A Closer Look at the GRE – Verbal Reasoning Section
The GRE exam consists of two main sections that are scored on a scale of 170 points each. Of these, the verbal section is the harder one, according to the majority of the GRE test takers.
The verbal section, as I mentioned in earlier articles, is divided and presented to you in two different sections. The best part about the GRE Verbal is that there are only a fixed certain pattern of questions that are followed. This means that once you master these, there is nothing stopping you from achieving record scores on the GRE Verbal.
All this information can be found on the ETS GRE website. But for your convenience, I’ve shortened and explained it all in this one post. Read, understand and comment on MyTrustedTutor.com if you need further help. They have a great set of tutors based in Mumbai who can bring you up to speed with all of this. Alternatively, you can reach out to me through my e-mail for additional questions.
Here’s what you need to know about the GRE Verbal sections:
In the GRE Verbal section, you have three main types of questions.
The first one is where you select the correct word that fits in to the sentence. For this, a lot of people start reading up on a lot of vocabulary. Let me tell you how unnecessary that is. The only thing you should know is that the GRE verbal aims to test you on the contextual meanings of words. As long as you are able to retain a general idea of what a word means, you will be fine.
During my test prep, the most useful resource to learn words was the Magoosh GRE vocabulary app. It is free to download from the Play Store for Android, and is also available for Apple devices. This app is basically a flash card format for learning words. It shows a new word and you flip it to see its meaning. They also have a sentence using that word, so it makes it easier to grasp the contextual meanings of words. They have about 300~ odd words, all of which are regularly tested on the GRE Verbal section. You just have to keep going with the words. The app is such that it regularly repeats words so that you learn every word almost 4 times – helps in memorizing them.
You will see why the above rant was necessary, once you read through the paragraphs about the GRE sections below:
- Text Completion:
The question is usually a short paragraph of five to six sentences. It contains two to three blanks which must be filled with one of the given options. There is only one correct answer. And to get full credit for the answer, all the blanks of that particular question must be correct. The learning of words is useful in these questions only. As preparation, if you have more than 2 months of time, I suggest that you go through the Norman Lewis Word Power book. It is one of the best books to easily learn vocabulary. It explains the roots, prefixes and suffixes of a lot of words, and so if you are stuck at some point, you can always guess correctly, the meaning of each word. If, however, you do not have that much time, as I mentioned before, you can just go through the words from the Magoosh app.
The strategy to solve these questions is fairly simple. You have to finish reading the tiny paragraph once, during which you must try to understand the general structure of the paragraph and the key points that they want to convey. Once you are done with it, start by predicting answers in simple words that you know for each blank. After you come up with possible answers, skim the options available and then choose the one that is closest in meaning to the answer you thought of. Keep practising this strategy with every question in the official guide. After you are done with all the questions from the Official guide, I suggest that you solve the rest of the questions that are available from the exclusive Verbal Official Guide that is available for around 400-500 rupees off Flipkart or Amazon. You can find some sample questions here at the website below:
- Reading Comprehension:
The reading comprehension section is extremely straightforward. No frills and fancies – just tests your ability to answer the questions asked. Remember that the answer options that are provided are very close to each other and that you have to carefully analyse each option and pick the best one out of all the given choices. The reading comprehension on the GRE tests the following: Your understanding of the meaning of individual words and sentences and what they mean within the context of a given paragraph. Your ability to differentiate the major points and minor points in the paragraphs given, your ability to summarise a passage and drawing conclusions from them. It also tests your understanding of the text and its structure. The major thing that is tested is that you are able to identify the assumptions that the author has made, and be able to draw conclusions from them and effectively answer inference questions.
Reading comprehension questions come in two types – a multiple choice question with only one answer correct, and a multiple choice question that comes with many options correct.
For example, a question might ask about the main point that the author wanted to make in the passage, followed by 5 options. This has only one correct answer. Whereas for the multiple correct answer questions, you’ll have questions that ask about what all can be inferred from the paragraph, or which of the following refute the argument provided by the author, etc.
Here are my personal strategies to answer these reading comprehension questions as well as possible. This information has all been gathered after a good amount of research from blogs and other sources. It was best suited for my personal preparation. Keep in mind, however, that everyone is different, and that all strategies must be adapted likewise. So, without further ado:
RC Tip 1: If you have more than 2 months to your GRE Verbal, then I advise you to read newspapers on a daily basis. Not Deccan Chronicle, or something. Read The Hindu. Don’t worry if you have to read the same paragraph twice to even understand its meaning – just do it. And do it in ONE sitting. Read at least 5 articles per day, from different sections of the paper. The reading comprehension passages from the GRE are taken from various sources and almost always are about very different topics such as Economics, Biology, and popularly, Psychology, History and Sociology. Now, if you a Humanities student, you will not have a problem trying to comprehend the meaning behind each paragraph. But otherwise, try to generate a genuine interest in the material that the author provides. This really helps in reading the paragraph more carefully.
