So, you are preparing for the GRE test. You know that the Verbal section is going to be demanding. What are the big challenges in the Verbal section of the Revised General GRE?
Challenge #1: Reading Comprehension Passages
First, a bit of good bit of news: the Reading Comprehension passages on the Revised GRE test are short. A Verbal section generally contains 5 Reading Comprehension passages, most which are 20-25 lines long; and one of them may be as short as 3-5 lines. The longest passages are of about 40 lines or so. (See ETS’s introduction to reading comprehension, sample questions and tips)
But Reading Comprehension is never very easy. Firstly, the passages cover a wide variety of topics, most of which are very unfamiliar. Here are some topics that have appeared in the past:
- wave motion
- the magnetic compass sense of birds
- the contribution of a musician to the development of a certain musical genre
- volcanic hotspots in the earth’s crust
- the divergent novelistic impulses in the works of a writer are some of the topics that have previously appeared.
In other words the chances are that you will get topics in the exam which you have never come across before. The unfamiliarity of the topics, the complexity of the sentence structure and the fact that the passages pack a lot of information into very little space make the passages a challenge to comprehend.
Challenge #2: Reading Comprehension Questions
Then, there are the questions – between one and three on every reading comprehension passage. Whether the questions require you to select one option out of five or, all the correct options out of three, they all require you to make out whether the statements in the options are equivalent to the statements in the relevant part of the passage. This is difficult since the phrasing in the options and also in the passage can be quite complicated. Further, choosing between close options requires the ability to spot subtle differences between the two.
Challenge 3#: Discrete (Sentence Completion-Type) Questions
The Discrete questions are so-called since, unlike the Reading Comprehension questions, they do not come in sets on a passage. Discrete questions require the test–taker to complete one or more sentences with one or more blanks in them. One type, the Sentence Equivalence questions, requires you to complete the given sentence by selecting two synonyms out of the six options provided (see ETS’s sample sentence equivalence questions, introduction and tips). Others, called the Text Completion Questions can have up to 5 sentences and between 2-5 blanks (see ETS’s sample questions, introduction and tips)
The discrete questions require you to have a good understanding of sentence structure and of what words imply in a certain context. Since the words used in the options are often unfamiliar or are familiar words used in an unfamiliar way, discrete questions also demand that you have a good vocabulary.
Tips for Preparing for the Verbal Section
- Learn the vocabulary – knowledge of high-level vocabulary is still essential for the Discrete and Sentence Equivalence questions. Don’t believe anyone who tells you it isn’t. It is also useful for Reading Comprehension passages. So:
- Find one of the standard GRE vocabulary lists available and start learning well in advance. The lists generally contain 4,000 words and will take around 3 months to learn.
- Explore various methods of learning, because there are many methods and it might take a combination of methods to help you remember the words – and the combination of methods that works for one person may not work for another
- Revising is of utmost importance. Remember, if you don’t keep revising, you are bound to forget the words.
- Revised GRE Overview
- Challenges in the Verbal Section of the Revised GRE
- Reading Comprehension and Sentence Completion Questions: Tips
- Quantitative Reasoning Question Type Overview
- Analytical Writing Overview
- Analytical Writing: Why 6 & 8 Are Important Numbers in this Section
GRE Practical Details:
- Registering for, Rescheduling and Cancelling Your GRE Test
- Getting Additional GRE Score Reports
- Selecting Which Scores the ETS Should Send to Universities