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How to Improve GRE Verbal Scores: A Complete Guide

Updated on 13 April, 2023

Mrinal Mandal

Mrinal Mandal

Study Abroad Expert

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The Verbal section of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) measures the test taker's ability to understand and analyze written material, evaluate arguments, and select and apply the appropriate verbal reasoning skills. A good verbal score can compensate for a lower quantitative score and vice versa. Thus, you should focus on how to improve GRE verbal scores from the outset. 

Importance of verbal section in the GRE 

It is one of the three sections of the GRE test, along with the Quantitative and Analytical Writing sections. A high score in the Verbal section is often considered important by graduate programs in the humanities and social sciences, as well as in some sciences and business programs. 

GRE Verbal Exam Pattern  

The Verbal Section of the GRE generally includes:

  1. Text Completion: It includes one or two blanks in a sentence, and test takers have to choose words from the options given to complete the sentence.
  2. Sentence Equivalence: It includes one blank in a sentence, and test takers have to choose two words from the options given that make the sentence meaningful and grammatically correct.
  3. Reading comprehension: It includes a passage of about 400 words, and test takers have to answer questions based on the passage.

The questions in the Verbal section are designed to test a wide range of verbal abilities, including vocabulary, reading comprehension, and critical thinking skills. Thus, GRE verbal practice is highly essential. The Verbal section is designed to be challenging, and test takers should expect to encounter difficult vocabulary and complex reasoning in the passages and questions.

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GRE Verbal Scoring 

The Verbal section of the GRE is scored on a scale of 130 to 170 in one-point increments. The scores are based on the number of questions answered correctly, except for the experimental section (which is used to try out new questions and is not included in the final score). There are no penalties for guessing, implying test takers can attempt to answer every question, even if unsure of the correct answer.

The Verbal section is designed to be challenging, where a score of 160 or higher is considered very competitive and is likely to be viewed favorably by graduate programs. A score between 160 to 170 is considered high. A score of 150 to 160 is considered good, and a score of 140 to 150 is considered fair. A score of 130 to 140 is considered low and may limit the number of graduate programs that will consider an applicant.

It is important to note that the GRE scores are just one of the factors that graduate programs consider when evaluating applicants. Other factors, like undergraduate GPA, the strength of their recommendations, and the statement of purpose or personal essay, are also considered. Therefore, a high score on the GRE Verbal section is important, but it cannot guarantee that an applicant will be accepted into a graduate program.


How to improve the GRE verbal score? 

  1. Vocabulary-Building: The Verbal section of the GRE tests your vocabulary, so it's important to have a stronger foundation. You may use flashcards and note words to help with Text Completion and Sentence Equivalence. Master colloquialisms, a few everyday phrases, synonyms, and antonyms. 
  2. Take practice tests: GRE verbal practice is a must. Take as many practice tests as you can and work on your weaknesses. It will give you a sense of what to expect on the test day and help you to identify areas where you need more practice. Make sure you practice using the mark and review feature in your practice tests, meaning you can skip a question and return to it later. Since there is no negative marking, practice answering every question while familiarizing yourself with the question types and structures of the section. 
  3. Get suitable study materials: The best books for GRE Verbal can aid in improving your score. Also, read articles and other content in Scientific American, The New Yorker, The Economist, The Atlantic, and similar journals, magazines, and periodicals to improve your prospects for reading comprehension. This exercise will help you build your familiarity with the content style anticipated in the actual test. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some best books for GRE verbal section preparation?

Some of the best books for GRE verbal and those which greatly help with GRE verbal practice are the following: 

  1. The Official Guide to the GRE General Test
  2. Manhattan Prep GRE Set of 8 Strategy Guides
  3. Barron's GRE 21st Edition
  4. Kaplan GRE Verbal Workbook
  5. Princeton Review's Cracking the GRE Premium Edition with 6 Practice Tests

Is GRE verbal practice hard?

The Verbal section of the GRE can be challenging for some test takers, particularly the reading comprehension questions. This is because it requires aspirants to understand and analyze written material quickly. However, one can improve their score through consistent practice.

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Mrinal Mandal

Study Abroad Expert

Mrinal Mandal is a study abroad expert with a passion for guiding students towards their international education goals. He holds a degree in mechanical engineering, earned in 2018. Since 2021, Mrinal has been working with upGrad Abroad, where he assists aspiring students in realizing their dreams of studying abroad. With his expertise and dedication, he empowers individuals to navigate the complexities of international education, making their aspirations a reality.

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The above tips are the Author's experiences. upGrad does not guarantee scores or admissions.