The Best GRE Verbal Practice You Can Get

In this article, we’ll go over all the best resources to use for GRE Verbal practice. We’ll cover official material, paid practice tests, and the best way to use the different types of GRE Verbal practice material in your studying.

Feature image credit: Statue of Phillis Wheatley/used under CC BY 2.0/cropped from original.

 

Overview of GRE Verbal Practice Questions

When it comes to GRE Verbal practice tests and questions, you’ll be faced with the choice between official or unofficial materials. Your best bet for high-quality GRE Verbal tests and questions is to go with official ETS PDFs, web resources, and books.

GRE Verbal practice materials released by ETS are high-quality not because the questions are inherently more difficult or inherently better written, but because they are created by the same company that creates the GRE content. Therefore, the way in which questions are asked and what skills are tested will be the most in line with what you’ll see on the GRE.

The other main distinction in the GRE Verbal practice landscape is the divide between free and paid materials. Free is great when it comes to official ETS questions because the material is pretty much what you’d see on the GRE but at no cost. In fact, ETS’s free PowerPrep tests are the best computer-based GRE practice available anywhere.

When it comes to unofficial GRE Verbal materials, however, using paid books and tests is the way to go. Many companies put in more effort into making questions realistic and high quality when they charge a price for their materials; this is especially true for GRE Verbal, which can be tricky to create accurate questions for.

 

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What Are the Best GRE Verbal Practice Questions?

The best GRE Verbal practice materials are realistic, high-quality questions that match the real GRE in style and content. Ideally, the materials you use for GRE Verbal practice will have questions organized by difficulty level as well as specific skill so that you can get the most out of your studying.

Working on appropriately challenging questions is vital for effective GRE Verbal practice. Too-easy questions won’t teach you anything, while too-challenging questions will be discouraging. The same thing goes for the content – focus your GRE Verbal practice on areas you’re unfamiliar with or struggle with, rather than areas you have already mastered.

Good GRE practice questions should be…

  • realistic and of high quality; they will match real GRE questions in both style and content
  • organized by difficulty level
  • organized by skill being tested
  • able to be taken as part of full-length tests as well as drilled separately

Not every resource will meet all of these criteria, and they don’t need to. What counts as good GRE verbal practice material depends partially on what kind of practice you’re doing.

First, you’ll need to get used to taking full-length GREs so that you can build up your stamina and get used to the alternation between Quantitative and Verbal Reasoning sections. To do this, you’ll need to use full-length, preferably official, GRE practice tests.

The other important method for GRE Verbal practice uses questions to focus in on specific weaknesses. For this kind of studying, you’ll want to use sets of GRE Verbal practice questions sorted by content type and difficulty level.

 

quality/used under CC BY-SA 2.0/cropped from original.
quality/used under CC BY-SA 2.0/cropped from original.

 

Free and Official GRE Verbal Practice Tests

ETS has released a fair amount of free material you can use for GRE Verbal practice. Some of it, like the PowerPrep tests, should be reserved for when you can take full-length practice tests, while other materials are better suited to question drills.

The two main sources for free and official ETS GRE Verbal practice material are the PowerPrep web-based practice tests and practice book PDFs.

 

POWERPREP Online

ETS’s POWERPREP Online allows students to simulate the experience of taking a computer-based GRE on their own computers. There are two PowerPrep full-length section-adaptive practice tests, which makes it the most valuable computer-based GRE practice out there.

Because these are the only two free official computer-based GRE practice tests, you should use be mindful of how and when you take the PowerPrep tests. The Test Preview tool included with the PowerPrep tests can help you get used to the computer-based GRE without wasting one of the full-length practice tests. The best way to practice is to use these full-length tests to gauge your GRE studying progress and to use other GRE Verbal questions for practice in between.

For more about how to get the most out of the PowerPrep tests, be sure to read our article about GRE sample questions here.

 

GRE PDFs

ETS has released two practice tests as part of its GRE practice book PDFs: one from 2010-2012 and one that is currently available on the ETS website. The 2010-2012 practice test contains a lot of the same content as PowerPrep Practice Test 1, while the current practice test contains a lot of the same content as PowerPrep Practice Test 2. Both of the practice test PDFs are formatted for the paper-based GRE, so they have 25 Verbal Reasoning questions per section.

Because of the overlap and the timing differences, you should only mine these PDF practice tests for GRE verbal practice questions after you’ve taken the corresponding PowerPrep test.

