How To Study For Gre Verbal Reasoning

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How To Study For Gre Verbal Reasoning

Let’s cut to the chase: the GRE verbal section can be tough. Many students–even English majors!–struggle to prepare effectively for this section of the test. The GRE verbal section is broken down into three different components:

  1. Text Completion. Fill in the blanks of a sentence with the right word so that the sentence makes sense.
  2. Sentence Equivalence. Figure out which two words from a list of six fit a provided sentence. 
  3. Reading Comprehension. Answer comprehensive questions about short passages.

This might sound easy enough, but the verbal GRE score takes time to improve. Here are some tips to help you boost your verbal score.


A robust, thorough vocabulary is the best way to tackle the Text Completion and Sentence Equivalence portions of the exam. If you build a library of words in your mind, the verbal test will automatically grow easier.

  • Get a list of common GRE vocab words from Kaplan. This is a great guide to direct your studies.
  • Make a comprehensive list of words you don’t recognize. Refer back to this periodically to see if you’ve mastered these words.
  • Use flashcards. We have smartphone apps that let you flip through GRE words while waiting in line for coffee, or while sitting in the back of an Uber. Any downtime you have can go towards incremental studying.
  • Set steady, consistent memorization goals. For example: hold yourself accountable for memorizing 10 words a day–5 in the morning, and 5 at night.
  • Incorporate the words into your thoughts, or even into conversations. This simple integration brings the words to life. It’s less egregious than you think.

These words are the cornerstones of your Text Completion and Sentence Equivalence questions. Yet a simple knowledge of the word isn’t enough; the tone of the word is critical to answering the questions on the GRE.
Think, for example, of the difference between screaming and shouting. In both, you’re using words to communicate loudly, but screaming indicates rage. Shouting indicates loudness. These words would be used differently in a GRE sentence. For intense sentences, a sense of rage is critical. You’ll want to select screaming for those. For milder sentence tones, shouting is adequate. Pay attention to these distinctions while studying for the GRE verbal section.


The best way to prepare well for the reading comprehension is to get familiar with the content. Reading strategically is critical to mastering reading comprehension. These magazines, among others, have prose that is similar to that on the GRE. Think about the following questions while reading through the passages:

  • Topic: what is this article really about? Figure out one or two words that would describe the topic succinctly.
  • Scope: what elements of the topic are being described?
  • Purpose: why is this author writing this piece? Some writers have an informal discussion about an engaging topics. Others seek to convince the reader of something. What does the author want you–the reader–to take away from the passage?

how to improve gre verbal score in 2 days

Unfortunately, there’s no silver bullet to boost your verbal score overnight. The verbal section tests your facility with English generally. This is something that can take quite awhile even for native English speakers.

That said, don’t despair if you absolutely must take the GRE in a few days and feel as though you’re scrambling to shore up your verbal score — we do have some useful strategies for you!

High-Frequency Vocabulary

First, make sure you’re comfortable with high-frequency words. Go to our Vocabulary eBook and look at the chapter “Most Common GRE Words” (p. 11). If you’re a betting woman or man, these are the words you should put your money on seeing come test day.

If those words are already in your mental lockbox, then great! Gain some more vocab ground by working on our GRE vocabulary flashcards. Try to learn 10 words a day. Don’t try to learn them all — just think about adding a few more to your stock of knowledge. Remember to try to learn how these words are used in context. For more on this, see this help center article 🙂

Practice Questions

Next, do some practice questions. You should be practicing your pacing strategy when you do this, and you should focus on those questions types that you have struggled with the most. When you do these questions, be sure to do the following:

  1. Watch the explanation video and read the text explanation.
  2. Look up the words that you don’t know or don’t know well.
  3. Reread the text, question, and answer choices. Know the logic of the question well enough that you could explain it to someone else. 

Spending this much time on each question might seem wasteful. But studying in this way helps you to get the most out of each question. When you move quickly from one question to another, you’re only testing what you already know — you aren’t adding to your knowledge or skill set.

Practice Test

A couple of days before your exam, take a practice test. If possible, you don’t want to go into test day never having done an entire practice test.

Rest Day

Save the day before your exam for resting. Your brain needs time to relax from all that studying in order to be functioning as well as possible on test day. Don’t underestimate the value of a rest day!

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