How to Boost Your GRE Sentence Equivalence Score

GRE Sentence Equivalence Word Cloud
Reading Time: 10 minutes

For many non-native English speakers, preparing for the GRE means going hard on developing stronger GRE vocabulary. If you’re reading this article about GRE sentence equivalence, you are probably beginning to understand that there’s more to GRE prep than just learning a bunch of words.

The GRE is about understanding words so you can use them correctly.

Questions on the GRE don’t need you to know the definitions of difficult words you’ve never heard of before. Most of the time, they want you to pick the right word or words to fill in a blank and complete a sentence. But when it comes to Sentence Equivalence, things get a bit more complicated than sentence completion in GRE.

The most commonly asked questions include:

In order to crack GRE Sentence Equivalence questions, you have to pick two right answers instead of one.

This can be a daunting and supremely confusing task, even for the best of us.

In this article, we will attempt to answer the above questions in detail.


Sentence Equivalence vs. Sentence Completion in GRE

To start off – there is no such thing as sentence completion in GRE. The GRE Verbal syllabus is split into the following parts:

  • Sentence Equivalence
  • Text Completion
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Critical Reasoning

So, sentence completion in GRE, as a concept, is either a carry-over from GMAT sentence correction or confusion between GRE Text Completion and GRE Sentence Equivalence.

Conceptually, we tend to look at any fill-in-the-blanks kind of a question as a ‘sentence completion’ question. So, Text Completion and Sentence Equivalence in GRE, both tend to be called ‘sentence completion’ questions more often than not – even though there is no such thing as sentence completion in the GRE.

In any case, when you see one sentence with one blank and six options to pick an answer from, your intuition will be to look for one option that completes the sentence. However, that is only a part of what’s required in the GRE Sentence Equivalence.

A typical Sentence Equivalence question will consist of one sentence with one blank. It will offer six answer options, and your objective is to choose two options, both of which should give the sentence similar meanings. Things begin to get complicated when more than two options look like they may be viable answers – which is exactly what happens most times.

It is in these situations that you need to employ smart tactics and find your answers quickly.


Tactics to Improve Your GRE Verbal Score

As mentioned, you can expect more than two of the available answer options to sound appropriate, which could lead you to believe they must be the right answers. However, you’d be quite wrong to go with answers that merely complete the sentence meaningfully.

The objective in Sentence Equivalence questions is to pick two words that create synonymous sentences.

Pay close attention:

The objective is not to pick synonymous words from the given options, it is to pick words that create two synonymous sentences.

Now, you must be wondering, “What is the difference between synonyms and synonymous sentences?”

Here’s the answer.

Synonyms are two or more words that have the same or similar meanings. These words may carry different connotations but they will still be considered synonyms if they can be interpreted to mean the same thing.

Synonymous sentences, on the other hand, are two complete sentences (not just words) that convey similar meanings, irrespective of how they are worded.

The GRE Sentence Equivalence questions will consist of one sentence each, with one of the keywords removed. You will be expected to complete the sentence in two ways – by using two words, one at a time – so that the two sentences thus created are synonymous.

There are five winning tactics you can employ to maximize your chances of getting Sentence Equivalence answers right.

  1. Original Answer Creation
  2. Sentence Simplification
  3. Option Elimination
  4. Synonymity Check
  5. RISE

Let’s take a look!

1. Original Answer Creation

You may be tempted to skip this step because it seems unnecessary.

That’s a trap! 

The first step is a bit unconventional but it is extremely important. It will help you figure out whether you have actually understood the question well or not. 

What you should do at this stage is, read the question carefully and try to come up with an original answer for it. It gets tough to put the answer options out of your mind, so we recommend literally covering the answers with your hand while you attempt to do this. 

If you can come up with your own answer – a word that gives complete meaning to the sentence – it means you have understood exactly what needs to go into that blank. It helps you gain a sneak-peek into the completed picture so that you know the full meaning of what is being said.

Once you know the bigger picture, it becomes easier for you to reverse-engineer the answers. Let’s look at the same example and try this out:

“The German painter is sublime, profound, and authoritative in a way that invites high-flown comparisons and invocations of art history, yet his own utterances on art would suggest he finds such ____ repulsive, and is suspicious of anything that romanticizes the creative act.” 

We think the word ‘pretentiousness’ fits well in this context. It aptly indicates the disdain that the artist feels for such superlative praise, and it is a noun. 

Besides, this is not one of the answer options provided. So, we know now that we have understood the question properly. 

Let’s get on to breaking the question down now.

2. Sentence Simplification

Sentence equivalence questions can be of varying difficulty levels. The tougher the question is meant to be, the more complex the sentence structure will be. Often, this confuses people. For example, consider this question:

“The German painter is sublime, profound, and authoritative in a way that invites high-flown comparisons and invocations of art history, yet his own utterances on art would suggest he finds such ____ repulsive, and is suspicious of anything that romanticizes the creative act.”

There is so much being said in this sentence that it takes us a moment to wrap our heads around it. When you’re taking the GRE, you won’t have the luxury of taking your time to answer each question; you’ll need to be as quick as possible.

So, cut out the unnecessary information from the sentence.

