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Book Review: Official GRE Verbal Reasoning Practice Questions

After numerous release date push backs, much to the (i) —- of serious GRE preppers everywhere, the Official GRE Practice Question guides* are now available. For those looking to become (ii) —- the latest questions ETS has been cooking up—assuming that these questions are just that—the hundreds of practice problems should sharpen their skills given the (iii) —- with which ETS has so lovingly crafted them.


(i)                                  (ii)                                          (iii)


(A) delight                 (D) unplugged from             (G) sincerity

(B) edification            (E) heavily indebted to         (H) artifice

(C) chagrin                (F) savvy to                       (I) specificity
Answers: (C), (F), (H)

*For this post, I’ll start off with the Verbal Guide, but you can find the Quantitative Reasoning book review here.

Should you get this guide?

This is the question most are clamoring to ask. The short answer: definitely.

The reasons behind getting this guide are important. But first off: Do not buy this guide if you are looking for excellent strategies and explanations to questions. You’ll get ho-hum strategies that are taken, word-for-word and page-by-page, from the Official Guide to the GRE. Like that book, the value lies in the questions. Nothing can better prepare you than these questions—and that even includes the questions in the Official Guide. See, the questions in this newest guide best reflect what you’ll see test day.

The Text Completions have become less about vocabulary and more about teasing about context. And the wrong answers seem even more cunningly devised to lull you should your eyes wonder to the answer choices before thinking the question through.

The reading passages are longer than anything that ETS has yet to release. That is an indication that they are being a little more forthright on the content they’ve decided to share with the public, since students routinely see passages over 450 words on the actual tests (This is the first and only ETS guide that has such long passages).. And assumption questions that, up until now, were missing from the ETS practice questions are in this book—something that is also consistent with student reports.

Personally, I would have liked even more difficult questions, or at least more difficult questions than the few given in this book. The questions in the three practice sets don’t seem quite as difficult as the questions labeled “hard” at the beginning of the book. That said I learned something illuminating about the easy questions, especially in the Text Completion sections (see the section below). But still, for the most part, this book will definitely prepare those who are looking to score in the sub-160 range. My hunch is that the GRE is saving its nastiest stuff for the actual test.

The more nitty-gritty

Above was an overview. For those interested in a more nuanced breakdown, here are my thoughts:

Text Completions have become more about context and less about vocabulary. That especially goes for words in the sentence. Look at the questions below:

The sight of a single actor portraying several characters in the same scene is no longer a shock to the average moviegoer, such special-effects trickery having become so _________.

(A) expensive
(B) specialized
(C) sinister
(D) commonplace
(E) unreliable

Kagan maintains that an infant’s reaction to its first stressful experiences are part of a natural process of development, not harbingers of childhood unhappiness or _______ signs of adolescent anxiety.

(A) prophetic
(B) normal
(C) monotonous
(D) virtual
(E) typical

I would say the answers in the second question are slightly more difficult. But it’s really the sentence in which the difference lies. The clue is “harbingers”. If you know that word means “a person or thing that announces another” the question is relatively straightforward. The clue in the first sentence has more words and these words, in the scheme of things, don’t stand out too much. Granted, I don’t have the exact percentage of students who answered each question, but both are the second question in the “Easy” practice set.

What makes the first question more difficult is you have to fish for the clue. It’s subtly embedded in simple words. This theme seems recapitulated through the questions: less dry, academic prose and more flowing prose, without as many big words in the answer choices.

Of course that sounds pretty vague, so to give my observations some quantitative heft, I’ve used a nifty little tool call a “Lexical Analyzer”, which shows you how dense/difficult a given text is. The primary measure I use is the Fog Index, which shows how difficult a text is to read. The higher each one is the more difficult the text.

The first sentence: 22.72 Fog Index
The second sentence: 18.91 Fog Index

Now let’s take a sentence from the hard section. You’re probably expecting some highly dense, academic prose closed off to all but the most literary inclined. Behold this morsel then:

When she first came to France from Bulgaria, she was hardly the ______ student she later made herself out to be, since she had access to considerable family wealth.

(A) naïve
(B) precocious
(C) impecunious
(D) ambitious
(E) assiduous

Fog Index: 15.91.

