In each GRE Verbal section, questions are broken down into Text Completion, Sentence Equivalence, and Reading Comprehension question types. There are approximately 20 questions to complete in 30 minutes, giving you between 1 and 4 minutes per question, depending on the type. Each Verbal section will start with Text Completions, then you’ll see a block of 4–5 Reading Comprehension questions, then the block of Sentence Equivalence questions, and you’ll finish up with a second block of Reading Comprehension.
GRE Text Completion Questions
GRE Text Completion questions ask you to fill in the blank to complete sentences. Variations include 1-, 2-, and 3-blank questions. You’ll encounter approximately six of these question types in each verbal section, and you should aim to complete each of them at an average of 1–1.5 minutes per question.
To master Text Completion questions, work on building your vocabulary, and using context clues. Hints from the sentence will help you determine what goes in the blanks.
Text Completion Sample Question
Answer choices (B) and (F) are the credited responses.
This is a fairly straightforward question, once you wade through all the polysyllabic words. Look at the end of the second clause; you’ll notice that the student “spent prodigally,” which means “wastefully.” Even if you don’t know the meaning of the word “prodigally,” you can tell from the word “spendthrift” that this is a student who isn’t careful with the way she spends her money. If the student is poor at managing money, she likely doesn’t have much of it.
Start with the first blank. As noted above, the student is poor at managing money. That means whatever goes in the first blank has a meaning roughly synonymous with “poverty.”
Look at the answer choices for the first blank. Choice (B) penury, which means “poverty,” matches the prediction precisely. You can eliminate (A) lucre and (C) avarice, as those mean “wealth” and “greed,” respectively.
For the second blank, recall that the student is described as “recalcitrant,” which is a term for “stubborn.” Also, the student “persisted” in her money-wasting ways. Therefore, she continued to waste money. To “abjure” is to “renounce or repudiate,” so she repudiated spending wisely. Thus, “self-” must carry the meaning of restraint or self-denial, since she is renouncing any thought of restraint or temperance. That points to (F) abnegation, which means “denial.” The root—“negate”—provides a helpful vocabulary clue. Choice (D) adumbration means a “foreshadowing,” or “image of things to come,” which makes no sense in this context. Choice (E) aggrandizement is wrong, as it means “an increase in wealth, power, or rank,” and you know she did not shy away from such things if she indulged in overspending.
Putting both answers back into the sentence, you’ll get: Even when faced with continuing penury, the recalcitrant graduate student persisted in her spendthrift ways; she abjured any thought of self-abnegation and spent prodigally.
This sentence makes perfect sense.
GRE Sentence Equivalence Questions
GRE Sentence Equivalence questions require you to fill in a single blank with 2 choices that create a complete, coherent sentence while producing sentences that are logically similar in meaning. You will encounter approximately 4 Sentence Equivalence questions in each verbal section and should aim to complete them at an average of 1 minute per question.
As with Text Completion questions, you’ll need to work on building your vocabulary and pulling out context clues in order to master Sentence Equivalence questions.
Sentence Equivalence Sample Question
Cora was not known for her reticence; regardless, she only _________ acquiesced to calls to speak at the conference.
Answer choices (D) and (F) are the credited responses.
The first thing you should notice is the structural road sign “regardless,” which functions as a detour road sign. Therefore, the clause after the semicolon will depart from the meaning of the first clause. You’re told in the first clause that Cora is “not known for her reticence,” so the second will indicate hesitance or reluctance.
The blank will be an adverb that describes “acquiesced,” which means to “give in” or “relent.” Since you’re looking for a word that shows Cora being uncharacteristically reticent, a good prediction is reluctantly.
Evaluating the answer choices, you can immediately reject (A) jejunely, “childishly,” which doesn’t make sense, and (B) exuberantly, “gleefully,” which implies Cora was anything but reluctant to speak at the conference. You can eliminate (C) willfully, since it implies that she was headstrong, which does not harmonize with reluctant. Choice (E) candidly, “openly”, doesn’t have a meaning close to reluctant. That leaves (D) grudgingly, meaning “resentfully unwilling,” and (F) timidly, which means “in an easily frightened way.” These two are the best matches.