Get rid of flamboyant but unnecessary descriptions first, followed by excess adjectives:

“The German painter is so authoritative that it invites superlative comparisons, yet his own utterances on art would suggest he finds such ____ repulsive, and is suspicious of anything that romanticizes the creative act.”

Then, consider what value the presented facts add to the given sentence. Remove anything that adds inconsequential information:

“The German painter is authoritative in a way that invites superlative comparisons, yet his own utterances on art would suggest he finds such ____ repulsive.”

By now, the sentence structure is simple enough for you to start considering the answer options without any confusion. But even so, if big and unusual words intimidate you, feel free to replace them with simpler synonyms and change the structure of the sentence a little. You’ll be okay as long as you maintain the meaning:

“The German painter is such a great artist that it invites superlative comparisons, yet his own comments on art suggest that he finds such ____ repulsive.”

Once you have broken the sentence down into simpler words and a palatable structure, it becomes significantly easier to consider the answer options.

This brings us to the next step.

3. Option Elimination

So, now that you have a clear sentence that is easy to understand, read it and compare it to the original question just to make sure you haven’t lost out on anything important.

Once you’re certain there is no loss of important information between the original question and the edited version, you can begin considering the answer options.

Although this step is called option elimination, we suggest you start off by mentally inserting each answer option, one by one, to see which ones fit the bill. There will be options that don’t really make sense – those are the ones you should eliminate.

Let’s continue with the same example from the previous step.

“The German painter is sublime, profound, and authoritative in a way that invites high-flown comparisons and invocations of art history, yet his own utterances on art would suggest he finds such ____ repulsive, and is suspicious of anything that romanticizes the creative act.”

Here are the given answer options:

  1. Cynicism
  2. Exaggeration
  3. Skepticism
  4. Antipathy
  5. Zealotry
  6. Hyperbole

Let’s go to one option at a time.

The word ‘such’ in the question refers to the act of making ‘high-flowing comparisons and invocations of art history’. The word that follows should be a noun that a person would use to refer to this act if they think it is repulsive.

Now, the word ‘cynicism’ means an inclination to believe that people only do things for selfish reasons, or to disbelieve the face-value of what is being said. Since the word is supposed to apply to the act of giving high praise, ‘cynicism’ does not fit in the context. Option ‘c.’, ‘skepticism’ has a similar meaning and it is equally unfit to be the answer.

On the other hand, ‘exaggeration’ means presenting something as much better or much worse than it really is. The given sentence mentions high-flowing comparisons and references to art history, and the artist may think that such things are overstated, or ‘exaggerated’. That makes this word a good fit. Answer option ‘f.’, ‘hyperbole’ also means overstating and exaggerating, which makes this a good fit, too.

That leaves us with two possible options, ‘antipathy’ and ‘zealotry’. The former means a lack of feeling, while the latter means fanaticism or extremism. Nothing in the given statement refers to a lack of feeling or even implies it in any manner. It doesn’t make sense that the artist would think of overstated praise for his work as lacking in sentiment, so ‘antipathy’ is ruled out.

He may consider overemphasized praise to be overzealous and fanatic, in a way, so ‘zealotry’ is a possible answer. The word also carries a negative connotation, and it makes sense that the artist would, therefore, find it repulsive.

So, we have eliminated three possible answers and are now left with three.

Do you think you have the answer already?

Well, good – but don’t jump to any conclusions yet, there is one more step to ensure you’re not wrong.

4. Synonymity Check

The final ‘nail in the coffin’, so to speak, is to check the answer options to see if they create synonymous sentences.

Remember that it is not necessary for answer options to be synonymous for them to create synonymous sentences. The only thing you need to be sure of is whether they convey similar meanings within the given context.

Let’s review the remaining options we have:


One thing that jumps out at us is the obvious synonymity between ‘exaggeration’ and ‘hyperbole’, but let’s still follow due course just to be on the safe side. The thing is, it may seem obvious but it may still turn out to be wrong. Besides, it may not always be obvious in other cases.

So, here are the three possible answers:

“The German painter is sublime, profound, and authoritative in a way that invites high-flown comparisons and invocations of art history, yet his own utterances on art would suggest he finds such exaggeration repulsive, and is suspicious of anything that romanticizes the creative act.”

“The German painter is sublime, profound, and authoritative in a way that invites high-flown comparisons and invocations of art history, yet his own utterances on art would suggest he finds such zealotry repulsive, and is suspicious of anything that romanticizes the creative act.”

“The German painter is sublime, profound, and authoritative in a way that invites high-flown comparisons and invocations of art history, yet his own utterances on art would suggest he finds such hyperbole repulsive, and is suspicious of anything that romanticizes the creative act.”

In this case, we notice that inserting ‘zealotry’ into the blank conveys a stronger sense of dislike and hints at possible hostility on the part of the artist towards the act of giving superlative praise.

However, ‘exaggeration’ and ‘hyperbole’ both convey a general dislike and disapproval on the part of the artist towards the same act.

Clearly, the answer is option ‘b. Exaggeration’ and ‘f. Hyperbole’.


At CrackVerbal, we advise our students to use a single mnemonic to remember all these steps.

RISE stands for ‘Read, Identify, Synthesize and Eliminate’.

Let’s examine these one at a time.

