GRE Verbal : Single-Answer Questions

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for GRE Verbal

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Making Inferences In Science Passages

Adapted from “The Influence of the Conception of Evolution on Modern Philosophy” by H. Höffding (1909) in Evolution in Modern Thought (1917 ed.)

When The Origin of Species appeared fifty years ago, Romantic speculation, Schelling's and Hegel's philosophy, still reigned on the continent, while in England, Positivism, the philosophy of Comte and Stuart Mill, represented the most important trend of thought. German speculation had much to say on evolution; it even pretended to be a philosophy of evolution. But then the word "evolution" was to be taken in an ideal, not in a real, sense. To speculative thought, the forms and types of nature formed a system of ideas, within which any form could lead us by continuous transitions to any other. It was a classificatory system which was regarded as a divine world of thought or images, within which metamorphoses could go on—a condition comparable with that in the mind of the poet when one image follows another with imperceptible changes.

Goethe's ideas of evolution, as expressed in his Metamorphosen der Pflanzen und der Thiere, belong to this category; it is, therefore, incorrect to call him a forerunner of Darwin. Schelling and Hegel held the same idea; Hegel expressly rejected the conception of a real evolution in time as coarse and materialistic. "Nature," he says, "is to be considered as a system of stages, the one necessarily arising from the other, and being the nearest truth of that from which it proceeds; but not in such a way that the one is naturally generated by the other; on the contrary [their connection lies] in the inner idea which is the ground of nature. The metamorphosis can be ascribed only to the notion as such, because it alone is evolution.... It has been a clumsy idea in the older as well as in the newer philosophy of nature, to regard the transformation and the transition from one natural form and sphere to a higher as an outward and actual production."

Based on the passage, which of the following can be inferred about Schelling’s thought?

Possible Answers:

Its idealistic vigor was an excellent example of reaction against modernity.

None of the other answers

It does not anticipate scientific evolutionary theories.

Its similarities to scientific evolutionary theories are striking.

It was based directly on the thought of Goethe and Hegel.

Correct answer:

It does not anticipate scientific evolutionary theories.


Without getting into the details of Schelling, we do know that "Schelling . . . held the same idea" as Goethe in the latter's Metamorphosen der Pflanzen und der ThiereThis does not mean that it is directly indebted to it. It merely catalogues his thought as yet another example of a Romantic philosopher whose thought is not the same in character as that of Darwin.

Example Question #31 : Analysis And Synthesis In Single Answer Questions

Idioms and Rhyming Slang by Will Floyd

While dialects and slang exist in most corners of the world, a few peculiar language habits stand out as developing entirely new ways of speaking. Most famously, the rhyming Cockney slang of East London that developed in the late nineteenth century has created many different idioms. The process of creating rhyming slang appears quite simple. A common word gets replaced by a phrase whose terminal syllable rhymes with the word. Thus, “wife” would become “trouble and strife,” except rhyming slang quite frequently will not stop there. Remarkably, the rhyming component of the phrase will be dropped altogether, so that wife is actually just “trouble.” Other notable examples is “stairs” becoming “apples,” from “apples and pears,” and “bottle” becoming “aris,” shortened from “Aristotle.”

Obviously, this can lead to quite a bit of confusion to a person unfamiliar with rhyming slang, or someone who does not know the full rhymes. This problem is exacerbated by the fluidity of rhyming slang. Celebrities and politicians can often lend their names to new forms, and “Britney Spears” has become a term for “beers” in recent years. This confusion may actually be an intentional development of rhyming slang. Theories abound about the origin of rhyming slang, with the one constant being a form of deception by the people using the slang, with the language of shady shopkeepers or the doubletalk of thieves as the most commonly cited examples. No matter the origin, rhyming Cockney slang is a true innovation on the English language.

It can be inferred from the passage that "Britney Spears" __________.

