GRE Reading Comprehension Strategies

9 Different GRE Reading Comprehension Strategies (and You Pick the Best)

Raghuram Sukumar GRE 33 Comments

Do you really need a GRE Verbal strategies?

Here’s an actual experience shared by a GRE Test Taker.

It is quite distressing for most readers of this blog to open their emails from Happy Schools and read about how horrific the GRE Verbal Section and Reading Comprehension were in the GRE Test. I was very baffled by the scores that I was seeing here and quite frankly I was quite worried reading about various test takers grievances. I started my GRE Test preparation for my exam scheduled on 28th of this month.I saw an overnight boost of 15 points score increase by figuring out this GRE Reading Comprehension Strategies described below.

Before we get into actual strategy, let’s look at list of GRE Reading Comprehension Strategies.

  1. Read Passages First then Answer the Questions
  2. Read the questions first and then read the passage
  3. Read the passage first for longer Reading Comprehension passage
  4. Answer Reading Comprehension Passages first
  5. Read one question, find an answer move to next question.
  6. Skip Reading Comprehension Passages to last
  7. Allocate no more than 5 minutes per Passage
  8. Read only the first and last sentences of a paragraph, then start answering questions
  9. Take notes as you read the passage

So, that’s 9 different Reading comprehension strategies. Now, le me think like a GRE Test taker and I would ask the following questions after reading the above GRE Strategies

  1. How do I figure out which one works for me
  2. Does any of the strategy actually work?
  3. Hey, just give me one strategy, I will follow that.
  4. Do you expect me to try all the above and figure out which work? OMG!
  5. Sweet! This is exactly what I want. I’m going to get started.

The mindset of test taker matters.  If you really want to improve your GRE score, you should take your GRE practice seriously.

Your goal should be to figure out what strategy works for you. This has to be done by trial and error.

Now, let’s look at a real example of a Test Taker who saw 15 points GRE Score boost. He used trial and error to figure out the best GRE Reading Comprehension strategies.

First Week: GRE  Test Prep

I took quite a few practice tests (section by section) for a week to educate myself and determine where I stand and how far I have to go with my preparation.  I observed the following with the GRE Practice test

  • Got about 80-70% questions correct in the Verbal section, but Reading Comprehension was my biggest weakness
  • Reading Comprehension – About 50% incorrect answers.

Second Week:  GRE Prep

In my second week, I started taking full-length GRE practice tests online. In my first practice test scores were

  • GRE Verbal Score: 150
  • GRE Quantitative Score:  152

I analyzed the entire test and realized that I was reading and understanding the passages very poorly.

Next day I decided to take another full-length test. This time, I decided to concentrate hard with Reading Comprehension Passages. My score from the second GRE Practice tests:

  • Verbal Section: 151
  • Quantitative Section: 151

I was about to give up. I couldn’t accept the fact that I was being so very average. I could see my mistakes, but the time pressure of the test is taking away my ability to perform.

GRE Verbal Strategies

I took another GRE full-length practice test but this time I decided to try a new strategy for the GRE Verbal section. I split the questions Types into two and allocate time-based on the question types.

  1. Strategy for Sentence Equivalence and Text Completion
  2. Strategy for Reading Comprehension

Sentence Equivalence and Text Completion

  • Finish all Sentence Equivalence and Text Completion questions first.
  • Set a time limit of a maximum of 10 minutes for all the questions.

I managed to finish those 10 questions in almost 10 minutes.

  • For Sentence Equivalence
    • Always look for synonyms while answering the blanks.
    • Even though some words feel perfect for the blank if they don’t have a supporting word then it’s useless).
  • For Text Completion
    • Try to make sense of the whole text
    • Always try filling in your own words first

Then fill in the words you feel are appropriate and read the whole sentence out loud and check whether the text still makes sense. If it does then more often than not you would have got your answers spot on.

GRE Reading Comprehension Strategies

Coming to the Reading Comprehension question types, there will be around 10 questions. I planned to spend 20 minutes for Reading Comprehension Questions.

  1. Go to the biggest passage in the section.
  2. Do not bother reading the question first.

Because by reading the questions, you are limiting your focus and reading only to certain parts of the passage. Eventually, I ended up with incorrect answers by taking Questions first approach.

Now with the longest passage, start analyzing each paragraph. 

Start with the first paragraph, note down certain KEYWORDS or important points in that paragraph. Repeat the same for the other paragraphs in the passage.

You may start to feel this is time-consuming and may lead you to run out of time. But put aside this fear and give it a good during your Practice.

It will take you about roughly 4 to 5 minutes to finish analyzing the Reading Comprehension passage. Once you are done, you would have an understanding about this reading comprehension.

This knowledge will help you to answer the questions for the long passage within next 2 to 3 minutes.