Read: Before you do anything else, you have to ensure you understand what the given sentence says before you get to work on it. This is the first and most critical step in the entire process. If you misunderstand or skip even a single word, the entire process will be derailed. Your answer could be completely wrong if you don’t read and understand the sentence thoroughly.

Identify Keywords: Whether the question is simple or complex, it is bound to have some specific words that define the entire meaning of the sentence. These are the keywords. They make up the skeleton of the sentence and if a single one of those words is out of place, it could change the meaning of the sentence itself. Identifying these keywords is critical to understanding the simplified meaning of the given sentence.

Synthesize Original Answers: As you know, every sentence comes with its own answer options. You may be tempted to start looking for the answers among those right away, but it’s a better idea to cover the answer options and come up with your own answer first. You don’t have to come up with two words, just one is enough. The idea is to check if you have adequately understood what needs to go in the blank.

Eliminate: Finally, armed with a clear understanding of the given sentence, it’s keywords, and your own answer to complete the sentence, you can begin considering the answer options one by one. Discard those which don’t make sense, then find two which create synonymous sentences.

Once you know these strategies, it is important to practice with real GRE questions. You can easily read and feel like you’ve understood these kinds of GRE tips and tricks but when you’re faced with an actual question, you could still end up feeling utterly stumped.

Moreover, if you haven’t practiced, you won’t be prepared for the common pitfalls of such methods.


Pitfalls to Avoid While Handling GRE Sentence Equivalence

Consider this:

The intended meaning of any given word is only brought out by the context in which it is used, outside of which, the word may mean something entirely different. For example:

Gillian is a woman of fine taste.

The management thought it would be fine to keep the matter quiet.

The group is expected to pay a fine for the transgression.

The meaning of the word ‘fine’ changes observably across the three sentences. Synonyms for ‘fine’ in the first sentence would include, ‘exceptional’, ‘outstanding’, ‘distinguished’; in the second sentence they would be along the lines of, ‘acceptable’, ‘okay’, ‘alright’; and in the third sentence, the synonyms would be, ‘penalty’, ‘fee’, ‘charge’.

Out of context, the word ‘fine’ can mean all of these words!

The idea is that synonyms of a word change according to the context it is placed in. So, it’s not enough to simply pick out a pair of synonyms from the six available options, because the context may fit one word but not the other.

If you use word lists to learn GRE words, this is going to be a particularly difficult section for you to get through. You see, word lists don’t prepare you to handle context, so even if you know the meaning of a word, you won’t know it’s nuanced, contextual uses, making it nearly impossible for you to get this section right.

The best strategy to avoid pitfalls of Sentence Equivalence questions is to ensure that you learn GRE words with context.

In conclusion, if you have made it to the end of this article and are now reading this – congratulations! You know everything you need to know about GRE Sentence Equivalence. All you need to do now is practice, practice and practice some more!

  • March, 7th, 2019
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3 Reasons Why You Should Absolutely Avoid GRE Word Lists!

Avoid Word Lists
Reading Time: 6 minutes

You’ve started preparing for the GRE, the date is coming closer, and your vocabulary is still down in the dumps.

You are beginning to get desperate to make it better, so you look up GRE word lists and begin learning the words.


You are wasting your time.

Word lists are not going to help you get through GRE verbal.

They’re not. Seriously!

Let us explain.

Most Indian students find GRE vocabulary very hard, and for good reason. After all, you’re expected to learn somewhere around 3,000 complex words – words you’ve never even heard of before!

We totally get the temptation to use word lists and why you’d do it. Tell us if any of these reasons seem wrong to you!


Why Word Lists Are Used

  1. That’s Just How It’s Done
    The general trend everywhere is that people don’t question the norm. When you’re told “This is how it’s done,” you would normally just go with it.

    That’s the biggest reason why people still use word lists.

    Simply because nobody thought to ask why we use them or whether they even work. Pretty lame reason to do something, don’t you think? 

  2. Rote Learning FTW! 
    Most of us have been taught to rote-learn things since we were kids. We’ve grown up believing that mugging everything up is a good way to learn, so we never stop to wonder if we actually learn anything from it. 

    The logic is that as long as you score well, you’re doing great! Who cares if you understand any of it!?

    It’s just a carried-over thought that rote-learning is the way to go because it works on most Indian exams.


  4. Hard Work = Success! 
    Indians value hard work. Smart work is good and everything but there is no alternative to hard work. Or at least that’s what most of us believe.

    We’re so ready to do the hard work that we don’t even try to find out if it’s efficient.

    It doesn’t compute for most of us that a smarter way to do something could actually be more effective. Mugging up a GRE word list is extremely inefficient and ineffective, but we do it because we think hard work brings success!


The fact is that GRE word lists do not work.

We repeat, GRE word lists do not work.

They don’t improve your vocabulary and may not change your score by much, either. Here’s why.


Why GRE Word Lists Don’t Work!

  1. There’s No Context
    Think of the brain as a map. Every new word is a new destination on the map.

    When you mug up a word from a GRE word list, you’re learning one way to get to a new destination in a new locality. So, when you need to remember what that word means, you have to navigate through an unknown area because you only know one route that can get you there.

    When you encounter new words while reading or watching something, it becomes a new destination in a locality you’re already familiar with. It is like visiting a new restaurant near your house; you already know various routes to the place. This way, when you need to remember the word and its meaning, you get there quite easily!

