GRE study guide: Verbal Reasoning section

The Verbal Reasoning measure of the GRE assesses your ability to analyze and evaluate written material that contains abstract, philosophical, and scientific concepts designed to put your reading comprehension skills to the test. Questions typically appear in two formats: one where you answer questions about a reading passage, the other asking you to read, interpret and complete existing sentences, groups of sentences or paragraphs. While there’s no fool-proof formula for mastering this GRE measure, these tips can help inform your study strategy and improve your reading skills before you tackle this important section: 

Practice with reading comprehension questions. Practicing real GRE reading sections will help you familiarize yourself with the format of GRE passages and what kinds of questions you might encounter.

Focus on the beginning and end of passages. In most cases, the first and last paragraphs of longer passages will contain the main ideas. If you find yourself running out of time and are faced with a longer passage, closely read the first and last paragraphs and skim the middle to gather the main points. 

Read actively. Active reading is more than reading individual words. It involves engaging with the content and evaluating its relevance. As you read, try underlining and taking small notes throughout the passage. For guidance, use “PEAR” to practice active reading: 

  • Pause after you are done reading each paragraph. 
  • Evaluate what you’ve read and think about its meaning. 
  • Anticipate what will happen next.
  • Reassess your evaluation after completing the next paragraph.

Have a clear understanding of what the question is asking. With the time limit, it can be easy to skim over a question and not have a complete understanding of it. Make sure to carefully read each question before choosing your answer. 

Save unfamiliar passages for last. GRE reading passages contain a wide range of subjects from science to history. Luckily, the GRE allows you to skip around within a section, so complete the passages with the subjects that you are most familiar with first, then continue onto the more unfamiliar ones.

Context, context, context. If a question asks you about a particular line in a passage, instead of going back and solely reading that line, read the two sentences before and after as well. Using context will give you a better and broader idea of the correct answer. 

Use your resources

There are lots of resources available to help you study for the GRE Verbal Reasoning section. Below are just a few examples you may want to check out.

Prep books. Kaplan, Barron, and many other sources have renowned preparatory books for the GRE.

Wordlists. Barron’s wordlist is a highly recommended vocabulary studying tool. Other sites like Major Tests give you 15 wordlists, each containing 100 words to study. 

Use mnemonic strategies. Mnemonics make it easy to remember a large amount of information by converting the information into a song, rhyme, acronym, or phrase. You can practice using this strategy by using the Mnemonic Dictionary.

Quiz yourself. You can test your vocab knowledge using Quizlets created by fellow GRE test takers. 

Take advantage of free time. Luckily, a lot of study materials for the Verbal Reasoning section can be taken on the go. Apps like the GRE Flashcards by Magoosh can help you review vocab on your mobile device whenever you have a spare 20 minutes. 

Answer practice questions. Use GRE practice tests, which offer numerous Verbal questions. The Official GRE Verbal Reasoning Practice Questions contains 150 unique Verbal practice questions. 

Preparing for the Verbal Reasoning section of the GRE can be one of the most challenging sections to prepare for, as there is no formulaic way to improve. However, by implementing some of these reading strategies, you’re taking a big step towards improving your target score and reading proficiency.