GRE Verbal : GRE Verbal Reasoning

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for GRE Verbal

varsity tutors app store varsity tutors android store varsity tutors amazon store varsity tutors ibooks store

Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Multiple Answer Questions

Passage adapted from H.G Wells' Anticipations (1901)

Democracy of the modern type—manhood suffrage and so forth—became a conspicuous phenomenon in the world only in the closing decades of the eighteenth century. Its genesis is so intimately connected with the first expansion of the productive element in the State, through mechanism and a co-operative organization, as to point at once to a causative connection. The more closely one looks into the social and political life of the eighteenth century the more plausible becomes this view. New and potentially influential social factors had begun to appear—the organizing manufacturer, the intelligent worker, the skilled tenant, and the urban abyss, and the traditions of the old land-owning non-progressive aristocratic monarchy that prevailed in Christendom, rendered it incapable—without some destructive shock or convulsion—of any re-organization to incorporate or control these new factors. In the case of the British Empire an additional stress was created by the incapacity of the formal government to assimilate the developing civilization of the American colonies. Everywhere there were new elements, not as yet clearly analyzed or defined, arising as mechanism arose; everywhere the old traditional government and social system, defined and analyzed all too well, appeared increasingly obstructive, irrational, and feeble in its attempts to include and direct these new powers.

But now comes a point to which I am inclined to attach very great importance. The new powers were as yet shapeless. It was not the conflict of a new organization with the old. It was the preliminary dwarfing and deliquescence of the mature old beside the embryonic mass of the new. It was impossible then—it is, I believe, only beginning to be possible now—to estimate the proportions, possibilities, and inter-relations of the new social orders out of which a social organization has still to be built in the coming years. No formula of definite reconstruction had been evolved, or has even been evolved yet, after a hundred years. And these swelling inchoate new powers, whose very birth condition was the crippling, modification, or destruction of the old order, were almost forced to formulate their proceedings for a time, therefore, in general affirmative propositions that were really in effect not affirmative propositions at all, but propositions of repudiation and denial. "These kings and nobles and people privileged in relation to obsolescent functions cannot manage our affairs"—that was evident enough, that was the really essential question at that time, and since no other effectual substitute appeared ready made, the working doctrine of the infallible judgment of humanity in the gross, as distinguished from the quite indisputable incapacity of sample individuals, became, in spite of its inherent absurdity, a convenient and acceptable working hypothesis.

Which of the following best describes a phenomenon that likely was problematic in the older form of government?  Select all that apply:

A. The older forms of government were not able to regulate the wage system arising in the new forms of industry.

B. The rulers of the old government were irrationally clinging to the rights of kings against the people.

C. The older government was unable to organize the cities, all of which required new services and ordinances as they grew.

Possible Answers:

A and C

A, B, and C

B

A and B

A

Correct answer:

A and C

Explanation:

As regards B, this answer may be tempting, given that the older governmental structures are described as seeming "irrational." This refers, however, to the fact that they did not make much sense vis-à-vis the demands of new societal forms. They could not rationally address the new problems.

For A and C, these two options are supported by the passage. It is stated that among the issues faced, there were "the organizing manufacturer, the intelligent worker, the skilled tenant, and the urban abyss." This describes both a new kind of working environment as well as a the development of complex, expanding forms of city life.

Example Question #2 : Multiple Answer Questions

Choose the word or word set that best completes the following sentence.

Richard was a(n) __________ traveler; he had visited __________ countries.

Possible Answers:

plebe . . . umpteen

adroit . . . innumerable

picky . . . abominable

rigid . . . hellacious

tacit . . . paramount

Correct answer:

adroit . . . innumerable

Explanation:

"Adroit" means experienced, skilled, competent, thus an adroit traveler is one who has likely to have visited many countries ("innumerable" means many).

Example Question #1 : Multiple Answer Questions

Choose the word or word set which best completes the following sentence.

Members of the guild were required to use their __________; doing otherwise was considered _________.