    You’ll find more about this in our Building GRE Vocabulary series, but people learn new information by linking it to what they already know. Word lists make you focus on definitions of words. The GRE wants to know if you understand the word, not whether you can recite its definition.

    Let us consider an example.

    Suppose you’re learning the definition of ‘compromise. Here’s the dictionary definition:

    Definition of Compromise
    So you think you know this word now since you know the definition. Very good. Now take a look at this grammatically correct sentence:

    The structural integrity of the building has been compromised.

      This is a classic case where context completely changes the meaning of a word. In this sentence, ‘compromised’ means ‘unable to function optimally.’ You may or may not find this use of the word within its definitions, but it is a popular application of it nonetheless. 


  3. There’s No Pattern
    So here’s a fun fact about the human mind: it is not a computer!

    Your mind is not built to purely store information, it’s built to process it. Word lists sort words in alphabetical order, leaving you with a boring, senseless monotony of data you’re expected to just transfer into your mind, verbatim. 

    As if you can create a spreadsheet and hit Ctrl + S in your mind! 

    Did you know that nature enthusiasts who go on treks into unexplored forests always carry paint or rope with them? This is to help them mark the route they take. They need the paint or rope because the forest is too monotonous, there is no obvious pattern that can help them remember the way without marking it.

    Using GRE word lists for your prep is like walking into the forest without any paint or rope. There’s no way to navigate through that whole mass of information in your mind!

    In short, if there’s no intelligent pattern to the data you’re feeding yourself, you most probably won’t be able to remember what you want to, when you need to.


  5. It’s Inefficient
    Suppose you somehow manage to learn the definitions of 700-800 words by heart. By the way, it is insanely difficult to do even just that much. But even if you do, the amount of work you have to do for it is simply disproportionate. 

    What’s worse is that it’s still useless. Here’s why: 

    Your brain is literally not wired to remember things automatically unless your life depends on remembering. For example, you might need to keep practicing a speech in order to remember it, but you don’t have to meet a lion every morning to remember it can kill you. 

    If you need more evidence, try this: recite the National Pledge right now without looking it up on the internet. 

    How much do you remember?

    Now think about it – if you went to an average Indian school, you repeated the same words every morning for ten years at least. You know the meaning of the pledge, too. And yet… Do you even remember how it ends?

    To remember things better over the long term, you’ll need to revise it all every day. We all know it’s impossible to revise the entire word list every day unless you literally have nothing else to do. And even then, you will forget the words at the end.

    In other words, word lists are just not worth your time!


GRE word lists function on a very flawed basic logic. If you think about it, these lists expect you to remember 10-20 more words for every word you actually want to remember.

How does that even make sense?

That’s the final nail in the coffin as far as we’re concerned – absolutely enough to convince us to avoid GRE word lists like the plague!

There is a variety of things you can do instead. You can learn GRE words with mnemonics, which is a technique you have actually used before. It worked out really well for you if you’re able to read this – you see, mnemonics were used to teach you the alphabet!

Incredibly, the same technique – associating GRE words with pictures and mnemonics – can help boost your memory to improve your vocabulary for the GRE quickly.

Another great technique to improve your vocabulary involves using GRE word roots. Many words in the English language often come from a single word in another language.

For example, the Greek word ‘tele’ means ‘distant’ – based on this, you can gauge the approximate meaning of English words like telephone, teleport, telegram, telepathy, etc.

Sometimes, a word in an amalgamation of two foreign words, like in ‘telepathy’ – ‘tele’ + ‘pathy’: ‘-pathy’ is a commonly used suffix in English and it comes from the Greek word ‘pathos’ meaning ‘suffering, experience, or emotion’.

However, it is risky to rely entirely on roots because they may lead you to completely misinterpret some words. Read our blog post on building GRE vocabulary with roots for more on how to use this technique correctly.

You can bolster your learning methods by also studying grouping as a technique. This will help you identify words that may not belong to the root you think they could belong to.

Grouping is similar to using roots: you make groups of words that are somehow related to each other. They could be synonyms, words used in the same context, or any other way in which you can relate them to each other.

You can go through our blog for more on effective methods to learn GRE words fast.

  • March, 1st, 2019
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Building GRE Vocabulary: Grouping

Reading Time: 7 minutes

When preparing for the GRE, one of the greatest challenges for most aspirants is the verbal section in general and building GRE vocabulary, specifically.

There are many methods that you can use to create a strong English vocabulary that will help you sail through the GRE. Some of the most common ones include using mnemonics, roots, and word lists, although we strongly suggest that you AVOID GRE word lists entirely.

Anyway, 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.

You’ll need a system that will help you not just organize these words thematically, but also remember the distinct differences in their tones and meanings.

Grouping is meant to address exactly this!

There can be various kinds of grouping. In this article, we will discuss:

  1. Grouping by Inclines
  2. Grouping by Context
  3. Grouping by Origins

Let’s take a look at the prominent styles of grouping to get you going.


1. Grouping by Inclines

An incline essentially clumps up similarly-themed words. An incline signifies the degree of variation in meaning among the words.

Look at these examples.

Examples of Inclines

The first incline begins with ‘timid’, which means ‘shy’. While ‘timid’ has no negative connotation of its own, ‘diffident’ has a similar meaning but it carries a slightly disapproving tone by implying a lack of confidence.

