Cracking GRE Tips

Always look for WRONG answers, DON'T look for the RIGHT ones, WHY?
Because it's much easier to find the correct answer after eliminating all the WRONG choices than finding it directly.

Reading comprehension

1. It’s a treasure hunt section (neither a test of reading nor comprehension)

2. Three types of passages: 

💡 Specific science passages

− Tone (neutral or objective);

− Contains lots of jargons (don't pay too much attention to them); − Need to focus on the MAIN IDEA only 

💡General science passages: 

− History of science discovery; development of a scientific procedure or method; why it 

fails or succeeds in explaining certain phenomena. 

− Tone (neutral or objective, may expressing an opinion), 

− Contains more point of views 

💡Non-science passage: 

− Humanities/social studies topics (literature/art) (history; sociology; cultural studies) 

− Humanities: Take a specific point of view // compare several views 

− Social studies: introduce era/event focusing on specific problem/topic/person/group of Persons

 âˆ’ Tone: Vary (neutral – contains descriptions of facts and ideas) (opinionated – judgments and criticisms)

3. Basic approach 

➡️ Get a sense of passage (Skimming – Kind of it but not exactly) 

− Don't read and try to memorize all details – DON'T be such that FOOL 

− 1-2 minutes: Get the sense of the passage (remember to TAKE NOTE)

➡️ Main idea (what's the passage saying) 

− Read the first and last sentences of each paragraph. 

− Skim through to find keywords (help identify paragraph's organization) 

➡️ Organization (How the author structured the passage – the function of each paragraph – trying to convey what fragment of the main idea)

− Point and example: A theory/idea + supporting details (examples/arguments) 

− Point-and-counterpoint: some theories for explaining a phenomenon (Another, in addition, etc.) 

− Theory and critique: common theory/idea/notion/belief + its flaws (admittedly, Yet, however, etc.) 

− Pros vs. cons: both sides of an issue (however...contrast....) 

− Compare and contrast: similarities + differences between some objects (similarly, in the same way, analogous, parallel, likewise, just as, also, as, etc.) (however, alternatively, by contrast, on the other hand, rather than, while, yet) 

− Historical cause and effect: Sequences in chronological or the reverse order (prior to, as a result, therefore, consequently, then, thus, accordingly, since, because, due to, in light of, etc.) 

− Classification: identifies/distinguishes between some types + branches to some subclasses (first, in addition, finally, also, another, division, divide, etc.)

💡 Figure out what question is asking (LEAD WORDS) – especially important to SPECIFIC question types.

💡 Find the relevant material in the passage (LEAD WORDS) 

▪ Read the sentence containing that LEAD WORD 

▪ Read 5 lines below and above that sentence 

💡 Put the answer in your own words (NEW) – Why? Because it helps you use POE Properly

➡️ Use POE eliminate answer that disagree with your answer 

− Extreme statements are BAD: must, the first, each, every, all, the best, only, totally, always, no. You shouldn't eliminate the answer containing those words immediately but should pay close attention to it. 

− Moderate statements are GOOD: may, can, some, many, sometimes, often 

− Direct repetition from the passage: ETS's favorite tricks are information token from different paragraphs that are not relevant to the question → DON'T answer relying on your MEMORY 

− Ambiguous answer choices: Remember the CORRECT answer should be indisputable. The wrong (even half-wrong-half-right) answer which is disputable (or could be analyzed in different ways) must be INCORRECT. 


  • Too specific (partly right or right on behalf of specific paragraph only)

  • Too broad

  • Not mentioned

💡 If you've got more than 1 choice. Refer back to the passage then use POE again 


➡️ For TONE/ATTITUDE/STYLE questions, wrong choices would be

  • Portrays minorities, women or any modern nations in a negative light

  • Disrespect the authors/the subjects of the reading passage

  • Too negative/extreme. (ETS's reading passages don't have strong emotions → The style would never be violent, the author will never be irrational)

💡 The author is never detached (has no emotion at all): apathy, indifference, detached ambivalence. Rather, it might be 'objective', 'impartial', 'unbiased'. 

−  For I, II, II question:


  • Refer back to the passage, read and paraphrase with your own words (in mind)

  • Read each I, II, III. If you find one that correct (e.g: I) – eliminate all the answer choices that do not contain it (I). Then you will find the correct answer choice at the end of POE 

  • DO NOT eliminate any choice just because you don't understand or know the meaning of some words in it. You should work on choices which you could define/understand it properly.

