Tips to Prepare for GRE Verbal Exam


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Rahul Singha
Study Abroad Expert
Updated on Jul 31, 2022 17:29 IST

GRE Verbal Preparation Tips: The Verbal Reasoning section of the GRE Exam is as important as the mathematics section and should not be overlooked as the GRE verbal section includes the extensive use of vocabulary. The purpose of the Verbal Reasoning section of the GRE is to assess the candidate's comprehension of written material and his ability to evaluate it.

The GRE Verbal Reasoning test also measures the candidate's skill in analyzing sentence structure and their understanding of relationships between words and concepts. In this article, we are going to talk about how to prepare for GRE Vocabulary, tips for verbal reasoning GRE and GRE verbal preparation tips.  

Top 5 GRE Verbal Preparation Tips

As mentioned earlier, in this article we are going to discuss the top tips for the verbal reasoning GRE exam for candidates looking to ace the GRE verbal section of the GRE test.

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  1. Build on your vocabulary
  2. Read extensively 
  3. Time management
  4. Learn to recognize signal words
  5. Practice practice practice

Let us now understand the GRE verbal preparation tips in detail. 

  • Build on your vocabulary: Candidates are required to build their vocabulary. New words can be learnt through simple memorization and vocab-in-context methods. Simple memorization would be using tools such as flashcards and involve learning about words on a random basis, vocab-in-context would be about learning new words in context to a passage. Building your vocabulary would be of immense help to ace the sentence equivalence and text completion segments of the GRE Verbal section of the test. 
  • Read extensively: Well, now that we have taken care of the sentence equivalence and text completion segments of the GRE Verbal section of the test. Let us look at the final segment of the GRE Verbal section - Reading Comprehension. To ace the reading comprehension section, candidates are required to read as much as they can. And mind you, we are not talking about quantity. But quantity along with quality. Candidates should refrain from reading just about anything. They should understand that the GRE exam would follow a certain language and style which would be familiar to articles from the New Yorker, Scientific American, The Atlantic, and The Economist, to name a few. Hence, candidates should read content written across such publications as this would help them with the GRE verbal preparation plan.
  • Time management: A lot of times, candidates spend way too much time on difficult questions or questions they would not know and then they have to rush to complete the paper. Hence, candidates should understand that all these sections are timed and they are going to have to complete the GRE Verbal Section before the timer goes off. Hence it is important to understand that they should tackle all the questions they do know and then come back to the tough ones. There is no point in wasting time and then hurrying to complete the paper towards the end.
  • Learn to recognize signal words: As candidates develop reading habits and build their vocabulary, they would start spotting 'signal words.' These are words that provide you with more information than what meets the eye. It can tell you about the flavour of the text or give you details that would help you answer questions that accompany your comprehension. Hence it is important to spot such words and make the most use of them while preparing for the GRE verbal reasoning section.
  • Practice practice practice: Well I am cannot overstate the importance of solving GRE Verbal practice papers as part of the GRE verbal preparation plan. Candidates should understand that the GRE verbal section would include more than simply providing the right answers. The GRE test would require the candidate to have patience and a very calm and composed mind throughout the exam to be able to perform his best. Hence it is important that the candidate, practices as many GRE verbal questions as possible to prepare himself for the GRE exam day.

GRE Verbal Preparation Study Material

Candidates can check out the GRE verbal preparation material provided below for the benefit of candidates wanting to score 160+ in the GRE Verbal Section and as part of the GRE preparation strategy. Candidates can also check out the GRE preparation page and GRE practice pages for expert inputs on the best ways to practice for the GRE verbal reasoning section.  

How to Prepare for GRE Vocabulary?

GRE Vocabulary Preparation Tips: As I have mentioned earlier, that building your vocabulary is paramount in acing the GRE Verbal section of the GRE test. New words can be learnt through simple memorization and vocab-in-context methods. Simple memorization would be using tools such as flashcards and involve learning about words on a random basis, vocab-in-context would be about learning new words in context to a passage. Building your vocabulary would be of immense help to ace the sentence equivalence and text completion segments of the GRE Verbal section of the test. 

