GRE Verbal Reasoning - Skills

The Verbal Reasoning sections of the GRE are designed to test students' ability to perform graduate-level qualitative work. The skills evaluated by the GRE include the ability of a student to reach a conclusion about how a passage should be completed based on partial information, to maintain a tone of evaluation and interpretation while reading, and to utilize a wide range of abilities required to read and understand the sort of prose that you may encounter in graduate school. Specifically, these abilities include understanding the meaning of paragraphs and large bodies of text as well as individual words and sentences, summarizing passages and distinguishing between major and minor points, drawing conclusions and making inferences from incomplete data, understanding the structure of a text, identifying authorial assumptions and perspective, analyzing a text, identifying strengths and weaknesses of an argument, and developing and considering alternative explanations. Success on the Verbal Reasoning sections requires active engagement with the texts, and continual refinement of your conception of a passage as you gain more information.

Reading Comprehension

About half of the questions in the GRE Verbal Reasoning sections will be Reading Comprehension questions. You may have seen Reading Comprehension passages before, but the GRE passages will probably be more difficult than what you are used to – they are frequently quite dull, complicated, or technical, and are not like passages meant for pleasure reading. The GRE seeks to measure your ability to sift through mostly convoluted and unfamiliar topics, generally culled from theses or research papers of a variety of topics, as any graduate student would be expected to do. The questions test your ability to understand, analyze, and apply the information and concepts. Although it may look like the easiest part of the Verbal Reasoning section, the time constraints make this aspect very challenging. The topics of the passages mostly will not entertain you as they may come from Natural Science, Social Science, Business-related content, and other topics too. The passages are written in the GRE style: they will look tasteless. Even a passage on your favorite topic may not be an easy ride for you. This calls for applying an approach to solve Reading Comprehension questions.


The Text Completion and Sentence Equivalence sections of the GRE are effectively both methods to evaluate students' vocabulary understanding and usage. In order to succeed on these questions, you must master a wide breadth of gradute-level vocabulary words from a variety of fields. The best way to learn this vocabulary is to take a diverse undergraduate courseload and to read a variety of literature from different perspectives, areas, and time periods. For students who have a less well-rounded background, dedicated studying is required to acquire the vocabulary understanding to succeed on the Verbal Reasoning sections of the GRE.


Generally, the GRE is regarded as having a more difficult Verbal Reasoning section than the GMAT, and a less difficulat Quantitative Reasoning section. One reason for this is that the time management works very differently for each test. For the GRE, timing is organized by section; you may skip questions, review questions at the end of the section, and spend as much time as you need to on each question. For the GMAT, each question is individually timed, so you must give a final answer each question within a few minutes of seeing it.

The philosophical distinction underpinning difference between the two tests is that the GRE is intended to reflect all of your undergraduate learning and accomplishment, whereas the GMAT is intended to test your problem-solving ability. This distinction is most clear in the Verbal Reasoning sections of the test. Whereas the GMAT tests students' ability to memorize and deploy grammar and spelling rules, the GRE is more concerned with overall vocabulary knowledge and understanding, and ability to analyze complex linguistic structures. The skills to succeed on the GRE are best acquired over many years, but focused studying can help you overcome your weaknesses and master the language of the GRE.

ETS Research

ETS conducts validity studies to ensure that the test is accurately measuring aptitude and knowledge of skills that are considered important for success in graduate school. In the Verbal Reasoning sections, the specific skills measured include the "ability to understand text" and the "ability to interpret discourse" (roughly, the ability to understand and summarize a text and the ability to draw conclusions and infer information from an argument). One section of each test, which is not scored and may be either Quantitative or Verbal, is dedicated to Research. This section allows ETS to evaluate new test questions and measure the difficulty level of the graded portions of the test. There may also be an "experimental" section at the end of the test – this section will be optional.

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