That’s much lower. How, then, is this question in the “hard” section. One answer of course is the vocabulary. The other, though, is subtler. What about answer (A)? It works. Kind of. I mean, she actually is this really rich person and not some naïve person. The problem is just because you come from a wealthy family doesn’t mean you are the opposite of naïve. You could very well be naïve. The contrast the GRE is looking for has to be more direct and explicit. And what better way to hide that with a difficult word? Impecunious, which means having no money, you might very well have picked had you known what it means.

So that’s what makes it hard. Not just tough vocabulary, but answer choices that kind of work.

The point that I’m driving at is that the test seems to be changing in terms of Text Completions. Vocabulary, while still important at the higher-levels, doesn’t seem to be as important at the lower levels. And how difficult the sentence is to understand doesn’t determine whether it is an ‘easy’ or ‘difficult’ question. In other words, if you are not that strong at verbal—and may very well end up with the “easy” verbal section test day—cramming vocabulary words at the expense of improving your reading skills may be foolhardy. So don’t throw the flashcards out yet, but don’t focus on the advanced words, and, most importantly, start reading The New York Times and The New Yorker ( is a good trove of light academic reading—if there is such a thing).

Sentence Equivalence and Reading Comprehension

Don’t worry—I haven’t forgotten Sentence Equivalence and Reading Comprehension. It seems, however, that those two sections haven’t changed as much, with a few exceptions. With Reading Comprehension the answer is pretty indisputable once you hunt through the text. The text though, at least as far as the density of ideas goes, seems a little a more challenging (sadly, there is no nifty calculator for idea density and the nuance in these ideas). If you don’t carefully parse out these ideas, the wrong answers, as always, are very good at tripping you up. Yet, I don’t think the wrong answers were quite as sneaky as in previously published GRE material. Meaning that understanding the text and thinking about the answer to the question before looking at the answers should likely lead you to the correct answer. Again, since the ideas in the text are subtler, doing so will be no easy feat.

Sentence Equivalence seems about the same level, and perhaps a little easier, than Sentence Equivalence questions from the Official Guide. One thing I did notice more of, and what might actually make the SE more difficult, are answer choices that work perfectly but don’t actually have a matching word, i.e. a word amongst the other answer choices that creates a synonymous sentence. What are not nearly as common are questions with two pairs of synonyms, only one of which works, of course. What I’m wondering, with the Reading Comprehension and Sentence Equivalence, is did the GRE place a red herring, something that leads us astray from the ineluctable fact that the test is going to be more difficult, at least as far as Sentence Equivalence goes? Perhaps, but only for those students who will get the most difficult section (the 160+ scorers).

For the rest of us, this guide is going to have all we need in terms of difficulty. The 150 questions might be the single best way to prep for exam day. Yet, since we don’t really know how indicative these questions are of what is actually on the test—though I think the overlap is significant—you’ll still want to prep using all available ETS material.

By the way, students who use Magoosh GRE improve their scores by an average of 8 points on the new scale (150 points on the old scale.) Click here to learn more.

48 Responses to Book Review: Official GRE Verbal Reasoning Practice Questions

  1. 11 September 26, 2016 at 8:39 am #

    Should I start with MGRE or ets official guide for gre

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert September 26, 2016 at 9:09 am #

      I’d recommend starting with the ETS Official Guide. Since it’s written by the authors of the actual exam, the OG should give the best idea of what types of questions and their difficulty level to expect on test day. Plus, we have many explanation videos for practice problems from the OG, including the practice tests. Check out this blog post for more info!

      Happy studying 🙂

  2. Mas August 17, 2016 at 8:35 pm #

    Thanks a lot for this post though I think it needs to be updated as we are in 2016. I think it is written in 2015. Could you please advise me on the best book for the GRE? One that I can read only from and get high grades. In addition I have only three weeks to prepare.

