Sample GRE Verbal Reasoning Question: Ellen Richards

Ellen Swallow Richards was the first female graduate of MIT.

Each week “It’s not GREek!” will present you with question types you are likely to see on the GRE, as well as a brief explanation on how to arrive at the answer for each question. We’ll start by examining a few simple Verbal Reasoning questions and gradually move onto more complicated question types.

  1. Ellen Swallow Richards, a (i) _____ environmental preservation in the United States, campaigned during the nineteenth century to (ii) _____ responsible practices , in the discipline that has come to be known as ecology.

Blank (i)                                                                                                Blank (ii)

A. foil for D. implement
B. pioneer of E. squelch
C. mitigator of F. exploit



Explanation: The phrase “has come to be known as” tells us that Ellen Swallow Richards redefined the discipline of environmental preservation. The answer choice for (i) would then be the phrase that best corresponds to a person who brings attention to something that was not previously well known or to someone who does exploratory work in a field. Of the available answer choices, only (B) means to open up new areas of thought or venture into unknown or unclaimed territory. Thus the answer to Blank (i) is (B). The word “campaign” indicates a concerted movement or effort to achieve something; generally one does not campaign to exploit something, one simply exploits it. Additionally, if Richards was a pioneer of “environmental preservation” she would not want to “squelch” “responsible practices.” Given the elimination of the other two answer choices, the correct answer to blank (ii) must be (D).

You can never have enough vocabulary words; here are the definitions of all the answer choices (according to the part of speech in which they have been used):

Foil: A repulse; a setback.

Pioneer: One who ventures into unknown or unclaimed territory in order to settle. One who opens up new area of thought, research, or development.

Mitigator: A person capable of moderating in force or intensity.

Implement: A means of achieving an end; also, an instrument or agent.

Squelch: To crush by or as if by trampling; squash. To put down in or silence, as with a crushing retort.

Exploit: To employ to the greatest possible advantage; to make use of selfishly or unethically; to advertise or promote.

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