2. Sentence Completion

💡 TRIGGERS that show relationship

• Contrast – although, but, by contrast, despite, however, nevertheless, nonetheless, on the

other hand, unlike, yet.

• Similarity – as, in the same way, like, likewise, similarly, by the same token, not unlike.

• Restatement – in fact, in other words, in short, namely, that is.

• Cause and effect – because, hence, consequently, due to, leads to, produces, results in,

since, therefore, thus.

💡Scan to identify keywords showing relationship - TRIGGERS

  • Similar: -/- or +/+

  • Contrast: -/+ or +/-

  • Causal: -/- or +/+

  • Explanation: -/- or +/+

💡 Identify the clue: POSITIVE (+) OR NEGATIVE (-). Mark each blank with (+)or (-). (Take a look at KAPLAN verbal workout)

💡 Think of your own words or phrases (do not be so serious of wrong/right at this step. It just helps get you to the context of question. But it is a must-be-done step. Without it, you would be confused by many given answer choices).

💡 Eliminate other choices

💡Pay attention only to what you're sure about (you can confirm it's WRONG→ eliminate. Otherwise, leave it there)

3. Antonyms

💡  If you know the STEM WORD (ST) 

− Think of the SIMPLEST definition of the STEM WORD - DST 

− Think of the opposite meaning/word/phrase of that definition - OD 

− Use POE to cross out BAD answer choices 

  • Words that don't have the same meaning as OD

  • Make opposites for the remaining possible choices - OC

  • Work backward to the ST (compare OC with ST)

💡 If you 'kind of know' the STEM WORD 

−  The STEM WORD is a POSITIVE (+) or NEGATIVE (-) word or Neither of them? (Kaplan GRE's Verbal workout) 

− Or think about WORD ASSOCIATIONS of the ST (e.g. Alleviate – Alleviate pain – Do something with the pain – Now think about answer choices that can do something with the pain) 

−  POE 

  • Words that don't have the OPPOSITE connotation with STEM WORD

  • Words that cannot have any OPPOSITE at all

  • Make opposites for the remaining possible choices - OC

  • Work backward to the ST (compare OC with ST)

💡 If you don't know the STEM WORD 

− Check the parts of speech for ST 

− Think about the ST's secondary meanings 

− Pay attention to EXTREME words (they might be true!?) 

− POE 

  • Words that cannot have any OPPOSITE at all 

  • Make opposites for the remaining possible choices - OC 

  • Work backward to the ST (compare OC with ST) 

4. Analogies

💡 Always pay attention to PARTS of SPEECH first

💡 When you know both words in the stem pair

➡️  WRITE DOWN a defining sentence showing the relationship between two STEM


  • Apply that sentence to the answer choice

  • Use POE

  • If necessary, make another more specific sentence

  • If you don't know some words in answer choices, it doesn't matter at all. Look at this

  • example


1. spurt:expel

2. foster:develop

3. scintillate:flash

4. pare:trim

5. saunter:walk

Defining sentence with stem pair: A = B slowly (DRAWL is to SPEAK slowly)

1. Makes no sense – Cross out

2. Make no sense – Eliminate

3. Don't know what's scintillate – leave it there

4. Make no sense – Cross out

5. Saunter = walk slowly

Now look at 3rd answer choice: flash - shine suddenly → Is there any word existing that means 'flash slowly'. It makes no

sense at all – Eliminate

Ok, now the only remaining choice is SAUNTER is to WALK slowly

💡 When you don't know one of words in the stem pair

  • TRY make defining sentence with the answer choices (just TRY fairly don't push it too hard)

  • Eliminate those with unable-to-define relationship pairs

  • With the remaining answer choices, work backward to see which defining sentences fitwith the stem pair

💡When you don't know either of the words in the stem pair

  • TRY make defining sentence with the answer choices (just TRY fairly don't push it toohard)

  • Eliminate those with unable-to-define relationship pairs

  • Make an educated guess about which remaining answer choice has the STRONGEST relationship


💡 Characteristic

➡️ Defining characteristic

  • A is a key characteristic of B or vice versa

  • A is a characteristic that defines what a B is (Brave:Hero)

