You are here: Rediff Home » India » Get Ahead » Careers » Education
Search: The Web
  Discuss this Article   |      Email this Article   |      Print this Article

GRE: Crack the Verbal section

Career Launcher
Related Articles
What is the GRE all about?
Study Abroad: Tips, student life...more
Connect with Indian students in the US
Studies in the US: Post your queries
Get news updates:What's this?
August 11, 2006

The Verbal Section of the GRE is an area that can make or break a high score. There are 5 levels of difficulty for each question. The subsequent levels of difficulty depend on how you have answered the previous questions.

For now, we will look at the section in depth with sample questions from each area. The section on 'Reading Comprehension', however, will be featured in a separate article. Here is a sample of the series of questions one of our students encountered in his GRE.


These are sets of words that signify opposites. In the GRE, you can get up to 9 questions on antonyms. Each comes with five answer choices, which means you have a total of 45 words to decipher.

The directions for these antonym questions read: 'This question consists of a single word in capital letters followed by five answer choices. Select the answer choice that has the meaning most opposite to the word in capital letters.'


A. hectic
B. orderly
C. embarrassing
D. productive 
E. lengthy

The correct answer is B. Clearly, chaotic is a negative word, indicating confusion. While looking for antonyms, you will obviously look for a word with an opposite meaning, in this case a positive connotation. This means, you can eliminate A, C and E. Now, your work becomes easier, as you have to choose between B and D. Chaotic means disorderly, so B is the most appropriate antonym.

If you are an avid reader, you are placed comfortably while tackling antonym questions. Even then, you should complement this knowledge with an understanding of roots, prefixes and suffixes � the basic building blocks of words. That's not all. You need to master some techniques too. Start learning the meaning of words -- with usages, primary and secondary meanings for each -- so it is easier for you to eliminate answer choices.


These are pairs of words that represent a relationship by building a link between the two. The GRE analogy question asks you to select another pair that best expresses the same relationship from five answer choices.

The directions for analogy questions read: 'This question consists of a pair of words or phrases that are separated by a colon and followed by five answer choices. Choose the pair of words or phrases in the answer choices that best expresses a relationship similar to that expressed in the original pair.'


A. lawn: rake
B. conflagration: match
C. paint: brush
D. floor: polish
E. wallpaper: ladder

The correct answer is C. A trowel is a flat-bladed hand tool for levelling, spreading, or shaping substances such as cement or mortar. Going by that logic, answer C should be the correct one -- that is, a brush is used to paint. 'Rake' could mean a tool used to transfer grass or search something thoroughly, and makes no correct pair with lawn, so choice A is ruled out. Conflagration is a great fire, and could also mean sudden outburst or rage; a matchstick cannot be the culprit for the occurrence of a conflagration, so choice B is ruled out. Polish is not an instrument for shining a floor, so choice D is also eliminated, while Choice E pair is not in sync with the question pair.

The basic unit for analogy questions is words, which means a good vocabulary is an asset. However, it is just as important to understand the relationship between the given words. The upside of this is, even if you find yourself unsure about the meaning of the words given, as long as you can pinpoint the relationship, you will be able to arrive at the correct answer. So, information like roots, suffixes and prefixes, which help you estimate the meanings of words and word forms, are especially useful for analogy questions.

Analogy questions ask you to:
. Interpret the relationship between the original pair.
. Select the pair that best expresses the same relationship, in the same sequence.

Besides having a good vocabulary, getting to the correct answer is also a matter of using techniques specific to cracking analogy questions. The most important of them would be to make a list of important relationships. If you have about 25 of the important ones, handling analogies should not be a problem.

Sentence completion

These questions ask you to fill in the blank or blanks in a given sentence. The directions read: 'The question includes a sentence that has either one or two blanks. The blanks indicate that a piece of the sentence is missing. Each sentence is followed by five answer choices that consist of words or phrases. Select the answer choice that completes the sentence best.' Here is an example:

Because of his reputation as a comedian suited best for playing Charlie Chaplin, the director was _____ to consider him for the more serious role of 'the Godfather.'

A. ambivalent
B. hesitant
C. encouraged
D. keen
E. observant

The correct answer is B. The word 'because' indicates this is a cause and effect sentence. The first part of the sentence sets up the cause -- this actor's history in playing comic roles. What impact would this history have on the suitability of the actor to play a more serious role? In all likelihood, it would cause some doubts in the mind of the director, and he might be unwilling or reluctant to cast him in this new role. Looking through the choices, the correct one is B.

In our next article, we will focus on the last area of the Verbal section -- Reading Comprehension. For now, the thing to do is practice, and practice some more.

-- The author is Program Head for GRE and GMAT at Career Launcher India Ltd.

 Email this Article      Print this Article

© 2008 India Limited. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer | Feedback