic novels focus instead on the plight of little-known women and the private world of the household; even in her few novels featuring male protagonists, Behn insists on the importance of the crimes these otherwise heroic figures commit in the domestic sphere. Moreover, according to Carnell, Behn questioned the view promulgated by monarchist dramatic tragedies such as Dryden’s: that the envisioned “public” political ideal—passive obedience to the nation’s king—ought to be mirrored in the private sphere, with family members wholly obedient to a male head of household. Carnell sees Behn’s novels not only as rejecting the model of patriarchal and hierarchical family order, but also as warning that insisting on such a parallel can result in real tragedy befalling the members of the domestic sphere. According to Carnell, Behn’s choice of literary form underscores the differences between her own approach to crafting a tragic story and that taken in the dramatic tragedies, with their artificial distinction between the public and private spheres. Behn’s novels engage in the political dialogue of her era by demonstrating that the good of the nation ultimately encompasses more than the good of the public figures who rule it.
1) The passage is primarily concerned with
A. tracing how Behn’s view of the nature of tragedy changed over time
B. explaining one author’s view of Behn’s contribution to the development of an emerging literary form
C. differentiating between the early and the late literary works of Behn
D. contrasting the approaches to tragedy taken by Behn and by Dryden
E. presenting one scholar’s explanation for a major development in Behn’s literary career
2) The passage suggests that Carnell sees Behn’s novels featuring male protagonists as differing from dramatic tragedies such as Dryden’s featuring male protagonists in that the former
A. depict these characters as less than heroic in their public actions
B. emphasize the consequences of these characters’ actions in the private sphere
C. insist on a parallel between the public and the private spheres
D. are aimed at a predominantly female audience
E. depict family members who disobey these protagonists
3) The passage suggests that Carnell believes Behn held which of the following attitudes about the relationship between the private and public spheres?
A. The private sphere is more appropriate than is the public sphere as the setting for plays about political events.
B. The structure of the private sphere should not replicate the hierarchical order of the public sphere.
C. Actions in the private sphere are more fundamental to ensuring the good of the nation than are actions in the public sphere.
D. Crimes committed in the private sphere are likely to cause tragedy in the public sphere rather than vice versa.
E. The private sphere is the mirror in which issues affecting the public sphere can most clearly be seen.
4) It can be inferred from the passage that the “artificial distinction”(highlighted text )refers to the
A. practice utilized in dramatic tragedies of providing different structural models for the public and the private spheres
B. ideology of many dramatic tragedies that advocate passive obedience only in the private sphere and not in the public sphere
C. convention that drama ought to concern events in the public sphere and that novels ought to concern events in the private sphere
D. assumption made by the authors of conventional dramatic tragedies that legitimate tragic action occurs only in the public sphere
E. approach taken by the dramatic tragedies in depicting male and female characters differently, depending on whether their roles were public or private.
Passage 6:
The most plausible justification for higher taxes on automobile fuel is that fuel consumption harms the environment and thus adds to the costs of traffic congestion. But the fact that burning fuel creates these “negative externalities” does not imply that no tax on fuel could ever be too high. Economics is precise about the tax that should, in principle, be levied to deal with negative externalities: the tax on a liter of fuel should be equal to the harm caused by using a liter of fuel. If the tax is more than that, its costs (including the inconvenience to those who would rather have used their cars) will exceed its benefits (including any reduction in congestion and pollution).
In the context in which it appears, “exceed” most nearly means
A. outstrip
B. magnify
C. delimit
D. offset
E. supplant
Hope this helped you prepare for the GRE RC. If you need any help with the GRE in general, you can always reach out to us on [email protected]
Or you could give out trail course a shot!

GRE online Course Crackverbal

  • March, 25th, 2018
  • Posted in
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Vocabulary for GRE – A Detailed Approach

Reading Time: 7 minutes

What is the best way to study Vocabulary for GRE ?

If there is ONE question for which GRE test takers wish they knew the answer, it would be this.

In this blog, we will see the biggest mistake GRE test-takers commit while studying for the test. We will also show you some great ways (and resources) to study vocabulary for GRE.

Before we go any further, let’s address the elephant in the room!


Is GRE Vocabulary all about mugging up words?

 Vocabulary for GRE



A huge misconception that students have about preparing for GRE Vocabulary is that it is all about mugging up words. After all, it took some creativity by someone at the UP ministry of tourism to approve this ad on twitter:


Vocabulary for GRE



However, if you think the GRE Vocabulary is just about mugging up words and throwing them together to form a sentence,  you could not be more wrong!


As part of a graduate program – a Master’s or an MBA – you are required to not only read a lot of journals and books but also to write lengthy theses and project reports. You need to be clear, crisp, and concise in the words you choose. Hence, it is important that you understand words in proper context.


If you think the vocabulary for GRE is just about mugging up words and throwing them together to form a sentence,  you could not be more wrong! 

For example:


What is the difference between


“John is firm”




“John is obstinate”


The first sentence is a positive statement about John while the second sentence is negative. The meaning could be similar but there is a huge difference in the tone. This is the stuff that the GRE expects you to know, and differentiate while reading or writing English.


Expertise in Verbal Reasoning becomes very important when your next work gets published in a scientific journal – ready to be scrutinized by PhD holders who have spent more time reading books than you have spent binge-watching “Game of Thrones”!


We have written about GRE Verbal strategies for Indians, and the importance of context in GRE Verbal.


The meaning could be similar but there is a huge difference in the tone. This is the stuff that the GRE expects you to know, and differentiate while reading or writing English.


This brings us to the next elephant (or wait, is it a hippo?) in the room:


What is wrong with preparing from GRE word lists?

Vocabulary for GRE 


We have had students who sometimes come to us and say “I’ve learnt words until “P”!






There are two sections on the GRE that test you on words and their meanings,  Sentence Equivalence (SE) and Text Completion (TC). Both these sections test you on the nuances in meaning; a word can have the same functional meaning but different connotations. Let’s look at an example to better understand this statement:


This is the definition of Transcended according to Wordweb :

“Be greater in scope or size than some standard”


Does it make any sense to you? Not to me!

