Reading Comprehension explained

A common mistake is to avoid GRE reading comprehension during GRE preparation and to just suffer through reading passages on test day. However, the last thing you want to be when you’re applying to graduate school is common. RC questions make up roughly 25% of the GRE verbal section, so don’t take this part of the section lightly.

Practice Reading Comprehension Daily

Reading comprehension will seem difficult at first, but like most things in life, with practice, it’ll get easier–much easier. Practice reading GRE-level materials, like The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal, on a regular basis. Articles from The Journal and The Times are of the same caliber as the GRE, and since it’s daily, your reading source will be endless. Make sure you get the online version so you’ll get used to reading long articles from a computer screen (since the GRE is strictly a computer adaptive test except in a few select regions).

If The Journal isn’t for you, try Kaplan Verbal Workbook or ETS Practicing to Take the GRE.

Read Actively

While you’re reading, ask yourself, “What is the main theme? Is this the author’s opinion or is the article all facts?” This will better prepare you for the RC questions following a passage as the GRE usually asks questions that pertain to the main ideas of the article. Asking yourself these questions will also help you stay better focused on the passage. Don’t get caught asking yourself, “What did I just read?”

Read for the Main Idea

Remember, you can go back to the passage all you want. Don’t try to memorize every detail. Instead, try to figure the main idea of the passage and pay attention to how everything is set up. For instance, is the author for or against something? Does the author refer to a historical event and then look to the future or does he just look to the past? In other words, do your best to see the passage as a whole. You can look back at the parts when you’re answering questions.

Summing Up

Practice actively reading GRE-level material daily, and eventually, real GRE passages will seem easy. Also, don’t sweat the details. You can refer to the passage as much as you want.

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Sentence Completion strategies

GRE sentence completion questions involve a sentence with one or two blanks, and it’s up to you to fill in the blank(s) so that the sentence makes sense. You’re given five answer choices, but the key GRE strategy for sentence completions is to not look at those answer choices until you’ve come up with one of your own.

Step 1: Read the Sentence Carefully

When you are given a GRE sentence completion question, make sure you read the sentence carefully. Pay special attention to important words like but, however, or therefore. Words such as these will help you get a feel for what the sentence is trying to say. If you miss one of these important words, it’s likely you’re going to answer incorrectly.

Step 2: Fill in the Blank Yourself

After reading the question carefully, try to fill in the blank without looking at the answer choices. Think of your own word to complete the sentence. When you have a word in mind, find the answer choice that matches your guess the best. Mark the best-matching word and move on to the next question. No need to second guess yourself.

Why You Should Use this GRE Test-taking Strategy

If you predict a word before looking at the answer choices, it is more likely that you will get the right answer. Why? Instead of examining each choice to see if it makes more sense, you’ll just be looking for a word that matches your prediction. Your prediction doesn’t even have to be a “GRE word”. In fact, it’s better if you keep your predictions simple. This GRE strategy will also cut back on the time you would spend second guessing yourself if you were to examine each answer choice.

Strategy for Analogies

There are two steps in solving GRE analogies: (1) Find the relationship between the two words in the question; (2) find an answer choice that shows the relationship most similar to that of the question.

Finding the Relationship in the Question

The best way to find the relationship between the two words in the question is to use both of them in a sentence. Consider the following GRE analogy example:

CHOIR:SINGER

(A) election: voter
(B) anthology: poet
(C) cast: actor
(D) orchestra: composer
(E) convention: speaker

Now try to use CHOIR and SINGER in a sentence…How about

A CHOIR is made up of many SINGERS.

So now we have a relationship between the two words in the question. The next step is to find the answer choice that shows the same relationship.

Finding the Correct Answer

To find the correct answer choice, first remove the original words from the sentence you made in part one. In our example we remove CHOIR and SINGERS. We are left with a sentence with two blanks:

A <blank> is made up of many <blank>.

Plug the answer choices into the sentence and find the answer choice that makes the most sense. You will find that answer choice (C) fits our sentence the best.

A CAST is made up of many ACTORS.

Answer (C) is the correct choice!

As you practice this GRE test-taking strategy on practice questions you will find that this analogy strategy saves you time and effort as well as earns you more points on the GRE test.

GRE Verbal Section Format

Those who have taken the SAT will be familiar with most of the Verbal section. Like the SAT, there are analogies, sentence completions, and critical reading. However, GRE vocabulary and passages tend to be more difficult than on the SAT, and as a bonus, the GRE also has antonyms.

When you get to the GRE Verbal section, you will get 30 minutes to answer 30 questions that will randomly be of the question types previously mentioned.

GRE Antonyms

For antonym questions, you are given a word, and you need to identify the best answer choice that is the word’s direct opposite.

GRE Analogies

You are given two words in the form word1:word2. There is a relationship between the two words e.g. word1 is the opposite of word2. After you determine the relationship between the two words, you need to find the answer choice that most closely reflects the relationship.

GRE Sentence Completions

These types of questions are exactly how they sound to be. There is a sentence with one or two blanks, and you have to identify the answer choice that best completes the sentence.

GRE Critical Reading Comprehension

Critical Reading questions test how well you comprehend reading passages, and usually take the most time. You have to read a passage (which might be 1-4 paragraphs long), and you are asked questions based on the reading. Usually Critical Reading questions will ask you the main idea of a passage or refer you to a line in the passage that you have to interpret.

How to improve GRE vocabulary skills?

The single-most effective way to improve your GRE VERBAL SCORE is to improve your GRE vocabulary skills. Good vocabulary skills will be useful in sentence completion, antonyms, analogies, and reading comprehension. If you know the meaning of all the words in the answer choices, it makes the question a whole lot easier.

GRE Vocabulary in Context

The best way to learn GRE vocabulary is to learn words in context. For some reason your brain remembers words much better when it can associate a word with something other than its definition.

Read from publications like The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal on a regular basis. The Journal has many GRE-type articles and uses GRE vernacular. When you come across an unfamiliar word, look it up and write down its definition. You’ll be amazed at how much better your vocabulary is after reading The Journal on a regular basis for just a month!

GRE Vocabulary from a List

If you don’t have much time until test day, you should study from a reputed book that has flash cards or invest in GREedge.com’s VERBAL MASTER. GREedge.com has the most comprehensive GRE vocabulary list topping off at about 3500 words. Learn the general meaning of 3500 words or so, and the GRE verbal section will look a lot less daunting.

You’re probably thinking 3500 words is a ton of words to learn. You’re right. That’s why GRE vocabulary can be scary at first, but remember, you don’t have to memorize the exact meanings. The GRE does not test if you know exact definitions; just get to know general meanings. Be a thesaurus not a dictionary.

Study a little bit at a time. Try twenty words a day. If that’s too easy, try thirty words a day. Don’t worry if memorizing words is difficult at first–it’ll get much easier. Whatever number of words you choose to study per day, don’t study too many at one time! Your brain can only absorb so many words in one sitting. It’s up to you to figure out how many words you should study per sitting.

Whatever you choose, always review the words you’ve already studied at the end of each week. Without review, you’ll lose a lot. You don’t want to end up getting stuck on a question with a word’s definition at the tip of your tongue.

Summing Up

Heighten your GRE vocabulary skills either with reading a list and by enrolling into the GREedge Verbal Master program.

Review the words you’ve learned every week.

Watch your GRE verbal score go up!