Essential GRE Verbal Strategies with Examples


GRE Verbal Help

Some people may think that the LSAT and GRE have nothing in common.  In actuality, there are many strategies from the LSAT that can be transferred to the GRE verbal.  As someone who has not only taught the LSAT and the GRE for years, but speak English as a second language, I have a unique perspective on verbal test taking strategies.  You may think it would be impossible for me to out-perform native speakers in the verbal section, but I received a perfect score of 170 in both sections of the exam.  I did this by deploying a few strategies, as outlined in my synopsis!

Your first step is to download the test below:

Then, you should try your best to answer the questions.  Use this guide as an answer key, or use it as a tool as you're solving your problems.

Section 2 (Verbal) Odd # Questions Explanations

Symbol Keys

Rectangle = key clue

Circle       = important


  1. Put a rectangle around “find it strange” and a circle around “tortuous”
  2. “find it strange” is the key clue.
  3. What question type is this?
  4. Antonym.
  5. Some people think her writing is tortuous.
  6. What is tortuous?
  7. Not direct or straightforward.
  8. So what would make such an impression strange is if her writing actually isn’t.
  9. Look for a word that is the opposite of tortuous
  10. (E) is the antonym of tortuous.


  1. Put a rectangle around “unusual” and “:” and a circle around “in a biographer.”
  2. “unusual” and the colon (“:”) are the key clues.
  3. What question type is this?
  4. Antonym.
  5. We need to find what is unusual in a biographer.
  6. The colon (“:”) is another key clue.
  7. What function does a colon serve in GRE?
  8. To expand upon a point.
  9. So logically, believing in your subject’s artistic talent is what’s usual of a biographer.
  10. What does it mean to believe in someone? It is to have positive
  11. Therefore, what is “unusual” is to have negative
  12. Look for a word that implies negative
  13. “detachment” in (C) is the only word that does so among the five choices.


  1. Put a rectangle around “fails” and a circle around “to capture” and “true self seems.”
  2. “fails” is the key clue.
  3. What question type is this?
  4. Antonym.
  5. We know that the more the biography does something, the more of opposite occurs.
  6. That’s why the argument says the biography “fails.”
  7. That the biography “fails” to “capture” something is the meaning of 2nd
  8. (D), “disappear,” is the only word that is closest to “fails” to “capture” something.
  9. What can be the opposite of “disappear”?
  10. Only choice (A) provides the opposite meaning.


  1. Put a rectangle around “if you doubt this” and a circle around “just think.”
  2. “if you doubt this” is the key clue.
  3. What question type is this?
  4. Synonym.
  5. We know from “if you doubt this” that the second sentence is an elaboration of the first.
  6. The first blank and the third blank must therefore be categorically synonymous.
  7. What is categorically synonymous?
  8. Not exactly synonymous, but can be placed in the same category.
  9. Think vacation and pay raise. Not synonymous, but both induce good feelings.
  10. GRE is all about testing your ability to identify items in similar categories.
  11. Look at (A) and (B). They’re all positive.
  12. Look at (G), (H) and (I). Is anything positive?
  13. So (A) and (B) are wrong.
  14. Therefore, we know (C), “nettles,” is the correct answer.
  15. Now, what does “nettle” mean?
  16. To irritate.
  17. For the third blank, we need an adjective to describe an appropriate reaction to irritation.
  18. Would you be “indifferent” or “insincere” to irritation? Probably not.
  19. Most logically, you’d be contemptuous, as states (A).
  20. Now, the second blank – what would you call the first sentence?
  21. “exposition” and “objurgation” are too heavy and loaded.
  22. “observation” best describes the neutral tone of the first sentence.
  23. That’s how we know (C), (F), and (G) are the correct answers. 


Whenever you see “the passage suggests” on the GRE, cross it out and write “FACT.”

Never rely on interpretation. GRE never tests on your ability to “interpret” something.

Find what is actually stated in the passage. 

  1. We need to find a difference between the study of civil and criminal law.
  2. Line 12 says that the “complexities” faced by historians of civil law were “surmounted.”
  3. We know that “complexities” were one possible reason for why civil law was less studied.
  4. We therefore know that criminal law was more studied than civil law.
  5. We thereby know that (B) is correct.