However, let us see how the same word in context:


“Dante embodied all the learning and thought of his age and transcended them: he went far ahead of all his predecessors, contemporaries, and successors.”


Dante went over and beyond what his contemporaries were doing so he was greater than the “standard”.


Does it make sense now?


So the point is: Context matters!


There are two sections on the GRE that test you on words and their meanings,  Sentence Equivalence (SE) and Text Completion (TC). Both sections test you on the nuances in meaning.


And most students DON’T learn context;  they only bother about the definition. On the day of the test, a student will recognize the words but will not be able to take a call because the student is unsure of the contextual use of the words.


Even if you know more than 3000 words, on the GRE, you WILL see a word you’ve never seen before. The key is not to become too dependent on REMEMBERING words but to know exactly WHY you are building vocabulary – to be able to take a call while answering the Vocab intensive questions. We’ll see how to develop an approach by which we can do that even if you aren’t sure of one or two.


Even if you know more than 3000 words, on the GRE, you WILL see a word you’ve never seen before.


Here are three reasons why studying for the GRE using word lists is a bad idea:

 1.Words are presented in Alphabetical order: lack of any pattern

 2.Superficial information about the word’s meaning: half knowledge

 3.Lack of Context: Connotation, Register and Degree of Effect



How to build your GRE vocabulary in a short span of time?

Vocabulary for GRE 


In an ideal world, you should be building your vocabulary through years of exposure to good quality reading such as The Economist, and The New York Times. Vocabulary building needs to be deep and meaningful. Spending a couple of weeks with a wordlist and cramming words is NOT going to help.


However, this is not an ideal world, and you are probably worried because you have not done so.


You realize it is too late. You just need a band-aid that will get you a good GRE verbal score.


In an ideal world, you should be building your vocabulary through years of exposure to good quality reading…


Here is the good news!


Though reading books and newspaper articles, watching movies, and engaging in conversations in everyday life will give you proper context to use words, and is the most effective method of learning, trying that method at this point has pitfalls, which are:

 1. “It takes like forever!”. We have just a few months (and in some cases just a few weeks) to prepare for the GRE, and surely, this is not the time to change your “behavior”.

 2. Do we really read and watch such enriching content? Let’s be honest: the kind of words you see on the GRE may not be the ones you come across in everyday life. This is sort of an inside joke: Recondite, Esoteric and Arcane all mean – not found or seen in everyday context!


So how do we make it easier to learn new words?


For that, you have to “trick” your brain. Yes! Here are some ways in which you can build your vocabulary for the GRE, and make it fun while you are doing so. The idea is to make studying of words as interesting as possible.This is because your brain craves novelty.  

Your brain doesn’t bother saving boring things; they never make it past the “this is obviously not important” filter.


Let’s be honest: the kind of words you see on the GRE may not be the ones you come across in everyday life. This is sort of an inside joke: Recondite, Esoteric and Arcane all mean – not found or seen in everyday context!


This brings us to the next important aspect of learning for the Vocabulary for GRE section,


How to make learning GRE Vocabulary fun?

 Vocabulary for GRE


Here are some great vocab building techniques:


1. Learn GRE words with pictures 

The dictionary definition of the word “mnemonics” is “the study and development of systems for improving and assisting the memory”.

The basic premise behind using mnemonics is that if you can get as many senses involved in the learning process, the easier it is for your brain to remember.


For learning Vocabulary for GRE, we would employ visual and phonetic mnemonics.


The basic premise behind using mnemonics is that – if you can get as many senses involved in the learning process, the easier it is for your brain to remember.


Here is how to learn GRE words using pictures and a video on how to use CV Flashcards which you can buy from Amazon.



2. Learn Vocabulary for GRE through Word Roots


The more we know about a particular word, its origin, and the various ways in which it’s used, the better we will be able to remember it


You can know about the etymology of words on the GRE through this video: 


You may also read  this blog:

Building Vocabulary for GRE through Etymology


Do you know the fancy sounding “Mulligatawny soup” is nothing but mullagu (pepper) thanni (water) aka Rasam in India?


Learn about some more interesting words through the roots from where they originate. You may encounter these words on the GRE:

GRE Words of Indian Origin


Understanding Word Roots for Vocabulary for GRE


Learn GRE Words through Greek mythology



3. Learn Theme based GRE Words


What if I were to ask you to name 30 friends?


Even for the most gregarious people, this can be a hard task! Here’s a trick:


Think of 10 friends from college.


Now, think of 10 school friends.


Now, think of 10 friends from your neighborhood.


It’s a lot easier to group people with similar backgrounds. This is the same logic behind learning theme based words on the GRE.


However, there are a few things you need to be careful about while learning words in a group. There is a danger that you might end up thinking that ALL the words have the same meaning.


For example,


Audacious could mean either willing to take bold risks OR it could mean lack of respect. So, although it is replaceable by Brave in most cases, you need to be careful.


Here is a great blog on how to use “inclines” to know the subtle differences between such words:


Building Vocabulary for GRE through Inclines


Another problem GRE aspirants often face is confusing words that are similar sounding but mean totally different things. I hope you agree, in principal principle.

Here is a blog to clear the confusion:


Confusing Words and How to avoid them in Vocabulary for GRE



I hope you found this blog useful.


Please spread its value by sharing the blog on your social media channels, and letting your friends know about it.


Also, I would love to know if you have any questions about Vocabulary for GRE, so go ahead, and let me know in the Comments section.



That’s all folks!






  • June, 20th, 2017
  • Posted in

The Ultimate Guide to Preparing for the GRE Verbal Section

GRE Verbal Preparation CrackVerbal
Reading Time: 8 minutes

Are you looking for techniques and material to crack the GRE with a 160+ GRE Verbal score?


Are you looking for a no-nonsense approach to get your dream GRE Verbal score?


Are you getting overwhelmed with all the advice and looking for simple GRE Verbal strategies?


