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Five Common GRE Practice Problems & Explanations

Study-tips-for-the-GRE-450x300.jpgThe GRE includes verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing question types. Today, we will be going over 5 practice problems that fall under these three categories.

Question 1 – Select two answer choices that, when used to complete the sentence, fit the meaning of the sentence as a whole and produce completed sentences that are alike in meaning.

After being bedridden for months, James found that his muscles had atrophied, which initially ____ his ability to walk or life heavy objects.


  1. belittled
  2. castigated
  3. hampered
  4. bolstered
  5. curtailed
  6. improved

Background: This question falls under the verbal reasoning portion of the GRE and can be categorized as a sentence equivalence question. These question types generally have a single sentence and will ask you to choose two answers to fill in the blank. The end goal is to find two answer choices that will ultimately lead to the same meaning when inserted into the sentence. As MajorTests states, both choices must be right; there is no credit given for getting only one choice correct. This question type is fairly common.

Analysis: To find the correct answer here we need to analyze what the word in the blank’s purpose is. Here, the word will describe the manner in which James will now walk since his muscles have atrophied. We can assume that the answer will entail that he cannot walk very well, so we are looking for words with a negative connotation here. Stepping through each answer choice, ask yourself whether it is positive- if so, cross it out. This leads us to crossing out D and F. Out of the remaining answers, the only ones that make sense in this situation are C. hampered and E. curtailed. These are our answers.


Question 2 – In parts of the Arctic, the land grades into the landfast ice so ____ that you can walk off the coast and not know you are over the hidden sea.

  1. permanently
  2. imperceptibly
  3. irregularly
  4. precariously
  5. slightly

Background: This question falls under the verbal reasoning portion of the GRE as well and can be categorized as a text completion question type. The goal here is to choose the answer that, when inserted back into the sentence, would most accurately complete it. These vary from one-blank to three-blank questions and overall there will be roughly 6 questions on the exam.

Analysis: Here, we must look for the word that informs us of how the land grades into the ice. Step through each answer choice and determine which one describes the phenomenon of the land grades moving into the ice that results in you being unaware of being over the hidden sea. Answer choice A, permanently, would complete the sentence but it fails to explain the phenomenon in question- so this is not our answer. Answer choice C, irregularly, also would complete the sentence, but yet again fails to explain how. Answer choice D, precariously, does not seem to explain the how as well. Answer choice E, slightly, does not work if inserted into the blank as the rest of the sentence would not make sense. Therefore, Answer choice B, imperceptibly, is our correct choice as this is explaining how this is occurring – that you are unaware of the land grading into the landfast ice.


3 – A certain jar contains 60 jelly beans – 22 white, 18 green, 11 yellow, 5 red, and 4 purple. If a jelly bean is to be chosen at random, what is the probability that the jelly bean will be neither red nor purple?

  1. 09
  2. 15
  3. 54
  4. 85
  5. 91

Background: This question falls under the quantitative reasoning section of the exam. Within each section you will find anywhere between 1 to 2 of this type of question.

Analysis: To determine how many jelly beans will be neither red nor purple, you first need to determine how many jelly beans there are total and how many of these are not red or purple. There are 5 red and 4 purple, therefore we have 51 jelly beans that are neither red nor purple. To determine the probability of this, simply divide the number of jelly beans that are neither red nor purple (51) by the total number of jelly beans (60). This gives us 0.85, so D is the correct answer.


Question 4 – Working alone at its constant rate, machine A produces k liters of a chemical in 10 minutes. Working alone at its constant rate, machine B produces k liters of the chemical in 15 minutes. How many minutes does it take machines A and B, working simultaneously at their respective constant rates, to produce k liters of the chemical?

Background: You will notice that there are no potential answer choices given here, that is because this is a numeric entry question. In these question types you will have to enter your answer into a box. Be careful to note that you must type it in correctly and if asked to round, that you have rounded it in the manner which was asked. There will be around 4 of these per section. For more practice, GRE Prep Club has a helpful list of numeric entry questions and answers.

Analysis: Here we are told that the machines are working simultaneously, so to determine the rate at which they produce k liters of the chemical you must take the sum of the two: k/10 + k/15 = k. Simplifying this we get k/6 liters per minute. In order to determine the time, you then divide the amount k by the rate we found above, k/6. This gives us: k/k/6 = 6. The answer is 6 minutes.


Question 5 – The Analytical Writing portion of the GRE has its own question types that fall within this category. There are two separately timed parts: (1) analyze an issue and (2) analyze an argument. The first, analyze an issue, has a variety of possible prompts. One such example is the following:

“A nation should require all students to have the exact same curriculum until they enter college.

Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the statement and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, you should consider ways in which the statement might or might not hold true and explain how these considerations shape your position.”

The best approach to an “analyze an issue” question type is to organize your thoughts on the issue and craft a well-thought out and organized analysis. In this question, first determine whether you are going to agree or disagree with the statement. Once you choose you stance on the issue, make a quick bullet point list of statements in support of your argument. For example, if you chose to agree here you could make a point to discuss that this would ensure that the college admissions process would be an even-playing field as everyone’s GPA would be reflected from the same level of classes. Find 3-5 points to make and provide reasoning as to why for each. Ensure that you have addressed every issue that the question asks of you, and always wrap the argument up with a proper conclusion.

The second question type, analyze an argument, also has a variety of potential prompts. Here is an example of one:

“The following is a memorandum from the business manager of a television station:

Over the past year, our late-night news program has devoted increased time to national news and less time to weather and local news. During this time period, most of the complaints received from viewers were concerned with our station's coverage of weather and local news. In addition, local businesses that used to advertise during our late-night news program have just canceled their advertising contracts with us. Therefore, in order to attract more viewers to the program and to avoid losing any further advertising revenues, we should restore the time devoted to weather and local news to its former level.

Write a response in which you discuss what specific evidence is needed to evaluate the argument and explain how the evidence would weaken or strengthen the argument.”

The best approach to an “analyze an argument” question type is to determine your overall conclusion and make supporting statements in light of that. For example, here you first must determine what evidence is needed here. We could state that we would like to conduct research based on a sample population of the average watcher to determine whether there is actually a correlation between cancelled advertisements and the airtime of weather and local news. After stating this, discuss how this research would weaken or strengthen the argument of needing to increase air time of weather and local news.

About the Author

Dhara S. is one of MyGuru's experienced test prep tutors. For more information on GRE prep and tutors like Dhara, click here