Possible Answers:

tools . . . supine

obedience . . . obsequious

riches . . . conflated

consanguinity . . . distended

instincts . . . fallacious

Correct answer:

instincts . . . fallacious

Explanation:

Using one's "instincts" makes sense as a requirement for any group, failure to do so is "fallacious" (folly, failure, wrong, incorrect). None of the other answer pairs logically correlate within the sentence.

Example Question #1 : Analyzing Point Of View, Assumptions, And Bias In Multiple Answer Questions

Passage adapted from John Dewey's "The Need for a Recovery of Philosophy" (1915)

Intellectual advance occurs in two ways. At times increase of knowledge is organized about old conceptions, while these are expanded, elaborated and refined, but not seriously revised, much less abandoned. At other times, the increase of knowledge demands qualitative rather than quantitative change; alteration, not addition. Men's minds grow cold to their former intellectual concerns; ideas that were burning fade; interests that were urgent seem remote. Men face in another direction; their older perplexities are unreal; considerations passed over as negligible loom up. Former problems may not have been solved, but they no longer press for solutions.

Philosophy is no exception to the rule. But it is unusually conservative--not, necessarily, in proffering solutions, but in clinging to problems. It has been so allied with theology and theological morals as representatives of men's chief interests, that radical alteration has been shocking. Men's activities took a decidedly new turn, for example, in the seventeenth century, and it seems as if philosophy, under the lead of thinkers like Bacon and Descartes, was to execute an about-face. But, in spite of the ferment, it turned out that many of the older problems were but translated from Latin into the vernacular or into the new terminology furnished by science.

The association of philosophy with academic teaching has reinforced this intrinsic conservatism. Scholastic philosophy persisted in universities after men's thoughts outside of the walls of colleges had moved in other directions. In the last hundred years intellectual advances of science and politics have in like fashion been crystallized into material of instruction and now resist further change. I would not say that the spirit of teaching is hostile to that of liberal inquiry, but a philosophy which exists largely as something to be taught rather than wholly as something to be reflected upon is conducive to discussion of views held by others rather than to immediate response. Philosophy when taught inevitably magnifies the history of past thought, and leads professional philosophers to approach their subject-matter through its formulation in received systems. It tends, also, to emphasize points upon which men have divided into schools, for these lend themselves to retrospective definition and elaboration. Consequently, philosophical discussion is likely to be a dressing out of antithetical traditions, where criticism of one view is thought to afford proof of the truth of its opposite (as if formulation of views guaranteed logical exclusives). Direct preoccupation with contemporary difficulties is left to literature and politics.

Which of the following might be a bias of Dewey's:

A. He does not believe that all questions are raised in the context of previous answers and outlooks.

B. He does not give enough weight to the importance of thinking with previous great thinkers, even though they might have had problems and questions different from those of people alive today.

C. He is too worried about immediate needs and not long-term goals and solutions.

Possible Answers:

C

B

A, B, and C

A and C

B and C

Correct answer:

B

Explanation:

The best way to begin is by eliminating wrong answers. C is incorrect, though it may not appear so at first glance. Dewey is concerned that philosophy does not pay enough attention to the immediate questions and problems of people; however, that is not the same as saying that he is only worried about immediate needs to the detriment of long-term goals and solutions. He merely wants the questions of philosophers to match the questions being asked by people living at a given time.

We cannot say that Dewey is unaware of the contextual nature of change in knowledge. He does speak of "quantitative" increase in knowledge, which is much like this kind of progressive development of knowledge in the context of previously gained knowledge. Hence, A is also incorrect.

Dewey does seem to think that thinking in terms of former thinkers will mold and potentially bias the kinds of questions being asked, much to the detriment of philosophical progress. We can at least justify choosing this answer. Given the other options eliminated, this is the best possible answer.

Example Question #1 : Meaning And Structure In Multiple Answer Questions

Passage adapted from "A Question of Politeness," (1912) by Agnes Repplier.

