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The Enigma Surrounding the New GRE Verbal Section: the skills that you need to take on the Test

GRE test

The revised GRE test assesses the test takers ability to analyze and evaluate and as such goes beyond the old GRE in its expectations of the skills demonstrated by the test taker. The written material provided is in the form of short or long passages and sentences and the questions based on this material ask test takers to synthesize information, analyze relationships between different highlighted parts of the text and recognize relationships among words and concepts.

In the two sections of Verbal Reasoning students are confronted with several formats of questions that all require the same skills – sound vocabulary usage, patience to read and understand content, and a sharp analytical approach while interpreting.

As far as the vocabulary skill for the GRE goes, it is not about rattling off long lists of words. As mentioned earlier the catch is to know how to ‘use’ that vocabulary. Words are wicked things and can either say just what one wants them to or miss the point altogether. Students preparing for the GRE must focus on training themselves or on being trained to understand the nuances of different words and sometimes of even the same word in different contexts. Often the answer choices offer words that are seemingly synonymous but that have different contextual connotations. Take for example ‘abdicate’ and ‘abandon.’ Broad learning groups them as synonyms, both meaning ‘to give up.’ But more structured learning insists that in the context of ‘giving up’ a position or power the clear choice will be ‘abdicate’ while in the context of deserting a place it will be ‘abandon’. So, when getting down to vocabulary learning be curious, ask questions, weigh the relevance of the different choices to the context and discover why one answer outweighs the others. Study that incorporates such inquiry not only builds vocabulary but also a sense of vocabulary.

The patience to actually read a whole passage, retain it and make sense of it is not a common skill with test takers and this can prove to be their undoing. Although the passages on the GRE are not exhaustive, they are intricate in content and structure and the questions based on them require of the reader a sharp approach exhibiting strong observation and even stronger analytical skills. About half the questions of the Verbal Reasoning section are based on passages, with one to maximum six questions for each passage. These questions can simply ask the meaning of a word as used in the context, or ask to strengthen or weaken the conclusion of the passage or then ask what assumption the conclusion of the passage is based on. In short, the questions can range from very basic textual questions to more analytical and derivative ones that rely more on understanding than on information available. Some of the questions are standard multiple-choice questions for which there can be a single correct answer or multiple correct answers; and still others require the test taker to identify a sentence in the passage that conveys a point. All in all, the reading skills should be polished by regular practice of GRE material. No amount of newspaper reading prepares you for this test. Be relevant in the selection of preparatory material. Anything and everything will not yield results. Read and practice questions that are typical of the GRE and there is a strong possibility that even someone who is averse to reading will begin to register an improvement in his performance.

As for the analytical skills the GRE requires of its test takers, they are probably the most difficult to acquire. An analytical mind is the product of grooming and long exposure to thinking. If a test taker has not had the good fortune to be exposed to such academic practices, it could be difficult to suddenly want to learn to think analytically! In this case it is advisable to find a platform for interactive study and mentoring that allows exposure to tools of analysis and the outcome of using them.

The GRE preparation courses planned by the team at Option, Dubai, work towards inculcating skills essential for taking the test. By focusing on familiarizing students with comprehensive vocabulary lists and discussing the usage of each word, our trainers actually raise the level of vocabulary preparedness. And by training students to think logically and to analyze in depth our trainers are able to impart skills that allow students to summarize a passage, reason from incomplete data in order to infer, analyze a text and reach conclusions about it and develop alternative explanations. In sum, our GRE courses are every bit worth it.