‘Pusillanimous’ means ‘showing a lack of courage or determination’, which is slightly more disapproving than ‘diffident’. The word ‘craven’ has a fairly heavy tone of criticism, it means a contemptible lack of courage or cowardly behavior.

If a person calls you timid, they 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 upon 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!


2. Grouping by Context

Another effective way to use grouping is to make groups of words based on the context in which they’re used.

For example, you could group together all the words that are related to the Church.

  1. Friary

    Killarney Friary

    Friars are priests who belong to one out of any of the mendicant orders of the Christian faith. Friars typically wear black robes along with a tassled rope for a belt. They also wear a small black skullcap as a part of their formal uniform. Friaries are church buildings in which friars live.


  2. Ecclesiastical

    The word ‘ecclesiastical’ means ‘of or relating to the church’. The most common usage of the word occurs when referring to the church calendar – it is called the ecclesiastical calendar, or the church calendar. 

    Some of the Christian festivals occur on fixed dates – for example, Christmas is always on the 25th of December – while others like Good Friday and Easter depend on the positions of celestial bodies including the sun and the moon. The ecclesiastical calendar helps in determining the dates for such festivals.

  3. Steeple

    Church Steeples

    A church steeple is the tower and spire of a church. These structures typically bear the Christian cross, displayed either on the top or at the base of the spire, as shown in the steeple in the middle. A steeple may be a spire built on top of a tower, as shown in the left-most pictures, or a spire atop the roof of the church, as shown in the other two pictures.

  4. Oratory
    You may have heard this word in the context of public speaking, when a good speaker is called a great ‘orator’. The term ‘orator’ comes from the Church building known as an oratory. An oratory is a small prayer house, especially the kind built for private worship as opposed to large churches and chapels. Addressing a small audience in an oratory involves public speaking, so presumably, that’s where the word ‘oration’ with its public speaking connotations comes from.

    The word oratory also has another meaning with reference to the Roman Catholic Church. It refers to specific orders of priests who are instituted without having to take the vows average priests do.

  5. Minster
    Westminster Abbey

    If you are familiar with writing related to the British Royal Family, you must have heard of the world-famous ‘Westminster Abbey’. In case you thought ‘minster’ was just a part of the abbey’s name, think again!

    ‘Minster’ is a special title that is conferred upon a handful of churches in England, exclusively. You will not find minsters elsewhere in the world. Before the introduction of parishes and parish churches in the 11th Century, Minsters held significantly higher levels of prestige than they do today.

3. Grouping by Origins

The third way you can use grouping is to cluster words by their origins. The English language has adopted words from various languages, which enables you to create groups of words based on the languages from which they were adopted.

The Greek language has had a huge influence on English. There are a lot of words that took shape from stories belonging to Greek mythology. Here’s a look at some words that were adopted from ancient Greek.

  1. Procrustean

    Procrustes – a smith from 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 travelers) longer or chopping off their legs to make them shorter! Gruesome – we 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
    Greek God Narcissus

    Narcissus, another figure from 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 realizing 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 someone 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 
    Greek God Hercules

    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
    Greek God Bacchus

    Bacchus was the god of the grape harvest, winemaking, and wine, and 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 Wolf of Wall Street”

  5. Mercurial
    Greek God Mercury

    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 

    Greek God Pluto

    Pluto, also called Hades, was the god of the underworld. There were two popular attributes to the underworld: 

    • Place where bad people went after they died.
    • 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.” 

All in all, you can see how grouping can have a massive impact on the way you organize what you learn. In our post about mnemonics, we talked about how the mind works like a map and every new word you learn is a destination on that map.

Grouping helps ensure, just like roots and mnemonics, that you have multiple ways to get to the new destinations (words) you learn. 

We hope you found this article useful. Let us know what you think in the comments below!

  • February, 28th, 2019
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Building GRE Vocabulary: Roots

GRE Vocabulary - Roots
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Assuming that you’re on your way to building a vast and impressive GRE vocabulary, let’s dive into understanding how to use root words to manage the enormous volumes of words that you will deal with during your GRE Prep.


Why is it important to organize the words you learn?

Contrary to what education in India might have us believe, the human mind is not really a great device to hoard massive amounts of unorganized 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; that’s what they’re wired to do – sometimes they even make connections that don’t exist!

So, the point is, if you want to remember what you’re learning, you must organize it in a meaningful manner.

Realizing this helps us approach GRE vocabulary building from a perspective that is more sensitive to what the brain needs. 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.


How do Root Words help to build GRE vocabulary?

  1. Roots help make connections between words you already 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. Roots can help you guess meanings. Roots help you learn new words that have related roots or share the same root. Similarly, when you come across new words, you might be able to guess the correct meaning if you know the meaning of the roots present in the new words.


Understanding Root Words

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

Let me take you through some words and their roots along with some other words that share the same roots. You’ll realize 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 stem from 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 – someone who is extremely cautious.

    circumscribe: ‘scribe’ means ‘to draw or write’. So, to ‘circumscribe’ 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 stay 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 offshoot from ‘circumlocution’, 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 characterized 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!


