Tag Archive for 'practice problems'

The New GRE – Sentence Equivalence

test prepSentence equivalence problems are a new type of question on the Verbal Reasoning section of the new GRE. In this type of question, you will be given a sentence with an omitted word. You will choose two answers from a list of six answer choices that will give the sentence the same (or as close to the same as possible) meaning. No partial credit is given for partially correct answers.

Sentence equivalence may be new to the block, but actually, they’re a lot like another type of question with which you’re probably already familiar – sentence completion. You can (and will) use pretty much the same strategies to solve these problems. The most important of these strategies is context clues, which is using other words in the sentence to help you figure out what word should go in the blank.

Let’s look at an example.

Given the existence of so many factions in the field, it was unrealistic of Anna Freud to expect any kind of ——- of opinion.

(A) freedom
(B) homogeneity
(C) reassessment
(D) uniformity
(E) expression
(F) formation

In this problem, the most important piece of context is in the beginning of the sentence: “the existence of so many factions in the field.” The existence of many factions implies the existence of many opinions – therefore, wouldn’t it make sense to say that it would be unrealistic of Anna Freud to expect all these opinions to be exactly the same? Using this logic, we can identify (B) and (D) as the correct answer choices, because “homogeneity” and “uniformity” both mean “the same.”

It’s also important to remember with this type of question that, while another answer choice may fit well, there must be another answer choice that gives the sentence the same meaning. Even if you find an answer choice extremely attractive, if no other answer choice means the same thing, then it can’t be right.

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Ask Test Masters: Which Study Book Should I Use for the GRE?

ASK TM“Ask Test Masters” is a free informational service offered by Test Masters, the fastest growing professional exam preparation company in the United States. You ask, we answer. KJ, a graduate school hopeful, wants to know which GRE study book to use in the preparatory process.

KJ writes, “Which GRE study book is most effective for doing well on the test overall?”

Dear KJ,

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GRE Verbal Reasoning Problem: 17th c. Chinese Pleasure Garden

Kew Gardens: The Pagoda and Bridge, by Richard Wilson (1762)

Kew Gardens: The Pagoda and Bridge, by Richard Wilson (1762)

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. Parts of seventeenth-century Chinese pleasure gardens were not necessarily intended to look —–; they were designed expressly to evoke the agreeable melancholy resulting from a sense of the —– of natural beauty and human glory.
    1. beautiful … immutability
    2. cheerful … transitoriness
    3. colorful … abstractness
    4. luxuriant … simplicity
    5. conventional … wildness

Explanation: This is a high-level difficulty question because some of the vocabulary seems to be similar in meaning and, initially, there appears to be multiple correct answers. To answer this question correctly you have to identify the key words and phrases. The phrase “not necessarily intended” indicates the answer choice for the first blank will be a word that is comparable or synonymous with what we would expect of a Chinese pleasure garden. Another key phrase to determining the correct answer is “agreeable melancholy.” Coupled with “not necessarily intended to look,” the term “agreeable melancholy” tells us we are looking for a word that would both describe what we would expect of a Chinese pleasure garden and is opposite in meaning to melancholy. Melancholy is the state of being sad; of the available answer choices, only “cheerful” is both something we might expect of a Chinese pleasure garden and a true antonym of melancholy. Though we have identified “cheerful” as the most correct word for blank 1, that is not enough to know with absolute certainty that (b) is the correct answer choice. After “agreeable melancholy,” the next most important clues to filling in blank 2 are “natural beauty” and “human glory.” Beauty and glory are most often good things; however, the second half of this sentence says parts of the Chinese pleasure garden were “designed expressly to evoke” melancholy. The correct word for blank 2 will be the word that best expresses the reasons we might feel melancholy when contemplating human beauty and glory. One reason you might be melancholy when contemplating beauty and glory is because of their transient, short-lived, or impermanent nature. Of the available answer choices, only “transitoriness” means short-lived or quickly fading. Thus the answer is (b).

You can never have enough vocabulary words; here are the definitions of all the answer choices:

Beautiful: having qualities that delight the senses, especially the sense of sight. Exciting intellectual or emotional admiration.

Immutability: Not subject or susceptible to change.

Cheerful: Being good in spirits; merry. Promoting a feeling of cheer; pleasant. Reflecting willingness or good humor.

Transitoriness: Existing or lasting only a short time; short-lived or temporary.

Colorful: Full of color; abounding in colors. Characterized by rich variety; vividly distinctive.

