Conquering the New GRE Verbal Reasoning Section: Part 1

Try 10,000 words!

Approximately 2 years ago, I visited the ETS GRE testing center for my very last time. After writing two analytical writing essays, a 30-minute verbal section, and a 45-minute quantitative section, I was prepared to see my score and hit the road. However, I got this bizarre “experimental” verbal section with questions I had never seen before. I recall muttering some inappropriate expletive after seeing a question with 6 answer choices and instructions that said “select one or more answer choices.” I was also far from thrilled to see a text completion section with 3 instead of 2 blanks. And even stranger, they wanted me to highlight my answer in the text… Say Whaaaat! Little did I know the questions I had just viewed were soon to become the NEW GRE VERBAL REASONING section.

Fast-forward to August 2011. After doing some research and downloading the latest ETS GRE Practice Test HERE , I have concluded that the new GRE verbal reasoning section is not all that different from the old GRE. Sure there are some changes, but the basic concepts are the same: know your vocabulary, be able to utilize the verbal context clues, and understand the structure and function of every sentence. Fortunately, some of the same study tips I used for the old GRE apply to the new GRE. Here are three tips to help you get the best score possible!

1. One of the most helpful tools out there is definitely ETS’s POWERPREP II Software (available HEREfor free). The GRE test designers kindly release a free computer program that has an actual practice test. I recommend taking the practice test to establish what your baseline score is, figure out where you are lacking, and determine whether you can complete the test in the allotted time. Powerprep II rocks!

2. The new GRE verbal reasoning section may have removed the antonyms and analogies but it is still very heavy on vocabulary. To conquer the Sentence Completion and Sentence Equivalence questions, I recommend heading over to the nearest office depot and buy as many flashcards as your heart desires. When designing your flashcards, I find it beneficial to include a sample sentence in addition to the word and definition. Set a memorization goal for yourself and figure out a system that works best for you. I honestly made about 3000 flashcards that stayed in the backseat of my car at all times. Whenever I got some free time, I would take out a stack and quiz myself. I looked ridiculous and felt like I was wasting hours of my life but it definitely paid off.

3. My next tip is to practice reading/answering as many sample passages as possible. I anticipate that the inclusion of reading comprehension questions with 1 or more answer choices, and Select-In-Passage questions are going to make this section significantly more difficult. The trick with these questions is to become so darn familiar with the passages that while you are reading, you will see the answers in the text before you even see the questions! In other words, your goal is to think like the test-designers.

There you have it folks, Ben’s three tips for getting the best possible GRE verbal reasoning score. Check back soon for more information about the new GRE!

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One Response to Conquering the New GRE Verbal Reasoning Section: Part 1

  1. Cathrin says:

    awesome tips Ben I wish I read your Verbal tips in particular, before taking the revised test, but I agree that the approach is similar. I noticed that several of the reading comprehension passages and sentence completion included very familiar topics in my discipline of Art History. I wondered if this was part of the revision as well. It definitely eased my anxiety. I agree vocabulary is huge, even with out the antonyms and analogies, and I wish I practiced those more. I’m still disgruntled with their scoring explanations, but overall I found the revised test more approachable. Thanks, this article is so insightful!

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