  3. Fallibilis– In Medieval Latin, this means ‘liable to err, or to be deceitful’. Here are the words derived from this:

    fail: a word with a meaning we know all too well!

    fallible: capable of making mistakes or being wrong

    infallible: this word takes the prefix ‘in-’ which means ‘opposite of’, making it the obvious opposite of ‘fallible’, meaning incapable of failure or error.

    fallibility: this word takes the suffix ‘-ity’ which means ‘having the quality of’, so it means ‘the ability to fail or make mistakes’

As this last example demonstrates, studying roots helps you notice patterns among words, especially with prefixes and suffixes.

However, if you go about trying to guess the meaning of words based purely on their possible roots, you will be highly ‘fallible’!

A good way to avoid making mistakes in identifying roots is to use etymology to help you better gauge whether or not a word could have the root you think it might. Etymology also helps you understand words better by providing historical context, and context is very important.

Sometimes, the ability to recognize roots can help you make that critical educated guess on your GRE Verbal questions: it might be the difference between a wrong and a right answer!

A parting piece of advice – the etymological dictionary is a great reference point to help you understand the roots present in a word; also to find other words that use the same roots!

  • February, 28th, 2019
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Build Your GRE Vocabulary: Mnemonics

How to Use Mnemonics for GRE
Reading Time: 5 minutes

If you’re preparing for the GRE and have been reading about the best ways to remember words, you will probably hear about various ways to learn new words. Most of all, you must’ve heard about learning GRE words using pictures and mnemonics.

Here are a few questions you may have:

What is/are mnemonics? (Even pronouncing it is hard!)

How can I learn words using pictures? (Makes no sense – seriously!)

Is this the best (and newest) way to learn words for the GRE?

In this article, these are some of the questions we will address. We will also take a look at how remembering words on the GRE can be fun. Yes – you read that right: FUN!

We will talk about:

  1. What mnemonics are
  2. How to use mnemonics to learn GRE words fast
  3. How the brain uses images to remember better
  4. How to use GRE Flashcards to remember words

Sounds interesting? Great!

Let’s get on with it.


How effective are mnemonic techniques to remember GRE vocabulary?

Let us start with how to pronounce mnemonics: It is pronounced NEH-MOH-NIKS.

Here is the dictionary definition:

To understand how they work, you should first understand what mnemonics are. Before you start thinking this is going to be all technical jibber-jabber, remember this:

Nursery kids use mnemonics the most.

Yeah, you read it right!!

We are literally saying you should do what 3-year-olds do, for the same purpose: to improve vocabulary. If kids that young can use this simple tool, you can definitely use mnemonics for GRE.

Mnemonics are tools designed to help people remember things better. Here are a couple of examples you’re definitely familiar with:

“A for Apple, B for Ball”

Remember this? It’s a whole chart of mnemonic devices. In fact, this is exactly what we’re about to use right now!

It’s been proven that our memory works by creating webs of information – linking new information to what we already know. The more the links between known and new information, the easier it is to remember the new stuff we learned associated with it.

You know how you can suddenly remember someone’s name once you recall where and how you met them last?

Are things suddenly making a lot of sense now?

So, it’s safe to say that it is a great idea to learn GRE words with mnemonics.

The idea is this:

Increase the variety of information you have about the words you need to learn. Engage all your senses. This helps create a rich web of links with things you already know, so you remember these words easily.

Here’s a very basic example.

You hear the word ‘apple’. You know nothing else about this word. By itself, it doesn’t make much sense to you, you’re likely to forget it.

Then someone shows you a picture or drawing of an apple and you learn to associate a peculiar red shape with the word ‘apple’. When you hold an apple in your hands, your mind records how the surface of the apple feels; when you eat it, you remember the smell, taste, and texture of the apple.

You now have visual, auditory, tactile and olfactory information related to the word “apple”. Your chances of forgetting what “apple” means are next to none by this point.

But here’s the kicker:

You can’t get this much information about 3000+ words in time for your GRE.

Words in the GRE vocabulary are not those you’d find in daily life, you would have to go out of your way to learn most of them. Even then, it’d probably take years to really learn all those words this way!

Relax; we’re not here to tell you that you’re doomed.

Now that you know so much about how memory works, it’s time to look into how to learn GRE words with mnemonics.


Trick Your Brain with Mnemonic Flashcards

Let’s say you want to remember the word “extirpate”. The definition of the word is “to eradicate or destroy completely” or “to pull up by, or as if by, the roots”.

If you try to mug this up, you’re essentially trying to remember 15 words so that you can remember one.

Doesn’t make a lot of sense, does it?

Try this instead:

See what we did there? 😉

This is a GRE vocabulary flashcard. It is designed to tie the word ‘extirpate’ using multiple strings to the information you already know. This flashcard draws a comical connection between two things – it is a quirky and unusual association that you wouldn’t normally make.

Think about it. A goat would hardly be the first – or even among the first 10 – things to pop into your mind when you read the definition of ‘extirpate’.

These kinds of funny associations tend to stick out and therefore become easier to remember than the more ‘normal’ connections we make in our minds. It (hopefully!) also appeals to your sense of humor and that makes it even better. You see, we tend to remember the things we enjoy much more easily than things we find routine or boring.

