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Get a 160+ on the GRE Verbal
Let’s recap the GRE Pattern
In this post, we’re going to be looking at how you can score 160 plus in the GRE verbal section. So I know there are a lot of you out there who may be struggling with verbal at a lower level and for you we highly recommend focusing and working on your reading skills and your comprehension skills. So that would be what anybody in the 150 range should be focusing on but a lot of you have already cracked and gotten past that 150 range, who are just about touching that 160 range may have realized now that this may be the steepest part of the climb.
No matter what you do, it is difficult to even go one score higher here and that’s because this is where it really gets tough. This is where it’s not just about your skills but you have to be really careful in in everything that you do and there are a lot of common mistakes and small errors that we can avoid in order to do better and get to that 160+ kind of score in verbal. That’s what we’re going to quickly look at. But before that a recap of the GRE exam pattern for those of you who are not 100 percent clear. The verbal part of the score is determined from the two verbal sections that you have on your GRE.
Each of this is 30 minutes long with 20 questions in each section. That’s a total of a minimum of 40 verbal questions that you have to tackle. That makes half your overall scores out of 340 – the half of that being 170 . Anywhere in this score range -between 160 and 170- says that your verbal score is quite impressive because that is a really high percentile. For every hundred people you’re in the 90 to 95 range where you are better than or you’ve scored better than that many people so that is why a 160 plus score in verbal should be what your target is.
If you’re trying to really impress with your profile of course the second half of the test is going to be your quant sections and finally these contribute to your overall GRE score. In addition to this you also have the analytical writing section comprising of two essays for which you get a score of 0 to 6. You may get a research section or an unidentified section in addition to this.
For those of you who still don’t have clarity on that, we’ve covered the exam pattern in a prior webinar so you’re welcome to go check those out and get some clarity. So, coming to the verbal reasoning section we’re going to look at what you need to work on to get to this high-scoring kind of stage with your verbal preparation.
Verbal Reasoning Question Types
Well first let’s get familiar with the question types. If you’re well into your preparation you should know these by now.
Verbal reasoning question types fall under three categories – text completion, sentence equivalence and Reading Comprehension. Of these, reading comprehension forms half of all the questions you encounter in verbal reasoning altogether so you want to really focus on these. Anybody who’s even aiming for a 155 plus cannot afford to omit reading comprehension.
It’s difficult and takes a lot of focus and it might feel like you’re not improving sometimes but you have to improve your reading skills. You cannot crack a 150+ score without some familiarity and comfort with reading comprehension – it is just not possible.
Tips to Remember
Now some general tips to remember. Time management is all-important for the GRE.
Please do not get so caught up with a question that you lose track of time. Go for the easy, quickly solvable question types first which are usually the discrete questions– i.e. the ones that have only one sentence or two sentences with a blank and finish them off because you want to push your score as high as possible in the least amount of time before you go into the depth of trying to solve reading comprehension or those really tricky Text Completion (with 3 blanks) types so manage time well.
Next you want to read everything really carefully – this is all important for the GRE. You don’t want to miss a single word and we’ll cover why shortly. When we say everything we’re talking about every question stem, every single answer choice, the passages even the instructions.
There are a lot of students who don’t realize that sentence equivalence questions require two correct answer options, no more no less and if you’re not familiar with this or if you miss the instruction you may end up choosing only one.
That is a really silly way to lose a really important point so please read carefully, follow the instructions and know which question types you’re answering when you’re answering. With sentence equivalence and RC’s as well, you may encounter some questions where more than one option could be correct. So what you have to do is assess each option individually and select all that apply.
You need to check your instructions before you do this so you’re sure that you’re tackling the right type. For RC questions with multiple correct answers there are usually three options, not five. Typical RC’s with only one correct answer have five options whereas these have three options and as far as the discrete questions are concerned the SE types have six options.
That’s how you can differentiate them from Text Completion one types which only have five options. TC one stands for text completion, SE stands for sentence equivalence.
For anybody in any part of preparation, whenever you just practiced a number of questions, it’s all important to review your mistakes. When you were in school, your teacher made you take a test and then hopefully you got some feedback on everything- they would mark everything right or wrong and you would have to really think about what you did right or wrong.
When you’re reviewing mistakes is when you’re actually registering what it is that you have done wrong and how you can fix it. If you do not do this step you are bound to repeat the same mistakes over and over.
It is human nature for us to do that so please take the time to review your performance. A practice test isn’t a practice test unless its followed by a thorough review. If a test was ten minutes, review for 20 minutes. If you have to review all the answers you got wrong, look at all of the options that you fell for, note your mistakes down – what kind of mistake was it? was it careless? was it vocabulary? Did you not know the meaning of a word? did you miss something in the question stem? did you make an assumption?