Possible Answers:

has a fondness for beers

uses rhyming slang

is confused by rhyming slang

is a well-known celebrity

is from London

Correct answer:

is a well-known celebrity


Britney Spears is only brought up because practitioners of rhyming slang used her name because it rhymes with "beers," in a sentence noting celebrities "lend their names" to new forms of rhyming slang. This is the only way that Britney Spears is referenced in any way in the passage.

Example Question #32 : Analysis And Synthesis In Single 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.

What may be inferred from the passage about the author's opinion of Thomas Nelson Page's account of the South of his childhood?

Possible Answers:

That they give a younger readers with a vague idea of the politics of the Southern United States prior to the abolition of slavery

That they are colored by time and memory, and are unfit for comparison to modern examples of society.

That they provide a distinct contrast between modern societies in the Northern and Southern United States.

That they accurately demonstrate that the fault of poor American manners lies in a sudden expansion of wealth.

That they picture a clear and unbiased of more halcyon days.

Correct answer:

That they are colored by time and memory, and are unfit for comparison to modern examples of society.


The author says of Page: "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."

The use of terms such as 'looms vaguely' and 'half-century's haze' indicate that the author wishes to call into question the impartiality of Page's opinion, especially when compared to 'the New York of to-day." 

Example Question #21 : Drawing Conclusions And Making Inferences In Single Answer Questions

Passage adapted from "The Cask of Amontillado" (1846) by Edgar Allan Poe

The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge. You, who so well know the nature of my soul, will not suppose, however, that gave utterance to a threat. At length I would be avenged; this was a point definitely, settled --but the very definitiveness with which it was resolved precluded the idea of risk. I must not only punish but punish with impunity. A wrong is unredressed when retribution overtakes its redresser. It is equally unredressed when the avenger fails to make himself felt as such to him who has done the wrong.

It must be understood that neither by word nor deed had I given Fortunato cause to doubt my good will. I continued, as was my wont, to smile in his face, and he did not perceive that my smile now was at the thought of his immolation.

He had a weak point -- this Fortunato -- although in other regards he was a man to be respected and even feared. He prided himself on his connoisseurship in wine. Few Italians have the true virtuoso spirit. For the most part their enthusiasm is adopted to suit the time and opportunity, to practise imposture upon the British and Austrian millionaires. In painting and gemmary, Fortunato, like his countrymen, was a quack, but in the matter of old wines he was sincere. In this respect I did not differ from him materially; --I was skilful in the Italian vintages myself, and bought largely whenever I could.

It was about dusk, one evening during the supreme madness of the carnival season, that I encountered my friend. He accosted me with excessive warmth, for he had been drinking much. The man wore motley. He had on a tight-fitting parti-striped dress, and his head was surmounted by the conical cap and bells. I was so pleased to see him that I thought I should never have done wringing his hand.

I said to him --"My dear Fortunato, you are luckily met. How remarkably well you are looking to-day. But I have received a pipe of what passes for Amontillado, and I have my doubts."

"How?" said he. "Amontillado, A pipe? Impossible! And in the middle of the carnival!"

"I have my doubts," I replied; "and I was silly enough to pay the full Amontillado price without consulting you in the matter. You were not to be found, and I was fearful of losing a bargain."


"I have my doubts."


"And I must satisfy them."


"As you are engaged, I am on my way to Luchresi. If any one has a critical turn it is he. He will tell me --"

"Luchresi cannot tell Amontillado from Sherry."

"And yet some fools will have it that his taste is a match for your own.

"Come, let us go."


"To your vaults."

"My friend, no; I will not impose upon your good nature. I perceive you have an engagement. Luchresi--"

"I have no engagement; --come."

"My friend, no. It is not the engagement, but the severe cold with which I perceive you are afflicted. The vaults are insufferably damp. They are encrusted with nitre."

"Let us go, nevertheless. The cold is merely nothing. Amontillado! You have been imposed upon. And as for Luchresi, he cannot distinguish Sherry from Amontillado."

