Those who wish to prepare for GRE, the first search for study materials and get perplexed by the amount of material they can download from various sources and finally, they look for some short cuts, some word lists, some random tests etc., and eventually settle with mediocre scores.


If you are also among those who have downloaded tons of material and are now confused on how to deal with the verbal section, this post is definitely for you.


Before I elaborate what do you need to prepare, let me first tell you how to prepare.


You must understand that you are preparing for a standard aptitude test where skills are more important than completing a syllabus or some ultimate guide.


So, let’s set the tone of preparation first. 


You must have heard about Japan’s martial arts Judo  and Kano Jigoro Shihan is known as the father of Judo. He considered skill and technique (not force) as the main aspects of success in Judo.


Kano Jigoro says “The only person you should try to be better than is the person you were yesterday”

This also applies to GRE aspirants. It’s okay if you understand nothing while solving a GRE RC today, but if you are determined to learn the skills, work on your weaknesses and master your strengths, you are bound to score well on the ‘D-day’. 


So, be it Judo or GRE, it is imperative that you work on your techniques.


Now that you have understood how to prepare let’s understand what do you need to prepare for?


So, what does the GRE Verbal Section actually include?


“But, what’s the syllabus for the GRE VERBAL section?”

“Nothing at all”.

Yes, it’s true that the GRE verbal section doesn’t have a syllabus which means, you can’t just refer to a Verbal tome or a bible and finish them to get a good score. 


All you need to do is to develop certain skills such as familiarity with diverse content, a good reading speed, contextual understanding of vocabulary, time management, prioritisation, etc. 


Reading Comprehension


This is the most important question type on GRE as it includes 50% of the section. This section will test your ability to read passages of varying length (anywhere between 100 and 450 words) and answer questions based on reading skills and critical reasoning skills.


Reading Skills :

Do you read Newspapers or Magazines regularly?

If not, you must inculcate the habit of reading, because in GRE you will have to read a lot of texts from a wide range of topics such as politics, economics, sciences, history, geography …and the list goes on.


I suggest that you read for two reasons:

  1. a) READ To develop familiarity with diverse content: Since GRE passages can include a wide range of context, it is very important that you develop your understanding with diverse contexts. For example, if you have never read any material on economics or world politics and when an RC appears in the exam which talks about “how capitalism has not been beneficial in many countries”, You might struggle with reading such unfamiliar contexts. 

So, include a constant reading habit in your routine where you try engaging yourself in reading diverse content. 

Here are some sources from where you can pick articles to read –, the Harvard Business Review, MIT Technology Review, New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, along with magazines like The Economist, The New Yorker, and The Atlantic are all quality sources to improve your familiarity with diverse contexts. Moreover, reading from these types of materials will make you more familiar with the sentence structures the GRE likes to utilize in its questions. 

  1. b) READ To develop a good reading speed: You also need to improve the reading speed simply because you won’t have unlimited time to read the passages. A general reading speed of 250 words per minute should be the target. 

First thing that you can do is to read some fictions. Read murder-mysteries, sci-fi novels where you focus more on the story and characters and hence you are bound to reach to the climax. (My two recommendations are – Harry potter series or sherlock homes)  

Moreover, you can refer to to check your reading speed. Take at least 20 tests to know which context is troubling you more.  


Reasoning skills 

This is where GRE RC is entirely a different game when compared with Language tests.

You are not only supposed to locate answers given in the passage but also focus on 

  • What is the passage mainly talking about?
  • Why has the passage been written?
  • How is the writing style/tone or structure? 


GRE doesn’t include Critical Reasoning as a separate section but it includes the CR questions in RC section itself and hence focusing only on Reading skill and not developing reasoning can be a big mistake. (And various other question types; will discuss this in a separate post)


 Text completion

ETS says : Skilled readers do not simply absorb the information presented on the page; instead, they maintain a constant attitude of interpretation and evaluation, reasoning from what they have read so far to create a picture of the whole and revising that picture as they go. 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 questions will ask you to fill the blank/blanks with the most appropriate word from the given options. You will be asked single blank, double blank and triple blank questions and you are supposed to 

  • Read through the passage to get an overall sense of it.
  • Identify words or phrases that seem particularly significant, either because they emphasize the structure of the passage (words like although or moreover) or because they are central to understanding what the passage is about.
  • Try to fill in the blanks with words or phrases that seem to complete the sentence, then see if similar words are offered among the answer choices.
  • Not assume that the first blank is the one that should be filled first; perhaps one of the other blanks is easier to fill first. Select your choice for that blank, and then see whether you can complete another blank. If none of the choices for the other blank seem to make sense, go back and reconsider your first selection.
  • Make your selection for each blank, check to make sure the passage is logically, grammatically and stylistically coherent.

Sentence equivalence

While these are a variety of text completion questions, they are a unique challenge. Not too dissimilar from a text completion question, sentence equivalence questions offer a number of context clues – information in the sentence that provides insight into the word’s meaning – that point you towards the correct answer. Take your time to identify context clues, not just to find the correct answer choices, but to rule out choices that clearly won’t fit. Try to fill in the blank with a word that seems appropriate. See if two similar words are offered among the answer choices. If one word is similar to what you have envisaged but you can’t find a second one, don’t keep fixed on your interpretation, instead, see if other answer choices can be used to fill the blank.

Do not simply look among the answer choices for two words that mean the same thing. This can be misleading for two reasons. First, the answer choices may contain pairs of words that mean the same thing but do not fit coherently into the sentence. Second, the pair of words that do constitute the correct answer may not mean exactly the same thing, since all that matters is that the resultant sentences mean the same thing.

  • Read the sentence to get an overall sense of it.
  • Identify words or phrases that seem particularly significant, either because they emphasize the structure of the sentence (words like although or moreover) or because they are central to understanding what the sentence is about.
  • Try to fill in the blank with a word that seems appropriate to you and then see if two similar words are offered among the answer choices. If you find some word that is similar to what you are expecting but cannot find a second one, do not become fixated on your interpretation; instead, see whether there are other words among the answer choices that can be used to fill the blank coherently.
  • When you have selected your pair of answer choices, check to make sure that each one produces a sentence that is logically, grammatically and stylistically coherent, and that the two sentences mean the same thing.

TC and SE Questions will require you to understand the context of the given sentence and then pick the word/words which fit in the blank contextually.

So, this is not about remembering word meaning but knowing the contextual usage of vocabulary. Most of the students lose scores just because they believe in rot learning and they end up being frustrated. 


List those words that you don’t know, and find them to learn about the usage of the words. Maybe you can come up with your own customized flashcards or word list.


Happy learning…