English in GRE


Information Database for GRE Verbal Section

The Verbal Reasoning section of the GRE is probably what distinguishes it from other similar examinations, such as GMAT, because of the amount of importance given to the students’ English vocabulary. The Analytical Writing section — which one would probably think is for testing the students’ English writing skills — actually tests how well the students can express their ideas while responding to a certain issue or situation. Thus, this section often overlooks minor mistakes in spellings and grammar. The Verbal Reasoning section, on the other hand, tests the students’ ability for understanding the relationship between words and phrases, proper application of those words, ability for choosing and replacing words with correct alternatives, etc.

As you can understand from this brief description, it is the Verbal Reasoning section of language. Students trying to take admission in a college or university are supposed to have a certain level of understanding of the English language to communicate their thoughts and comprehend written materials well, and the Verbal Reasoning section of the test, and not the Analytical Writing section, that analyzes your command over the English the test evaluates such skills.

The Revised GRE Verbal Section is a Bit Different:

However, the test has gone through significant changes in recent times, and the revised version of the General Test is due in August 2011. The Verbal Reasoning section is probably the most revised section of the test. In an attempt to make the test more acceptable to business schools, ETS has lifted the stress it had previously put on testing the students’ vocabulary. Thus, the English is significantly different in the revised version from what it was in the previous version. The result is that you no more have antonyms or analogies. Nevertheless, the other question types within the test ensure that you have comprehensive knowledge of the English language and understand the relationship between words and phrases within the language. New question types have also been introduced to analyze your knowledge over the English language. According to ETS, the revised test places greater emphasis on real-life situations and problems to focus on the kind of thinking the students will have to do, and tries to evaluate how well you can apply your knowledge and skills. You need to have higher cognitive skills to pass the test, and your command over the English language will surely give you an edge over other students, especially in the verbal section.

The Question Types Including the New Ones:

As mentioned above, antonyms and analogies have been removed from the revised version of the GRE verbal section. The question types that are included in the Verbal Reasoning section are:

  • Text Completion: Text Completion questions require you to fill in gaps left within sentences. You need to read the sentences carefully to be able to choose the correct combination of words.
  • Sentence Equivalence: Sentence Equivalence questions also provide incomplete sentences for you to complete, but here you need to choose two equivalent words, each being able to complete the given sentence, making it meaningful.
  • Reading Comprehension: The Reading Comprehension questions are based on a given passage that you need to go through in order to answer the questions. There will be a number of related questions that can be answered following the given passage. In the revised version of the test, new question types have been introduced within the Reading Comprehension subsection. The question types include Multiple-choice questions or Select-in-Passage questions. What is new to this section, however, is that now the multiple-choice questions can have more than one correct answer and you have to select all of them. Partial marking is not applicable. The Select-in-Passage questions are also new ones introduced in the revised version of the test, and these require you to highlight a sentence within the given passage according to the question description.

Revised Score Scale:

You might be aware of the fact that the score scale for the Verbal and the Quantitative Reasoning sections of the previous version of the test was 200 to 800, with 10-points increments. However, in the revised version of the test, this score scale has been revised entirely. The revised score scale for both the verbal and the quantitative reasoning sections now range from 130 to 170, with 1-point increments. According to ETS, the new score scale will minimize minor score differences, while still being able to point out major differences in performance.

Revised Scoring Procedure:

The Verbal Reasoning section is scored depending on the number of correct answers you give within the allotted time. The revised version of the test is no more computer adaptive (CAT), so it no more adapts to your standard. However, the test is now section-level adaptive, i.e. your performance on one section determines the difficulty level of the next section. However, the questions each of the sections contains are of equal importance. The number of correct answers you give determines your raw score, and the difficulty level of each of the sections determines your scaled score. This is done through the process of equating, which takes into account the differences in the difficulty levels of the sections. However, the current version of the computerized format of the test is computer adaptive, which means that the difficulty level of the questions changes according to the answers you give. In this case, the difficulty level of each of the questions matters, as does the number of correct answers.


As you can see, the verbal section has been revised thoroughly: from question types to score scale. As a result of the stress shift from out-of-context vocabulary, you no more have to be a native English speaker to get an edge over the other students. But you still need good understanding of the English language, as most of the questions in the verbal section test your ability to comprehend materials written in English. If you observe carefully, you will see that the new Sentence Equivalence questions require similar skills as antonyms and analogies did before, but these questions provide a context to make it easier for you to grasp the meaning of the words. Thus, the English subtest has not changed as much as the test structure has changed, because you still need the same skills. However, as ETS clearly mentions, the questions now focus more on the kind of thinking you would have to do in the college level.