Thus speaking, Fortunato possessed himself of my arm; and putting on a mask of black silk and drawing a roquelaire closely about my person, I suffered him to hurry me to my palazzo.

There were no attendants at home; they had absconded to make merry in honour of the time. I had told them that I should not return until the morning, and had given them explicit orders not to stir from the house. These orders were sufficient, I well knew, to insure their immediate disappearance, one and all, as soon as my back was turned.

What trait of Fortunato's is the narrator using against him?

Possible Answers:

His pride in his knowledge of wine

His "excessive warmth" towards his friends

His incredulity about the carnival

His love of the carnival

That he is "respected" and "feared"

Correct answer:

His pride in his knowledge of wine


We are told that Fortunato's one real skill is his ability to judge wines and then the narrator encourages Fortunato to come to his vaults with promise of tasting a rare wine. While some of the answers reflect traits of Fortunato's mentioned in the passage, only his pridefulness and his knowledge of wine are used against him by the narrator.

Example Question #1 : Analyzing Components Of An Argument In Single Answer Questions

"Developments in Understanding Ancient Greek Art" by Will Floyd

Most people imagine stark white temples and plain marble statues as the ideal of ancient Greek art. Nothing could be further from the truth, as the ancient Greeks lavished their statues, sculptures, and buildings with bright colors. The common misconception of plainly adorned Hellenic art can be blamed on the ancient Greeks’ biggest proponents in history. Enlightenment-era classicists eagerly visited ancient ruins in the eighteenth century and saw artifacts that had been weathered to plain white stone through decades of neglect. By the time nineteenth-century archaeologists found proof that the Parthenon and images of the Gods were meant to be in vivid hues, eminent scholars in Europe refused to countenance that pure white marble was not antiquity’s aesthetic paradigm. Widespread acknowledgement of the ancient Greeks’ adoration of bright colors only came in the late twentieth and twenty-first centuries, as scientific tests proved ancient statuary and buildings had once been covered in polychrome paint.

The author references "Enlightenment-era classicists" in order to __________.

Possible Answers:

show the value of scientific tests

ridicule Enlightenment thought

show how the misconceptions about Greek art developed

celebrate Enlightenment thought

address the aesthetic paradigms of antiquity

Correct answer:

show how the misconceptions about Greek art developed


The author references "Enlightenment-era classicists" first as "ancient Greeks' biggest proponents in history." Then the author discusses how they first saw the ancient ruins, and developed misconceptions about art.

Example Question #2 : Analyzing Components Of An Argument In Single Answer Questions

Adapted from "Ramblings in Cheapside" by Samuel Butler (1890)

Walking the other day in Cheapside I saw some turtles in Mr. Sweeting’s window, and was tempted to stay and look at them. As I did so I was struck not more by the defenses with which they were hedged about, than by the fatuousness of trying to hedge that in at all which, if hedged thoroughly, must die of its own defensefulness. The holes for the head and feet through which the turtle leaks out, as it were, on to the exterior world, and through which it again absorbs the exterior world into itself—"catching on” through them to things that are thus both turtle and not turtle at one and the same time—these holes stultify the armor, and show it to have been designed by a creature with more of faithfulness to a fixed idea, and hence one-sidedness, than of that quick sense of relative importance and their changes, which is the main factor of good living.

The turtle obviously had no sense of proportion; it differed so widely from myself that I could not comprehend it; and as this word occurred to me, it occurred also that until my body comprehended its body in a physical material sense, neither would my mind be able to comprehend its mind with any thoroughness. For unity of mind can only be consummated by unity of body; everything, therefore, must be in some respects both knave and fool to all that which has not eaten it, or by which it has not been eaten. As long as the turtle was in the window and I in the street outside, there was no chance of our comprehending one another.

The author's use of a turtle is __________.