 

Old GRE PDFs

One other source of free official GRE Verbal practice questions is the practice book for the old, out-of-800 GRE. The catch is that because the Verbal Reasoning section of the GRE has changed quite a bit from that test, you can only use the following questions from the practice book PDF:

  • Section 2: 4-6, 17-27
  • Section 4: 2, 5, 17-27

All the other Verbal Reasoning questions on that test are either types no longer seen on the GRE (antonyms, analogies) or have answers in forms too different from the current GRE to be useful practice (for instance, double-blank sentence completion question answer choices were presented in a completely different format on the old test).

 

ETS Website

The ETS website also has some sample questions with explanations that are separate from the two full-length tests. Most of these sample questions are duplicated by PowerPrep’s Test Preview tool, but there are some unique questions (with explanations). Be sure to go through the sample questions to make sure you get as many free official practice questions as you can out of ETS.

 

Paid and Official GRE Verbal Practice Questions

Official GRE Verbal Reasoning Practice Questions, Volume 1 (currently, there is no volume 2) contains 150 unique practice questions. At under $12 for the paperback or ebook, this book is the best source for non-test GRE Verbal practice questions, since questions are grouped by skill level (easy, medium, or hard) and by skill type (reading comprehension, sentence equivalence, or text completion)

The Official Guide to the GRE revised General Test is the best paid resource for official full-length practice tests. For around $27, you’ll not only get practice questions that appear nowhere else, but you’ll also get two full-length unique paper-based GRE practice tests.

As with PowerPrep, the practice tests in this book are best used to gauge your progress, rather than as resources to chop up and mine for GRE Verbal practice questions. On the other hand, you can use the GRE Verbal practice question sets in Chapter 4 for targeted study the same way you’d use the questions in Official GRE Verbal Reasoning Practice Questions.

The last official paid resource for GRE Verbal practice questions is POWERPREP PLUS Online. At $39.95 per test per use (you can only take a test once per purchase) and expiring after 90 days, the two PowerPrep Plus adaptive practice tests are a pricey addition to ETS’s array of official GRE practice materials. However, if you are struggling with the computer-based format of the GRE and want more full-length official practice tests than you get with the free version of PowerPrep, this is your best option. The PowerPrep Plus practice tests have very little overlap with other official material, so they make great additional checkpoints to see if you need to change where you’re focusing your studying.

 

Focus/used under CC BY-SA 2.0.
Focus your GRE Verbal studying on specific question types. Focus/used under CC BY-SA 2.0.

 

Best Unofficial GRE Verbal Practice Materials

Unfortunately, there aren’t many good options out there for free unofficial GRE Verbal practice tests. The free material that’s out there tends to suffer from lopsided quality, with acceptable Quantitative Reasoning practice questions but poor quality Verbal Reasoning practice questions.

For GRE vocab practice, I’d recommend checking out our printable GRE flashcards, which cover the 357 most important vocab words. You can also take a look at these vocabulary.com lists or some of the GRE flashcards lists available on Quizlet. The specific links I’ve listed are good because they don’t just give definitions, but also use the words in sentences, which is what you’ll be asked to do on the real GRE.

The best free computer-based unofficial GRE practice test is the one found on Manhattan Prep’s website. This resource is a good alternative for students who want more computer-based full-length GRE practice but don’t want to use up one of the PowerPrep tests. The Verbal Reasoning questions on this test, if not perfect, are at least the best approximation of ETS-quality questions that we’ve come across.

Manhattan Prep also has the next-best (after ETS) book-based GRE practice materials. Just like the official GRE study guides, Manhattan Prep’s $16 5lb GRE book has questions organized by content area. The quality of these questions is not as good as official GRE questions, but the 5lb book is not a bad choice for supplemental study if you’re running out of real GRE Verbal practice questions. Purchasing any one of Manhattan Prep’s eight strategy guides will give you one-year access to Manhattan Prep’s online GRE tests for more computer-based practice to use to fill out your studying in between PowerPrep tests. The questions in the strategy guides tend to be less realistic than those in the 5lb book, but you may still get some use out of them as well.

If you run through all of this material, Barron’s GRE and Barron’s 6 GRE Practice Tests are an acceptable third option for supplemental GRE Verbal practice. Their questions aren’t quite as realistic as those found in Manhattan Prep’s materials, but they’re better than the majority of the other unofficial GRE Verbal practice questions out there.

 

5 GRE Verbal Practice Tips

Below, we’ll tie it all together with five tips for getting the most out of your GRE Verbal practice.

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#1: Use Official GRE Practice Tests Wisely

Use the two PowerPrep tests to get a baseline reading for your level and as a way to measure your progress; use the practice tests in The Official Guide to the GRE revised General Test as additional full-length tests that will give you a realistic idea of how you’re doing.

