GRE verbal reasoning format

GRE Verbal reasoning format


The GRE Verbal Reasoning measure contains three types of questions:

  • Reading comprehension
  • Text Completion
  • Sentence Equivalence

Reading comprehension multiple-choice questions:

Select One Answer Choice

Description: These are the traditional multiple-choice questions with five answer choices of which you must select one.

Strategy Tip:

Read all the answer choices before making your selection, even if you think you know what the answer is in advance. Don’ t be misled by answer choices that are only partially true or only partially answer the question. The correct answer is the one that most accurately and most completely answers the question posed.

Pay attention to context. When the question asks about the meaning of a word in the passage, be sure that the answer choice you select correctly represents the way the word is being used in the passage. Many words have quite different meanings in different contexts.

Select One or More Answer Choices

Description: For the question type “Select One or More Answer Choices,” you are given three statements about a passage and asked to “indicate all that apply”. Either one, two, or all three can be correct (there is no “none of above” option). There is no partial credit; you must indicate all of the correct choices and none of the incorrect choices.

Strategy Tip: On “Select One or More Answer Choices,” don’ t let your brain be tricked into telling you, “Well, if two of them have been right so far, the other one must be wrong,” or any other arbitrary idea about how many of the choices should be correct. Make sure to consider each choice independently! You cannot use “process of elimination” in the same way as you do on normal multiple-choice questions.


Description: For the question type “Select-in-passage,” you are given an assignment such as “Select the sentence in the passage that explains why the experiment’ s results were discovered to be invalid”. Clicking anywhere on the sentence in the passage will highlight it. (As with any GRE question, you will have to click “Confirm” to submit your answer, so don’ t worry about accidentally selecting the wrong sentence due to a slip of the mouse.)

Strategy Tip: On “Select-in-Passage,” if the passage is short, consider numbering each sentence (i.e., writing 1 2 3 4 on your paper) and crossing off each choice as you determine that it is n’ t the answer. If the passage is long, you might write a number for each paragraph (1,2,3), and tick off each number as you determine that the correct sentence is not located in that paragraph.

Questions 1 to 3 is based on the following reading passage.

Reviving the practice of using elements of popular music in classical composition an approach that had been in hibernation in the United States during the 1960s, composer Philip Glass (born 1937) embraced the ethos of popular music in his compositions. Glass based two symphonies on music by rock musicians David Bowie and Brian Eno, but the symphonies’ sound is distinctively his. Popular elements do not appear out of place in Glass’ s classical musical, which from its early days has shared certain harmonies and rhythms with rock music. Yet this use of popular elements has not made Glass a composer of popular music. His music is not a version of popular music packaged to attract classical listeners; it is not a version of popular music packaged to attract classical listeners; it is high art for listeners steeped in rock rather than the classics.

Select only one answer choice

  1. The passage addresses which of the following issues related to Glass’ s use of popular elements in his classical compositions?
  2. How it is regarded by listeners who prefer rock to the classics.
  3. How it has affected the commercial success of Glass’ s music.
  4. Whether it has contributed to a revival of interest among other

Consider each of the three choices separately and select all that apply

  1. The passage suggests that Glass’ s work displays which of the following qualities?
  2. A return to the use of popular music in classical compositions.
  3. An attempt to elevate rock music to an artistic status more closely approximating that of classical music
  4. A long-standing tendency to incorporate elements from two apparently disparate musical styles.
  5. Select the sentence that distinguishes two ways of integrating rock and classical music.


The passage describes in general terms how Philip Glass uses popular music in his classical compositions and explores how Glass can do this without being imitative. Note that there are no opposing views discussed; the author is simply presenting his or her views.

Answer1: One of the important points that the passage makes is that when Glass uses popular elements in his music, the result is very much his own creation (it is “distinctively his”). In other words, the music is far from being derivative. Thus one issue that the passage addresses is the one referred to in answer Choice E—it answers it in the negative. The passage does not discuss the impact of Glass’ s use of popular elements on listeners, on the commercial success of his music, on other composers, nor on Glass’ s reputation, so none of Choices A through D is correct.

The correct answer is Choice E.

Answer2: To answer this question, it is important to assess each answer choice independently. Since the passage says that Glass revived the use of popular music in classical compositions, answer Choice A is clearly correct. On the other hand, the passage also denies that Glass composes popular music or packages it in a way to elevate its status, so answer Choice B is incorrect. Finally, since Glass’ s style has always mixed elements of rock with classical elements, Choice C is correct.

Thus, the correct answer is Choice A and Choice C.

Answer 3: Almost every sentence in the passage refers to incorporating rock music in classical compositions, but only the last sentence distinguishes two ways of doing so. It distinguishes between writing rock music in a way that will make it attractive to classical listeners and writing classical music that will be attractive to listeners familiar with rock.

Thus the correct answer is the last sentence of the passage.

Verbal: Text completion questions

Text completions can consist of 1-5 sentences with 1-3 blanks. When Text completions have two or three blanks, you will select words or short phrases for those blanks independently. There is no partial credit; you must make every selection correctly.