  • Time Spent: About 7 minutes
  • Time Remaining: About 13 Minutes

Here’s how I spent my time on longest reading comprehension pages in my GRE practice test:

  • Time Spent: About 9 minutes
  • Time Remaining: About 11 Minutes

Shorter Passages

Now for the Reading Comprehension Passages that are short, follow the same strategy as described for the longer passage.

You should be able to answer most of the questions correctly.

By following this procedure, you will avoid the total brain freeze that happens when trying to comprehend the passage as a whole.

Following this method you should be able to complete the whole verbal section with a minute or so to spare.

The first time I tried this strategy I got a verbal score of 164

A huge leap, all the way from 150. But I wasn’t sure whether this was a fluke. I was apprehensive about it so I tried again the next day. This time did only the verbal section and scored 163.

Now, I was absolutely thrilled. I did this without memorizing 1000’s of GRE Words from the word list.

My vocabulary is not that great but instead of trying to develop my Vocabulary for GRE test, that I attempted at developing my comprehension and a sound GRE Verbal strategies instead; and I am glad to say it worked pretty great. Since then I took. GRE Full-length practice tests every alternative day and since I started using this method my score has never dipped below 160 in the Verbal section.

I would suggest not to try doing RC’s first and then the rest. Because your chances of getting the right answer in a short span of time in SE’s and TC’s are better.

That was a real GRE Reading Comprehension Strategies shared by a GRE Test taker.

Lessons Learned

  • You can learn different strategies for each question type from various GRE Test Prep Book.

As you can see, change in the approach and strategy boosted this student’s score by 15 points in GRE Verbal section. That is Huge Jump.

What does that mean?

It was a matter of figuring out the right strategy and approach to Reading Comprehension.  Every GRE book in the market will teach you a specific strategy. You have to figure out by trial and error. You goal during GRE Test Prep is finding strategies for each question type that works for you.

Don’t spend your Test Prep time looking for that one magic book that will boost your score overnight.

Or one simple formula to increase your GRE score. It’s will take time and effort. For this test taker, he figured out the strategy that worked for him within two weeks. It may take two days  or 2 months for you. But, the key here is to try. Use the 80/20 Rule boost your GRE Test score

You can find the approach and test taking strategy that works for you by practice. Don’t give up on practice until you sort out the best strategy that works for you.

[Tweet "You goal during #GRE Test Prep is found strategies for each question type that works for you. "]



  1. This is awesome, I am planning to apply a few of your strategies for the revised GRE. Thanks for the tips. 🙂

  2. Thanks Vinay
    your post is really insparing . can you tell me about that Website which provids full lenth test for practice ..

    1. Here is a list of few websites which provide GRE full length GRE practice tests online:

      Manhattan free full length GRe practice tests
      Princeton Review’s Revised GRE practice tests
      Kaplan’s Free practice test options for the GRE
      MyGRETutor four free full length tests
      ETS GRE PowerPrep – 2
      800 score’s Free full length Revised General test
      Peterson’s Free GRE practice tests
      CAT Prep GRE Simulator

    1. Hi Pallavi
      Here is a list of websites which provides access to full length GRE practice tests. Check out them:

      Manhattan free full length GRe practice tests
      Princeton Review’s Revised GRE practice tests
      Kaplan’s Free practice test options for the GRE
      MyGRETutor four free full length tests
      ETS GRE PowerPrep – 2
      800 score’s Free full length Revised General test
      Peterson’s Free GRE practice tests
      CAT Prep GRE Simulator

  3. @vinay
    I would like to know from which websites did you get so many full length test to do every alternate day.
    Thanks in advance for your help.
    I am feeling so confident to give GRE with the strategy you described above.

    1. I have bought the tests. From a particular website which I cannot mention here as HSB doesn’t allow. I have access to 15 full length tests.

  4. thanks good strategies you have shared here. I have seen a lot of people reading questions before reading passage n as you have pointed out then your mind looks for particular answers rather than understanding what the passage is all about n then we end up choosing wrong ans no matter how much time we spend on passage.

  5. Hey…this is quite an inspiring article you have posted…thanks a lot for that…can u guide me, as to which sites allows full test practice, online in new format, as you have mentioned in your experience.
    Thank you

  6. I think for slow readers doing RCs first will bolt all of the slotted times and then he probably wont be able to to give minimum required time to solve SE or TC even to those which he could do good by giving sufficient time. It totally depends on person2person to choose their own comfortable way. I think one who is regular English reader if tries RCs first then it may help him as he is accustomed in that way and if somebody is going through wordlist preparation will have good word power and may succeed better if tries SE and TC first. Still their remains a most inevitable factor – once own comfort. But one thing i think is a fluke is that the author of the post has mentioned that he started preparing couple of week earlier and after some day (or week) he starts practicing a technique which assures him to garner 660 from 420. this is seems fluke if it happens because such success rates are rarely seen or heard as it rarely happens. so i think it may be fluke.