Because the PowerPrep tests are the only two free official computer-based GRE practice tests out there, use these tests judiciously, supplementing with the two PowerPrep Plus tests if you can afford it. Plan on using official paper-based GRE study material and non-official computer- and paper-based tests to fill in the gaps.

 

#2: Practice Specific GRE Verbal Question Types

The best materials for focusing in on specific GRE Verbal Reasoning weaknesses are the practice questions in The Official Guide to the GRE revised General Test, the Official GRE Verbal Reasoning Practice Questions, and the sample question sets on the ETS website

Drill yourself on specific question types (reading comprehension, sentence equivalence, text completion), starting at your current skill level and then moving on to more difficult questions as you improve. If you’re able to answer medium-level questions without a problem, then you shouldn’t waste your time answering easy question – instead, try advanced-level questions to increase your skill. By contrast, if you’re struggling with easy questions, then you need to work on being able to get those correct consistently before moving on to medium- or advanced-level GRE Verbal questions.

Specific GRE Verbal practice is best done in conjunction with practice tests – if you do too many practice questions in isolation, you won’t be prepared for the real GRE, which varies question types within the Verbal Reasoning section (you won’t encounter this in practice) as well as changing from Verbal Reasoning to Quantitative Reasoning, section to section.

 

#3: Review Your Mistakes

Going over questions you answer incorrectly is key both when taking practice tests and when doing sets of practice questions. Only by understanding why you got the questions wrong can you avoid making the same mistake in the future.

It’s important to understand not just at a high level why you got questions wrong (careless mistake), but to dig deeper: were you careless because rushing due to reading slowly? Because you got bored by a passage and read the same sentence over and over again? Did you misread a word and then choose the wrong text completion answer as a result?

Each of these reasons for making a careless error has a different solution that you can then deploy during your GRE Verbal practice. This method of reviewing your mistakes applies equally well to non-careless mistakes as well, whether they’re caused by content weaknesses or unfamiliarity with the test.

 

#4: Understand the Difference Between Paper- and Computer-based GRE Verbal Practice

If you’re taking the computer-based GRE, the only realistic practice exams out there are the PowerPrep and PowerPrep Plus tests. Other than that, you’ll be relying on paper/ebook practice materials for your GRE Verbal practice.

As you drill yourself on these questions, you need to remember that the real GRE will be computerized, not on paper, and that the timing and number of questions per section on the Verbal Reasoning section changes between paper-based and computer-based tests. The computer-based GRE has 20 questions per 30-minute Verbal Reasoning section, while paper-based GRE has 25 questions per 35-minute Verbal Reasoning section (giving you actually a little less time per question, compared to the computer-based GRE).

When you do take paper practice tests (like the ones in The Official Guide to the GRE revised General Test), however, you should follow the directions exactly, since ETS has judged the timing and number of questions on the paper-based tests to make taking those tests equivalent to the computer-based testing experience.

 

#5: Create a Study Plan

Formulating a study plan is important not just for GRE studying as a whole, but for GRE Verbal practice in particular as well. When you create your overall GRE study plan, be sure to get detailed with what exactly you’ll be doing when you do Verbal Reasoning practice. We recommend alternating full-length GRE practice tests taken under realistic conditions with sets of GRE Verbal practice questions over the course of your study, but which topics within Verbal Reasoning you focus on and the proportion of practice tests to practice question sets depends on your own GRE goals.

The more you concretely you plan out how much studying you’ll do over what period of time to achieve your target score, the better chance you’ll have of achieving that goal. You can find out more about GRE target scores in this article.

 

PDCA-Plan/used under CC BY 2.0/Resized from original.
PDCA-Plan/used under CC BY 2.0/Resized from original.

 

What’s Next?

Struggling with text completion and sentence equivalence questions? Strengthen those Verbal Reasoning muscles with our set of GRE vocabulary words.

All set with Verbal Reasoning but in need of GRE Math study materials? Read the companion article to this one on GRE Quantitative Reasoning practice questions and other resources.

Immerse yourself in a sea of GRE study resources with our comprehensive guides to GRE sample questions and all official and free GRE practice tests.


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Author: Laura Staffaroni

Laura graduated magna cum laude from Wellesley College with a BA in Music and Psychology, and earned a Master's degree in Composition from the Longy School of Music of Bard College. She scored 99 percentile scores on the SAT and GRE and loves advising students on how to excel and fulfill their college and grad school dreams.

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