I Need a Big Boost in Verbal. How Can I Tailor my Studies?

Make no mistake, the GRE's verbal section can be really tough, especially for nonnative English speakers. The questions can seem ambiguous, even arbitrary at times, and the vocabulary can appear as if it were pulled from another era. However, you shouldn't worry! Even though the path to GRE verbal improvement can be longer than math improvement, you can increase your verbal score. Here's how.

Read, read, read!

Out of all the activities you can perform outside of your GRE prep to improve your English skills, reading quality, GRE-like materials in English is the best thing you can do to not only bolster your overall English comprehension, but your GRE verbal score as well! Newspapers like the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, along with magazines like The Economist, The New Yorker, and The Atlantic are all quality sources to improve your English knowledge. Reading from these types of materials will make you more familiar with the sentence structures the GRE likes to utilize in its questions.

Study vocabulary

Our vocabulary flashcards along with our vocabulary eBook are great resources to increase your lexicon (your mental dictionary)! Text completion and sentence equivalence questions depend heavily on your vocabulary knowledge, so you'll want to carve out 15-30 minutes per day to not only learn new words, but review those words you've seen previously. Keep in mind that memorizing vocabulary words is not the only thing you'll need to do to improve your verbal score -- identifying the context in which those words need to be used is also of critical importance -- but to get a great score, you'll need to devote some time per day to increasing your word knowledge.

Focus on the appropriate question types for you

If vocabulary is troublesome for you, you'll want to devote more of your time on text completion and sentence equivalence problems. Make sure to create flashcards for any word you don't know in the answer chances, no matter if it's a wrong or right answer. Also make sure to study the sentence structure and shifters used within the questions: it's just as important to interpret the proper context of the sentence as it is to know the definitions of the words in the answers!

On the other hand, if you find reading comprehension passages overwhelming, you'll want to spend time focusing on not only reading faster, but also learning how to read. Make sure you're actively reading, and not merely passing over the words with your eyes. The more questions you answer, the better sense you'll get of what aspects of a passage the GRE likes to ask questions on, and you'll have a better idea of what's important within any reading section.

Do something to improve your verbal skills every day

Even if you don't actually prep in a given day and just spend an hour reading quality English materials, that's an hour you're spending improving your GRE English skills! It would be a big, big mistake to focus entirely on verbal for one month and then focus on math the next. You want to constantly expose yourself to GRE-level English: the more time you immerse yourself in the English language, the better you'll be able to answer GRE verbal questions

Use appropriate materials

For many students, using Magoosh will be sufficient to hit their GRE verbal goals. However, some students may want more and tougher material to use. Don't worry, it's out there! Once you're doing well on medium and hard reading comprehension questions (say, getting them right around 75% percent of the time or scoring at least 150-155 in verbal), you might find the Logical Reasoning and Reading Comprehension questions in actual LSAT tests useful. LSAT RC questions are tougher than those typically found on the GRE, so if you want to increase the difficulty of your prep, using LSAT questions is a great choice!

Give yourself enough time to improve

Lastly, as alluded to earlier, it can take weeks, even months to make significant progress in your verbal score. It's much better to study verbal an hour each day over three months than to study three hours each day in one month. To make the greatest improvement possible, you'll want to study as much as you can over the longest possible period of time. The path to verbal improvement is long, but devote yourself to English immersion, and you will improve! =D


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