GRE Verbal Reasoning: Definition, Question Types, and Practice Questions

The Verbal Reasoning measure of GRE focuses on vocabulary, reading comprehension, English grammar, and passage analysis. It assesses a test taker’s ability to recognize relationships among words & concepts, analyze, evaluate, and synthesize information from a written material, and analyze relationships among parts of sentences. Fifty percent of the measure asks students to read passages and answer questions relating to this. The other fifty percent requires test takers to read, interpret, and complete sentences or paragraphs.

Read more: Test Structure of GRE

What are the 3 Question Types of the GRE Verbal Reasoning Section?

Reading comprehension, text completion, and sentence equivalence are the three question types of the GRE Verbal Reasoning.

Reading Comprehension

The Reading Comprehension type of question tests abilities that are needed to be able to read and understand passages in graduate school.

What are the question types under the Reading Comprehension type?

There are three question types under the reading comprehension type which are the Multiple Choice – One Answer, Multiple Choice – One or Two Answer, and the Select-In Passage.

I. Multiple Choice – Select One Answer

The Multiple Choice – Select One Answer type is the conventional multiple-choice questions that consist of five answer choices. A test taker must only select one.

II. Multiple Choice – Select One or More Answer

The Multiple Choice – Select One or More Answer type consists of three answer choices. A test taker must select all correct answers may it be one, two, or all three. Test raters do not give credit for partially correct answers that means a test taker must select all the possible correct answers.

III. Select-In Passage

The Select-In Passage type presents a passage and the test taker is asked to pick out the sentence that meets a given description. This type is only available on the computer-adaptive version of the test. Equivalent multiple-choice questions are used on the paper-delivered version of the test instead. 

Reading Comprehension Sample Questions with Answers [1]

Questions 1 to 3 are based on this 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 music, 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 high art for listeners steeped in rock rather than the classics.

Sample Question 1: Select only one answer choice.

The passage addresses which of the following issues related to Glass’s use of popular elements in his classical compositions?

  1. How it is regarded by listeners who prefer rock to the classics
  2. How it has affected the commercial success of Glass’s music
  3. Whether it has contributed to a revival of interest among other composers in using popular elements in their compositions
  4. Whether it has had a detrimental effect on Glass’s reputation as a composer of classical music
  5. Whether it has caused certain of Glass’s works to be derivative in quality

Correct Answer: The correct answer is Choice E.

Explanation: 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 or on Glass’s reputation, so none of Choices A through D is correct. 

Sample Question 2: Consider each of the three choices separately and select all that apply. 

The passage suggests that Glass’s work displays which of the following qualities?

  1. A return to the use of popular music in classical compositions
  2. An attempt to elevate rock music to an artistic status more closely approximating that of classical music
  3. A long-standing tendency to incorporate elements from two apparently disparate musical styles

Correct Answer: The correct answer is Choice A and Choice C.

Explanation: 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, answer Choice C is correct.

Sample Question 3: Select the sentence that distinguishes two ways of integrating rock and classical music.

Correct Answer: The correct answer is the last sentence of the passage.

Explanation: 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. 

Text Completion

The Text Completion types of question tests if the test taker can maintain a constant attitude of interpretation and evaluation by filling in blanks in the given passage.

What is the question structure in the Text Completion type?

The Text Completion type is structured in a passage of 1 to 5 sentences, with 1 to 3 blanks, and three answer choices per blank. Take note that there will be 5 answer choices in the case of a single blank. Selecting one answer choice for a blank does not affect what answer choices can be made for another blank. 

Text Completion Sample Questions with Answers [2]

Below are some Text Completion sample questions that a test taker may encounter in the GRE General test:

Sample Question 1: 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.

Blank (i)

Blank (ii)

Blank (iii)

(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

Correct Answer: The correct answer is Choice A (overshadowed), Choice E (obscure) and Choice I (superficiality of our theories).

Explanation: 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 the first blank before filling the second blank is 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.”

Sample Question 2: Vain and prone to violence, Caravaggio could not handle success: the more his (i)__________ as an artist increased, the more (ii)__________ his life became.

Blank (i)

Blank (ii)

(A) temperance

(D) tumultuous

(B) notoriety

(E) providential

(C) eminence

(F) dispassionate

Correct Answer: The correct answer is Choice C (eminence) and Choice D (tumultuous).

Explanation: In this sentence, what follows the colon must explain or spell out what precedes it. So, roughly, what the second part must say is that as Caravaggio became more successful, his life got more out of control. When one looks for words to fill the blanks, it becomes clear that “tumultuous” is the best fit for the second blank, since neither of the other choices suggests being out of control. And for the first blank, the best choice is “eminence,” since to increase in eminence is a consequence of becoming more successful. It is true that Caravaggio might also increase in notoriety, but an increase in notoriety as an artist is not as clear a sign of success as an increase in eminence.