RC Tip 2: Try to predict what might come next in the paragraph. As you are reading the paragraph, make sure you understand the flow of the passage. Is the author first stating an argument and then presenting facts and drawing a conclusion? Is the author presenting a conclusion and refuting it? Is he, perhaps, stating an arguments and refuting it without any facts? Etc. Pay attention to the connecting words such as “although”, “also”, etc. They tell you when the next part of a point starts and ends, and usually also if the author agrees or not/
RC Tip 3: The timing. One of the worst parts where people get stuck for the GRE is near the timing. Make sure that after you practice, you start doing a set of questions while timing yourself. Ideally, you must be able to read the paragraph given within 2 to 3 minutes and must not exceed 4 minutes. You must answer the questions related to the reading comprehension within 30 seconds to 1 minute only. Otherwise, you risk running out of time for the remaining questions that need more attention.
You can find some sample reading comprehension questions on the ETS GRE website itself.
Check out ETS’s official tips for answering the Reading comprehension questions here: http://www.ets.org/gre/revised_general/prepare/verbal_reasoning/reading_comprehension/question_types
- Sentence Equivalence:
Sentence equivalence is one of the trickiest question types. But it has potential to become the easiest one if you practice enough. This is usually where you have to know meaning of lots of words accurately. Like I mentioned before, you can go through the words on the Magoosh GRE Verbal app to familiarize yourself with the most common words that appear in the GRE.
The sentence equivalence question has one sentence with one blank in it. You are provided with 6 answer choices for each blank. You have to select any two words which complete the sentence in the same way. You don’t get any marks for partially correct answers, so you have to choose both the correct options.
The strategy here is to read the blank and first try to fill it up with simple words that you know already. Then, move on to the answer choices and analyse each one of them properly. On the rough sheets that are given to you, first write down A B C D E F in a column. Strike out the ones that are obviously wrong. Assume C D and E are all wrong – and you can guess that as soon as you see it. You are now left with A B and F. Here, compare these words with the word that the one you thought of when you initially read the sentence. Pick the two words that are MOST similar to each other. Remember a simple rule – if you are confused between 3 words, compare the connotations. By connotations, I mean, how well they sit in the sentence, and if they have a positive impact on the sentence, or a negative impact on it.
For example, take the sentence below:
The ministers were all charged for ____________.
(F) Unlawful conduct
Your analysis must be as follows:
(P.S, yes, the example is very easy to solve, but I’m just trying to explain how to go about solving it.)
The first thing you must do, is read the sentence and realise that it is trying to say something negative about the ministers. Now, read through the options. Clearly, option C, Service can be eliminated. This is because the word service can be either negative or positive, and depends upon the adjective assigned to it. Next, the option D, Disobedience can be eliminated because there is no other word in the options that closely related to it. Analyse option F, Unlawful conduct. This can be a misleading option. Option B, Deception and option F, Unlawful conduct are closely related. But if you think about it a little more, there is no real similarity between deceiving someone and conducting yourself unlawfully. So, option F can be ruled out. Next, option B, Deception. A person cannot be charged for deception. Even if this option sits right with the sentence because it has negative connotations, and it does have option A, Treason as a close answer, this must be ruled out. Simply because it is illogical. Option E, Perfidy – this tests your vocabulary and contextual meaning ability. Perfidy simply means treason. They are absolute synonyms. They both mean treachery – on a large scale. Treason is for deceit of a country. Perfidy also has similar meanings.
Hence, choose options (A) and (E) for the answer.
You can find some sample questions on the official ETS GRE website. Here’s a link : http://www.ets.org/gre/revised_general/prepare/verbal_reasoning/sentence_equivalence/sample_questions
Here are ETS GRE’s official tips to solve the sentence equivalence questions: http://www.ets.org/gre/revised_general/prepare/verbal_reasoning/sentence_equivalence/
All this does seem a little daunting at first, but with perseverance, you can easily score good points on the GRE Verbal. For more information, or help, you can contact the folks at MyTrustedTutor.com. If you want to provide feedback, you can also reach out to me.
Keep looking forward to more articles on the GRE and GRE strategies on MyTrustedTutor.com.
- Aditi Sharma
Keywords: GRE, ETS, GRE Verbal, strategies for GRE, writing strategies, time management, reading comprehension, sentence equivalence, text completion, Magoosh