Candidates should note that learning a word is not enough. They would be required to use the word in their everyday lives to be able to get total benefit of the exercise, or else you are bound to forget what you learnt today, in a couple of days. Hence, if a candidate is planning on learning 10 new words a day, five in the morning and five at night, he should make every effort to incorporate the same into his everyday living to benefit from the exercise.

Top GRE Verbal Preparation - Expert Tips

Arun Jagannathan, founder and CEO of Crack Verbal writes about How should Indian test-takers prepare for the GRE? Read an excerpt on same below. 

  1. Learning new words is an integral part of GRE preparation, especially the Text Completion and the Sentence Equivalence sections. Try different ways of learning new words, rather than memorizing them off a word list. This is because GRE most often tests you on semantics. For example, the word "venture" could have multiple meanings—you could "venture an advice to a colleague" or "you could venture into the forest"—so a word could have one meaning but different usages.
  2. The key to getting a complete hold over Sentence Equivalence and Text Completion is to understand a given sentence really well, using the clues hidden in them. It is important to know more than just the meaning of words. What is in the blanks gets decided by what is not in the blanks?
  3. Remember, reading comprehension is not about reading faster or better, but it is about answering the questions correctly. Indian students tend to focus all their energy on just reading without understanding that answering the question is an intelligent process of elimination.
  4. GRE stresses on the tone of the words. For example, the words obstinate and resolute both mean determined. However, when you say John is resolute and you say John is obstinate, it actually means two different things; the first has a positive connotation while the other is negative. Remember to understand the tone in GRE Verbal.

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GRE Verbal Preparation - Sample Paper

GRE Verbal Sample Paper: For the benefit of our readers, we have also collated a set of GRE question papers with answer keys that are based on past year's GRE exam papers for the benefit of our readers. The following GRE Verbal exam question paper has been sourced from various authentic websites and ETS - the conducting body of the GRE 2022. 

GRE Verbal Reasoning Questions with Answer Key - Set 1 GRE Verbal Reasoning Questions with Answer Key - Set 2
GRE Verbal Practice Test GRE Practice Test

GRE Verbal Reasoning - Exam Pattern 

The verbal reasoning section of the GRE contains questions of three types:

  1. Sentence Equivalence
  2. Text Completion
  3. Reading Comprehension

Each verbal section will consist of twenty questions. Half of the section will consist of text completion and sentence equivalence questions; the other half will consist of reading comprehension questions.

The test will always begin with six Text Completion, which increases according to difficulty. Next, will be a reading passage or two, which could either be a long passage or two medium passages. In between the reading, passages will be four Sentence Equivalence questions

Text Completion

Text Completion questions test this ability by omitting crucial words from short passages and asking the test taker to use the remaining information in the passage as a basis for selecting words or short phrases to fill the blanks and create a coherent, meaningful whole.

Text Completion Sample Question 1 (sourced from ETS)

  1. It is refreshing to read a book about our planet by an author who does not allow facts to be (i)__________ 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 (ii)__________ 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 (iii)__________, calling attention to the many aspects of planetary evolution that must be better understood before we can accurately diagnose the condition of our planet.
    Sample Question 1 Answers.
    Blank (i) Blank (ii) Blank (iii)
    (A) overshadowed (D) enhance (G) plausibility of our hypotheses
    (B) invalidated (E) obscure (H) certainty of our entitlement
    (C) illuminated (F) underscore (I) superficiality of our theories


    The overall tone of the passage is clearly complimentary. To understand what the author of the book is being complimented on, it is useful to focus on the second blank. Here, we must determine what word would indicate something that the author is praised for not permitting. The only answer choice that fits the case is "obscure," since enhancing and underscoring are generally good things to do, not things one should refrain from doing. Choosing "obscure" clarifies the choice for the first blank; the only choice that fits well with "obscure" is "overshadowed." Notice that trying to fill the first blank before filling the second blank is hard — each choice has at least some initial plausibility. Since the third blank requires a phrase that matches "enormous gaps" and "sparseness of our observations," the best choice is "superficiality of our theories."