Sample Question 3: 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.

(A) permanently

(B) imperceptibly

(C) irregularly

(D) precariously

(E) relentlessly

Correct Answer: The correct answer is Choice B (imperceptibly).

Explanation: 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. Describing the shift from land to ice as permanent, irregular, precarious, or relentless would not help to explain how you would fail to know.

Sentence Equivalence

The Sentence Equivalence type consists of questions where one is asked to find two choices that would fill in a sentence with a blank or missing word/s.

What is the question structure in the Sentence Equivalence type?

The Sentence Equivalence type is structured in a single sentence, with one blank, and six answer choices. A test taker is required to select two answer choices. A test taker must get two correct answers because the test raters do not credit partially correct answers.

Sentence Equivalence Sample Questions with Answers [3]

Below are some Sentence Equivalence sample questions that a test taker may encounter in the GRE General test:

Directions: Select the two answer choices that, when used to complete the sentence, fit the meaning of the sentence as a whole and produce completed sentences that are alike in meaning.

Sample Question 1: Although it does contain some pioneering ideas, one would hardly characterize the work as __________.

  1. orthodox
  2. eccentric
  3. original
  4. trifling
  5. conventional
  6. innovative

Correct Answer: The correct answer is Choice C (original) and Choice F (innovative).

Explanation: The word “Although” is a crucial signpost here. The work contains some pioneering ideas, but apparently it is not overall a pioneering work. Thus the two words that could fill the blank appropriately are “original” and “innovative.” Note that “orthodox” and “conventional” are two words that are very similar in meaning, but neither one completes the sentence sensibly.

Sample Question 2: It was her view that the country’s problems had been _______ by foreign technocrats, so that to ask for such assistance again would be counterproductive.

  1. ameliorated
  2. ascertained
  3. diagnosed
  4. exacerbated
  5. overlooked
  6. worsened

Correct Answer: The correct answer is Choice D (exacerbated) and Choice F (worsened).

Explanation: The sentence relates a piece of reasoning, as indicated by the presence of “so that”: asking for the assistance of foreign technocrats would be counterproductive because of the effects such technocrats have had already. This means that the technocrats must have bad effects; i.e., they must have “exacerbated” or “worsened” the country’s problems.

Read more: Prepare for GRE General Test

What is the GRE Verbal Reasoning Syllabus?

The topics covered in GRE Verbal Reasoning are:

1. Nouns, Adjectives, Pronouns

2. Modifiers and Parallelism

3. Verb Tense

4. Idioms and Idiomatic Expressions

5. Subject-Verb Agreement

6. Pronoun Agreement

The above topics are divided into the three parts of the GRE Verbal Reasoning measure – reading comprehension, sentence equivalence, and text completion.

What is on the GRE Verbal Reasoning and how long does it take?

The GRE Verbal Reasoning has two sections with 20 questions each. Each section may be taken for 30 minutes.

How is the GRE Verbal Reasoning Section Scored?

The Verbal Reasoning Score is based on the test taker’s number of correct responses to the questions. It will also reflect the difficulty of each level section. The score may range from 130 being the lowest to 170 as the highest in 1-point increments. Based on recorded data, the average GRE Verbal Score is 149.97. 

What is a good GRE Verbal Reasoning score?

A score of 157 in the GRE Verbal Reasoning section is a good score. A test taker who obtained this score falls in the 75th percentile which means he scored above 75% of the total test takers. On the other hand, a score of 162 is an excellent one. This puts an examiner on the 90th percentile which will help to be a strong candidate for most programs.

What is a low or bad GRE Verbal Reasoning score?

A score of below 151 in the GRE Verbal Reasoning section is a bad score. A test taker who obtained this score falls in the 50th percentile which means he scored below 50% of the total test takers. On the other hand, a score of 145 is worse. This puts an examiner on the 25th percentile which will help reflect badly on the overall GRE score.

Read More: GRE Scores

Other Sections

Read more: GRE Analytical Writing

Read more: GRE Quantitative Reasoning

[1] https://www.ets.org/gre/revised_general/prepare/verbal_reasoning/reading_comprehension/sample_questions

[2] https://www.ets.org/gre/revised_general/prepare/verbal_reasoning/text_completion/sample_questions

[3] https://www.ets.org/gre/revised_general/prepare/verbal_reasoning/sentence_equivalence/sample_questions