Possible Answers:

necessary to his overall point, since no other animal could serve the same purpose in the passage

metaphorical and not dependent on the actual features of turtles

to demonstrate the difference between humans and other creatures

as a scientific inquiry about the anatomy of turtles

to mock and criticize turtles

Correct answer:

to demonstrate the difference between humans and other creatures


The author passes by the shop window holding the turtle on a casual walk. His examination of the turtle then focuses on how different the turtle is from his own sense of self. While the specific turtle is important, the larger point the author is making has to do with how humans interact with any other type of creature.

Example Question #1 : Argument In Single Answer Questions

"A Short History of Recent Zoos" by Will Floyd

Throughout the twentieth century, zoos underwent large-scale transformations. Before World War I, zoos were small parts of larger municipal parks, and featured sparse cages with little room for their inhabitants. This model held sway until mid-century, with many zoos struggling to remain open during the Great Depression and World War II. The successful zoos survived through making themselves cheap family entertainment. In the 1960s, zoos began to change in drastic ways. With the growing strength of environmental and animal rights movements, the public clamored for more naturalistic and spacious environments in which the animals could live.

The most emblematic of these transformations was the development of the Los Angeles Zoo. In 1966, the cramped and antiquated zoo used grants from the city government to move to a brand-new facility. Although the zoo moved just two miles away, the new location was exponentially bigger, and it featured fresh landscapes that resembled the animals’ natural habitats, instead of dilapidated cages. As the Los Angeles Zoo developed, it was able to work on preservation and conservation efforts for endangered species. New educational programs also became key elements of the Zoo’s mission. Now the old Zoo’s cages stand as ruins and reminders of what past generations saw when they visited years ago.

The author specifically mentions the Los Angeles Zoo in order to __________.

Possible Answers:

contrast it with other zoos in the country

condemn the way it transformed itself in the twentieth century

show it as an outlier amongst zoos

give a concrete example of how zoos have changed

dismiss its educational programs as unnecessary

Correct answer:

give a concrete example of how zoos have changed


The story of the Los Angeles Zoo takes up about half of the passage, indicating its importance to the author's point. Additionally, the Los Angeles Zoo provides specific examples of the kinds of changes zoos underwent.

Example Question #4 : Analyzing Components Of An Argument In Single Answer Questions

Adapted from The Frontier in American History, by Frederick Jackson Turner

But the larger part of what has been distinctive and valuable in America's contribution to the history of the human spirit has been due to this nation's peculiar experience in extending its type of frontier into new regions—and in creating peaceful societies with new ideals in the successive vast and differing geographic provinces which together make up the United States. Directly or indirectly these experiences shaped the life of both the Eastern and Western States, and even reacted upon the Old World, influencing the direction of its thought and progress. This experience has been fundamental in the economic, political, and social characteristics of the American people and in their conceptions of their destiny.

Writing at the close of 1796, the French minister to the United States, M. Adet, reported to his government that Jefferson could not be relied on to be devoted to French interests, and he added that "Jefferson, I say, is American, and by that name, he cannot be sincerely our friend. An American is the born enemy of all European peoples." Obviously erroneous as are these words, there was an element of truth in them. If we would understand this element of truth, we must study the transforming influence of the American wilderness, remote from Europe, and by its resources and its free opportunities affording the conditions under which a new people, with new social and political types and ideals, could arise to play its own part in the world, and to influence Europe.

The author quotes the French minister to the United States because __________.

Possible Answers:

the author inherently trusts French ministers

it helps demonstrate the similarities between France and the United States

the French minister supports the author's ideas about the Frontier

it helps draw the distinction between Europe and America.

the author is mocking the French minister

Correct answer:

it helps draw the distinction between Europe and America.


The sentence following the quote notes the French minister's words had "an element of truth in them." In particular, the author notes how America is different from Europe, the main point of the French minister's letter.