If your answer was a “yes” to any of the above questions, you have come to the right page! Let me guess! You said “yes” to all the three questions!


In this comprehensive article, we provide you with all the information required for you to prepare for the GRE Verbal section.


The GRE Syllabus includes the following three sections:

1) Reading Comprehension

2) Sentence Equivalence

3) Text Completion


In this article, we will explore each of the three sections, and provide you with the right tools and materials to solve them.


Reading Comprehension (RC)



Students typically fall into two categories:

 1. The ones who worry too much about RC

 2. The ones who don’t care much about RC


In either case, you are wrong.


RC need not be feared; at the same time, it is important to understand this section well. The biggest mistake GRE test-takers make on the RC is that they approach the passages as they would approach reading in daily life. They end up spending way too much time reading the passage, and then end up getting rushed while answering the questions.


Reading Comprehension need not be feared; at the same time it is important to understand this section well.



 Here are a few articles that explain the basic rules to follow while solving the Reading Comprehension questions under the verbal section of the GRE:


5 Commandments of Reading Comprehension


Reading Comprehension Strategies


Sentence Equivalence (SE)



Let us understand this section by actually solving a question:


Most young children are often  ______ to old stories.


1) indifferent

2) empathetic

3) impertinent

4) sympathetic

5) apathetic

6) resistant


Can there be two definite answers here?




Children could be either “indifferent” or “apathetic” (both meaning lack of emotion) towards the old stories as they cannot relate to them.




Children could be either “empathic” or “sympathetic” (both meaning ability to understand the meaning of others) because children are able to relate well to old stories.


What’s the problem? Well, there is no context to fix on one correct response.


What about this one?


Most young children are often  ______ to old stories as they are unable to relate to the characters and lifestyles of olden times.


1) Indifferent

2) Empathetic

3) Impertinent

4) Sympathetic

5) Apathetic

6) Resistant


This though has! And the answer is definitely indifferent and apathetic.


Why? Because the sentence qualified exactly what CAN and CANNOT fit the context of the blank.


This is true ALL The time. Remember that the answer to what can fill the blank WILL BE PROVIDED in the sentence itself. Your job is as simple as finding out what this information is!




Remember that the answer to what can fill the blank WILL BE PROVIDED in the sentence itself.




Text Completion (TC)



Text Completion tests you on two things, your ability to comprehend short passages, and your ability to use vocabulary in context. Let us look at these individually:

a) Your ability to comprehend short passages


You will be given a sentence or two, with blanks, and you need to understand what the sentence is trying to say. A lot of processing happens in your brain when you read sentences with the keywords. When the keywords are missing, your brain will find it hard to process the sentences.


Moreover, the sentences in the GRE Text Completion section are typically very   heavy. This makes the task even harder.


Here is a blog on Text Completion to get you started:

Understanding Text Completion on the GRE



Sample this:


It is refreshing to read a book about our planet by an author who does not allow facts to be BLANK by politics: well aware of the political disputes about the effects of human activities on climate and biodiversity, this author does not permit them to BLANK his comprehensive description of what we know about our biosphere. He emphasizes the enormous gaps in our knowledge, the sparseness of our observations, and the BLANK, calling attention to the many aspects of planetary evolution that must be better understood before we can accurately diagnose the condition of our planet.


This isn’t the stuff you read on a nice Sunday morning.


This isn’t stuff you would be reading any time!


And the GRE knows that!


Text Completion tests you on two things, your ability to comprehend short passages, and your ability to use vocabulary in context.


b) Your ability to use Vocabulary in context



Let us take the word “flag”.


Think of what comes to your mind!




Did you think of the national flag of India?


Let me give you a few alternative meanings to the same word:


 – Mark (an item) for attention or treatment in a specified way.

Example: “the spellcheck program flags any words that are not in its dictionary”


– Draw attention to.

Example: “cancer was flagged up as a priority area for research”


– Signal to a vehicle or driver to stop, especially by waving one’s arm.

Example: “she flagged down a police patrol car”


Get the idea?


The GRE  will give you a sentence, and you need to pick a meaning of “flag” that is most appropriate in that particular context.


The blanks come in three flavours: Single, Double and Triple blanks.


Single blanks have five answer options while Double and Triple blanks have three answer options for each blank.


Needless to say, the lengthier the paragraph, and more the number of blanks, the more challenging it gets!



The GRE will give you a word within a sentence, and you need to pick a meaning of the word that is most appropriate in that particular context.



But wait! That’s not all.


A point is awarded only if ALL the blanks are filled correctly.


No marks for partially correct answers!


This means that you might have spent a minute reading the paragraph multiple times and gotten two of the three blanks right,  but if you missed out on just ONE blank, you will end up getting ZERO for that question.


That’s right: Nada!


Let us try solving this by looking at an example:


i) Single-blank Text Completion Question


Emma Puntington writes across generational boundaries, making the past so __________ that our belief that the present is the true locus of experience seems questionable.










What about the past could make you question if you are really in the present?

Maybe something about the past that is so believable that makes the present unbelievable?


If the past were to be complex or remote (distant/far off) then wouldn’t the present be more believable? Also if it is mundane (boring) or mysterious (hard to understand), wouldn’t we want the present to be believable?


Hence the right answer is vivid.


Let’s see what the word means:


GRE Verbal Preparation CrackVerbal



Does this makes sense?


Yes, it does, because the author made the past look so believable that the present looks almost unbelievable.


ii) Double-blank Text Completion Question:


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



Blank I

Blank II








So Caravaggio was not a good guy: Vain and prone to violence.


Now, we need to understand which one to begin with, between the two blanks. Let us start with the second one (there are reasons behind it – which we will get into, a little later).


So would something in his life be positive? Like providential (favorable / auspicious) or dispassionate (impartial / rational).


Or would it be negative? Like the word “tumultuous” (confused / disorderly).


If you picked the latter, you are right.


Let us now move to the first blank. Remember you are given another clue: he could not handle his success. So, do you want to pick something that says he stopped drinking (temperance) or became famous for the wrong reasons (notoriety)?


