How To Learn GRE Vocabulary Quickly and Effectively
Posted on
Mar 2023

How To Learn GRE Vocabulary Quickly and Effectively

By now you know that GRE preparation, for almost everyone, involves studying vocabulary words. Half of the questions on the GRE verbal reasoning sections are vocabulary-based. You will have to select from an answer choice set of vocabulary words to appropriately fill in the blank/blanks in a sentence. It’s hard to get these questions right without knowing the vocabulary. Unless you are an edacious reader with a prodigious vocabulary, you’ll most likely need to learn a few hundred words.

GRE Vocabulary Preparation Lists

How can you complete such a rebarbative task efficiently? Well, there are myriad GRE vocabulary lists out there for you to study, but I recommend making your own flashcards.

As you practice reading comprehension, both from official GRE practice materials and from other good sources like peer-review journals and college textbooks in the sciences and humanities, make a flashcard for every word you encounter and don’t know.

Don’t worry about sciency words that would only ever be used in one context, like phototransduction. You want nouns, adjectives, and verbs that have broad applicability. Even when you come across an unknown word in the course of working or reading for pleasure, jot it down somewhere (digitally or physically) and make a flashcard later.

Once you get into this habit, you’ll be amazed how often you encounter unknown words in everyday life. Most of us just filter these words out or circumvent them by using context clues to get the gist of what was said. A useful skill – but in this case a deleterious one.

Make a Flashcard for Each Unknown Word

And of course, make a flashcard for every unknown word you encounter in any vocabulary-based GRE practice question.

The very act of making these flashcards will reinforce your memory of the words’ definitions, but as you keep shuffling your deck and studying it over time, your retention will multiply.

It’s important to do this regularly. Build it into your daily routine, and take advantage of odd moments. Waiting for the bus/subway/train? Don’t scroll TikTok – study vocabulary words. Go over some definitions mentally while you brush your teeth. See how many flashcards you can get through while your chicken florentine is in the microwave.

Connect Words that are Synonyms or Antonyms

Another reinforcing practice is to connect words in your flashcard deck that are synonyms or antonyms. You don’t have to group them together for study, but if you’re reviewing a word and realize that it has a synonym or antonym relationship to another word in your deck, see if you can list any other synonyms or antonyms in your deck.

This way your individual “definition knowledge bits” can become mutually reinforcing. And as you know, the two correct answer choices on any sentence equivalence question are synonyms, or at least words that can function synonymously in the given context. You’ll be surprised how often sentence equivalence questions feature synonym pairs you identified in your study deck.

If you get into these vocabulary-building habits, you’ll find that they serve you long after you’ve trounced the GRE. A robust vocabulary makes you a more effective communicator, a clearer thinker, and an all-around cooler person – as long as you don’t flaunt it too much.

To supplement your vocabulary-building efforts, it’s important to have a thorough understanding of the structure and content of the GRE verbal reasoning section. The section includes two types of questions: reading comprehension, sentence equivalence, and text completion. Understanding the different question types and their respective formats can help you approach each question with confidence and efficiency.

If you are interested in speaking with one of our GRE tutors, you can sign-up for a complimentary, 30-minute, consultation callYou can also learn more from our past clients who were able to achieve their cumulative 325+ score with us!

Contributor: Elijah Mize (Apex GRE Instructor)

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GRE: Text Completion and Sentence Equivalence
Posted on
Feb 2023

GRE: Text Completion and Sentence Equivalence

Vocabulary-based questions on the GRE verbal reasoning section are of two kinds: text completion and sentence equivalence. Both types are about filling in blanks in sentences with the right words based on context, but the answer choice formats are different. In this article, we’ll observe the similarities and differences between the two types of vocabulary questions and provide you with guidelines for working out each type.

Text Completion and Sentence Equivalence: Similarities and Differences

GRE Text completion (TC)

Text completion (TC) questions can have one, two, or three blanks, with each blank being filled by one correct word. Single-blank TC questions have five words to choose from. Double-blank and triple-blank TC questions have three choices for each blank. Here are some examples, with correct answers to follow:

GRE Text Completion Problem

In the midst of so many evasive comments, this forthright statement, whatever its intrinsic merit, plainly stands out as                      .

