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. 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.



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