Strategy Tip:

  • Read 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.
  • Think up your own words for the blanks. Try to fill in the blanks with words or phrases that seem to you to fit and then see if similar words are offered among the answer choices.
  • Double-check your answers. When you have made your selection for each blank. Check to make sure that the passage is logically, grammatically, and stylistically coherent.

Sample Questions

Q 1) In parts of the Arctic, the land grades into the landfast ice so ______ that you can walk off the coast and not know you are over the hidden sea.

  1. Permanently
  2. Imperceptibly
  3. Irregularly
  4. Precariously
  5. Relentlessly

Ans) “Relentlessly” means less severely or less harshly. “Precariously” means not safely or dangerously. “Imperceptibly” means impossible to see or notice.

The word that fills the blank has to characterize how the land grades into the ice in a way that explains how you can walk off the coast and over the sea without knowing it. The word that does that is “imperceptibly”; if the land grades imperceptibly into the ice, you might well not know that you had left the land.

Q 2) Leaders are not always expected to (i)_________ the same rules as are those they lead; leaders are often looked up to for a surety and presumption that would be viewed as (ii)__________ in most others.

a)Decree                    (d) Hubris

b) Proscribe               (e) Avarice

c) Conform to             (f) Anachronism

Ans) “Decree” means an official order. “Proscribe” means to make something illegal. “Hubris” means exaggerated pride or self-confidence. “Avarice” means a strong desire to have or get money. “Anachronism” means something (such as a word or an event) that is mistakenly placed with respect to time.

In the first blank, you need a word similar to “follow.” In the second blank, you need a word similar to “arrogance.” The correct answers are conform to and hubris.

Q 3) It is refreshing to read a book about our planet by an author who does not allow facts to be (i)______ by politics; well aware of the political disputes about the effects of human activities on climate and biodiversity, this author does not permit them to (ii)_________ his comprehensive description of what we know about our biosphere. He emphasizes the enormous gaps in our knowledge, the sparseness of our observations, and the (iii)_______, calling attention to the many aspects of planetary evolution that must be better understood before we can accurately diagnose the condition of our planet.

a) Overshadowed d) Enhance            g) Plausibility of our hypotheses

b) Invalidated        e) Obscure             h) Certainty of our entitlement

c) Illuminated         f) Underscore        i) Superficiality of our theories

Ans) The overall tone of the passage is clearly complimentary. To understand what the author of the book is being complimented on, it is useful to focus on the second blank. Here, we must determine what word would indicate something that the author is praised for not permitting. The only answer choice that fits the case is “obscure,” since enhancing and underscoring are generally good things to do, not things one should refrain from doing. Choosing “obscure” clarifies the choice for the first blank; the only choice that fits well with “obscure” is “overshadowed.” Notice that trying to fill blank (i) without filling blank (ii) first is very hard-each choice has at least some initial plausibility. Since the third blank requires a phrase that matches “enormous gaps” and “sparseness of our observations,” the best choice is “superficiality of our theories.”

Thus the correct answer is overshadowed (Choice A), Obscure (Choice E), and superficiality of our theories (Choice I).

Verbal: Sentence equivalence questions

For this question type, you are given one sentence with a single blank. There are six answer choices, and you are asked to pick two choices that fit the blank and are similar in meaning.

No partial credit is given on Sentence Equivalence; both correct answers must be selected and no incorrect answers may be selected.

Here is a sample set of answer choices:

  1. Tractable
  2. Taciturn
  3. Arbitrary
  4. Tantamount
  5. Reticent
  6. Amenable

Tractable and amenable (tractable, amenable people will do whatever you want them to do) are similar in meaning. Taciturn and Reticent (both mean “not talkative”) also form a pair. Arbitrary (based on one’ s own will) and tantamount (equivalent) are not similar in meaning and therefore cannot be a pair. Therefore, the only possible correct answer pairs are (A) and (F), and (B) and (E). Now, you have to choose one-word group out of two.

The question is deliberately omitted here in order to illustrate how much you can do with the choices alone, if you have studied vocabulary sufficiently. “Learn words in groups” is a tip given by all GRE trainers especially to attempt sentence equivalence questions. Considering this, on our blog we have written forty-five chapters on GRE vocabulary using word groups to enhance vocabulary of students so that they can answer sentence equivalence questions comfortably.

Strategy tip: Analyze answer choices first and form possible word groups. If there is the only one-word group you can easily answer the question. If there are two or three-word groups, analyze the sentence- read for a textual clue that tells you what type of word must go in the blank. Then choose a suitable word group.

Sample Questions

Q 1) While athletes usually expect to achieve their greatest feats in their teens or twenties, opera singers don’ t reach the ________ of their vocal powers until middle age.

  1. Harmony
  2. Zenith
  3. Acme
  4. Terminus
  5. Nadir
  6. Cessation

Ans) “Acme” means the highest point of something. “Zenith” means successful period or highest point. “Nadir” means lowest point of something. “Terminus” means end of something. “Cessation” means stopping of some action. “Harmony” means pleasing combination of different musical notes. “Zenith” and “Acme” form a pair. “Terminus” and “Cessation” also form a pair.

Now, analyze the sentence. We need a word similar in meaning to “greatest feats”. Therefore, correct answer choices are (B) and (C).




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