    I want to add sth: could you please give me the links to the videos related to these book or to the Official book?
    Again, your help is very much appreciated

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert August 21, 2016 at 9:45 am #

      Hi Mas,

      This post may have been written in 2015, but the information is still up-to-date! ETS has not released a new version of this book since this post was written. Once they do, you can be sure that we will update our review to reflect any changes 🙂

      Three weeks is a short study window, but you can definitely see some improvement. Have you considered using Magoosh? We provide comprehensive strategies, 1100+ high quality practice questions and explanations, and access to our team of tutors to help you out! Our study plans will bring you through all of the material you need to know for an elite score–how well you do depends on your commitment and ability to learn and make connections! You can try us out with a free trial here:

      We also provide a blog post with other book reviews (also written in 2015 but still up-to-date):

      We have a forum with video explanations to many (not all) of the questions in the Official Guide which you can access here:

  3. Morteza Pishnamazi August 6, 2016 at 12:40 am #

    Hi Dear Chris
    Thank you for all the great material.
    Why is this book called, Official GRE® Verbal Reasoning Practice Questions, Volume 1? Is there a Volume 2? I couldn’t find it online.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert August 6, 2016 at 7:39 am #

      Good question! To the best of our knowledge, no, a “Volume 2” has not been published. So, it’s hard to say exactly why ETS decided to call this book of practice questions “Volume 1.”

      I’m sorry we couldn’t clear things up more, but I hope this helps, at least a little 🙂

      • Morteza Pishnamazi August 6, 2016 at 7:44 am #

        Thanks for the fast reply. At least now I know I don’t need to search any more.

        Keep up the good word.

        Magoosh is, in all respects, the most reliable source out there when it comes to GRE prep!

        • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
          Magoosh Test Prep Expert August 6, 2016 at 8:11 am #

          You’re very welcome!

          And thanks for such kind words 😀 We do our best to provide our students with top-notch test prep resources and information! It’s great to hear that you’re having a great experience with our materials!

          Happy studying!

          • Soniya Shettigar October 3, 2016 at 7:06 pm #

            It indeed is the the most reliable source. 🙂

  4. Rachel April 3, 2016 at 12:24 pm #

    Hey! Thanks for the review here. My question is, if this book isn’t good strategy-wise, what is a good resource for that? I totally see the value in the practice questions, but would like to put both pieces of the puzzle together, strategy + practice. Thanks!

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert April 5, 2016 at 11:38 am #

      One of the nice things about official GRE prep materials is that they’re well-supported online. Services like Magoosh offer subscribers strategy advice and direct support for any ETS material. And online GMAT forums are full of community members who also have the official books and will discuss strategy related to questions in the books, free of charge. To find good GRE forums, you can look at our post on recommended forums. Although honestly, there are so many online communities for GRE prep out there that simply Googling “GRE forums” will get you a lot of other good links.

      • Mas August 17, 2016 at 8:24 pm #

        Thanks a lot for this post though I think it needs to be updated as we are in 2016. I think it is written in 2015. Could you please advise me on the best book for the GRE? One that I can read only from and get high grades. In addition I have only three weeks to prepare.

        • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
          Magoosh Test Prep Expert August 21, 2016 at 7:18 pm #

          This post was written in 2014, actually. Luckily, there have been no significant changes to the GRE in the last 2-3 years, and no significant changes in the GRE prep publishing scene either. So this review still gives pretty good current advice.

          Still, I’m happy to give you the MOST current advice in my reply to your comment.* 🙂 At Magoosh, we don’t necessarily recommend choosing just one book and studying form it alone. There is no perfect book, and most successful GRE test-takers work form multiple sources of prep material. That being said, if you absolutely must choose just one book, the ETS Official Guide to the GRE is your best choice. It was put out in 2012, but is still very current, and is your most accurate resource for test format and practice questions.

          If you get a second book, I recommend Manhattan if you want some supplemental math help, and Barron’s 1100 words for vocabulary support in GRE Verbal. Or you may want to supplement the OG with Internet resources, such as ETS GRE Powerprep, or Magoosh GRE.

          *See also: Our 2015 GRE book reviews roundup

  5. Catina November 9, 2015 at 2:40 pm #


    I just purchased the Manhattan GRE 4th Edition prep books all 8. Should I have purchased the ETS newly released books instead? Please let me know, so I can cancel the order if I need to.

  6. Sedaki October 1, 2015 at 10:42 pm #

    I am studying btech 1st year. I am planning to start my gre preparation right now.Can u plz suggest me the best book to start with.

  7. s September 24, 2015 at 9:52 am #

    It would be great to see explanations to the hard practice problems, especially RC from Vol1 Verbal Guide.

  8. Ayush August 20, 2015 at 4:44 pm #

    Hi Chris!
    Is this book sufficient in itself, or one needs to get the Official guide to GRE test too?