A great deal has been said and written during the past few years on the subject of American manners, and the consensus of opinion is, on the whole, unfavourable. We have been told, more in sorrow than in anger, that we are not a polite people; and our critics have cast about them for causes which may be held responsible for such a universal and lamentable result. Mr. Thomas Nelson Page, for example, is by way of thinking that the fault lies in the sudden expansion of wealth, in the intrusion into the social world of people who fail to understand its requirements, and in the universal "spoiling" of American children. He contrasts the South of his childhood, that wonderful "South before the war," which looms vaguely, but very grandly, through a half-century's haze, with the New York of to-day, which, alas! has nothing to soften its outlines. A more censorious critic in the "Atlantic Monthly" has also stated explicitly that for true consideration and courtliness we must hark back to certain old gentlewomen of ante-bellum days. "None of us born since the Civil War approach them in respect to some fine, nameless quality that gives them charm and atmosphere." It would seem, then, that the war, with its great emotions and its sustained heroism, imbued us with national life at the expense of our national manners.

The primary purpose of this passage is to __________.

Possible Answers:

criticize American manners after the Civil War

discuss American decorum, and to provide arguments that attempt to explain it

research the effect of financial growth on American values

debunk the belief that American manners were better prior to the Civil War

explain Thomas Nelson Page's beliefs about the southern united states prior to the Civil War

Correct answer:

discuss American decorum, and to provide arguments that attempt to explain it

Explanation:

The author herself, while open to the criticisms of others toward American manners, does not attempt to criticize them in his passage. Furthermore, while the author mentions Page, she only devotes two lines to him in order to share his opinion, before moving on to another argument. The expansion of wealth is mentioned but not researched, and the author does not focus on disproving the critics she cites, rather sharing them as other voices that attempt to explain the state of American voices.

Example Question #2 : Meaning And Structure In Multiple Answer Questions

Passage adapted from Thomas Paine's Common Sense (1776).

It hath lately been asserted in parliament, that the colonies have no relation to each other but through the parent country, i. e. that Pennsylvania and the Jerseys, and so on for the rest, are sister colonies by the way of England; this is certainly a very round-about way of proving relationship, but it is the nearest and only true way of proving enemyship, if I may so call it. France and Spain never were, nor perhaps ever will be our enemies as Americans, but as our being the subjects of Great-Britain.

But Britain is the parent country, say some. Then the more shame upon her conduct. Even brutes do not devour their young, nor savages make war upon their families; wherefore the assertion, if true, turns to her reproach; but it happens not to be true, or only partly so, and the phrase parent or mother country hath been jesuitically adopted by the king and his parasites, with a low papistical design of gaining an unfair bias on the credulous weakness of our minds. Europe, and not England, is the parent country of America. This new world hath been the asylum for the persecuted lovers of civil and religious liberty from every part of Europe. Hither have they fled, not from the tender embraces of the mother, but from the cruelty of the monster; and it is so far true of England, that the same tyranny which drove the first emigrants from home, pursues their descendants still.

What does the word "credulous" mean in this context?

Possible Answers:

Uncritical 

Useful

Selfish 

Rampant

Unnoticed

Correct answer:

Uncritical 

Explanation:

Paine is making the point that their uncritical loyalty to the King is weakness. "Credulous" means uncritical or trusting, so the meaning in this passage is conventional.

"Selfish" means overly concerned with one's own interests. "Rampant" means unceasingly proliferating (usually of a negative thing). "Unnoticed" means unseen or not perceived. "Useful" means able to be helpfully or effectively used.

Example Question #2 : Meaning And Structure In Multiple Answer Questions

Passage adapted from Homer's Odysseus, the Hero of Ithaca trans. Samuel Butler (1900).

"And what, Telemachus, has led you to take this long sea voyage to Lacedaemon? Are you on public or private business? Tell me all about it."