Or do you want to pick something that says he gained fame for achievement in his field (eminence)?


If you picked the latter, you got this question correct!



iii) Triple-blank Text Completion Question:


Although the provision of food to wild chimpanzees made them less __________ and easier to study, it was found to __________ their normal social patterns, thereby rendering the implications of the study __________ .



Blank I

Blank II

Blank III











Again, you need to wisely pick the first blank you would like to begin with. 


Let us start with the first blank. Less of WHAT would make these chimpanzees easier to study?


If you missed out on just ONE blank, you will end up getting ZERO for that question.


Interesting, and manageable don’t make sense because both indicate it would be harder to study if they become less interesting (boring) or less manageable (uncontrollable).


So the first blank has to be bashful, which means shy. Makes sense? Because if they are less shy they would be more participative in this experiment.


Note that the sentence starts with the word ALTHOUGH – which is a contrast word. So we need to see what would be the downside if they are easier to study. Something negative, right?


So you expect that their normal behavior is neither promoted nor reinforced but rather disrupted. Hence that is our second blank.


If the behavior is unnatural that would make the study incorrect. The synonym for that is dubious. Our correct answer!



Here is a great video that teaches you more Text Completion:


Practicing GRE Verbal Questions



So did that whet your appetite?


Kicked about solving more GRE questions? Want to learn  more concepts?


Here are a few options:


a) Sign up for a GRE Online Course or GRE Classroom Program


If you liked what you saw on this blog, you can also  check our Online GRE Course that includes ninja strategies to tackle all sections of GRE Verbal.


If you are in Bangalore or Chennai and would like to opt for a more conventional classroom program, we got you covered there too!


b) Pick up a book


You can pick up a book that contains real (but retired) GRE questions:


If you are wondering what to expect in the book, here is the GRE Official Guide (OG) review for you.


What’s more? Here is a playlist with explanations for all GRE OG Verbal Questions:



You can also check our GRE Verbal Strategy book on Amazon:


CrackVerbal GRE Verbal Strategy   


I hope you found this blog useful.


Please spread its value by sharing the blog on your social media channels, and letting your friends know about it.


Also, I would love to know if you have any questions about the GRE Verbal section, so go ahead, and let me know in the Comments section.


That’s all folks!



5 GRE Words With Indian Origins

Reading Time: 3 minutes

As discussed in many of our previous blogs, the secret to building a formidable vocabulary is to learn them meaningfully and to make connections (Themes, Etymology etc.. ).

We’ve seen how some words have their origins in Greek Mythology. In this blog, let’s dig a little closer to home : below are 5  GRE words that originated in India.

GRE Word #1 Avatar


Not to be confused with the hybrid space clones from the movie with the same name! The word avatar was originally the sanskrit word avatarana which describes a deity (god) that has descended to Earth in human form.

In everyday usage, avatar refers to the incarnation, embodiment, or manifestation of a person or idea.

Eg: “So that was sort of the biggest discovery: that there isn’t one self-made man, there were all these different avatars of the idea.”


Other GRE Words with similar meanings:

Incarnation, Personification, Manifestation, Epitome


GRE Word #2  Juggernaut


Derived from the name of the Hindu God Jagannath, juggernaut means a huge, powerful, and overwhelming force. This usage originated as an analogy to the Hindu Ratha Yatra temple car, which, in many instances, was reputed to crush devotees under its wheels – therefore the idea of an ‘unstoppable force’.

Eg: “While such sales growth is far better than what other major retailers expect, it would mark a slowdown in growth for the Amazon  juggernaut.”

Other GRE Words with similar meanings:

Barrage, Blitz, Cavalcade


GRE Word #3 Mogul


The word ‘Mogul’ is described a member of the Muslim dynasty of Mongol origin that ruled much of India from the 16th to the 19th century. As a result, in today’s context the word is used to describe a person who wields a lot of power and is a leader i.e. a powerful businessman.

Eg: “Steve Jobs is proclaimed to be one of the most influential tech moguls of this century; his death made many question whether we will ever see another as charismatic and exuberant as he.” 

Other GRE Words with similar meanings:

Baron, Tycoon, Magnate


GRE Word #4 Nirvana


In Sanskrit, Nirvana means an extinction or disappearance (of the individual soul into the universal) it literally means  “to blow out, a blowing out”. This has relevance in Indian Religions in which nirvana indicates the attainment of moksha, where one is liberated from the endless process or rebirth or reincarnations and the soul finds eternal peace and stillness.

Therefore, in modern usage, the words is used to indicate an idilic state of peace, happiness and enlightenment.

Eg: “We’ve the slightly surprising news that Panama is actually the happiest country in the world, overtaking the former global nirvana of Denmark.”

Other GRE Words with similar meanings:

Oblivion, Serenity, Bliss, Tranquility


GRE Word #5  Mugger


The Indian Subcontinent has a species of crocodile called the Mugger Crocodile  or locally called magara. This species is attributed with being stealthy and quiet when it attacks its prey.

In modern use the word is used to describe a person who assaults and robs someone, especially in public places. If you’ve been robbed by such a person – you’ve been mugged!

Eg: “When a cop arrived, my dad pointed out that the muggers now had our home address and our house keys.”

Other GRE Words with similar meanings:

Highwayman, Brigand, Bandit


Do you know any other words with Indian origins? Leave your comments in the comments section below!

Would you like to learn GRE words the fun way such that you will never forget them again? Check out our GRE Flashcards, tailored for the Indian test-taker!

Explore GRE Flashcards!
  • November, 6th, 2014
  • Posted in

Taming the Beast Part 2: Using Word Roots to build GRE Vocabulary

Reading Time: 2 minutes

In our previous blog we discussed ways to make the GRE Vocabulary building process much less tedious by understanding how the, ever-so-famous, word-lists should be used!

Now, assuming that you’re on your way to building a vast and impressive GRE vocabulary, we’ll be discussing some ways to better manage the enormous volumes of words that you have, and will become acquainted with.

