The Ultimate Guide to Preparing for the GRE Verbal Section
Last updated on June 19th, 2017
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:
Sentence Equivalence (SE)
Let us understand this section by actually solving a question:
Most young children are often ______ to old stories.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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 __________ .
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:
I hope you found this blog useful.
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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!