"I have come, sir replied Telemachus, "to see if you can tell me anything about my father. I am being eaten out of house and home; my fair estate is being wasted, and my house is full of miscreants who keep killing great numbers of my sheep and oxen, on the pretence of paying their addresses to my mother. Therefore, I am suppliant at your knees if haply you may tell me about my father's melancholy end, whether you saw it with your own eyes, or heard it from some other traveller; for he was a man born to trouble. Do not soften things out of any pity for myself, but tell me in all plainness exactly what you saw. If my brave father Ulysses ever did you loyal service either by word or deed, when you Achaeans were harassed by the Trojans, bear it in mind now as in my favour and tell me truly all."

Menelaus on hearing this was very much shocked. "So," he exclaimed, "these cowards would usurp a brave man's bed? A hind might as well lay her new born young in the lair of a lion, and then go off to feed in the forest or in some grassy dell: the lion when he comes back to his lair will make short work with the pair of them- and so will Ulysses with these suitors. By father Jove, Minerva, and Apollo, if Ulysses is still the man that he was when he wrestled with Philomeleides in Lesbos, and threw him so heavily that all the Achaeans cheered him- if he is still such and were to come near these suitors, they would have a short shrift and a sorry wedding. 

What does "paying their addresses" mean in this context?

Possible Answers:

Begging to hear about the Trojan War from Menelaus

Buying property from Telemachus

Wooing Telemachus's mother in hopes of marrying her

Showing respect to Telemachus and his mother

Trying to get word to Ulysses about the end of the war

Correct answer:

Wooing Telemachus's mother in hopes of marrying her

Explanation:

We know from the context that Telemachus is trying to get rid of these men who are surrounding his mother, trying to get her attention. We learn from Menelaus that any of the men who succeed in marrying her will face Ulysses's vengeance. These clues help us decode "paying their addresses."

Example Question #3 : Meaning And Structure In Multiple Answer Questions

Passage adapted from Thomas Paine's Common Sense (1776).

It hath lately been asserted in parliament, that the colonies have no relation to each other but through the parent country, i. e. that Pennsylvania and the Jerseys, and so on for the rest, are sister colonies by the way of England; this is certainly a very round-about way of proving relationship, but it is the nearest and only true way of proving enemyship, if I may so call it. France and Spain never were, nor perhaps ever will be our enemies as Americans, but as our being the subjects of Great-Britain.

But Britain is the parent country, say some. Then the more shame upon her conduct. Even brutes do not devour their young, nor savages make war upon their families; wherefore the assertion, if true, turns to her reproach; but it happens not to be true, or only partly so, and the phrase parent or mother country hath been jesuitically adopted by the king and his parasites, with a low papistical design of gaining an unfair bias on the credulous weakness of our minds. Europe, and not England, is the parent country of America. This new world hath been the asylum for the persecuted lovers of civil and religious liberty from every part of Europe. Hither have they fled, not from the tender embraces of the mother, but from the cruelty of the monster; and it is so far true of England, that the same tyranny which drove the first emigrants from home, pursues their descendants still.

What does the author believe about Americians' relationship to France and Spain?

Possible Answers:

That they are brutes who devour their young.

That they are enemies that should be fought out of loyalty to the King.

That there is no reason call them enemies, since they have no direct feud with them.

That they are sister colonies.

That they have fled from British rule because they are weak minded.

Correct answer:

That there is no reason call them enemies, since they have no direct feud with them.

Explanation:

The author is saying that just because Great Britain had declared France and Spain enemies, that doesn't make them enemies of the American Colonies. Even if Britain is the "parent" country that does not mean the "children" have to follow in its footsteps.

Example Question #61 : Gre Verbal Reasoning

Passage adapted from Homer's Odysseus, the Hero of Ithaca trans. Samuel Butler (1900).

"And what, Telemachus, has led you to take this long sea voyage to Lacedaemon? Are you on public or private business? Tell me all about it."

