offers hundreds of GRE video lessons and practice questions. Go there now.
Sign up or log in to Magoosh GRE Prep.

GRE Verbal Study Tips

How to study GRE Verbal

Preparing for the New GRE Verbal section can be daunting. First off, the verbal section has undergone major changes: antonyms and analogies have been replaced with paragraph long fill-in-the-blank question known as Text Completions; Reading Comprehension questions have been given the treatment as well.

Then there is the simple fact that the GRE Verbal Section has always entailed learning thousands of words and reading passages that, for many, is about as exciting as watching paint dry.

Below, I am going to cover how to study for the GRE verbal section without losing your mind. Indeed, if you follow the five guidelines below, you will, in a sense, gain a mind: one full of academic-level words and esoteric facts regarding the life of phytoplankton.

 

Use the best GRE Verbal practice materials

With the proliferation of the web and ubiquity of smart phones, hundreds of newcomers have flooded the GRE market. Some promise perfect scores – but are little more than a sham. Others promote the New GRE – but use content for the old test.

Then there are the usual suspects, popular brand name prep companies that quality-wise run the gamut from jaw-droppingly awful to pretty decent.

Ultimately, the prep sources you choose are going to significantly affect your score, so don’t waste time with junk. Try to use the best GRE book you can find.

Read our new GRE book reviews here.

 

Read beyond the Verbal section of the prep book

Here is the perhaps the biggest readjustment in thinking you will need: In prepping for the new GRE, you are not simply learning a few rules. You essentially have to to prove your ability to understand words in an academic context.

The best way to do this is to read. And by read, I don’t mean comic books, or the latest pulp thriller (I also am not implying that you have to read academic papers on the proliferation of phytoplankton in the North Sea).

Instead, choose a publication such as the New York Times, The New Yorker, or The Economist. Read something that interests you, taking notes of what you read.

 

Up your GRE Verbal score: learn words – not definitions

A common preconception—though not necessarily a misconception—is that one only needs to study a set list of high-frequency words and he or she is ready to ace the test. As somebody who has tutored the GRE for many years, I’ve never met a person for whom that method worked.

First off there is no one magic list. Secondly, learning from a list is very unproductive. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you do not know a word just because you can cough up some word-for-word definition, as in:

Belie – fail to give a true notion or impression of (something); disguise or contradict.   -New Oxford Dictionary

The real question is this: can you use the word in a sentence, and can you identify when the word is being correctly used in a sentence?  For instance, if I said the children belied themselves as ninjas during Halloween, you could very well look at the part of the sentence that says ‘disguise’ and think, hey, that’s right.

The only way to understand a complex word like belie is to understand how the word functions in context. Reading from newspapers and magazines (such as the ones quoted above) is a perfect way to do so. I’d also recommend using our free Vocabulary eBook!

 

Targeted practice

Don’t just prep at random. Take a look at these excellent study plans, which can guide you through strategies that can help you boost your GRE verbal score percentile.

 

Get involved – find a GRE Verbal Study Buddy

“No man is an island” is an expression that can be applied to the GRE aspirant. So do not barricade yourself behind a mountain of GRE prep books (especially bad ones). Instead find a study partner. You can quiz each other on words. If you don’t know anybody prepping for the GRE, then ask a family member to quiz use with flashcards (make sure you give them convincing example sentences).

Finally, there always the forums. Urch.com allows you to help the community out by answer GRE questions posed in the forums. And if you are stuck yourself, then feel free to ask your question on the forums. All these forms of interaction will help strengthen your GRE skills.

 

About the Author

Chris Lele has been helping students excel on the GRE, GMAT, and SAT for the last 10 years. He is the Lead Content Developer and Tutor for Magoosh. His favorite food is wasabi-flavored almonds. Follow him on Google+!

23 Responses to GRE Verbal Study Tips

  1. sudhamsh June 6, 2013 at 12:22 pm #

    Hi chris ,

    I have my real date of GRE in 25 days .. and i am in a mess to make my working plan with in this month . can u please help me in making a one month plan for GRE .

  2. sRuThi March 31, 2013 at 3:13 am #

    I was lucky to see this site just after I registered for GRE.

    I think its a very useful website.Thank you Mr.Chris.
    :)

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele April 2, 2013 at 10:15 am #

      You are welcome Sruthi :).

  3. Craig June 26, 2012 at 1:04 pm #

    Chris, I have bee very happy that manhattan gre with their rc. I am very curious about your free trial, problem is I might be taking the test next month am not sure a particular plan is good at this point. Nowe granted I came to your site late in the game, and wanted to try the free trial. Any ideas?