These are what you should be asking yourself when you’re reviewing your mistakes. The next step is to track these mistakes that you made. We always recommend that you maintain a list of sorts. It’s fine if it’s on a notepad, it’s fine if it’s on a Word document, someplace that you don’t lose it. Keep track of every mistake that you have made and you have to revisit this mistake list before you go into another practice session.
Note those mistakes, keep them in mind and you have to be conscious of those mistakes during the test. You can’t get all flustered looking at the questions and forget all about your old mistakes. You have to say “hey I fell for this trick before, I can’t fall for it now” and that needs to be a part of how you’re attempting each question.
Please keep track of the mistakes you’ve made and revisit that list. That list may keep growing but if it keeps growing it’s also good for you because mistakes are a wonderful place to learn from. You remember them. Use them to help remember what you shouldn’t do. This is a good recommendation for any kind of preparation.
You want to follow an organized study plan that tells you you need to do this at this time and complete it before so and so date. Anybody who’s following an organized study plan obviously also takes all of the mock tests on time so you have it distributed. For those of you who are going to join Galvanize or already have, you know that you receive a personalized study plan based on how you fared on our diagnostic test.
We’re going to tell you what your skill level is and how you should go about preparing for your exam. It’s going to be very specific. You’re going to have tasks for every day and we will also assign when you should take your mock tests to help you get through this part of the process.
Time Management : Prioritizing Question Types
Alright let’s get to the big question for a lot of students – ‘how do I manage time with verbal sections?’ You’re running out of time for your preparation, what should you prioritize? Well first and foremost, all questions on the GRE carry equal value.
Nothing is of more value or less value than another question type. No matter how difficult or how easy a Text Completion question with only one blank, it carries the same value as an RC question with multiple correct answers or a TC3 question with three blanks. It’s really important to think about the time it takes to solve each. Ask yourself ‘am I spending four minutes to get that one point or should I be spending thirty seconds to get the same value right?’
You also don’t want to skip any questions. Ideally those of you who’ve mastered a time management strategy, you’ll be able to attempt all of the questions in those thirty minutes without any problems. For those of you who are still struggling with time management, what we recommend is follow the strategy.
We’ll tell you which questions to leave for the end, it’s okay if you don’t attempt them but at the very least what you should do in those last thirty seconds is go back to all the questions that you have not attempted at all and lock something for an answer. There’s no negative marking on the GRE so at the very least it’s worth a shot. You may always get a point out of luck but it’s not worth skipping or leaving something unattended. So please do not skip questions on the GRE.
Now coming to how you should prioritize question types. What you need to focus on first is accuracy. Once you are accurate with your answers try to bring your speed up. So text completion questions with one blank shouldn’t be taking you more than 30 to 45 seconds. If you’re at around one minute or a minute and a half you’re doing good you can bring it a little faster. Your value for this is one because it’s worth one point.
The same applies to Sentence Equivalence questions with one blank. In fact these can sometimes be easier than text completion because they’re usually smaller but they can be tricky if you haven’t worked on your vocabulary. So for both of these types, it’s really high priority but you can’t crack them without a strong vocab so please work on your vocabulary.
Crack these first – this is highest priority. The next highest priority is text completion with two blanks because it’s just a little more effort than this and we’re looking at about a minute and a half – that is the maximum amount of time to spend here.
Finally we come to the RC’s. We have marked RC’s as high priority -anyone aiming for 160 plus cannot afford to eliminate RC’s. Another important thing about RC’s – you may spend four to six minutes on an entire RC passage plus it’s three or four questions. You may spend that much time but you’re getting that much value out of it.
For that one passage that you really thoroughly read and understand, you’re going to get three times the value because you’re answering three questions on that one passage it’s not just one question on one question stem. It is extremely valuable and you must work on this to go for a really high Verbal score.
Now, Text Completion questions with 3 blanks on the other hand are extremely rewarding to answer correctly because they’re very tricky question types. Solving just one may take you anywhere between one and three minutes and students usually take two to three minutes. Keep in mind you’re only gonna encounter about two, at most three of these per section. These are not worth breaking your head over if you’re still struggling in this area.
You want to power through the other question types in this order and save the TC3 questions for the end. If there’s anything you leave without solving by the end of the section, it should be a text completion with three blanks. Never leave anything else without even attempting it.
A text completion with three blanks also is something you should still take a guess at. The probability of you getting it right is quite low because there are three different options but you still should attempt it. Alright, now about RC’s. You may be spending say four to six minutes but that’s not very clear on how you should spend those 4-6 minutes.
