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GRE Verbal Prep

GRE® Verbal Reasoning section is arguably the trickiest section to prepare for. The reason for this is quite simple – unlike the quantitative section, the syllabus for GRE® Verbal cannot be enumerated. You could be quizzed on any of the many thousands of words that make up the English language or on any of the numerous subjects prevailing in the world. Remember that GRE® Vocabulary is only one aspect of GRE® Verbal practice! The section also tests you on:

  1. English grammar
  2. Reading comprehension
  3. Critical reading

The verbal reasoning section assesses your ability to:

  1. Extract relevant information from written data presented
  2. Identify relationships between different components of sentences presented
  3. Recognize the relationship between words and concepts

Structure of GRE® Verbal Reasoning Section

1. The GRE® Verbal section consists of two subsections of 12 and 15 questions respectively
2. It is a computer-adaptive test. In other words, the difficulty level and the highest possible score of the second sub-section depends on your performance in the first.
3. You get 18 minutes to attempt the first subsection and 23 minutes for the second subsection.
4. The subsections consist of the following types of question:
Subsection 1
Text completion – 3
Sentence equivalence – 4
Reading comprehension – 5
Subsection 2
Text completion – 3 to 5
Sentence equivalence – 3 to 4
Reading comprehension – 7 to 8
Let us look at each of the Verbal question types in detail.


Text Completion

A skilled reader can interpret the overall sense of a question statement, without having to read every word used. This subsection of GRE® Verbal Reasoning tests you on this. The assessment is based on your ability to fill in crucial words that are left blank in the text presented to you. This section consists of:
1. Question statements composed of one to five sentences.
2. Each question statement may have one, two, or three blanks.
3. There will be five options for single-blank questions and three options each for two- and three-blank questions.
Your aim is not just to select the word that keeps the sentence grammatically correct, but also to ensure that the passage remains logical and coherent.

Answering Strategies for Text Completion

1. Start by reading the complete question statement and get the overall sense it conveys.
2. Identify words that either emphasize the structure of the sentences (e.g., although, moreover, regardless, etc.) or words that are central to understanding the context presented.
3. Fill in the blank(a) with your own words, and then look at the options provided for a similar word or phrase that fits the sentence(s) correctly.
4. Fill in the blanks in any order that makes sense. You need not fill them in the order of appearance. For example, if a question statement has three blanks, maybe, filling up the third blank would be easier to start with.
5. Double-check the options you choose by reading the completed question statement.  This way, you can ensure that it is coherent in all three senses – grammatical, logical, and stylistic.
Let us now look at an example question and see how to answer it.

Sentence Equivalence

This subsection of GRE® Verbal Reasoning assesses your ability to form conclusions from partially-completed sentences. This section comprises: You have to select two options to complete the given sentence.
1. One sentence with one blank 
2. Six options, out of which two should be selected. 
3. The two options that you choose should be synonymous, so that the meaning of the sentence remains the same with either of them used in the blank. Both the correct answers have to be selected for a credit. No partial credit is provided, if only one correct answer is selected.

Answering Strategies for Sentence Equivalence

1. Remember that the correct answer choices need not have words that have the same meaning. It is the completed sentences that should have the same meaning, the words themselves may differ.
2. Make sure to consider all options presented before deciding on the correct answers.
3. You can use root words, prefixes, and suffixes to derive the meaning of words you may be unfamiliar with.
4. Try to fill the blank with your own words, before you look at the options provided.
5. Always double-check by reading the complete sentence with your selected option to ensure that the sentence is coherent and grammatically correct.
6. Also, consider slight variations in the meaning of each word.

Reading comprehension

The reading comprehension sub-section of the GRE® verbal section is designed to assess your ability to:

  1. Understand the meaning of words and sentences.
  2. Understand the meaning of larger blocks of text like paragraphs.Identify minor and major points in a passage.
  3. Summarize a passage.
  4. Draw conclusions from the text presented.Deal with incomplete data and infer missing information.
  5. Identify underlying assumptions an author works from.
  6. Analyze an argument and identify its strengths and weaknesses.
  7. Develop alternative explanations.English Vocabulary.