Why is it important to organize the words you have learnt?

Because, contrary to what education in India might have us believe, the human mind is not really a great device to hoard massive amounts of information! What it is meant for is processing, analyzing and making sense of things that it happens to chance upon. Our brains are constantly making connections; it loves making connections – sometimes even ones that don’t exist! 🙂

This realization helps us approach vocabulary building from a perspective that is more sensitive to what the brain wants!


Meaninglessly pummelling your brain with seemingly disconnected words and their “definitions” does no good to encourage your brain into doing what you want it to do.

Instead, here’s the answer to making vocabulary building way more effective and fun (for you and your brain) : Make connections!

While learning words, connections could be made the following ways – Word Roots, Visual and Phonetic Mnemonics, Word Maps, Inclines and Personalizations.

Let us look at one of the most effective – word roots!

Word Roots

Many English words originate from Greek or Latin sources.
These words, most times, carry a small part of the source word from the parent language that depicts the core concept: these parts are called roots.

For example,

In medieval Latin “fallibilis” means liable to err or to be deceitful (of course this word shares its roots with the word “fail” as well!)

The word fallible originates from this word.

The word infallible also originates from the same parent word. It amalgamates with the prefix in- (meaning: opposite of). The word infallible, therefore means incapable of failure or error.

Another word with the same root is fallibility, it uses the suffix  -ity which means “having the quality of”

Another example is the greek word “anhropos” meaning man/human being. Some of the related words in English are:

[Anthrop + logy (study of)] Anthropology: the study of humans and their societal relationships.

[Anthrop + morphic (form, shape)]Anthropomorphic: suggesting human characteristics for animals or inanimate things

[Mis (from miso : hate)+anthrop] Misanthrope: someone who dislikes people in general

[phil (loving, fond of,)+anthrop] Philanthropist: someone who makes charitable donations intended to increase human well-being


Roots help you notice patterns among words, but if you go about trying to guess the meaning of words based on their possible roots – you will find yourself getting into a lot of trouble.

Use Etymology, instead, to help clump together similarly themed words (based on the roots they share). This also helps you understand words better.

Sometimes being able to recognize the roots could help you make that decisive intelligent-guess on your Sentence Equivalence or Text Completion questions: this makes the difference between a wrong and a right answer!

Use the etymological dictionary; it is a great place to understand the roots present in a word, and also find other words that use the same roots!

Check out our next blog in the ‘Taming The Beast Series’, on using inclines to build vocabulary.

What do you find helpful in building your GRE vocabulary? Leave your comments below!

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  • October, 4th, 2014
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Learn 10 Words through GRE Flashcards

Reading Time: 3 minutes

If you’ve been reading our blogs you know that Vocabulary building is a very important part of preparing for the GRE Verbal Ability sections.

Although there are many ways to build vocabulary, you must work with a focus on developing a deep and meaningful understanding of words rather than just “mugging up” a few thousand words without really understanding what they mean. Read our blog on learning words through context to know one way of learning words effectively.

That said, you will realise that getting to understanding the meaning of a word is one thing, but recalling what a word means when you see it – is quite a different challenge all by itself! To over come this one needs to find ways to effectively remember and recall what a word means.

One such way is using flashcards: specifically the GRE Mnemonic Flashcards!

10 Words through Flashcards

Let’s take a look at 10 words that people generally have troubling recalling the meanings for!

1. Compunction


The word compunction means to feel sad because you did something bad.

I’m sure you’ve all experienced this feeling – the feeling of abject guilt  because you did something nasty or that feeling of guilt that prevents you from doing something nasty!

Take a look at this flashcard – the visual and the textual triggers should help you create a link to the word and the concept that it stands for – ensuring that you recall the concept every time you see the word!

2. Facetious


Again, another one of those words that doesn’t “look” anything like what it “means”.

Facetious means to be deliberately non-serious in times that require seriousness; it also means to deliberately approach serious things with a sense of levity (lack of seriousness).

This Mnemonic should set you up to never forget what the word “facetious” mean!

3. Imperious


To be arrogant and overbearing is to be imperious. Can be easily confused with words such as imperial or empirical. The Flashcard gives you a context in which this word can be remembered without much confusion.

4. Lassitude


Another one of those words that don’t lend themselves easily to memory. The Flashcard and the mnemonics present there are self explanatory!

Warning: you’re never going to forget what ‘Lassitude’ means after you’ve seen this flashcard! 🙂

Here are 5 more words you can ensure you’d remember! These Flashcards need no explanation! 🙂

5. Pugnacious


6. Zealot


7. Ostracise


8. Celerity


9. Abdicate


10. Pedantic


Wasn’t that easy?

Try recalling the meanings of these words now!

Compunction   Ostracise    Abdicate    Facetious    Pugnacious
Pedantic    Imperious    Celerity    Lassitude    Zealot

So, what do you think? Does this make it easier for you to remember words? Leave your comments in the comment section below!

Want to make Vocabulary building fun and hassle free? Check out our GRE flashcards ( the above ones are from the same set 🙂 ) that are tailored for the Indian test-taker!

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  • September, 5th, 2014
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Taming the Beast Part 3: Using ‘inclines’ to build GRE Vocabulary

Reading Time: 2 minutes

In our previous blog we discussed using Etymology as a neat mnemonic tool. We also elaborated about how Etymology helps make connections with words you’ve already learned and words that you will possibly learn. Making connections while learning vocabulary is important, it makes building vocabulary involving, entertaining and fun.

Once you’ve obtained a vast reservoir of words, you’ll realize that having all of them sorted in your head becomes a nightmare. What you need is a system that helps you clump up these huge amounts of words in a meaningful way.

A system that will help you not just organize them thematically, but also one that will help you remember the distinct differences in the tone and meaning of the words.

Inclines are meant to address exactly this!


An incline essentially clumps up similarly themed words, it’s an incline that signifies the degree of variation in meaning among the words. Look at the examples mentioned below.

gre image

Starting from “timid”, which means to be shy: timid isn’t really a negative word, it just means that a person or thing is shy. The word diffident however indicates a lack of confidence, when a person doubts his or her own abilities.

