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Smart and Simple Strategies for Beating the Verbal Reasoning Section of the GRE

With every standardized test, there are simple strategies you can use to do your best. It’s not merely about answering the questions correctly. It’s also knowing how to budget your time, when to guess and when to pass on a question, and how to generally approach the exam.

Here are some key tips and general advice, created by the test makers at Educational Testing Service, to help you prep for the Verbal Reasoning portion of the forthcoming revised GRE.

SMART TIPS FOR THE READING COMPREHENSION SECTION.

Reading passages are drawn from many different disciplines and sources, so you may encounter material with which you are not familiar. Do not be discouraged if you encounter unfamiliar material; all the questions can be answered on the basis of the information provided in the passage. However, if you encounter a passage that seems particularly hard or unfamiliar, you may want to save it for last.

Read and analyze the passage carefully before trying to answer any of the questions, and pay attention to clues that help you understand less explicit aspects of the passage.

Try to distinguish main ideas from supporting ideas or evidence.

Try to distinguish ideas that the author is advancing from those he or she is merely reporting.

Try to distinguish ideas that the author is strongly committed to from those he or she advances as hypothetical or speculative.

Try to identify the main transitions from one idea to the next.

Try to identify the relationship between different ideas. For example:

Are they contrasting? Are they consistent?

Does one support the other?

Does one spell the other out in greater detail?

Does one apply the other to a particular circumstance?

Read each question carefully and be certain that you understand exactly what is being asked.

Answer each question on the basis of the information provided in the passage and do not rely on outside knowledge. Sometimes your own views or opinions may conflict with those presented in a passage; if this happens, take special care to work within the context provided by the passage. You should not expect to agree with everything you encounter in the reading passages.

SMART TIPS FOR THE TEXT COMPLETION QUESTIONS.

Do not merely try to consider each possible combination of answers; doing so will take too long and is open to error. Instead, try to analyze the passage in the following way:

Read through the passage to get an overall sense of it.

Identify words or phrases that seem particularly significant, either because they emphasize the structure of the passage (words like although or moreover) or because they are central to understanding what the passage is about.

Try to fill in the blanks with words or phrases that seem to complete the sentence, then see if similar words are offered among the answer choices.

Do not assume that the first blank is the one that should be filled first; perhaps one of the other blanks is easier to fill first. Select your choice for that blank, and then see whether you can complete another blank. If none of the choices for the other blank seem to make sense, go back and reconsider your first selection.

When you have made your selection for each blank, check to make sure the passage is logically, grammatically and stylistically coherent.

SMART TIPS FOR THE SENTENCE EQUIVALENCE SECTION.

Do not simply look among the answer choices for two words that mean the same thing. This can be misleading for two reasons. First, the answer choices may contain pairs of words that mean the same thing but do not fit coherently into the sentence. Second, the pair of words that do constitute the correct answer may not mean exactly the same thing, since all that matters is that the resultant sentences mean the same thing.

Read the sentence to get an overall sense of it.

Identify words or phrases that seem particularly significant, either because they emphasize the structure of the sentence (words like although or moreover) or because they are central to understanding what the sentence is about.

Try to fill in the blank with a word that seems appropriate to you and then see if two similar words are offered among the answer choices. If you find some word that is similar to what you are expecting but cannot find a second one, do not become fixated on your interpretation; instead, see whether there are other words among the answer choices that can be used to fill the blank coherently.

When you have selected your pair of answer choices, check to make sure that each one produces a sentence that is logically, grammatically and stylistically coherent, and that the two sentences mean the same thing.