The business world is dominated by numbers, charts, and graphs. Thus, most business school hopefuls understandably focus on developing their analytical thinking and math skills when preparing for the GRE exam. But it’s a mistake to neglect the GRE verbal section. Effective GRE test prep requires a balanced, well-rounded approach.
Here’s what you need to know about the GRE verbal reasoning section.
What is the GRE verbal section and what does it test for?
The verbal section of GRE primarily evaluates the test taker’s overall command of standard written English, their ability to analyze and evaluate arguments, and critical reading skills. As such, the verbal section is made up of three types of problems: reading comprehension, text correction, and sentence equivalence.
The 3 sections have a total of 36 questions, with a time limit of 65 minutes. This leaves, on average, 1 minute and 50 seconds per question.
How Is GRE Verbal Section Scored?
The verbal section of GRE, like the quantitative section, is evaluated on a scale of 130 to 170 in one point increments. A 162 on Verbal and a 166 on Quant is considered an excellent score – it is a 90th percentile score that will be competitive for most graduate programs.
“What are GRE percentiles?” you may ask. Basically, the GRE ranks test takers by percentile. The percentile system uses GRE scores from the previous three years to calculate how applicants performed compared to their peers. For example, if an applicant scores in the 80th percentile, it means he or she performed better than 80% of test takers over the last three years.
Although the GRE scaled scores don’t change over time, the percentiles do. Graduate schools assess both the scaled and percentile scores to get an adequate understanding of the applicant’s strengths and weaknesses.
Language on the GRE Verbal Section
The language on the verbal section is more sophisticated and academic than what is used in everyday vocabulary. If you aren’t accustomed to reading formal English, your verbal prep might require some extra time and energy.
It will be easier to identify errors, main points, and bias statements once you’ve trained your ear to formal English. Practice reading formal texts efficiently and effectively, and avoid vernacular texts. Instead, choose sources that are known for using elevated writing styles, such as The New Yorker or The New York Times.
GRE Reading Comprehension
The reading comprehension subsection of GRE evaluates not only the candidate’s understanding of words and statements, but more importantly, the underlying logic behind them.
In this subsection, you’ll find passages of texts followed by several questions about the text’s details and implications. Some passages draw from various disciplines, such as the physical, biological, or social sciences, while others refer to business-related fields.
Here are some tips to make the process less tedious and more efficient:
- Read the whole passage without taking too much time to memorize details
- Analyze the logical structure of the passage
- Ask yourself:
- What’s the main argument?
- What does the author state explicitly? What is implied?
- How would you describe the author’s tone and attitude?
Keep an eye out for opinionated words–for example, “clearly,” “obviously,” or “apparently”–these words hint at the author’s attitudes, and they’ll help you suss out the main point.
GRE Text Completion
Text Completion is another subsection of GRE consisting of questions designed to test candidates’ abilities to build coherent and meaningful sentences. What test-takers should do is to read short passages that miss crucial words in them. Then, based on the remaining information, they need to choose the word or short phrase that would best fit the blank and thus, construct clear and logical texts.
Here are a few tips to nail the GRE Text Completion subsection:
- Don’t focus only on the sentence with the blank space, read through the whole passage to learn the context.
- Don’t waste too much time on the first blank – if you can’t think of anything at the moment, continue filling the rest and then come back to it.
- Keep an eye on words like although, therefore, as they are connective words setting the direction of the passages.
GRE Sentence Equivalence
Similarly, the sentence equivalence subsection of the GRE aims at assessing a candidate’s ability to formulate a meaningful “whole” by choosing the proper way to fill in the blank spaces. Test-takers will have to complete a sentence by choosing two of the six answer options to fit one blank. The two words must be synonyms and lead to the constructing of a sentence with, more or less, the same meaning. No credit is provided for partially correct answers.
Here are some tips to consider while doing the GRE sentence equivalence subsection:
- First and foremost, you need to equip yourself with rich vocabulary, as you need to identify perfect synonyms.
- As there may be more than one set of synonyms among the answers, make sure that the words chosen by you are appropriate for filling in the blank.
- After you’ve made your choice, make sure to read the sentence again in order to ensure it is grammatically and logically coherent.
Taking the GRE quantitative section into account, there are a number of score combinations that will lead to the same overall score, which leaves plenty of room to maneuver. However, given the rise in GRE quantitative scores in recent years, total scores and percentile rankings have shifted. This gives candidates an opportunity to boost their overall scores by mastering the verbal section of the GRE.
Contributor: Bilhen Sali