Example Question #5 : Analyzing Components Of An Argument In Single Answer Questions

The Chemistry of Cooking by Will Floyd

Molecular gastronomy is a new take on cooking that has spread like wildfire through the culinary world in the last few decades. At its core, molecular gastronomy seeks to redefine and reimagine how food is cooked in restaurant kitchens, using technology, chemistry, and physics to transform pedestrian dishes into surprising forms and textures. These techniques create mystifying dining experiences, while using intimately familiar flavors. Chefs who use molecular gastronomy do not wish merely to be chemists or engineers, but are chefs above all else. To create a special dining experience, the chef begins first and foremost with the dish they wish to serve. Tools like an anti-griddle, a flat top that instantly freezes anything that touches it, or maltodextrin, an additive that can turn liquids into powder, are not there simply to play with the food. A molecular gastronomist will first think of the dish they want to serve, like fried chicken and mashed potatoes. Next, they will find a way to get the same flavors and textures in a unique way. The chicken might not be fried, but go through a process that will give it a crispy skin and juicy meat while never broaching hot oil. The mashed potatoes could become a light sauce, and then be put on an anti-griddle to give a new look, texture, and temperature. While the diner will have something that might look like a dessert or a soup, in actuality what they are having is a homestyle dish that they remember from childhood. This sense of familiarity is the ultimate goal of any chef utilizing molecular gastronomy.

The author discusses the specific dish of fried chicken and mashed potatoes in order to __________.

Possible Answers:

demonstrate that chefs using molecular gastronomy are ruining classic dishes.

show most people do not enjoy eating food made with molecular gastronomy techniques.

show that molecular gastronomy is really nothing new.

demonstrate people do not enjoy eating anything like fried chicken and mashed potatoes at a restaurant.

show how molecular gastronomy techniques can be specifically applied.

Correct answer:

show how molecular gastronomy techniques can be specifically applied.


The author devotes roughly the last third of the passage to discussing a molecular gastronomy approach to fried chicken and mashed potatoes. This focus allows the author to discuss the specifics of molecular gastronomy in light of a particular dish, instead of just discussing it theoretically.

Example Question #6 : Analyzing Components Of An Argument In Single Answer Questions

Baseball, Then and Now, by Will Floyd

The twenty-first-century baseball fan would hardly recognize the nineteenth-century version of the national pastime. The massive stadiums, pristine uniforms, and even most articles of equipment integral to the modern game were all unfamiliar to players in the late-nineteenth-century.

The current number of balls and strikes that each batter is allowed was not settled until the 1890s. Fielding gloves were not utilized until the 1880s. Players could even call for a high or low pitch as recently as 1900. The biggest misconception about nineteenth-century baseball from a modern point-of-view is assuming all pitching was done the way it is now. In fact, until 1893 pitchers operated out of a box a mere 45 feet away. The short distance was no problem, as the original rules for pitching required an underhand motion. As athletes have done for centuries, pitchers of the nineteenth century figured out ways to throw harder and circumvent the rules. Eventually, pitchers were taking a running start from 45 feet away and throwing overhand. Baseball players and administrators quickly realized that such pitching was a safety hazard at 45 feet, and it creates a tedious game in which no one could score. Baseball pushed the pitcher back to sixty feet and six inches, introduced the pitcher’s mound, and the slab the pitcher must be rooted to, pushing baseball closer to its modern form. These changes in baseball’s early years made the game the treasured sport it is today.

The author's discussion of the pitching distances used in the nineteenth century is intended to __________.

Possible Answers:

mock nineteenth-century baseball fans for liking an inferior game

criticize modern fans for not understanding the difference in the nineteenth-century version of baseball

demonstrate the difference between nineteenth-century baseball and the modern game

criticize nineteenth-century pitchers' circumventing of the rules

denigrate nineteenth-century baseball as a complete sport

Correct answer:

demonstrate the difference between nineteenth-century baseball and the modern game


The author spends the second half of the passage largely discussing the changes in the distance pitchers threw from in the nineteenth century. This is done, however, in the much larger context of describing how different the nineteenth century version of baseball is from the modern version.

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