  4. Sammy June 14, 2012 at 10:40 am #

    Chris,
    Can you explain the differences between ‘which’ and ‘that’ when used in a sentence. I feel they are mixed up quite frequently in daily conversations.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris June 14, 2012 at 1:33 pm #

      Here’s a helpful post written by Mike, our GMAT expert:

      http://magoosh.com/gmat/2012/that-vs-which-on-the-gmat/

      • Sammy June 14, 2012 at 6:54 pm #

        Thanks, I read the post and wanted to test my knowledge on the difference between that and which.
        Lebron James has a disease that will debilitate his legs.
        Lebron James has Lou Gehrigs disease, which will debilitate his legs.

        Any feedback would be great!
        Thanks in advance!

        • Chris Lele
          Chris June 19, 2012 at 2:36 pm #

          Hi Sammy,

          Yep, you got it! The use of ‘that’ and ‘which’ in your examples is perfect. Indeed, you have adeptly employed a nuanced use of English grammar *that* will help you in your essays :).

  5. Palak June 13, 2012 at 4:03 pm #

    Hey Chris,

    I’m planing to give the GRE after a month and I’m in a valley of despond due to my below average RC performance. Can you please suggest some more precise materials for improving this aspect. I’ve been perusing articles from the aforementioned material but they aren’t helping me in this particular aspect. Please help.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris June 14, 2012 at 12:09 pm #

      Hi Palak,

      At a certain point, there is nothing that can replaced the rigors of a RC passage – as I’m sure you are well aware. ETS Official Guide, MGRE, Magoosh, even Barron’s provide plenty of practice. And that’s just on the GRE side.

      You can also use GMAT materials, and even LSAT, esp. for very difficult passages.

      Hope that helps pull you out of your valley of despondency :). If not, let me know if I can help more.

      • Palak June 14, 2012 at 12:14 pm #

        Will “The PowerScore LSAT Logical Reasoning Bible” be of any help?
        What do you reckon?

        • Chris Lele
          Chris June 19, 2012 at 2:38 pm #

          Hi Palak,

          I think the PowerScore LSAT bible is overkill for the GRE. First off, you’ll only have about half a dozen Critical Reasoning questions on the entire test. Secondly, the scope of CR questions is far more limited on the GRE than it is on the LSAT. I would focus on learning the basics for critical reasoning and then doing a series of practice questions, using the GMAT 12th edition if you run out of questions.

          Hope that helps!

  6. Sammy June 11, 2012 at 10:26 am #

    Chris,
    Can you explain the nuances of errant v.s erratic v.s erroneous. They have discrete meanings but I sometimes feel that they can be used interchangeably.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris June 11, 2012 at 3:49 pm #

      Hi Sammy,

      Good question :). That’s definitely a tricky trio! ‘Errant’ means not behavior in a proper fashion, at least as deemed by society. Erratic means highly unpredictable. Erroneous simply means incorrect.

      Hope that helps!

  7. stephen June 9, 2012 at 4:38 pm #

    i am preparing for the GRE but i keeping pushing my test date forward because i don’t feel well prepared especially with the verbal section i.e. the reading comprehension, different books keep giving varied and wired strategies which never seem to help me whenever i try a test
    what should i do

  8. Craig June 2, 2012 at 11:25 am #

    Hello. I have taken the gre twice and with my add I jump back and forth from question concepts to notes on qcs to formulas, etc. What is the best way to study when my mind is jumping crazy. I have not taken the new version and have all prep books on my iPad and manhattan on my iPad as well. Any ideas?

    • Chris Lele
      Chris June 4, 2012 at 4:18 pm #

      Hi Craig,

      I think a good idea is to make sure that you focus on one area during each of your study sessions. It is easy, with all the material at your fingertips, to jump around. Focus on one question at a time, and the concepts contained within. Once you feel as though you understand those concepts move on to another question.

      Let me know how that works out!

  9. Sammy June 1, 2012 at 2:58 pm #

    Hows this for an example
    The mothers stern attitude toward his unwavering recalcitrance belies the fact that he told us he was getting another present after his birthday party.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris June 4, 2012 at 3:50 pm #

      Pretty good – I think there are a lot of GRE words in one sentence, but as long as you understand the sentence the fact that you are constructing it. I think you are saying that his mother is not for very happy with his disobedience, a fact that doesn’t match up well with him getting a b-day present.

      Keep it up :).

  10. vaisnavi June 1, 2012 at 1:15 pm #

    Was looking for this awesome post for so many days.Thanks a lot Mr Chris, will definitely try to follow your strategy.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris June 1, 2012 at 1:30 pm #

      You are welcome :).

      Let me know how it goes trying to implement the strategy!


Magoosh blog comment policy: To create the best experience for our readers, we will approve and respond to comments that are relevant to the article, general enough to be helpful to other students, concise, and well-written! :) If your comment was not approved, it likely did not adhere to these guidelines. If you are a Premium Magoosh student and would like more personalized service, you can use the Help tab on the Magoosh dashboard. Thanks!

Leave a Reply