This is an Assumption Question.

What are Assumptions?

Assumptions are logical deductions underlying a conclusion.

The number of assumptions underlying any conclusion is infinite (∞).

Example:                     Premise:           She replied late to my text message.

                                    Conclusion:     She is not interested in me.

In the above example, what are some of the underlying assumptions? One is that response rate is related to someone’s interest in you. If not, how can you draw any valid conclusion about her interest in you? Another is that she didn’t lose her phone and couldn’t read your text. If she did lose her phone and couldn’t even read your text, then the conclusion is false. If that were so, then you cannot gauge her interest in you based on her text response. So when you make the above argument, you’re assuming that she did read your text message. You’re also assuming that she intentionally replied late. If not, how can you assess her interest in you? We make assumptions all the time. We just don’t say them out loud because well, they’re assumptions. The easiest way to figure out if something is an assumption is to ask: If it isn’t true, will the conclusion be made false?

  1. The key clue for this question is line 17, “If that were so.”
  2. That tells you that if the assumption were true, legal matters would matter little.
  3. But we know that the assumption is false because of “but research suggests” in line 19.
  4. Therefore, we know that legal matters are of relevance.
  5. Choice (B) says that in a more convoluted way (focus on categorically similarity).


This is a Fact question.

Do not interpret. The answer will always appear explicitly in the passage.

  1. Look at Line 13. It explicitly says that geese don’t play a “large role.”
  2. (C) changes that to “minor role.” GRE always does that.
  3. Always pay attention to categorically synonymous words.


  1. Put a rectangle around “:” and “although” and a circle around “closely.”
  2. The key clues are the “:” and “although.”
  3. What question type is this?
  4. Synonym + Parallel Construction.
  5. We know from the “:” that the second clause is an elaboration of the first.
  6. The second clause also mirrors the first in sentence construction.
  7. A but B: although A’, B’
  8. We therefore know that the blank must correspond to “work closely.”
  9. The only choices that do are (C) and (F).


  1. Put a rectangle around “leaving no place for” and a circle around “determinate.”
  2. “leaving no place for” is the key clue.
  3. What question type is this?
  4. Antonym.
  5. “Leaving no place” for means it is not.
  6. Therefore, the blank space needs to be something that is not “determinate.”
  7. (A) and (B) are the only words that are the opposite of “determinate.”


  1. Put a rectangle around “led her to” and a circle around “conviction.”
  2. “led her to” is the key clue.
  3. What question type is this?
  4. Cause and Effect.
  5. The detective had a conviction that few crimes in her area were foolishly done (“inept”).
  6. What can such a conviction logically lead to for a detective when she studies a suspect?
  7. A detective would be logically careful because of her conviction.
  8. (B) and (D) are the only words that relate to that idea. 


This is a Fact question (“the passage asserts”). 

  1. Look at Line 16. It says the short exposures are “sufficient” for investigation.
  2. Note how GRE changed “sufficient” to “long enough” in (A).
  3. Note how GRE changed “many parameters” to “many aspects” in (A).
  4. Always expect GRE to do that.
  5. GRE always says the same thing in its answer choices but in categorically synonymous terms.


This is a Fact question (“the passage suggests that”).

  1. The passage as a whole is an elaboration of the “orthodox position.”
  2. Look at Line 5 and Line 6 – they correspond to (A) and (C) 


This is a Strengthen question.  Strengthen questions are all about probability.

Break down the argument into Cause and Effect.

Look for an additional fact that would increase the probability the effect would occur.

  1. Frame the argument into Cause and Effect.
  2. Cause Effect

No paint                      No death

  1. Now, on what basis is such a claim made?
  2. The only basis is that dolphins would get rid of it once exposure ceases.
  3. Identify the shift from premise to conclusion.
  4. The shift is from “getting rid of it from body” to “no death.”
  5. Getting rid of it from body and escaping death are two different
  6. What if the compound stays toxic after it leaves the body?
  7. What if the dolphins are re-exposed to the compound?
  8. Then it can’t be guaranteed that dolphins would escape death.
  9. (C) says the compounds will become harmless with time.
  10. That fact increases the probability that deaths would decrease.
  11. That’s all that the correct answer needs to do: increase the probability.

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