The Verbal Section on The GRE

A lot of students stress about the Verbal section when preparing for the GRE. While it is important to familiarize yourself with the language of this section, it is also important to know what to expect on test day.

Below we will discuss the various topics that you can expect to encounter in the Verbal Section of the GRE.

The Geography of the Verbal Section

The GRE Verbal component is intended to assess your verbal reasoning ability. This chapter will go over the different types of questions you’ll encounter, how to pace yourself, and the basic methods for navigating the Verbal part. This chapter will also explain the relevance of vocabulary on the test, as well as some helpful hints for studying GRE vocabulary.

What’s on the Verbal Section?

The Verbal component of the GRE, according to ETS, accomplishes the following:

  • Places a stronger emphasis on analytical abilities and contextual language understanding rather than isolated vocabulary.
  • More text-based items are used.
  • Contains a larger array of reading options.
  • This test focuses on skills that are more closely related to those utilized in graduate school.
  • Increases the number of computer-assisted tasks.

What does this mean for you?

  • There will be no analogies or antonyms questions on this test, as there were on the previous version of the GRE.
  • You’ll come across some unusual question formats that you’ve probably never seen before.
  • Though the new version of the test is said to place less emphasis on vocabulary, there’s no denying that the more vocabulary you have when you sit down to take the test, the better. As a result, vocabulary is as crucial as it has always been.

The Verbal section of the test has three categories of questions:

  1. Text Completions.
  2. Sentence Equivalence.
  3. Reading Comprehension.

Let’s take a look at each question type in more detail.

Text Completions.

Short chunks of text with one or more blanks are used in text completion problems, and you must choose the best word to fill in each blank.

You may only notice one blank in the text, in which case you will be given five answer options, or you may see two or three blanks, each with three options.

If you fill in some but not all of the gaps correctly on a question, you will not receive partial credit, so read carefully.

Here is an example of a two-blank question:

Though Adam was incredulous upon hearing Madam Sofia’s psychic reading, after a few weeks had passed, he was (i) _________ by how remarkably (ii) _________ she had turned out to be.

Blank (i) Blank (ii)

Sentence Equivalence.

This is another form of a vocabulary-based question. Each question will have one sentence and six possible answers.

It is your responsibility to select the two response options that logically complete the phrase.

There is no partial credit, so you must choose both correct answer choices to gain points, just like with Text Completions.

Here’s an illustration:

When Selena brought home the irascible puppy, her more quiescent dogs were rattled by their new __________ housemate.

  • pugnacious.
  • languid.
  • bellicose.
  • juvenile.
  • diminutive.
  • phlegmatic.

Reading Comprehension

Regarding half of the Verbal questions, you’ll see are about reading comprehension. The length of each chapter varies from one to five paragraphs, with one to five questions per paragraph.

Regardless of length, the sections all present some sort of argument that the author is attempting to support, even if it is only the author’s personal perspective.

As a result, you’ll be asked to identify an author’s point of view, as well as the assumptions and premises that support that point of view, in some of the questions in this section.

Other Reading Comprehension questions will focus on specific elements in the paragraph that may be proven from the passage, the text’s structure or tone, how a term is used in context, or the major topic.

Thankfully, these questions rarely put your past language knowledge to the test. Reading Comprehension questions are also similar to an open-book test in that everything you need is right there in the passage!

There are three types of Reading Comprehension questions:

  1. Multiple Choice.
  2. Select All That Apply.
  3. Select a Sentence.

You must click on the sentence in the paragraph that you believe answers the question when you see a Select-a-Sentence question like the one above.

How is the GRE VERBAL SECTION structured?

There are two verbal portions on the GRE that are rated multiple-choice. Each part will last 30 minutes and contain 20 questions.

The difficulty of the next Verbal segment you are given is determined by how well you perform on the previous Verbal part.

The order of the verbal portions is usually consistent. The first six questions will be Text Completion, followed by five or six Reading Comprehension questions, then four or five Sentence Equivalence questions, and finally four or five more Reading Comprehension questions.

The two verbal sections in the profile will look something like this:



Final Note

The Verbal component of the GRE is divided into two 30-minute sections, each with 20 questions.

Text completion, sentence equivalence, and reading comprehension questions make up the verbal component.