Most importantly, the flashcard puts a picture to the word. It enriches the format in which you have engaged with the word ‘extirpate.’ Since pictures are much easier to recall than words, this is going to stick with you for a long, long time.

Here’s a fun fact:

The next time you see the word ‘extirpate’, you’re going to think of a goat.

If you start using the word regularly, after a few months or years, you will probably not even be sure why you associate the word with a goat. But you will think of a goat nonetheless because this is how you first learned the word – this is the power of first impressions.

At CrackVerbal, we have created a whole bunch of these GRE vocabulary flashcards. They are designed especially for Indian students, with references and cross-lingual puns that make them easily relatable. All of the flashcards carry GRE words with pictures and caricatures.

Here are a few more examples:

  1. Profligate (adj.): recklessly extravagant or wasteful in the use of resources.

Profligate basically means a person who spends huge amounts unnecessarily. Here, we see a professor who is driving by in a fancy, high-end car that is definitely very expensive. 

We all know that professors aren’t exactly the best-paid professionals around! So this is definitely a huge and unaffordable expense for this professor. He is spending a professor’s salary like Bill Gates – Prof(li)gate!

2. Quixotic (adj.): extremely idealistic; unrealistic and impractical.

The word is pronounced ‘quik-so-tik’ and it is used to describe someone who tends to have unrealistic expectations.

This card shows a plane passenger who is demanding to be served exotic food quickly. Getting quick, exotic food on a plane is practically impossible – making this expectation unrealistic. So, the passenger is one quixotic guy!

3. Spoonerism (noun): accidental transposition of initial consonants in a pair of words.

Let’s take a look at a simpler explanation for the same word.

You know how you misspeak sometimes, switching the first letters of two words in a sentence? Like saying “You hissed the mystery lesson” when you meant to say “You missed the history lesson.”

That’s spoonerism.

This flashcard presents one example but you can think up as many as you like!

Let’s take a look at a few more flashcards!

4. Abnegation

5. Recondite

6. Galvanize

7. Desiccate

8. Lionize

9. Pedantic

10. Disingenuous

At CrackVerbal, we understand how the human mind is designed to work. We make it a point to devise teaching and learning techniques that exploit natural human tendencies to help you learn better.

As a result, the stress and anxiety associated with the GRE are both drastically reduced and your chances of cracking the exam are significantly raised.

Our GRE vocabulary flashcards work because:

  1. They associate pictures with every word.
  2. They make funny connections between words and the pictures they carry.
  3. They don’t give you more words to remember one word.

Take a look at our WordToonz Web App to get a better idea of how these flashcards can help you learn GRE words with mnemonics and test your progress, too!

  • February, 27th, 2019
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Vocabulary for GRE – A Detailed Approach

Building Vocabulary for GRE
Reading Time: 6 minutes

What is the best way to study vocabulary for GRE?

This is probably the most frequently asked question among GRE test-takers, one that everyone wishes they had an answer to.

Fear not, for we are here to help! In this blog, we will discuss the most common mistakes and misconceptions about GRE vocabulary and then give you some highly effective resources and strategies to build vocabulary for the GRE.

So, first off, let’s address the elephant in the room!


Is GRE Vocabulary all about mugging up words?

A huge misconception that students have about preparing for GRE vocabulary is that it is all about mugging up words.

It must’ve taken some serious “creativity” for someone at the UP Ministry of Tourism to approve this ad on Twitter:

This is a classic example of why mugging up dictionary meanings of new words simply doesn’t work.

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.

For this, you need to understand words in context. And that is what the GRE is meant to test.


How Context Matters

What is the difference between “John is firm” and “John is obstinate”?

“Firm” and “obstinate” have meanings that are very similar, yet, the first statement carries approval whereas the second is criticizing John. The meanings are similar but there is a huge difference in the tone.

Context almost always affects the meaning of the words themselves and this is the stuff that the GRE expects you to know and be able to judge while reading or writing in English.

Expertise in Verbal Reasoning becomes very important when you try to get your work published in a scientific journal – it has to be ready for scrutiny by Ph.D. holders who have spent more time reading books than you have spent binge-watching “Game of Thrones”!

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?

We have had students who come to us and say “I’ve learned 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, and simply knowing the meanings by heart will not help you with that.

Here’s what’s wrong with using word lists for GRE vocabulary building:

  • Lack of Context

    Yes, we’re stressing on this yet again. Word lists do not provide any context whatsoever, which seriously compromises your ability to answer the kind of questions the GRE will pose.

    Every vocabulary-intensive question on the GRE will require you to pick the correct words with reference to the context they’re in. If you’ve only learned from word lists for GRE vocabulary, this isn’t something you’ll be able to get through easily.
  • Isolated Definitions

    Some words have definitions that are of no help whatsoever. Here’s an example.

    This is the definition of Transcended according to WordWeb:
    “Be greater in scope or size than some standard”

    Does it make sense to you? Not to us!

    Now, let’s take a look at 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 that definition make sense now? In case we haven’t stressed it enough already: Context matters, even just to understand a definition!
  • Alphabetical Order and Retention Power

    Every word list presents words in alphabetical order, so by the time you’ve reached words beginning with “B”, you’ll begin forgetting what you’d learned under “A”. This is because alphabetical orders present no pattern at all.