Time Management : Reading Comprehension
Here are a few tips on tackling RC’s. RC’s will take time if you’re not comfortable with a lot of reading material. If this isn’t something that you’re really used to, it will take time to get put at ease but it’s very rewarding.
For each passage you read, you’re going to answer two to four questions and so the time spent on that passage is so valuable. That’s four times the value of one TC1 question. So you need to take RC seriously.
You should spend about two minutes to read a short passage and about one minute to solve each question so that gives you about four minutes for short passages with all of their questions put together. For a longer medium to long passage, you want to spend four to six minutes reading the passage and one minute to solve each question. For the really long ones, you can probably take a minute more.
What you want to do is read the passage really thoroughly the first time and avoid rereading it ever again. The reason we stress all this is because for every question you cannot be falling through that passage. It is complex, it is not easy to go back to just one sentence and understand what it’s saying.
You need to start from top to bottom and then really arrive at the crux – that’s how tricky GRE passages are. So give them the time of day at the very beginning. Go into them with interest and don’t reread just for the questions again. You don’t want to tackle the questions right away either.
Time Management : Overview
Bringing all of these tips together for one 30 verbal section is what you should do and as far as managing your time is concerned, the first five to six minutes you want to focus on clearing off all the TC1, SE’s and for those of you who don’t know, you have complete freedom to navigate within a section from one question to the other.
It may start with question one but you’re free to skip all the way to question 18 and then come back to question 1 want whenever you like. The next 18 to 20 minute chunk is really important because that’s where you’re going to focus on those big RC’s.
TC3’s are lower priority you’re only going to encounter one or two of them in a section – you can come to those later. So these 18 to 20 minutes of you time, use wisely – identify the number of passages you have, play to your strengths.
If you are more comfortable with short passages work through those first. If you are comfortable with scientific passages work through those first – whatever works for you but ace these in these 20 minutes.
You have to complete attempting all of the RCS. The last four to five minutes is the only time you should even look at the TC3 questions. Don’t focus on TC3-type questions until you’re really comfortable with everything else. A lot of test-takers attempt sections and have three or four minutes to spare at the end. That is good. Use your spare time to double check your answers. Double check for discrete questions especially.
It’s really hard to double check for RC’s because that’ll take time again so you want to go back to your TC1’s and SE’s and see if you’ve really answered everything to your heart’s content.
You can use the one-minute breaks between the sections to breathe, relax a bit don’t stress out about what’s coming next.
Discrete Questions : Tips
Alright some really quick tips for discrete question types. For a 160 plus score you need to ace discrete questions as easily as you can. To do that, what you need to do is read the questions carefully.
Don’t skim anything. You want to look for clues and hints in the question because this is all about reasoning. It’s about using logic to identify the right answer. You want to work out the logic in the question, identify what the answer is and then pick out which one matches what you came up with in the answer choices.
You have to make sure there’s evidence in the question to support the answer that you choose. A lot of test-takers make the mistake of jumping to a conclusion. They may see the answer choices first and say ‘hey this sounds like it fits’. Here’s a hint – every answer option in the GRE is gonna sound like it fits. That is how they have designed the exam. They’re all attractive choices so what you need to do is look for the evidence.
Look at for tricky punctuation marks like colons. They have very specific functions in sentences that also contribute to the meaning that a sentence makes. So when you use the colon, usually the second half of your sentence is explaining what came before the colon so that is the connection between the two parts. It’s pretty important to know this. Look out for these marks think about what they mean and don’t miss them.
Contrast words are a huge part of cracking discrete questions. ‘However’, ‘although’, ‘nevertheless’, ‘albeit’ – you want to look out for these, pay attention and think about what the contrast applies to. Do not make assumptions. This is very important for the entire verbal reasoning section.
It’s better that you you take the information that’s given to you only in the question. You don’t want to think about what you already know about this topic. What you think you know can affect how you solve this. This is all about reasoning. Using only logic and the information that you have so please leave everything else you know out of it.
Don’t make any assumptions, don’t jump to conclusions. Now one thing that a lot of test-takers miss is – if you’re not comfortable with reading a lot of material, you may miss that within a sentence they’re actually only discussing one topic but they may use other words and terms to talk about the same topic. So what you want to do is draw this connection. Just know that it’s coming and draw this connection.
There’s an example in this question. When they say ‘investigation’ and ‘search’, they actually mean the same thing. An investigation is a search for something. It’s easy to miss this and see that they’re talking about the same thing so you want to be a little careful. Work on your vocabulary so you can identify such examples.
