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Been studying for 6 months and seeing NO improvement on verbal score

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Hi everyone.

I have been studying GRE verbal rigiriously for about 6 months now and I am seeing no real improvements on my verbal score on practice tests. I seem to always get between 13/20 and 14/20, which I don't think is very good considering I want to go into PhD programs in social sciences where verbal certainly weighs more. Math is alright, I am getting about 15/20 - 17/20 and I haven't even begun studying for it yet. I have studied and processed about 1,000 vocab words and I continue to do so, but I don't feel like my work is paying off. I find I am usually having a great deal of trouble with reading comp questions where I get most of them wrong, then I get a few sentence equivalencies or sentences compeltions wrong too.

Can anyone offer me some advise or suggestions? It's really frusterating at times dedicating so much time and effort and not seeing promising results. :(

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Have you taken practice tests, or are you just doing problems/questions? If you haven't taken a practice test yet, try starting with the ETS Power Prep software to get a sense of what the actual test looks and feels like, and to get an estimated score that you can use to guide future studying.

Beyond that, it sounds like you may have reached the point where you need outside help -- a formal classroom course, or an online program -- because you've hit the wall of what you can accomplish independently. You've invested a lot of time into memorizing vocab, but it's not paying off, and it doesn't sound like you have a backup study strategy. While others of us can tell you what worked for us, we can't predict what will work for you -- only someone who knows you and your testing style can help with that.

It also sounds like your confidence is totally shot and you could use some cheerleading from someone besides your own inner voice. If I were you, I would look into nearby prep options, or online programs like Magoosh (haven't used it, but have seen good things said about it on these forums).

Finally, make sure you're looking at the averages for accepted students at the schools you're interested in; maybe your scores are going to be fine, or maybe they need work, but I think it's always helpful to have a goal to shoot for.

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It is really hard to improve your verbal. I had the same score on my verbal 2 weeks ago on the GRE as when I took it 2 years ago. I spent 5 months studying as well.

I would say stop studiyng the 1000 words, because I doubt any of them will be, and if they are they might not be a big help.

Try using the strategies but even those don't work well when you are taking the actual test.

Verbal is pretty much a crapshoot unless you speak like 18th ct writers.

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This might sound a little nutty, but try studying some Latin.

As a Latin major, I would say I knew 3/4 of the words in those study lists already. The task of learning that last 1/4 plus making sure to jot down any words I didn't know from all the practice tests I did is a relatively simple one.

Of course, I don't mean go become proficient in Latin. If you're really serious about improving your verbal score, however, learning Latin will most assuredly do the trick. Go pick up a copy of Cambridge Latin (they're elementary school Latin textbooks) if you can find it and delve right in. It's super simple.

If you end up even learning just very common Latin prefixes like ob+ (against) and con/com+ (together) and ab+ (away) etc. you can literally increase your vocab by leaps and bounds since English creates hundreds (if not thousands) of different words simply by adding prefixes. I found when I was somewhat stumped on a piece of vocab in the practice tests, even if I knew the prefix I could suss out the meaning and make a good educated guess.

As someone who just went through a B.Ed, I know that learning stuff by pattern is a million times more effective than by rote.

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Studying vocabulary is not an effective way to improve your verbal score because the chances of you getting one of those memorized words is very slim. Focus on the reading comprehension sections.

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the chances of you getting one of those memorized words is very slim

This is so true. I learned every single one of my 200 words, and none of them were on the test. I think the most useful thing was the "words with similar meanings" on the back of all my flashcards.

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Thanks for the input. Just a little follow up.

I often find on a practice set of 20 questions here is my usual breakdown:

Sentence equivalencies (pick 2 choices) : 1-2 wrong

Sentence completions (fillin the blank): 1 wrong

Reading comp: 4-6 wrong

I think I know where I need to focus. -_- I seem to be getting destroyed by reading comp quesitons.

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Thanks for the input. Just a little follow up.

I often find on a practice set of 20 questions here is my usual breakdown:

Sentence equivalencies (pick 2 choices) : 1-2 wrong

Sentence completions (fillin the blank): 1 wrong

Reading comp: 4-6 wrong

I think I know where I need to focus. -_- I seem to be getting destroyed by reading comp quesitons.

I think this is a good thing for yourself, as imo the one place where you can improve greatly on verbal is reading comprehension.

If you notice, reading comprehension tend to ask similar types of question and the goal to them is being able to summarize a paragraph into a sentence quickly. So go out and read difficult passages either via scientific jorunals, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, Short Stories and begin to make those same kind of skills.

