How to get a 160 in GRE Verbal

The GRE verbal sections are the most daunting for most test takers. Most are consider a 150+ in verbal a worthy goal to attain; yet, a 160 in GRE Verbal (86 percentile1) is very much attainable if you ensure that you approach your verbal prep strategically.

To get a score of 160 in GRE Verbal, you must master multiple aspects of preparation. Here are some of those:

  1. Understand the GRE syllabus, test structure and Scoring Mechanism.
  2. Learn and internalise question-wise strategies that work under test-day like time constraints
  3. Recognise and formulate strategies to overcome challenges faced while taking full-length tests.

I. GRE test mechanism and scoring

Read our blog post on GRE syllabus and watch the following video to understand the structure and mechanism of the GRE.

GRE sections, Scoring Mechanisms and Features

The GRE is a multi-stage test. This means that the first sections of Verbal and Quant will affect the difficulty of their respective second sections: scoring is biased heavily on your performance in the first sections of Verbal and Quant.

How does this help prioritise your prep goals?

Based on our evaluation of historical score-report data, we find that a 160 in GRE Verbal is possible if a student can achieve one of the following sectional scores in Verbal.

Verbal I (MEDIUM)13141516
Verbal II (HARD)14131211

Note that getting 13 questions right in Verbal Section I will result in a HARD Verbal Section II. Getting below 13 will make it almost impossible to achieve a 160 score. Also note that it will be easier to get a higher number of questions right in the first section compared to a Harder second section.

Realistically, therefore, you must aim to get at least 15 right in the first section of Verbal. Which means you can afford to get 5 questions wrong in the first section and 8 question wrong in the second section and still achieve an amazing score.

II. Master question-wise strategies

Unlike other tests you may have come across, the GRE isn’t a theory based test. It tests aspects of decision making skills and evaluates your ability to identify and avoid cognitive traps. This is a test designed by Psychometrists after all!

Each question type in verbal is accompanied by specific kind of traps that test makers set; there are also specific strategies that need to be employed based on the kind of question that you encounter.

For instance, Verbal sections are broadly divided into the following question types. Yet, each of these can be subdivided into further question kinds based on the granular skills tested.

GRE Verbal Syllabus

A more granular view of different question types tested


Build Question Wise Competencies

As obviously visible, the GRE Verbal tests a large but finite number of question types. Each question type comes with its own set of complications and predictable patterns in how the answers get twisted and the kind of traps that the test-maker sets.

To achieve a 160 on GRE Verbal, you will need to master each of these competencies. This includes building vocabulary, mastering critical reading strategies and building proficiency in identifying and strategising for the different question types you are likely to face.

III. Recognise and Formulate Test-taking strategies

Being competent at solving specific question-types may not necessarily translate to good test-day performance. There are multiple factors that might prevent you from performing at your best ability: fatigue, stress levels, inability to focus consistently for 30-35 minute chunks, hunger!

To score well on the test, therefore, you need to work on your test-taking competencies as well. How does one go about doing that?

1. Practice Questions in a test-like way

This means that when your practice, either question type strategies or concepts, pick about 15 – 20 questions and set a specific time limit. Train yourself to solve these 10 – 20 questions within the specified (realistic) time limit.

Why is this important? Because on the day of the test, you work under pressure of time. If your practice sets aren’t timed, then you just aren’t building the kind of competencies that are useful on the day of the test.

2. Take Sectional Tests Periodically

These are essentially a set of 20 or more questions that contains a good representation of each question type; these need to be solved under strict timed conditions as well. The best place to find sectional practice is in the official guides.

Why is this important? These train you to think within a sectional context: the able to prioritise time among question types, the ability to make strategic guesses and shift your mindset across different question types within a section.

3. Schedule and Take Full length mock tests periodically

Take a Full-length Mock test at the beginning of your prep to understand your base-line. Take a full-length mock test every 3 weeks initially to get a sense of how your improvement has scaled.

Why is this important? This helps you get a realistic sense of how you’re scaling up from where you started towards your target score. These also help you take remedial action on analysis post-mock test to understand the aspects of test-taking that you need to rectify to improve scores. Make sure you spend time working on the corrective steps before you take another mock test.


Putting it all together

For an impressive Verbal score, you must work on your preparation holistically. Work on each of those 3 components to see tangible improvements in your scores.

Here’s a score report of a student of ours who started with a 146 in Verbal and went on to score a 159 in Verbal with just 1.5 months of strategic preparation!

What a 160 in GRE Verbal looks like: Score Card

Actual Score Report of our student that scored a 159 on GRE Verbal.


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