This is a common refrain from those who attempt the GRE verbal section for the first time. After all, seeing difficult words, twisted syntax, and dense passages on abstruse topics can make even avid readers tense up. If you typically do not care much for reading and/or have been out of college for a while, the GRE can seem an inscrutable language, an academic hieroglyphics. If this describes you, then the worst thing you can do is throw the book down in despair and utter the title of this post.
You can—and you will—get better. Platitudes aside, you will have to invest a lot of time, and you will need a lot of patience. Just as learning a foreign language can be very difficult and frustrating so too is preparing for the GRE. Yet, if English is not your first language, then you already have learned a foreign language. So you definitely have the requisite grit to help you improve in verbal (indeed, I’d say that learning a foreign language from scratch is more difficult then scoring a 155 Verbal on the GRE).
Now that I’ve instilled a positive attitude, what are some specific things you can do to improve at the Verbal?
Read, read, and read
Oh how important this is. If you do not read much, your brain is not going to like you after you force it to try to read a 450-word passage test day. Only by reading—and by reading I mean relatively challenging, thought-provoking stuff—will you have an easier time navigating the treacherous waters of verbiage that is the GRE verbal section.
To learn more about what to read and how to read, check out the following Magoosh blog post:
Fall in love with words
Okay, I know…perhaps this sounds a little overblown. But honestly, you will have a far more enjoyable time studying for GRE if you learn to appreciate words. Perhaps the tactile sensation of feeling ‘lugubrious’ play out on your lips, the comical imagery conjured up by ‘troglodyte’, the ethereal quality of ‘diaphanous’, or the sheer whimsicality of ‘curmudgeon’ will make you a vocab-o-phile. If you need more nudging on your path to falling in love with words, don’t forget our weekly vocab series: Vocab Wednesdays.
You can also check out our top 20 most common GRE word list.
To say you are terrible at verbal is vague. Identifying specific areas in which you struggle on verbal can help boost your score. Is it vocabulary, reading comp passages, specifically just the reading comp questions? Whatever the case, target this area. Also Magoosh has an awesome feature in which we allow you to practice questions by type. You can do only One-blank Text Completions, Two-blank Text Completions, Reading Comprehension, etc. You can also choose by difficulty level.
And remember—keep a positive attitude. A weakness is but an opportunity to build another strength :).