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Two things about improving reading comp:

1. Increase your reading speed and comprehension. Reading faster gives you more time for analysis. Reading speed can be improved through practice. Reading complex material on a daily basis.

2. Improve your analytical skills. Why are you picking wrong answers? What's faulty in your analysis? For this you may benefit from some 3rd party practice materials with explanations. I have been a Magoosh fan for Math, and can't vouch for their verbal program - but their explanations are usually excellent at training you to think like the test takers. You need to understand why your choice is not the best choice and develop a methodology. (Unlike math - many of the choices in verbal questions are not completely "wrong" they are just not the "best" answer ... so a detailed explanation of why choices are not the best may help get you in the groove.

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I thought Barron's 800 words list was very helpful, at least for me. I thought it did a great job of addressing words that were likely to appear on the GRE, many other lists have a lot of words that are just difficult, but that are probably not on the GRE too often.

That said, I think there's sort of a plateau for everyone in the verbal section since it was designed to be an aptitude test. Of course aptitude can be improved I guess, but would be a formidable task requiring the right methodology and effort. Kinda reminds me of studying for the SAT back in high school. I'd be advised by all these sources telling me that reading classics is the way to go, which I'm sure it was, to find that it was kinda impossible for me to put in that much dedication and settled with a 600 something score and decided to major in the sciences.

Good luck!

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I feel that although you can improve on the questions in comprehension, you will not see that much improvement if there are words in the passage that you don't know. They can often ask you questions that just rewords something in the text. And if you don't know that word, you'll be like "where in the passage does it say [enter another word that unknowingly means the same thing]?"

This is the main problem for me.

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I will never come back on these forums again but I want to leave this last note for you.

I took the GREs again last Saturday and got 1050-1070!

My verbal went up almost a hundred points, and what I did was use Princeton Review's 1044 question book.

The verbal sections really help build your instincts for getting better grades.

So I would say do that.

My math stayed the same but I had a 570 on math and a 490 on verbal, with some fluctuations.

F YOU GRES!!!!! DIE!!!!! I AM FREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

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I am in the same situation!

I hate the verbal section so much! I took 3 GREs over 3 years and got same scores... All I want to do is go over 300!!

I am so tempted to sign up for Kaplan's class, but I really don't want to spend 1299 dollars.

I really liked the Barron's 800 words book, but I would say about 5% of words showed up on the exam.

Also, Magoosh's site is very helpful too, and I would probably continue using it.

One more month untill another attempt at GRE...

Good luck everyone!

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I am in the same situation!

I hate the verbal section so much! I took 3 GREs over 3 years and got same scores... All I want to do is go over 300!!

I am so tempted to sign up for Kaplan's class, but I really don't want to spend 1299 dollars.

I really liked the Barron's 800 words book, but I would say about 5% of words showed up on the exam.

Also, Magoosh's site is very helpful too, and I would probably continue using it.

One more month untill another attempt at GRE...

Good luck everyone!

if you keep on hating verbal section, it's not gonna work the way you wish

you got to get stance of feeling GRE passages with your eyes, meaning they must be comprehended by you and read fluently. This is not like you buy books, do exercises and then score high. You have to read at least 1-2 RC passages very-very slowly everyday and try to understand them. Increase your vocabulary and read regularly GRE passages, many of them may update your knowledge actually. Most of GRE passages are informative and convey good sort of information. I have come to know a lot by only reading those passages recently, as I am also passive reader and read only when I am obliged to do so :)

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I improved my verbal score by 11 points (from 150 to 161).

How was this possible:

1) I installed the "IntelliVocab" app for the iPhone -> 4800 words (I practiced until I mastered 98%)

2) I installed Kaplan vocab app -> those are the most important words!! learn all of them

3) I bought Barron's most essential GRE words -> 800 words that you really should remember

4) Magoosh: while practicing I make notes of all the words that I don't know -> another 200 words

Finally, in order to increase reading comprehension -> Kaplan's explanations were very helpful to me. I also read the "NY Times" as they use many GRE words.

It took me approximately 4 months to learn all these GRE words

Edited by swisschocolate

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I improved my verbal score by 11 points (from 150 to 161).