“Diffident” has a negative connotation. So does the word “pusillanimous”, which again means to lack confidence, but also indicates that a person is cowardly. At the top is the word “craven” which means to be very cowardly and has a very negative connotation.

If a person calls you timid, he might actually mean it in a positive sense. Implying that you are of a shy and peaceable temperament. But, if someone calls you “craven” there is no doubt that they look down on you and have a very negative opinion of you.

Take a look at the other inclines as well. Do you see the distinctions in meaning?

When you learn words, make sure you learn them in context. Also, make sure you clump them up based on their common themes. When this is done, making inclines becomes much less arduous.

Sure, making inclines takes time and effort, but the rewards of spending the extra time to figure out the nuances in meaning among the words will definitely pay off on the GRE, especially with those tricky SE and TC questions!

Have you used inclines to aid your preparation? What has your experience been? Leave your comments in the comment section below!

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  • July, 8th, 2014
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Use GRE Flashcards: Stop Mugging Up!

Reading Time: 2 minutes

In our Taming the Beast series we discussed ways to effectively approach Vocabulary Building for the GRE.

Yet, being competent at learning new words may not translate to being successful in remembering them. This is especially true if you have to learn vast volumes of words in a short period (as required while preparing for exams such as the GRE).


The real problem lies in our ability to recall a word and successfully associate it to what concepts / ideas those words serve to express. This is where Flashcards become quite useful.

Traditional GRE Flashcards

The traditional GRE flashcards in its simplest form is a small card that has the word on one  face and its definitions on the other. See example below.



The rationale is that you create these cards for the difficult words you come across and create a pile of such cards that you go through frequently. You force your brain to remember these words through brute force: you go through these words often and work your brain every time until the words is consolidated in your memory.


This is effective to an extent – the problem is that this method can be quite boring and demotivating. How do you find redemption then?


 CrackVerbal’s GRE Flashcards


CrackVerbal’s GRE Flashcards set is our answer to the questions “How do I make vocabulary building fun?”. We realised that memory building is, for most people, closely related to visual (sight) and phonetic (sound) stimuli. These GRE Flashcards are designed keeping exactly this in mind.

Here are a few examples of our GRE flashcards:


PicMonkey Collage












By utilising both phonetic and visual triggers your brain will immediately make associations that last permanently. We’ve isolated a set of 500 high frequency GRE words and have created Mnemonic flashcards for them.  This will substantially improve your Vocabulary building process for Vocabulary intensive tests such as GRE and CAT.

Improve your Vocabulary right now : Check out our GRE Flashcards!

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  • June, 25th, 2014
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Learn GRE Vocabulary through Greek Mythology

Reading Time: 4 minutes


The Greek language has had a huge influence on the English language. There are a lot of words that took shape from stories belonging to Greek mythology. Below are six GRE words that have their roots in Greek Mythology!

#1 Procrustean

Procrustes – a smith from the Greek Mythology – was infamous. The story goes like this: Procrustes would invite guests home to rest in his bed. If they didn’t fit the bed – he “made” them fit the bed by either stretching them to make them (the travellers) longer or chopping off their legs to make them shorter! Gruesome – I know!
Therefore, when something is Procrustean, different lengths or sizes or properties are fitted to an arbitrary standard.
For Example: “The would-be critic starts out in life with a sort of Procrustean ideal of measurement, to which everything has to be cut down.” – Hollander, Lee Milton

#2 Narcissism

Narcissus, another figure from the Greek Mythology, was very proud of himself and admired himself excessively. One day while Narcissus was strolling by a pool he noticed his reflection. Seeing his reflection in the pool and realising how attractive he was – he fell in love with himself. He was so transfixed by his own beauty that he grew old and died at the pool, gazing at his own image.
When some one is a Narcissist or someone exhibits the quality of Narcissism- he or she has an excessively grandiose view of oneself; they also admire themselves (physical or otherwise) excessively.
Don’t confuse this with the feeling of self-worth or love. Narcissists don’t just like themselves, they love themselves above everything else: they are obsessed with themselves.
For Example: “Lily remains a dedicated narcissist, addicted to face-lifts and a number of self-gratifying social causes”.

#3 Herculean

Hercules was a Greek Hero and the son of Zeus. He was famed for his superhuman strength and ability to achieve feats that were almost impossible. Hercules is well known for his adventures – the most well known are the “12 Labours” which required Hercules to accomplish 12 almost impossible tasks.
The word ‘herculean’ means exactly this; it suggests that something requires a great amount of strength and effort to accomplish.
For Example:“Any effort to remove the non-native rainbow and brown trout in these areas would be “nearly impossible – Herculean, expensive, and unpopular,” Kumlein said”

#4 Bacchanal

Bacchus, was the god of the grape harvest, winemaking and wine, of ritual madness and ecstasy in Greek mythology. He was associated with unrestrained celebrations and revelries. Therefore, when a celebration (a party) goes wild with different kinds of promiscuities it’s a bacchanal.
For Example: “Based on Belfort’s memoir about his evolution from penny-stock peddler to millionaire trader, Scorsese’s adaptation is a capitalist critique in the form of a bacchanal.”-  About the movie “The Wolves of Wall’s Street”

#5 Mercurial

The god ‘Mercury’, also called Hermes, was a messenger god. The planet Mercury was named after him. What’s peculiar about Mercury is that the temperatures in this planet undergo extreme changes very frequently : it reaches about -200°C during the night and goes up above 400°C during the day!
When someone is subject to sudden or unpredictable changes of mood or mind – he/she is Mercurial.
For Example: “Mr. Sadr, 40, a somewhat mercurial figure, has made such announcements before and then has changed his mind.”