Reading Comprehension : Tips
As for RC’s, our first recommendation is to approach them with interest. Everything in the GRE RC would be introductory in nature so you’re never going to get a topic that’s going to be so in-depth that you won’t understand. They have taken something and given it to you in such a way that you can understand it just by reading that passage. So try to be a little interested, you might learn something.
We found that we’ve learned a lot just by reading RC passages. Another big tip is – don’t look at the questions before reading the passage thoroughly. It’s easy to jump to conclusions, to make assumptions and such if you don’t read the passage and understand what it’s saying. Worse when you read a question before the passage. All you look for when you read the passage is the answer to that one question but you need to answer two more questions so your reading here is going to be wasted.
You have to reread for the next question whereas if you read just a passage disassociated from the questions, it’s going to help you tackle any kind of question and you don’t have to spend time re-reading.
The only time you should look at the passage again when tackling questions is if it’s a detail and you really need to look at that line again to even identify what it’s saying. The main idea is something you should have understood by now. Make sure you use your scratch paper to take notes, get summaries as you’re reading. You have that paper for reason, go ahead and take advantage of it. It helps jot things down and please avoid these common mistakes.
You want to read everything carefully. A really common trap in RC questions is they quote something again in an answer choice from the passage and because it has the same text students fall for it but the right answer would just be something that has rephrased something else from the passage.
Mistakes to Avoid
You have to read carefully and think about what you’re reading in order to get it right. In the case of discrete questions try to fill up the blank on your own before trying to look at the answer options.
It’s easier to avoid jumping and making assumptions. Don’t skip questions, you have to at least attempt them. Take advantage of the ‘mark and review’ option.
This is meant for you to manage your time better. So do that, play to your strengths, don’t skip out on solving the easy ones just because you got caught up with a tough question. Know your strengths – if you can solve short RC passages quickly, do that first.
Get to 160+
Bring your score up and then work on the hard stuff. You need to score at least 150 plus+ to get to your 160. Use the scratch paper, don’t do everything mentally. Now getting to 160+, the key is in proceeding with elimination. When I say this I mean look at every single answer choice you can’t just settle for an answer and say you’re done. Look at each of the five or six answer choices, think about if it fits. Eliminate and then keep only the right one.
You have to work on your vocabulary intensely in order to be able to do this effectively but if you proceed this way this really brings down your margin for error. The key to getting 160 plus is in learning about the different question types.
You need to know the nuances, you need to know the quirks, you need to know what’s tricky about the answer choices, you need to know the traps, you need to know the patterns in which they appear, what kinds of answers do you need to identify with this type of question.
For text completion you want to work out the logic, not miss any words and remember that everything you’re looking for is in the question. You don’t need to go outside so don’t make assumptions, don’t jump to conclusions don’t let word-association guide you.
For Sentence Equivalence, you want to pick choices that bring out a similar meaning in the question. Similar meaning, it doesn’t say the same meaning. So you don’t want to think that you always need synonyms. Yes sometimes the answers will be synonyms but that is by no means 100% true. You just need to bring out a similar meaning. In fact, those two words may not even be related to each other but still manage to bring out the same meaning in a question so think carefully.
Are you finding two choices that do this for the sentence? Also disguised as traps are going to be these pairs of choices that folks who like to go for synonyms are easily gonna fall for. Don’t fall for the trap pairs of choices. There may be two or three sets of synonyms in the answer choices and you may fall for one of them so really want to identify and solve the logic before you jump to the answer choices.
That is what’ll help you crack these with higher accuracy. To get 160+, you need to first break into 150+ and for that you need to get through text completion and sentence equivalence – high priority for any kind of learner. It doesn’t matter if you’re still in the 140s range or 150s range, if you have 15 days for your exam or 45 days for your exam you still have to focus on these two types first and then you come to the RC’s.
You want to read carefully, ask yourself – is the answer choice you’re looking at supported by the passage? If it doesn’t answer the real question here, if it’s saying something else altogether which is unrelated to the question you can eliminate it. So read and assess your choices.
Remember this is reading comprehension. Have you understood and comprehended the passage? That is what they’re looking for from you. Getting to 160+ means 90 – 100% accuracy on text completion question types, 90 to 100% accuracy on sentence equivalence question types and at least a 70% plus accuracy on RC question types. Make sure you’re comfortable with at least the easier types, race through these if you’ve not brought your accuracy up to scratch, work on the discrete questions first.
Bonus GRE RC Resources
Know IT ALL – GRE Reading Comprehension
GRE Verbal Study Strategy- Text Completion and Sentence Equivalence
GRE Verbal: Shortcuts To Mastering GRE Words
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