How was this possible:

1) I installed the "IntelliVocab" app for the iPhone -> 4800 words (I practiced until I mastered 98%)

2) I installed Kaplan vocab app -> those are the most important words!! learn all of them

3) I bought Barron's most essential GRE words -> 800 words that you really should remember

4) Magoosh: while practicing I make notes of all the words that I don't know -> another 200 words

Finally, in order to increase reading comprehension -> Kaplan's explanations were very helpful to me. I also read the "NY Times" as they use many GRE words.

It took me approximately 4 months to learn all these GRE words

phew, that's huge improvement alsmost 150 points old scale

i raised my bar for verbal today after one-month verbal study in the above recommended way by 60 points old scale. I used http://flashcarddb.com/ and added Princeton Word Smart (670 words), read RC passages from http://www.codecoax.com/grerc/ and ETS paper-based tests (towards the end of one-month prep).

So it's quite manageable, unless you sit and glaze on RC and simply hate verbal stuff. You must develop keen interest towards material you read (RC passages) and comprehend the stuff. Otherwise you won't be able to analyze the passages.

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I don't know how they've updated the prep materials, but I will say I found the actual Revised Vocab section FAR easier than the test materials and old tests that were out about a year or so ago. Shockingly so. I think for folks who have not taken it you are most likely to do a lot better than you think. I was in particular worried about the passage sections, which would put me to sleep or make me cross-eyed; the one's on the test were pretty straight forward and not frustratingly complex and dense like the practice sets.

I would say do the vocab apps if you must, but the words/vocab I encountered weren't super foreign (like the practice problems) and the matching was pretty easy.

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Regarding the Vocab... A couple months ago, I downloaded a GRE flashcard program on my Kindle Fire and it has helped TREMENDOUSLY. It's the one through superflashcard.com, I think, and there are at least 6 or 7 different sets of cards of 2-300 each. The repetition is key to learning them and I've gone from missing an average of 25-30 words per set to missing 2-3 words now. It's been invaluable. In taking the practice tests, I've seen a tremendous improvement and usage of the words I've learned. Plus being an app, it's not as dull or tedious (banal, hackneyed, etc) ;o) as simple 'flashcards' or 'word sets.'

my $.02

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I don't know how they've updated the prep materials, but I will say I found the actual Revised Vocab section FAR easier than the test materials and old tests that were out about a year or so ago. Shockingly so. I think for folks who have not taken it you are most likely to do a lot better than you think. I was in particular worried about the passage sections, which would put me to sleep or make me cross-eyed; the one's on the test were pretty straight forward and not frustratingly complex and dense like the practice sets.

Thank you SO much for sharing this. My verbal has been consistently high on most practice tests, but it was abysmal in the second PowerPrep practice test thanks to one of those insane reading comprehension passages (5+ paragraphs) in the first section. I only had time to skim it and ended up having to guess on 4 different questions.

I take my test on Wednesday, so I was pretty panic stricken about my verbal until I read this post. I know I can't bank on it, but knowing that at least some test-takers didn't encounter super dense RC passages makes me feel so much better.

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There was ONE long passage on Henry VIII and theatres. The rest were like, two or three paragraphs at BEST. One of the more interesting ones was on Bee's (I don't remember the kind). As expected the passage on Henry VIII was the most complex and the one I had to read more than once, but since the rest was so "easy" (I scored 161, which at the time was 80-something percentile which was far and away more than I needed) I had time to sit back and think about what was being said. The rest of the sections are just fill-in-the-blanks with words most people should know (or maybe have heard in context even if they don't know the definition).

Unless your vocab is just garbage (you're one of the kinds of people who refuses to read on principle unless its OK magazine), if the goal is to not look illiterate I think most people will be fine.

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ANDSI,

May I ask how many you got right/wrong to get your 161 on V?

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I don't know about ANDSI, but on my practice tests, I got a 161 twice - on one I got 31/40 right and the other was 32/40. I also got a 162 with 32/40. My 165s were 33/40 and 35/40. I kept copious notes of my results for each test, so if you want more information, I can get it for you.

Hope that helps.

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I recently scored 168 and the best advice I can give you is this:

1. Practice Tests, practice tests, practice test. Don't just take the tests, and then go back to study your vocab or the book. Actually use a practice test that helps you understand your tendencies and gives explanations. Go over those practice tests very carefully.

2. Remember, the test is designed to trick you. It has its own set of tricks and by analyzing practice tests you'll figure out which ones you need to work on. You'll see how the test operates and take advantage of it.

Also use a variety of study guides, not just one. I'd say vocab is crucial but everybody knows that.

To do well you have to be both good at vocab, and good at understanding how to take the test.

Edited by ImWantHazPhD

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