A large number of students who pursue engineering studies appear for the GRE each year. And one factor is common to most of them - they have a good grasp of the quant section. This is strengthened by the fact that engineers had the highest mean Quantitative Reasoning score among all the test takers, which included test takers from the fields of business, law, humanities, education, and physical sciences, among others. And this great achievement is for obvious reasons. The subjects taught in engineering are mathematics-intensive and the extensive practice makes engineering graduates better at maths than others from non-engineering backgrounds.
Unfortunately, however, the data also shows that engineers had one of the lowest mean Verbal Reasoning scores. The explanation for this fact is also obvious. The lack of reading skills coupled with a poor vocabulary accounts for the dismal performance of engineers in this section. The good news, however, is that with a little bit of focus and by following some tips, engineers can do wonders with their verbal scores.
If you are an engineer and you want to increase your score on Verbal Reasoning, this article is just for you. Below, we discuss 5 simple yet effective ways to improve your verbal scores.
There is no denying that the verbal section of the GRE is reading-intensive: while Reading comprehension do require a lot of reading, Text Completion and Sentence Equivalence can be aced if your command over reading is good.
Isn’t it obvious that if you read quicker and more effectively than your competitors, you are certain to do well on the exam? So, it is crucial that you practice the art of reading to boost your scores by a significant margin.
However, here are a few pointers to focus on when practising reading. Firstly, try to read high-quality content online to acclimate yourself to the exam. While reading physical books is a good habit, the GRE requires you to read complex ideas online.
Secondly, read across a wide range of genres. Because the GRE RC passages can come from topics such as social science, humanities, and natural sciences, it is imperative that you be comfortable reading all such topics.
Thirdly, read credible and good-quality stuff. The internet is a treasure trove of information and you will find many random websites giving you information. However, you must pick articles from high-quality sources. The Economist, Harvard Business Review, and The New Yorker are a few sources that you can read.
Finally, when reading an article, focus on these few pointers:
What is the main idea that the author is conveying by means of the content?
Is the author stating facts, or is he also giving his opinions?
What is the tone of the author?
How is the passage structured?
Has the author divided his content into multiple paragraphs?
What is the purpose of each of the paragraphs?
How is the author transitioning from one idea to the next?
You might want to take notes and compare your notes with either your trainer or your peers to check whether your understanding of the content is correct.
As soon as you decide to take the GRE, you must begin working on GRE-specific words. Because there are thousands of words, and thousands of sources available on the internet, it is easy to get lost in the myriad of words. In 29+ years of our GRE teaching experience, we know students who learn words from multiple sources, and, unfortunately, do not complete a single source thoroughly. This is pure harakiri. We would rather recommend that you stick to one source for words - and do all the words in that source thoroughly. You might want to follow the Jamboree GRE Vocabulary Lists or the exclusive Jamboree GRE Words app - Simplified Vocabulary.
If you encounter particularly tough or unfamiliar words, try to understand their roots. (A root is defined as a word or a word element from which other words are derived by adding prefixes and suffixes.) Find out all the other words that might have the same root.
Also, try to do a structural analysis of words: this is when you analyze the structure of the word by identifying whether the word contains a prefix, suffix, or root. This might help you remember words better.
For instance, the root mal- in Latin means harmful or bad. Now all words that have a mal- in them will certainly have a negative connotation. How many words with mal- are you aware of? Look at the following words:
If you are unaware of any of the above GRE words, find their meanings and you will realise that all the above words are negative.
Maintain a journal of words for yourself. Write root words, synonyms, and antonyms all together in this journal and visit it often.
However, remember that doing words occasionally is not going to help. You will forget them if you do not work on them daily. Learning words must be like brushing your teeth - a task that you must undertake each day!
In one section of the Verbal Reasoning, all the questions carry the same marks. So, it really is not logical to spend more time on the tough ones. Also, isn’t it logical to put your efforts into grabbing the low-hanging fruits?
So, we would recommend that you prepare for the GRE in a smart fashion. For instance, the three-blank text completion questions are generally tough, require more effort and time, and could go wrong, despite your best efforts. Because a single incorrect answer in any of the blanks can result in no marks scored, three-blank text completion questions are also difficult to get right.
In such a scenario, you might want to prepare in such a way that you do not spend too much time on three-blank questions. Rather, ensure that you are super-confident in answering the one and two blank text completion questions.
Similarly, solving sentence equivalence questions is easy once you are aware of the right strategies. So, you must strengthen your grip on such questions so that even if you get the three-blank questions incorrect, it does not have a huge impact on your score.
All of you engineers would be happy to know that, like the GRE quantitative reasoning, verbal reasoning is extremely logical and requires the application of strategies. At Jamboree, we focus on helping you learn these very strategies and apply them to questions.
For instance, there are a fixed set of strategies to solve Text Completion questions. One of the most important ones is to identify the transition words to understand the flow of the sentence. Another strategy is to put back a word of your own after you have understood the context. And you must do all this without looking at the answer options at all - looking at the answer choices often prejudices and confuses us rather than helps us.
Let’s apply these strategies to a sentence and see how easy things become. Solve the following Text Completion:
Because of his success as a comedian, directors were loath to consider him for ______ roles.
What were your answers like? Often, our students give us options B and C as answers.
Let’s try to solve this question together by applying the above-mentioned strategies. Let us not look at answers first but try to delve deeper into understanding the structure of the sentence.
The transition word in this sentence is ‘because,’ which shows the reason or cause for the occurrence of something. You must also know that if a cause is stated, its logical effect will also be stated. Also, if a sentence starts with ‘because,’ you’d realize that it will contain two parts separated by a comma. While the first part will point to the cause, the portion after the comma is the logical effect.
In the given sentence, try to correlate the cause and its effect. The cause is that the actor was successful as a comedian. Its logical result should be that directors were reluctant to cast him in, perhaps, roles that portrayed him as a serious character. Isn’t it?
Once I have been able to correlate the cause to its effect, I understand that the word I am looking for in the blank is an antonym for a comedian. If you have been able to apply this logic, the answer is fairly evident. The answer is ‘dramatic’ which means excessively emotional and forceful.
While tempting, option B (leading) cannot be the right answer because, in picking it, one makes an unwarranted assumption that comedians cannot play lead roles. Also, if you had not looked at the options in advance, you’d have, probably, never even thought of option B. Isn’t it?
So, the bottom line is that the Verbal Reasoning section of the GRE is not just a test of the English language. The section is called Verbal Reasoning for a reason, right? The GRE Verbal is a test of one’s logical reasoning skills too.
There is really no substitute for this strategy. The more you practice, the better you will get. Practice from reliable sources and begin to master sentence structures, reading skills, and vocabulary to get a great score on the GRE verbal section.
For more information on how to prepare for the GRE, download our 8-week GRE Study Plan. Get access to plenty of free GRE resources online, like diagnostic tests, practice questions, free GRE videos and more, on our GRE Study Portal.
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