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The GRE Verbal Reasoning Sections — Structure, Skills Tested, Basic Questions Types (Formats)

Verbal Reasoning is one of three broad skill areas that the GRE is designed to measure. (The other two are Quantitative Reasoning and Analytical Writing.) Here are the key features of the exam's Verbal Reasoning sections:

Number of sections: Two scored sections, and possibly one unscored section

Time limit: 30 minutes for each section

Number of questions: Approximately 20 available questions per section (1 minute, 30 seconds per question, on average)

Basic format: Most questions are multiple choice (one of five choices is correct); a few questions will employ alternative formats

Skills tested:

  • Your facility with the English language (vocabulary and diction)

  • Your ability to understand, interpret and draw inferences from sentences, groups of sentences, and longer reading passages.

During each of your GRE Verbal Reasoning sections, you'll encounter three basic question types (formats), as described below. Questions in different formats will be intermingled rather than grouped separately, and there's no set pattern or sequence.

NOTE: The number of questions in each format can vary from the ranges indicated below, which are for a typical Verbal Reasoning section.

  1. Sentence Equivalence (5-6 questions). These questions are essentially vocabulary-in-context questions. A Sentence Equivalence question involves a single sentence containing one blank, along with six choices for filling in the blank. Your task is to select the two choices that produce sentences that are equivalent (alike in meaning) and that both fit the meaning of the sentence as a whole. To gain credit for a correct answer you must select both correct choices; you will not gain partial credit for selecting only one of the two correct fill-in choices. [Directions and practice questions]

  2. Text Completion (5-6 questions). These questions are designed to measure various English-language and verbal-reasoning skills. A question in this format provides a brief passage of text ranging from 1 to 5 sentences and containing 1-3 blanks. Your task is to complete the text by selecting one of several entries for each blank. Any combination of selections — one per blank — is possible. To receive credit for a correct answer to the question, you must fill in all blanks correctly. (You will not gain partial credit for filling in fewer than all blanks correctly.) [Directions and practice questions]

  3. Reading Comprehension (8-10 questions). These questions are designed to measure your ability to read carefully and accurately, to determine the relationships among the various parts of the passage, and to draw reasonable inferences from the material in a reading passage. Questions are divided into sets; each set pertains to the same passage. Passage length varies from 150-350 words. The passages are drawn from for a variety of subjects, including the humanities, social sciences, and physical sciences. No prior knowledge of a passage's subject is required to answer the questions. [Directions and practice questions]