  7. hey vinay, thank you so much.. ur strategies work really well for me..i m giving my gre on oct 4th.. was lil worried as i don’t have much time to prepare.. by the way can you plz tell me frm where do you take your practice tests?

  8. Interesting write up…hope this helps.:) I really find hard to comprehend those bland RCs, which really frustrates me completely.

  9. An impressive leap, I would say… 🙂
    If you have attempted PowerPrep II, could you let us know the difference in level of questions, particularly Verbal?

  10. thanks a ton for the verbal strategy vinay!..i tried it and it does help a lot!..i used to solve the questions as they came and now i realise its a huge mistake..

  11. Hi Vinay,
    Could you please let me know the sources for full length tests.
    All the best.

  12. Hey,
    Where did you take the practice tests from?
    Could you give the website you are referring to as online

    1. Hi siddhartha!

      Here is a list of websites where you can take GRE full length practice tests. Check out the link:

      Manhattan free full length GRE practice tests
      Princeton Review’s Revised GRE practice tests
      Kaplan’s Free practice test options for the GRE
      MyGRETutor four free full length tests
      ETS GRE PowerPrep – 2
      800 score’s Free full length Revised General test
      Peterson’s Free GRE practice tests
      CAT Prep GRE Simulator
      Magoosh GRE blog

  13. Honestly i think it is fluke, Remember it is never in your hand to finish a particular section in alloted amount of time, whatever you may have planned. TC and SE are questions where it is very common you are not satisfied with your answer and you keep on working on them trying other choices. It is rare you are 100% sure of your answer and believe in real test this would be even lesser times.So this pandemonium eats up valuable time of RC. RCs should always be done first also because they are more tiring and I suggest Mr. Author to do 3 verbals back to back and check whether this so called strategy works and readers please choose whatever suits you not what a guy suggests in a bit advertising tone

    1. Buddy. I ain’t advertising anything here. Do you see me make references to any coaching center/website/book etc?? And FYI I took 3 verbal exams in a day. Just to check whether this was a fluke. And followed it up by taking one full length exam every day since that first day. If it was a fluke I wudn bother coming here to share it would i?

    2. Dude he is not compelling anyone to follow his strat of attempting the section.If u find something +ve from it ,than take it & if not than u must be having your strat.Follow That.Keep It simple Silly.
      Everyone do have there way of attempting the exam & they go with their instinct only.
      I also have my date on 26th Sept & gave Timed FLT’S ,I realised i am not even able to read the long passages 🙁 & if 2 long passages appear in same section,den i can bet that no one can give it a sure shot.
      Its the accuracy which matters,go for the easy ones & make ample amount of time available for RC’s.

  14. hey that ws a very hope giving post,thanq ,and can i please knw from where are u solving those practice tests?any websites?if yes plz do post those websites…thanq once again

    1. practice tests can be taken in loads of websites. Try They give you about 12 free tests for each section.

  15. Thank u so much,though i am thoroughly trying to do each section(sc,tc and rc)thoroughly,i never would have figured what to do 1st in da exam,since if u keep rc’s to da end ,chances of screwin up is more,n if u keep sc n tc at da end,u r bound to lose on da easy marks,but i would definitely go by this mtd.

  16. Hi Vinay, which practice tests did u take? I have Kaplan’s and Barron’s discs but they don’t contain full length tests for the Revised GRE.

    1. How come? I use manhattan review. I bought their online CAT’s. I have access to about 15 full length tests.

    2. Hi Rajat!

      You can try out list of below below mentioned websites which contain access to full lenth GRE practice tests. Check out these sites:

      Manhattan free full length GRE practice tests
      Princeton Review’s Revised GRE practice tests
      Kaplan’s Free practice test options for the GRE
      MyGRETutor four free full length tests
      ETS GRE PowerPrep – 2
      800 score’s Free full length Revised General test
      Peterson’s Free GRE practice tests
      CAT Prep GRE Simulator
      Magoosh GRE blog

  17. Hey..thanks for the advice..I have been worrying about being able to get good scores on verbal..will definitely try your strategy

    & Good luck on your GRE!!!

    1. hey thanks for this info! u seem to have relaxed me a bit.
      I would like to know from where i can take online tests! pls can some1 help me?

      1. Hi Karthik!

        Here is a name of website where you can have access to online practice tests. Check out the list:

        Manhattan free full length GRE practice tests
        Princeton Review’s Revised GRE practice tests
        Kaplan’s Free practice test options for the GRE
        MyGRETutor four free full length tests
        ETS GRE PowerPrep – 2
        800 score’s Free full length Revised General test
        Peterson’s Free GRE practice tests
        CAT Prep GRE Simulator
        Magoosh GRE blog

Leave a Comment - Your Thoughts Counts

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.