    Thus, the correct answer is Choice A (overshadowed), Choice E (obscure) and Choice I (superficiality of our theories).

    Text Completion Sample Question 2 (sourced from ETS)

  2. Vain and prone to violence, Caravaggio could not handle success: the more his (i)__________ as an artist increased, the more (ii)__________ his life became.
    Sample Question 3 Answers.
    Blank (i) Blank (ii)
    (A) temperance (D) tumultuous
    (B) notoriety (E) providential
    (C) eminence (F) dispassionate


    In this sentence, what follows the colon must explain or spell out what precedes it. So, roughly, what the second part must say is that as Caravaggio became more successful, his life got more out of control. When one looks for words to fill the blanks, it becomes clear that "tumultuous" is the best fit for the second blank, since neither of the other choices suggests being out of control. And for the first blank, the best choice is "eminence," since to increase in eminence is a consequence of becoming more successful. It is true that Caravaggio might also increase in notoriety, but an increase in notoriety as an artist is not as clear a sign of success as an increase in eminence.

    Thus, the correct answer is Choice C (eminence) and Choice D (tumultuous).

Sentence Equivalence

The Sentence Equivalence questions include a single sentence, one blank, and six possible answer choices. The blanks in Sentence Equivalence questions have two correct answers. Do not look in the answer choices for two words that are alike. This can be deceiving for two reasons. Firstly, although the words might be alike in meaning, they may not fit logically into the sentence. Secondly, the correct words may not have the same meaning. All that matters is that the resulting sentences are identical in meaning.

Sentence Equivalence Sample Question 1 (sourced from ETS)

  1. Although it does contain some pioneering ideas, one would hardly characterize the work as __________.

    1. orthodox
    2. eccentric
    3. original
    4. trifling
    5. conventional
    6. innovative


    The word "Although" is a crucial signpost here. The work contains some pioneering ideas, but apparently it is not overall a pioneering work. Thus the two words that could fill the blank appropriately are "original" and "innovative." Note that "orthodox" and "conventional" are two words that are very similar in meaning, but neither one completes the sentence sensibly.

    Thus, the correct answer is Choice C (original) and Choice F (innovative).

    Sentence Equivalence Sample Question 2 (sourced from ETS)
  2. It was her view that the country's problems had been _______ by foreign technocrats, so that to ask for such assistance again would be counterproductive.

    1. ameliorated
    2. ascertained
    3. diagnosed
    4. exacerbated
    5. overlooked
    6. worsened


    The sentence relates a piece of reasoning, as indicated by the presence of "so that": asking for the assistance of foreign technocrats would be counterproductive because of the effects such technocrats have had already. This means that the technocrats must have bad effects; i.e., they must have "exacerbated" or "worsened" the country's problems.

    Thus, the correct answer is Choice D (exacerbated) and Choice F (worsened).

Reading Comprehension

The reading comprehension section tests your ability to understand the context of a passage and answer questions on the basis of what is implied in the given passage. First, you need to read the passage and identify the theme and idea of the passage and understand the author's tone and attitude as well as the structure of the passage.

Questions 1 to 3 are based on this passage. (sourced from ETS)

Reviving the practice of using elements of popular music in classical composition, an approach that had been in hibernation in the United States during the 1960s, composer Philip Glass (born 1937) embraced the ethos of popular music in his compositions. Glass based two symphonies on music by rock musicians David Bowie and Brian Eno, but the symphonies' sound is distinctively his. Popular elements do not appear out of place in Glass's classical music, which from its early days has shared certain harmonies and rhythms with rock music. Yet this use of popular elements has not made Glass a composer of popular music. His music is not a version of popular music packaged to attract classical listeners; it is high art for listeners steeped in rock rather than the classics.

Select only one answer choice.

  1. The passage addresses which of the following issues related to Glass's use of popular elements in his classical compositions?
    1. How it is regarded by listeners who prefer rock to the classics
    2. How it has affected the commercial success of Glass's music
    3. Whether it has contributed to a revival of interest among other composers in using popular elements in their compositions
    4. Whether it has had a detrimental effect on Glass's reputation as a composer of classical music
    5. Whether it has caused certain of Glass's works to be derivative in quality

Consider each of the three choices separately and select all that apply. 