#6 Plutocracy

Pluto, also called Hades, was god of the underworld. There were two popular attributes to the underworld:
1. Place where bad people went after they died.
2. Place where all the precious stones could be found.
Therefore Pluto, as a god, was the god of hell as well as the god of riches. As a result the root pluto- could be used to mean either “hell like” or “wealth”. In the case of the word ‘plutocracy’, the root uses the latter meaning.
Plutocracy is therefore a political scenario in which the rich and powerful have control over the masses.
For Example:“A progressive tax system should maintain or reduce income inequality so that our society is more of a meritocracy than a plutocracy.”
Want to know more about word roots? Read this blog about etymology to know more.
Liked what you read? Leave your comments in the comment section below!
Would you like to learn more words the fun way? Check out our flashcards, tailored for the Indian test-taker!
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Build GRE Vocabulary through Etymology

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Etymology is the study of the origin of words. Many words in English have been adapted from foreign sources. And many of the big GRE words do in fact share similar roots. This of course leads us to a very important question:

How does understanding Roots help you build GRE vocabulary?

1.They help make connections with words you know and the words you will eventually come to know. This ensures that you can remember a vast volume of words that share similar roots, even if they have quite different usages and meanings.

2. Roots act like mnemonics. They help you remember words more effectively: even if you forget what the word means you might still remember the “theme” and that might be all that is needed to make an educated guess during the exam!

3.They can help you learn new words that have related roots or share the same root. And remembering these words are so much easier since you already know what their base meaning is!

Still not convinced? Let me take you through some words and their roots and some other words that share the same roots. You’ll  realise how awesome roots are for building GRE Vocabulary by the time you finish reading this post!

1.Circum– The root circum means “around” (like circumference). Here are some words that use the root “circum”:

circumnavigate:  meaning to navigate or travel all around

circumambulate:  meaning to amble or walk all around

circumspect:  ‘spect’ means to see (like spectator, spectacle); when someone is circumspect he or she is very vigilant and cautious. Think of it as someone who always looks over their shoulders and behind them to ensure everything is fine – some one who is extremely cautious.

circumscribe: scribe means to draw or write. Here it means to restrict or limit something – to constrain. Think of it as drawing a circle around someone and prohibiting them from crossing it. You are constraining them to within that limit.

circumlocution: Loqui means to talk. Circumlocution is to talk evasively and avoid the topic / issue at hand. It means to beat around the bush!

2. Loqui: As an off shoot of this we could explore the root “loqui” which means to “talk”. Some words of interest with “loqui” are:

loquacious: Someone who is loquacious is capable of talking a lot : a very talkative person.

eloquent: Eloquent people talk very effectively – they can convince others. They are characterised by their good use of language.

soliloquy: Solo = single. Soliloquy therefore means the act of speaking to oneself.

monologue: Mono = one. When just one person speaks (and no one else contributes) it’s a monologue.

grandiloquence: Speaking loftily and bombastically – in a grand manner is what grandiloquence means.

magniloquence: Again, magniloquence means to speak pompously in a highly exaggerated manner.

somniloquy: Like in the word insomnia – somn = sleep; somniloquy is the act of sleep talking!

Watch the Video (Opens in a new tab)  to learn how the suffixes interact with the roots and how the meaning of these words are formed by these roots. Stay tuned for more GRE vocabulary related perspectives.

Want to learn many more words the fun way? Check out our GRE flashcards, tailored for the Indian test-taker!

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  • April, 27th, 2014
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Text Completion on the GRE

Reading Time: 3 minutes


Text Completion questions in GRE are considered daunting for two reasons:

Killer Sentence Structures

Difficult Vocabulary

In this article we will discuss these challenges and learn effective ways to overcome them.

1. Killer Sentence Structures

The Text Completion questions can range from being one sentence long to several sentences long. In fact, the current observable trend in GRE questions suggests that ETS (the people who create the test) is starting to make its Text Completion questions more like the Short Reading Comprehension passages in both length and complexity.

Take a look at this body of text for instance –

Color blindness is usually classified as a mild disability, yet occasionally it can be considered ________: some evolutionary studies suggest that people with some types of color blindness  _________ colors that people with normal color vision find ___________ .

  1. a severe disability
  2. a gift
  3. advantageous
  4. can discern
  5. indistinguishable.

Sure, this isn’t the most complex sentence that you might see, neither is it the longest, but the text does provide you a sample of how a Text Completion question could convolute the intended message.

Let us explain: Although you might be predisposed to filling the first blanked portion with a word such as “a severe disability”, it is equally likely that the words “a gift” could fit the context as well! Remember that the keyword here is “mild disability” and the transition word is “yet”.

If you work with this knowledge, solving this question becomes easy. The only words that could fit the context are “advantageous”, “can discern” and “indistinguishable”.

How do you overcome complex sentence structures?

Pay heed to transition words.

In the question discussed ‘yet occasionally’ showed a contrast in the logical flow of the idea discussed.

Never approach TC by filling in the blank with what “sounds correct”.

Instead, pay heed to structural cues within the sentences that show the flow of direction: the keywords. ‘usually classified as a mild disability’ was the keyword in the question discussed previously.

2. Difficult Vocabulary

As mentioned in previous blogs, GRE tests contextual meaning. Failing to understand this results in problems: students end up having a very superficial understanding of the words and find themselves dumbfounded when they realize that they cannot relate to the words tested even though these words have already been “studied”.

One aspect that is challenging about text completion vocabulary is that nuances in meaning are tested. Another aspect that makes vocabulary in Text Completion challenging is that secondary meanings are tested.

For instance:

The Senator made a _________ endorsement of the new immigration policy, stating that while its scope was limited, it does amend some of the inconsistencies of the current immigration policies.

  1. unrestrained
  2. wholehearted
  3. reviled
  4. qualified
  5. protracted

The structure for this text was not that complex; the vocabulary for the most part was not challenging either. But we’re willing to bet a pretty penny that many of you may not have gotten to the correct response, or if you did – you got there with some difficulty. The answer to this question is “qualified”!

Why “qualified”?

We know that the senator’s endorsement wouldn’t have been a wholehearted one; it is restrained or limited because we know that he feels that the policy’s scope is limited. “Qualified”, apart from meaning ‘to have the required qualifications’, also means ‘limited’.