  • By definition, A is B

➡️ Ideal (but not necessary) characteristic

  • An ideal/effective A must/should be B (Sword:Sharp)

💡 Function or use

➡️ Inherent purpose (function)

  • A is a function or use of B

  • A is a tool designed to B

  • The chief purpose of A is to B (Key:Unlock)

➡️ One of several possible uses or applications

  • A can, but need not, be used to B (Finger:point) (speech:inspire)

  • A can server several functions, one of which is to B

  • A can B, although it isn't designed for this purpose

💡 Contrary meaning

➡️ Impossible characteristic

  • By definition, A cannot be characterized by B (Mineral:Organic) (Fructose:sour)

  • A describes precisely what B is not

➡️ Mutually exclusive conditions

  • Something that is A would probably not be described as B

  • A person cannot also be B (timid:experimental) (obvious:clandestine)

➡️ Lack or absence is part of the definition

  • A describes a lack/absence of B (dizzy:equilibrium)

  • f something is A, it lacks B (deflated:air; neophyte:experience)

💡 Operates against

➡️Correction, reversal, elimination

  • A corrects/reverses/eliminates B (sustenance:malnutrition) – sustenance:food/nourishment

➡️ Lessening (decrease) in degree, extent, amount, quantity

  •  A lessens the degree/extent/amount of B (compression:amplitude)(filter:spectrum)

➡️ Prevention

  • A prevents B from occurring (blockade:progress)

➡️ Opposing functions

  • A and B server opposing functions (fertilizer:sickle)

  • A and B work at cross-purposes (anchor:cork)

💡 Type, form or example

➡️ Specific example or category

  • A is one category/example of B (anthology:collection)

➡️ Neutral vs. negative form

  •  To A is to B in an unlawful/immoral/harmful manner (scribble:write)

  • A is a negative/poor/bad form of B (mock:mimic)

  • To A is to B, but with an improper purpose (pedant:scholar)

➡️ Difference in degree, rate, scale, extent, amount, quantity

  • A takes B to an extreme (counsel:admonish)

  • A is a faster/larger/stronger form of B (malaise:distraught)

  • A is the same as B but on a larger scale

💡 Place or environment

➡️ The general place generally associated with the object/event\

  • A usually occurs in B (cook:kitchen) (honeycomb:hive)

  • A is the only place you find B (elegy:funeral)

➡️One of many places associated with the object/event

  • A is one activity that might occur at a B (observe:laboratory)

  • A is one place where B might be found (lake:poach)

💡 Condition for OR ingredient of

➡️ Necessary condition or ingredient

  • A is needed to B (wind:sail) (ego:conceit)

  • A can't happen without B (election:voters)

  • A is necessary ingredient for B

➡️ Helpful but not necessary condition

  • A promotes/assists B (quiet:concentrate)

  • A thrives in condition described as B (concentrate:quiet)

  • A is one possible ingredient for producing B (tailwind:racer)

💡 Part, element or aspect

➡️ Intrinsic aspect or quality 

  • A is one intrinsic aspect of B, and it cannot be separated from the whole (temperature:climate)

  • Every A includes some kind of B, which can't be separated from the whole(personality:attitude)

➡️ Part-to-whole (essential part)

  • A is a distinct physical component/part of every B (wall:house); (screen:television)

  • Part-to-whole (non-essential part)

  • A is one possible component/part of B (coda:composition) (adjudication:trial)

➡️ Individual-to-group

  • Several A(s) make up a B (patron: clientele)

  • A group of A(s) is called B (lion:pride) (patch:mosaic)

💡 Evidence or result

➡️ Cause and effect (naturally or likely outcome or consequence)

  •  If A occurs, so will B (monotony:boredom)

  • A is a by-product of B (obsolescence:innovation) – obsolescence: a state of being obsolete

➡️ Process and product (the result is intentional)

  • You create a A by the process of B (smooth:shave) (deal:negotiate)

  • A is the intentional result of B (coffee:brew) (deal:negotiate)

➡️ Symptom, sign, or manifestation

  • A is an indication that B has occurred (blush:embarrassed)

  • A is one possible symptom of B (tumor:cancer) (isolation:misanthrope)

This blog was written by Rashmi Veena.