The passages section consists of about 10 passages. Most of the passages are just one paragraph long. These are derived from periodicals, magazines, and books on:

  • Physical sciences
  • Biological sciences
  • Social sciences
  • Arts and humanities
  • Everyday topics in popular culture

Answering Strategies for Reading Comprehension

1. Start by reading the questions, this primes you to identify the answers while reading the passage.
2. Identify the topic, scope, and purpose of the passage while reading it. Isolate topic words, where possible.
3. Distinguish between factual details and opinions.
4. Paraphrase, if needed, to understand the text better, including the questions and answer choices.
5. Consider all the options presented. 
6. Do not let your opinion or outside knowledge color your reading of the text presented. Work within the context presented.

Answering Strategies for Reading Comprehension

For the GRE® Verbal Reasoning section:
1. The score ranges from 130 to 170 points, with 1-point increments.
2. No partial credits are given for any of the questions.
3. Remember that the percentile score is more important than your actual score, as universities are looking at the relative performance.
4. For clarification, a 90-percentile score indicates that you have scored more than 90% of the test-takers, and are placed in the top 10%.
5. Based on the last few years, average verbal scores corresponding to different percentiles are as follows:
  1. Percentile Scaled GRE® Verbal Score
    Top 10% of all test takers 162
    Top 25% of all test takers 157
    Top 50% of all test takers 151
    Below 50th percentile of all test takers 150  

6. The mean score for the GRE® Verbal Reasoning section is at 151.

GRE® Verbal Target Score

Your target GRE® score depends on the program you are aiming to get admission in. Check the average score of applicants admitted to the program of your choice to understand the score that will make your application competitive.
Generally speaking, a score over 160 is considered ideal for most GRE® applicants. Nevertheless, you can get into good universities even with a score of over 150. Anything below that is below-average and may hinder your chances of being admitted in a reputed university.
To get a fair idea, take a look at  the average GRE® Verbal score of the candidates accepted in some universities:
Name of the University Average GRE® Verbal Score
San Diego State University 150
University of Arizona 152
NYU 153
Arizona State University 155
University of Buffalo 157
University of North Carolina 159
University of Florida 163
Georgia Institute of Technology 165
University of Utah 165

Remember that the exact score that a university would accept depends on the scoring pattern in that year. Therefore, the exact score is less important than the percentile score. A good guide to decide on  your target score is to look at the average score over the last 5 years for the program you are applying for. This would account for the variation in the accepted scores each season. It is well-established that the more you practice for the GRE® Verbal Section, the better you will score in the final exam.

GRE® Verbal Practice Tests


One tip that we give to our students is this: Take as many Verbal practice tests as possible during your prep. This helps you in identifying your strengths and weaknesses on various topics. Click here to access the AdmitEDGE Verbal practice tests that have some of the toughest questions.


Students usually ask the following questions when they want to understand GRE® Verbal Reasoning topic completely.
Q. How many questions are present in GRE® Verbal Reasoning section in total?
Ans. In total, there are 2 Verbal subsections. Subsection 1 comprises 15 Verbal Reasoning questions and Subsection 2 has 15 questions. There are, in total, 12-13 Reading Comprehension questions, 7-8 Sentence Equivalence questions, and 6-8 Text Completion questions.

Q. What is the average score of the Verbal test?

Ans. The average score for Verbal is 155 to 160.

Q. Is the Verbal exam hard?
Ans. Yes. If you are not familiar with the writing style and the words used, it can be a very tough section to crack.
Q. Is there partial credit for RC questions?
Ans. No. There is no partial credit. You have to answer all the options correctly to get the allocated marks.
Q. Are there flashcards for Verbal prep?
Ans. Yes. WordBot is an app where all the important GRE® words are explained with pictures. It has questions for practice in various formats.

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