    The human mind is wired to learn and remember new things by connecting them with the information it already has. By learning from a word list, you’re creating zero connections between what you already know and what you’re learning now.

    Not much of that will be retained!

It’s always safe to assume that you WILL come across words you don’t know when you’re taking the GRE. Even so, it is understandable that you’d want to learn as many new words as you can in a short span of time. If you still feel like GRE word lists will help you, read our post on why they won’t.


How To Build Your GRE Vocabulary Quickly

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.

However, this is not an ideal world, and you are probably worried because your vocabulary isn’t exactly great. What do you do?

Here’s what.


3 GRE Vocabulary Building Strategies

There are no less than three super effective strategies you can employ to build your vocabulary quickly for the GRE.

#1 Learn New Words Through Grouping

As we’ve said before, people are wired to learn and remember new information by linking it to what we already know. Grouping is one way to form associations between words so that you can remember their meanings and connotations.

For example:

  1. “Juggernaut”, “guru”, “avatar”, “jungle”, “bungalow” – the list can go on. These are all words with Indian origins.
  2. “Procrustean”, “narcissism”, “mercurial”, “herculean”, “plutocracy” – English words with Greek origins.

This is grouping by origins. You can find your own ways to group words, in whatever manner suits you, like ‘words related to the Church’ or ‘words related to medicine’. One other interesting technique is to group words by “inclines.”

When you classify words by inclines, you place two words at two ends of the spectrum and study the words in between. This could be in increasing order of intensity, or it could be from one opposite to the other.

For example:

  1. Annoyance, irritation, anger, rage, fury – increasing order of intensity.
  2. Malevolent, truculent, irascible, imperturbable, equanimous – opposite to opposite

For more, read our post on using grouping for GRE vocabulary.


#2 Learn Words Using Roots

A lot of words in the English language are derived from other languages. Often, a variety of words come from the same root word.

Learning root words and their meanings does not only help you remember more words better, but it also allows you to make more accurate, educated guesses when the time comes.

Here are some examples:

  1. “Chronos” is the Greek god of time. So, “chronograph” means a device to measure time with (a clock or watch), “chronological” means arranged by the time of occurrence, “chronic” means something that persists for a long time or keeps recurring.
  2. “Anthropos” is also a Greek word; it means ‘man’ or ‘human being’. So, “anthropomorphic” means suggesting human-like characteristics for animals or inanimate objects, “anthropology” is the study of humans and their societal relations, “philanthropy” is the love of mankind and a “philanthropist” is one who makes charitable donations for the greater human good.

Another benefit of learning new words via roots is that some of the words you already know will suddenly make more sense.

Additionally, you can always branch out from one word root to another – for example, “philos” from “philanthropist” means “love”, which leads to “philosophy” which is “philos” (love) + “sofia” (knowledge).

Do you see how a Doctorate in Philosophy basically goes to say that the holder of a Ph.D. loves studying the subject they’ve done a Ph.D. in?

For more, read our post on using word roots for GRE vocabulary.


#3 Learn New Words Through Mnemonics

A simpler way to say this is, learn words by associating them with pictures.

You may have gathered that a mnemonic is a picture that acts as a cue for your memory, helping you remember words associated with it.

We remember the things we see better than the things we read.

Besides, the number of senses we use to understand an idea or a word determines how easily we will remember it.

For example, you’ll remember things better if you read things out aloud – does it suddenly make more sense that your school teachers made you read your multiplication tables out aloud?

Anyway, the idea is, the more information you associate with a given word, the likelier it is that you will remember the word.

Mnemonics for GRE, otherwise known as GRE flashcards, exploit this basic fact to help you trick your brain into learning and remembering a lot of new words very quickly.

CrackVerbal’s GRE Flashcards are specially designed to incorporate humor into the imagery they create because human brains will retain more information that is entertaining.

(Yeah, that’s why you remember so many completely random and fairly useless things but find it hard to recall what’s in your GRE word list.)

For more, read our post on using mnemonics for GRE vocabulary.


In spite of all this, as we’ve said before – no matter how many words you learn in preparation for the GRE vocabulary section, you WILL encounter words you’ve never seen before.

This is because, to be honest, the words you’ll find in the GRE will not exactly be the kind you may encounter in daily life or popular culture.

Chandler and Ross may use some unusual words on occasion in “F.R.I.E.N.D.S.” but watching the show is NOT going to be enough to help you with your GRE.

So how do you deal with it when you do come across completely new words?

The key is not to become too dependent on REMEMBERING words but to understand the ones you learn. That way, when you encounter new words during the exam, you can at least eliminate your way to the right answer.

Remember that guessing on the GRE is not only a good idea but it is also something we recommend for a variety of reasons.

However, we do not mean blind guessing. Here’s what you should do instead:

Make an educated guess from time to time – and employing these vocabulary building strategies for your GRE preparation will definitely start you off in the right direction for that.

We hope you found this article helpful.

Do let us know if you have any questions or doubts in the comments section below!

Feel free to follow any of the links in this article for more.

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 are just starting with your GRE preparation, then do check out our GRE Free Resources.
Or you could give our trail course a shot!

GRE online Course Crackverbal

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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!



  • June, 19th, 2017
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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!

Looking for expert guidance with GRE Verbal? Explore our GRE courses!

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  • January, 13th, 2014
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