  1. The passage suggests that Glass's work displays which of the following qualities?
    1. A return to the use of popular music in classical compositions
    2. An attempt to elevate rock music to an artistic status more closely approximating that of classical music
    3. A long-standing tendency to incorporate elements from two apparently disparate musical styles
  2. Select the sentence that distinguishes two ways of integrating rock and classical music.


The passage describes in general terms how Philip Glass uses popular music in his classical compositions and explores how Glass can do this without being imitative. Note that there are no opposing views discussed; the author is simply presenting his or her views.

Question 1: One of the important points that the passage makes is that when Glass uses popular elements in his music, the result is very much his own creation (it is “distinctively his”). In other words, the music is far from being derivative. Thus one issue that the passage addresses is the one referred to in answer choice E — it answers it in the negative. The passage does not discuss the impact of Glass's use of popular elements on listeners, on the commercial success of his music, on other composers or on Glass's reputation, so none of Choices A through D is correct. The correct answer is Choice E.

Question 2: To answer this question, it is important to assess each answer choice independently. Since the passage says that Glass revived the use of popular music in classical compositions, answer choice A is clearly correct. On the other hand, the passage also denies that Glass composes popular music or packages it in a way to elevate its status, so answer choice B is incorrect. Finally, since Glass's style has always mixed elements of rock with classical elements, answer Choice C is correct. Thus the correct answer is Choice A and Choice C.

Question 3: Almost every sentence in the passage refers to incorporating rock music in classical compositions, but only the last sentence distinguishes two ways of doing so. It distinguishes between writing rock music in a way that will make it attractive to classical listeners and writing classical music that will be attractive to listeners familiar with rock. Thus the correct answer is the last sentence of the passage.

Also, Read

Skills required for the GRE Verbal section

The verbal section of GRE needs logical skills and reasoning. One should be able to figure out the conclusion from the passages and given information. The skill of finding out a connection that exists between the given passages and concepts is a necessity and needs to be developed. The only important thing to remember is that the questions should be understood fully, and then attempted.

Tips and Tricks for the GRE Exam

When you're preparing for the GRE, it can feel like you're awash in a sea of advice. Some of it's good, some of it's bad, and some of it's just plain unhelpful. So, let's narrow it down. What can you do now to ensure you get the best score before your exam? There are ten tricks and tips that will actually help.

  1. Plan ahead. Whether because of sudden decisions or new information, some students don't have a lot of time to plan for the GRE Exam. Can you still get a good score on the GRE? Absolutely. Is it harder? Absolutely. No matter what your situation is, though, make sure that registering for your GRE test date is the first thing you do. Spots fill up early (sometimes months in advance!), and if you're at your mental best on weekends, afternoons, or have any other special requirements, lock the date down now.
  2. Know what you're getting into. It may be too late to turn back now, but familiarize yourself with both the exam and your own strengths and weaknesses by taking a GRE diagnostic test. There's no time like the present…
  3. Take lots of practice tests. A lot of students prepping for the GRE think that taking/reading lessons and doing practice sets is sufficient. Not so! The GRE is a marathon, and staying alert for almost four hours takes practice. Taking at least one practice test a week, for a total of around ten in all, is ideal.
  4. Start studying vocabulary. GRE Verbal is extremely vocab heavy, and (particularly if you're applying to humanities or social science programs) will be important to master. This isn't SAT/ACT-level stuff, either. These are some hard words!
  5. Focus on your subject. Well, broadly speaking. This is a little blurrier for those in the social sciences, but if you're applying to an English grad program, your Quant score will have little bearing on your application. Similarly, Engineering admissions committees won't care too much about your English scores. Continue Reading: 10 Tips and Tricks for the GRE

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About the Author
Written by
Rahul Singha
Study Abroad Expert

Rahul Singha is a seasoned editor with Shiksha Study Abroad, specializing in overseas education. With over 8 years of domain experience, he has made a significant impact in contributing to the study abroad industry ... Read Full Bio

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