"I have come, sir replied Telemachus, "to see if you can tell me anything about my father. I am being eaten out of house and home; my fair estate is being wasted, and my house is full of miscreants who keep killing great numbers of my sheep and oxen, on the pretence of paying their addresses to my mother. Therefore, I am suppliant at your knees if haply you may tell me about my father's melancholy end, whether you saw it with your own eyes, or heard it from some other traveller; for he was a man born to trouble. Do not soften things out of any pity for myself, but tell me in all plainness exactly what you saw. If my brave father Ulysses ever did you loyal service either by word or deed, when you Achaeans were harassed by the Trojans, bear it in mind now as in my favour and tell me truly all."

Menelaus on hearing this was very much shocked. "So," he exclaimed, "these cowards would usurp a brave man's bed? A hind might as well lay her new born young in the lair of a lion, and then go off to feed in the forest or in some grassy dell: the lion when he comes back to his lair will make short work with the pair of them- and so will Ulysses with these suitors. By father Jove, Minerva, and Apollo, if Ulysses is still the man that he was when he wrestled with Philomeleides in Lesbos, and threw him so heavily that all the Achaeans cheered him- if he is still such and were to come near these suitors, they would have a short shrift and a sorry wedding. 

If, as Menelaus suggests, Ulysses is a man whose wrath is to be feared, what can we infer is the reason the interlopers feel safe enough cause Telemachus so much trouble?

Possible Answers:

They believe Ulysses was killed during the Trojan War and cannot hurt them.

They believe the gods are on their side.

They believe they can defeat Ulysses in battle.

They think they can manipulate Telemachus.

They would be able to hide in the forest if he comes back.

Correct answer:

They believe Ulysses was killed during the Trojan War and cannot hurt them.

Explanation:

If we read Telemachus's plea to Menelaus, we can see that he is begging him to describe his father's death. Since he believes his father has been killed we can reason that the suitors that are plaguing him do as well. 

Example Question #62 : Gre Verbal Reasoning

Passage adapted from Thomas Paine's Common Sense (1776).

It hath lately been asserted in parliament, that the colonies have no relation to each other but through the parent country, i. e. that Pennsylvania and the Jerseys, and so on for the rest, are sister colonies by the way of England; this is certainly a very round-about way of proving relationship, but it is the nearest and only true way of proving enemyship, if I may so call it. France and Spain never were, nor perhaps ever will be our enemies as Americans, but as our being the subjects of Great-Britain.

But Britain is the parent country, say some. Then the more shame upon her conduct. Even brutes do not devour their young, nor savages make war upon their families; wherefore the assertion, if true, turns to her reproach; but it happens not to be true, or only partly so, and the phrase parent or mother country hath been jesuitically adopted by the king and his parasites, with a low papistical design of gaining an unfair bias on the credulous weakness of our minds. Europe, and not England, is the parent country of America. This new world hath been the asylum for the persecuted lovers of civil and religious liberty from every part of Europe. Hither have they fled, not from the tender embraces of the mother, but from the cruelty of the monster; and it is so far true of England, that the same tyranny which drove the first emigrants from home, pursues their descendants still.

Which quote supports the idea that the American Colonies are not an extension of Great Britain?

Possible Answers:

"...that the same tyranny which drove the first emigrants from home, pursues their descendants still."

"This new world hath been the asylum for the persecuted lovers of civil and religious liberty from every part of Europe."

"....and the phrase parent or mother country hath been jesuitically adopted by the king and his parasites..."

"...this is certainly a very round-about way of proving relationship, but it is the nearest and only true way of proving enemyship..."

"But Britain is the parent country, say some. Then the more shame upon her conduct. Even brutes do not devour their young, nor savages make war upon their families."

Correct answer:

"This new world hath been the asylum for the persecuted lovers of civil and religious liberty from every part of Europe."

Explanation:

While Paine gives many examples of his revulsion of British rule, his argument is that colonists come from all over Europe seeking asylum. With such a diverse founding based on flight from persecution rather than expansion, Britain cannot claim that it is the only parent of the American Colonies. 

Learning Tools by Varsity Tutors