  9. Lynn July 26, 2015 at 11:24 pm #

    Hi Chris,

    Do you think its a good idea to study from an e-book?

    Since i have to wait if i buy the paperback, do you think it will make a difference in my studies if i study from an ebook?


  10. Adarsh June 11, 2015 at 1:25 am #

    Hi Chris,

    I have already purchased the Official Guide to the GRE (2nd Ed). Should I purchase the two other guides viz.the Official Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning ? I read somewhere its nothing but the former guide split into two. Is it so?


  11. Gaby June 10, 2015 at 6:50 pm #


    What book in your opinion would be best for verbal/text completion? I need help in both math and verbal so I’m trying to buy as many resources as I can. I’m following the 6 months study plan for beginners and I’m aiming for a 154 in both math and verbal

  12. Roshni April 23, 2015 at 9:11 am #

    Hi Chris!
    Which book in your opinion is the best to prepare verbal from? (Apart from the official materials of course!)

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele April 27, 2015 at 4:55 pm #

      Hi Roshni,

      I think most books out there are lacking in the verbal dept. MGRE for one has a decent GRE RC but its SE/TC guide/questions are substandard.

      Barron’s is okay; PR is too basic; and Kaplan is substandard.

      I wish there were better book sources to choose from verbal as well :(.

      Hope that (somewhat) helps!

      • Shomaz ul Haq July 21, 2015 at 8:58 am #

        Hi Chris Lele,
        I agree with you that in all these years very little material for high standard verbal section has been published.

  13. Colorado April 5, 2015 at 7:40 pm #

    Hi Chris,

    The meaning of artifice confuses me. As per it earlier meant ‘a skilled piece of workmanship’ before taking on its current meaning which is ‘a deceptive maneuver’. So I suppose you considered the earlier definition to fill the blank right?

  14. Sergey August 27, 2014 at 4:11 am #

    Hi Chris!

    I wanted to thank you for the advice to pick this book. It really helped me to get V:162,which is much above of my expectations, that is not bad for a non-native English speaker as well. Frankly speaking, I had started intensive preparation only several days before the test. During that days I had solved all the Verbal Questions from the Official Guide (your video explanation for which also were enormously helpful) and all 150 from this book twice.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele August 27, 2014 at 10:36 am #

      Wow, that’s some great feedback! (And excellent score, btw). So it seems that the questions are representative of what is on the test. In general, there is no substitution for using the practice materials :).

      Thanks again for sharing 🙂

      • Sergey August 27, 2014 at 6:19 pm #


        I think my experience in general English tests has also played a positive role, especially in the RC questions. I took IELTS a couple of times and the Cambridge CAE exam. Even if GRE’s RC is more aimed on the inferences making, rather than on finding a particular part of the passage, its level, in my view, is not much higher than the CAE’s.

        By the way, during my preparation I had read a few passages from the GRE Big Book,your review for which I have later found on this site. At least one of the passage in the Official GRE Verbal Reasoning (one about right or left handed helixes) is taken from the Big Book. So the Big Book’s content is still kind of actual.

        I’ve already said that video explanations for the Official Guide are cool, but may be more specific comment would be helpful to make video explanations for these new Verbal Questions better. The explanations for the SC and SE are awesome, because they really show how one should think to solve the problem. But videos are little less effective in RC: sometimes I was finding the explanations to the RC question too brief. You usually explain the right answer and give a short comment on one of the wrong. The thing is that, whenever I had chosen the wrong answer, our choices never matched. IMHO if the videos for RC were a little longer and contained comments on 2-3 wrong choices they would be better.

        • Chris Lele
          Chris Lele August 28, 2014 at 1:29 pm #

          Hi Sergey,

          Thanks for the awesome comment! You are right: that passage is taken from the old book, but the questions are different. They did the same in the Official Guide with one of the shorter passages. Using the Big Book, at least in terms of the passage, could give you a slight edge test day.

          Thanks for the helpful feedback :). I’ll try to be as thorough as possible on the RC explanations, making sure to go through at least three answer choices. Also, thanks for sharing your experience with English tests :).

          Again, congrats on your great score–esp. since English is not your first language!