How do you work around  difficult vocabulary?

Use a wordlist that addresses secondary meanings that are tested on the GRE.

Understand that secondary definitions are sometimes tested on the GRE.

Look out for parts of speech among the answer choices. All options for a specific blank will always be of the same part of speech. If a familiar word is being used in a different part of speech, it is probable that a secondary meaning is tested.

For example:

The word wag as a Verb means to move rapidly, like the tail of a dog; but the word wag as a Noun means a witty and intelligent person!

Leave us your comments in the comments section below!

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  • March, 24th, 2014
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6 Confusing GRE Words – Homonyms

Reading Time: 2 minutes

While learning new words, you might have come across sets of words that seemed too similar to each other and those which you ultimately confuse the usage of. The technical term for this is homonyms.

Here are some confusing words that we’ve noticed people mixing up!

1. Principle vs Principal

My principal, the head of the school I studied in, once told me “remember, a principal is your PAL” (yeah right!). Although grossly untrue- that statement served as a great mnemonic.

A principal is the head or the most important part of something.
Whereas, a principle is a belief or rule that one lives by or is expected to live by.

2. Appraise vs Apprise

The word appraise means to be evaluated; for instance, appraisals at work. Remember that one always wishes to be praised after one is appraised! (lame mnemonic, you’re thinking? But it works!).

Apprise on the other hand means to inform someone of something. Eg: My manager apprised me of the appraisals that were scheduled to happen in a month.

3. Collide vs Collude

I’ve actually heard a person say “My car colluded with another car yesterday”.
Hopefully what he meant to say was that his car collided with another car!Collide means to crash into. Collude means to conspire!

Perhaps the only time cars conspired was in the movie Cars 2. Remember all those old rickety cars that conspired to take over the world? Those cars were colluding!

4. Uninterested vs Disinterested

Often assumed (wrongly) to be interchangeable, many people misuse the word “disinterested”.
While “uninterested”, which means that one lacks interest in something, generally has a negative connotation, “disinterested” has a positive connotation. Disinterested means to not be biased – to be impartial!

5. Compliment vs Complement

Quick tip: complement looks like complete, and that’s what it means!
When something adds on to and completes something else it complements it.
Eg: A very smooth operating system complements the carefully selected hardware on the new iPhone 5s!

The word “compliment” of course means to praise someone or something.

6. Torturous vs Tortuous

Remember that the word Torture is similar to the word Torturous.

Eg: Visits to the dentist always end up being torturous: I’m always in more pain after meeting him than before!

Tortuous, on the other hand, has its roots from the word “torque” which sort of means to twist. Tortuous means to have a lot of twists and turns – to not be straightforward.
A movie could be hard to follow because its plot is very tortuous.

These are just some of the words that people find confusing. What words confuse you? Why? Do you have a way of avoiding this confusion? Tell us all about it by leaving a comment below!

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  • January, 13th, 2014
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The Importance of Context in GRE Verbal

GRE Learning by context
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Although, techniques and “know-how” will help you get a respectable score, they, by themselves, may not be enough to secure a 160+ on the GRE Verbal. To really push the envelope while preparing for the GRE, you’ll need to understand that some GRE verbal reasoning questions test –

1. Your ability to analyse and make sense of complexly constructed sentences.

2. High level vocabulary.

3. Your ability to understand the meaning of words in context

The first and the second are easily achievable by most students , but the third is a bit of a problem for many.

Understanding words in context:

This involves the understanding of nuances (fine distinctions) in meaning.

Let us illustrate this with an example:

The words ‘firm, obstinate and pig-headed’ have the same factual meaning; yet, contextually there is a tremendous difference between them. Look at the following sentences –

John is firm.

John is obstinate.

John is pig-headed.

These words betray the emotions, or in other words indicate the “tone” with respect to John. The word ‘firm’ has a strong tone of approval; ‘obstinate’ has a tone of mild disapproval and ‘pig-headed’ has a tone of strong disapproval.

Context in GRE TC and SE

In questions such as Text Completion (TC) or Sentence Equivalence (SE) there might be several answer choices that have the same functional meaning; the right answer, though, will be one which agrees with the tone of the sentence.

For example:

Janet was infamous for her __________ responses, which were seldom verbose and often disliked.

A. loquacious

B. curt

C. terse

D. brusque

E. prolix

F. laconic

We know that Janet is seldom verbose – her responses therefore are short and to the point – but we also know that she was infamous, and that people disliked her responses. We, therefore, need a word with a negative tone – or connotation.

Let’s look at the answers: prolix and loquacious are obviously wrong as these mean “talkative”, laconic and terse mean to be short and to the point – but they do not carry a negative connotation. The only correct answer pair therefore is curt and brusque!


Incredibly tricky questions in SE and TC are often created thus: by introducing answer choices that test nuances in meaning.

Context in GRE RC

Of course, the scope of context and nuances is not just restricted to SE and TC. It plays an important role in Reading Comprehension as well!

Understanding the author’s tone towards an issue or a person discussed in the passage will substantially increase your accuracy and quickness in gathering the overall idea of the passage.

The tone of an author towards a subject can be found by understanding the connotation of the words used by the author.

For instance: Words such as ‘admirable, commendable and notable’ have a positive connotation, whereas words such as ‘inadequate, unfortunate and absurd’ have a negative connotation.This extends to answer choices that relate to questions that ask for the author’s tone with respect to something in the passage.


Authors are seldom indifferent to the subject they are writing about. Think about it, no one in their right mind would bother writing about something they don’t care about!

Now that you know the importance of the finer, subtler aspects of GRE english, go on to –

1. Learn words in context- read this blog to know how!

2. Become familiar with tone words : here is a small list to get you started!


Do leave your comments in the comments section below!

If you are wondering where to learn more about nuanced language and thereby ace your GRE Verbal section, look no further – explore our top-notch GRE courses!

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  • October, 11th, 2013
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