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Graduate Record Exam (GRE) Verbal Section: What to Expect


The Graduate Record Exam (GRE) Verbal Reasoning section measures test-takers' ability to understand and analyze written material through the use of three kinds of questions: Reading Comprehension, Text Completion, and Sentence Equivalence questions.

Reading Comprehension
Graduate students are assigned a great deal of challenging reading. Reading comprehension questions on the GRE examine the range of skills that students need in order to read and comprehend graduate-level prose. Specifically, reading comprehension questions measure applicants' abilities to actively engage with the test and:

  • understand and use words (i.e., vocabulary)
  • understand the meaning of paragraphs and essays
  • identify both major and minor points in a passage
  • summarize a passage
  • draw conclusions from information provided in a passage
  • infer missing information by reasoning from incomplete data
  • understand the structure of a passage
  • identify the author's assumptions and perspective
  • identify strengths and weaknesses of the author's position
  • posit alternative arguments and explanations
Test-takers are presented with about 10 passages in total. Most passages are one paragraph in length, and a couple are several paragraphs long. Readings are drawn from sources in a wide range of fields, including the physical, biological, and social sciences, business, arts and humanities and everyday topics published in books and magazines, both academic and nonacademic. Up to 6 reading comprehension questions may accompany any passage. Questions cover items such as defining a particular word, evidence that might support or weaken points made in the passage, and the author's assumptions. Most are standard multiple-choice questions that require test-takers to choose a single correct answer but some require test-takers to select multiple correct answers; and still others ask you to select a sentence from the passage.

Text Completion
Skilled readers interpret a passage as they read it. Text Completion tests readers' abilities to interpret and evaluate as they read, reasoning from what they have read so far to create a picture of the whole and revising that picture as they go. Text Completion questions omit crucial words from short passages and ask the test taker to select words or phrases to fill the blanks and create a coherent, meaningful whole.

Test takers are presented with a passage composed of one to five sentences. There are one to three blanks with three answer choices per blank (and five answer choices in the case of a single blank). Each blank has a single correct answer.

Sentence Equivalence
Sentence Equivalence questions test the ability to use partial information to reach a conclusion about how a passage should be completed. Sentence Equivalence questions consist of a single sentence with just one blank. You are given six answer choices and must select two choices that lead to a complete, coherent sentence and produce sentences that mean the same thing.

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