(A)  paradigm

(B) a misnomer

(C) a profundity

(D) an inaccuracy

(E) an anomaly

The correct answer is E, an anomaly. The “forthright statement” is anomalous among “so many evasive comments.”

GRE Text Completion Problem

The activists’ energetic work in the service of both women’s suffrage and the temperance movement in the late nineteenth century (i)                    the assertion that the two movements were (ii)                     .

Blank (i)                                                    Blank (ii)

(A) undermines                                    (D) diffuse

(B) supports                                           (E) inimical

(C) underscores                                   (F) predominant

The correct answers are A, undermines, and E, inimical. Inimical is a less common word meaning “at odds” or “opposed.” It has the same root as the word “enemy.” Even if you don’t know this word, you must choose it because the other blank (ii) choices D, diffuse, and F, predominant, can’t work.

GRE Text Completion Problem

Wills argues that certain malarial parasites are especially (i)                        because they have more recently entered humans than other species and therefore have had (ii)                       time to evolve toward (iii)                       . Yet there is no reliable evidence that the most harmful Plasmodium species has been in humans for a shorter time than less harmful species.

Blank (i)                                                    Blank (ii)                                                    Blank (iii)

(A) populous                                          (D) ample                                                 (G) virulence

(B) malignant                                        (E) insufficient                                     (H) benignity

(C) threatened                                     (F) adequate                                           (I) variability

The correct answers are B, malignant, E, insufficient, and H, benignity. This question is all about the relationship between the passage of time and the harmfulness of the malarial parasites. The second sentence of the prompt makes it clear that Wills expects the most recently-entered parasites to be the most harmful and the least recently-entered parasites to be the least harmful.

To put it in terms of the answer choices, the parasites, according to Wills, become less malignant and more benign as time goes by. Therefore, since we are talking about the parasites that have “more recently entered humans,” they have had insufficient time to evolve from malignancy to benignity, and the answer combination of B, E, and H makes sense

GRE Sentence Equivalence

These questions have only one blank, but you must choose two words that would appropriately and similarly fill in the blank from among a group of six. You’re looking for the two words that, when substituted for the blank, produce sentences of similar meaning (hence the name “sentence equivalence”). There may be more than one potential synonym pair among the six answer choices, but only one synonym pair will work contextually.

Here’s an example:

GRE Sentence Equivalence Problem

A misconception held by novice writers is that sentence structure mirrors thought: the more convoluted the structure, the more                        the ideas.

(A) complicated

(B) engaged

(C) essential

(D) fanciful

(E) inconsequential

(F) involved

This question is fairly straightforward; we are trying to match the meaning of the keyword “convoluted” in the sentence. The correct answers are A, complicated, and F, involved.

Notice that this is a less common meaning for the word “involved.” If you ignore the context and just try to find a synonym pair, you might land on B, engaged, and F, involved. Normally these words would have similar meanings. But “involved” has another meaning that works for the blank in this sentence, while “engaged” does not.

GRE Sentence Equivalence Problem

Here’s one more sentence equivalence problem for practice:

Newspapers report that the former executive has been trying to keep a low profile since his                        exit from the company.

(A) celebrated

(B) mysterious

(C) long-awaited

(D) fortuitous

(E) indecorous

(F) unseemly

Why is this former executive trying to keep a low profile? A case could be made for any of the answer choices, but there is only one real synonym pair: indecorous and unseemly (E and F). Even if you don’t know these words, you can arrive at the correct answer by noting the lack of a proper synonym pair in any of the more common words functioning as answer choices A through D.

For sentence equivalence questions, you have to maintain a flexible approach. Some questions will rely more on context clues, and others will rely more on recognizing synonym pairs.

If words like indecorous and unseemly are tripping you up on vocabulary-based questions, come back for our next article on how to efficiently learn GRE vocabulary words.

If you are interested in speaking with one of our GRE private tutors, you can sign-up for a complimentary, 30-minute free consultation call. You can also learn more from our past clients who were able to achieve their cumulative 325+ score with us!

Contributor: Elijah Mize (Apex GRE Instructor)

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GRE Verbal Section
Posted on
Jan 2022

GRE Verbal Section – All You Need To Know

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:

  1. Read the whole passage without taking too much time to memorize details
  2. Analyze the logical structure of the passage
  3. 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

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