If you check your answers in the context of the original sentence, you’ll arrive at two sentences that mean: “Cora was not known for being hesitant, but she only reluctantly agreed to speak at the conference.” Notice that the two answer choices are not precise synonyms. Both connote reluctance, but with different shades of meaning. Grudgingly has an undertone of resentfulness, while timidly implies that one is fearfully shy. However, both produce sentences with similar meanings, and they’re the correct answers.
GRE Reading Comprehension Questions
GRE Reading Comprehension questions come in 2 formats on the GRE; short passages that are 1 paragraph in length, and long passages that are 2–3 paragraphs in length. RC questions require you to read and understand a piece of text and answer questions based on the text. Each Verbal section contains approximately 10 RC questions associated with 5 different passages, and you should aim to spend an average of 1–3 minutes to read a passage and 1 minute to answer a question.
Reading Comprehension questions require strategic reading and paraphrasing skills.
Reading Comprehension Sample Question
Which of the following is NOT a feature of an organic societal formation, according to Emile Durkheim?
(A) Members are buffered from individual frustration that would lead the individual to cease being a productive member of society.
(B) Citizens operate independently in their daily lives, but toward a common overall goal.
(C) Each person must come to accept a series of assumptions that form a collective worldview shared by the formation.
(D) Workers have an even division of labor and share the work of common tasks.
(E) Individual differences are celebrated, and have a strengthening effect on the society.
Choice (D) is the credited response.
As the author sets forth the criteria for Emile Durkheim’s theory of social cohesion, he defines two models of social solidarity by introducing qualities that are common to both constructs before addressing the differences between the two. The passage concludes with a pre-requisite for social cohesion common to both models. The two models have similarities, but note that the author is contrasting them with one another.
This question asks which choice is NOT a feature of the organic solidarity model. Normally, you would approach this question type by researching what the passage says are features of the organic solidarity model and eliminating answers that mention them. In this case, since the passage contrasts two models of societal formation, the correct answer will likely be a feature of the opposed mechanical solidarity model.
The relevant text is the part of the passage that discusses the features of the two types of societal formation. Since the question asks you to find what is not common to the organic solidarity model, research the portion that defines the mechanical solidarity model as well. The author emphasizes one distinction between the models: the lack of a specialized labor force in the mechanical solidarity model versus the presence of a specialized division of labor in the organic solidarity model.
Apply your research to the “call” of the question stem. The correct answer here is a feature not found in organic solidarity groups. Since the author highlights the organic solidarity model’s highly specialized division of labor, predict that the correct answer will describe a case in which labor is not differentiated. Now, check the answers to find the choice that matches this prediction.
Choice (D) matches your prediction quite well. Societies that distribute labor evenly and parcel out common tasks among everyone are not using a specialized labor force. They fit the mechanical solidaritymodel, not the organic solidarity one. Choice (A) and choice (C)are found among the descriptions for both forms of Durkheim’s societal formations, the first early in the paragraph and the other toward the end, so they are wrong. Within the section discussing organic solidarity societies, you can find, as part of the definition, differently worded forms of both choice (B) and choice (E).
The reading comprehension passages will vary in length from one paragraph to several and cover a wide variety of topics, both academic and non-academic. Only one or two of the passages will be several paragraphs long; the majority will be just one. You could be asked to do anything from discern the meaning of in-text vocabulary to infer missing information.
Each Verbal section will start with Text Completions, then you’ll see a block of 4–5 Reading Comp questions, then the block of Sentence Equivalence questions, and you’ll finish up with a second block of RC.
The text completion and sentence equivalence questions test not only your knowledge of fancy vocabulary words, but also your ability to complete the missing parts of a text to create a coherent whole. Keep in mind that some blanks will be filled with phrases, not just one vocabulary word.
With so many question types and formats, it’s definitely a good idea to practice each type of question as much as possible so that you don’t make any silly mistakes come test day, like selecting only one answer choice when you must select two.