    • Eli July 9, 2016 at 10:26 pm #

      Hi. I know this is an old post; however, I am crossing my fingers to get an answer. What do you mean by THIS BOOK? ETS official guide? I am impressed by how it affected your score in a short period of time.

      • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
        Magoosh Test Prep Expert July 10, 2016 at 10:40 am #

        Hi Eli,

        The name of the book is the same as the title of this post: Official GRE Verbal Reasoning Practice Questions. You can find it on Amazon or on the ETS website! 🙂

  15. Chris Lele
    Chris Lele August 19, 2014 at 11:52 am #

    Yes, the explanations are coming soon! Stay tuned 🙂

    • Bonnie June 29, 2015 at 5:35 pm #

      Hey Chris!
      Are the explanations up yet? Can you post a link?

      • Margarette Jung
        Margarette Jung July 1, 2015 at 2:19 pm #

        Hi, Bonnie! I’m sorry, but because there wasn’t enough demand, we didn’t end up filming explanation videos for these!

  16. Nehal August 18, 2014 at 5:55 am #

    Hi Chris,

    Great review, as always.
    I’d like to know if you’ve managed to secure a copy of the quant ebook. The link that was provided to me doesn’t seem to work.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele August 19, 2014 at 11:54 am #

      Hi Nehal,

      Which quant ebook were you talking about? I don’t think ETS has released anything in this area, though I could be wrong :).

  17. Rajeshwar Agrawal August 16, 2014 at 6:26 am #

    Update –
    The first question comes from this this nytimes article –
    (the very first line)

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele August 19, 2014 at 3:39 pm #

      Wow, I thought ETS was a little more creative than that…hmm…I wonder if they take much of their content from various existing content and modifying it as they see fit. Good find, Rajeshwar 🙂

  18. suraj August 16, 2014 at 3:35 am #

    sorry didn’t see the comment below about the answers …page didn’t load up fully for some reason…though I’m still curious about the first one

  19. Ketan August 15, 2014 at 12:52 pm #

    I noticed that paperback versions for the two books haven’t been released here in India yet.
    It’s available on kindle, but I prefer reading actual physical books over digital ones. In addition to the option of importing the book via amazon from USA, does anyone know of any other ways of getting it? Is it available in the bookstores or any one of the 100 new esoteric eCommerce websites?
    Moreover Chris, is there anyway to confirm that the dates when the books will be available for sale here in India?

  20. Karan August 13, 2014 at 4:00 am #

    Hey Chris,

    Really love the despatch with which you release your holistic and nuanced book reviews! I can’t wait for your review of the Quant Practice Guide next week!

    I have a related question regarding the Verbal section of the GRE:

    Just like you, I have also noticed that the Official Guide and this new verbal guide focus more on complicated sentence structure ,and style and a lot less on challenging vocabulary.

    On the other hand, the Manhattan TC and SE book has relatively straightforward sentence structure and style but relies frequently on very tough vocabulary to make their questions difficult.

    My question is that if I want to score above 160 on the Verbal section on the GRE, what type of questions do I need to practice more? Ones with a complicated sentence structure or should I focus on improving my vocabulary?

    I only plan to learn the 1000 top words for the GRE as included in the Manhattan Essential ,and Advanced flash cards and the ones in the Magoosh Vocabulary Builder app! Is this a good plan for a 160+ Verbal score?

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele August 13, 2014 at 12:06 pm #

      Hi Karan,

      Glad you liked the review :).

      So good question! I wouldn’t actually use the TC/SE guides, because, now more than ever, the questions seem far removed from the actual thing. You’ll want to focus more on complicated sentence structure. Read to prime your brain for the more convoluted stuff. Stick to ETS material (or Magoosh) for SE and TC. We’ve been putting up more convoluted stuff of late on our SE and TC. For the vocab, the 1000 words should do just fine.

      Good luck!

      • Karan August 13, 2014 at 1:07 pm #

        Thanks Chris!

        You dispelled all of my badgering misgivings!

        You are the quintessential GRE rockstar! 😉

  21. Nancy August 12, 2014 at 11:22 am #

    Hi Chris,

    You didn’t mentioned answers of the first two questions. Is it (D) commonplace, and (A) prophetic ?

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele August 13, 2014 at 1:22 pm #

      Oops, sorry about that 🙂 Yes, the answers to those questions are as you’ve stated: (D) and (A).

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