Abstractness: Considered apart from concrete existence. Not applied or practical; theoretical. Difficult to understand; abstruse. Thought of or stated without reference to a specific instance. Impersonal, as in attitude or views. Having an intellectual and affective artistic content that depends solely on intrinsic form rather than on narrative content or pictorial representation.

Luxuriant: Characterized by rich or profuse growth. Producing or yielding in abundance. Excessively florid or elaborate. Marked by or displaying luxury.

Simplicity: The property, condition, or quality of being simple or uncombined. Absence of luxury or showiness; plainness. Absence of affectation or pretense. Lack of sophistication or subtlety. Clarity of expression. Austerity in embellishment.

Conventional: Based on or in accordance with general agreement, use, or practice; customary. Conforming to established practice or accepted standards; traditional.

Wildness: Occurring, growing, or living in a natural state; not domesticated, cultivated, or tamed. Uncivilized or barbarous. Disorderly; disarranged. Full of, marked by, or suggestive of strong, uncontrolled emotion. Furiously disturbed or turbulent.

You can find additional GRE example problems and solutions here.

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GRE Verbal Reasoning Problem: A judicious biography

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 Verbal Reasoning question:

  1. A judicious biography must be (i) ____ representation that depicts both the strengths and the weaknesses of the subject, avoiding the two extremes of (ii) ____ and indictment.

Blank (i)                                                                            Blank (ii)

A. a complimentary D. censure
B. a polarized E. eulogy
C. an equitable F. vindication


Explanation: The key phrase to answering Blank (i) is “judicious” and “both the strengths and the weakness.” These phrases tells us that the correct answer choice will be the word that best corresponds to the conditions of depicting a person’s positive and negative characteristics equally; it must the answer choice that best corresponds to fair and balanced. Of the available answer choices only “equitable” means just and impartial; thus the answer choice to Blank (i) is (C).

The way to go about answering Blank (ii) is to begin by recognizing you are looking for an antonym. You should recognize the phrase “avoiding the two extremes of ____ and indictment” is telling you the answer to Blank (ii) is the word most opposite in meaning to indictment.  “To indict” someone is to accuse of wrongdoing, or to make a formal accusation. Of the three answer choices, “vindication” is most opposite in meaning; it is an argument in support or justification of something.

You can never have enough vocabulary words; here are the definitions of all the answer choices:

Complimentary: Expressing, using, or resembling a compliment.

Polarized: To cause to concentrate about two conflicting or contrasting positions.

Equitable: Marked by or having equity; just and impartial. Fair.

Censure: An expression of strong disapproval or harsh criticism; an official rebuke.

Eulogy: A laudatory speech or written tribute, especially one praising someone who has died; high praise or commendation.

Vindication: The act of vindicating or condition of being vindicated. The defense, such as evidence or argument, that serves to justify a claim or deed.


Sample Math Problem: It’s hip to be a square…or a cube!

How can you get more hip than this?

Geometry is heavily tested on the GRE Math section, and a thorough review of geometrical concepts is essential to a high score. Consider the following problem:

“If the length of an edge of a cube X is twice the length of an edge of cube Y, what is the ratio of the volume of cube Y to the volume of cube X?”

The easiest way to solve this is to pick a number for the initial edge length and plug it into the problem. For instance, let’s say cube X is a 4x4x4 cube. Cube X would have a volume of 64. Cube Y would have to be a 2x2x2 cube, since 2 is half of 4, and it would have a volume of 8. The ratio of the volume of cube Y to the volume of cube X would thus be 8 to 64, or 1/8.

However, you really should have known that to begin with. Imagine that cube X had edges that were three times as long as those of Cube Y. Then Cube X would now be a 6x6x6 cube if Cube Y remains a 2x2x2 cube, and the volume ratio would be 8 to 216, or 1/27. Notice something? 8 is 2 ^3, and 27 is 3^3. If the ratio of the sides is 1:4, the ratio of the volumes will be 1:64. If the ratio of the sides is 1:5, the ratio of the volumes will be 1:125. Since these are cubes, you just cube the ratios. 1^3 is 1, and 4^3 is 64; 5^3 is 125. If you know this simple property of the relationship between length and volume, it will take a problem that would take 30 seconds to solve and turn it into a problem that takes 5 seconds to solve. On a timed exam, that could be the difference between getting another, harder question right or wrong. Memorizing these kinds of mathematical facts is something that the GRE test writers expect top scorers to do, and they write the questions so that they can be solved quickly if you know them. It also pays to memorize the squares and cubes of the numbers 1 through 12.

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words.

So with cubes, you cube the ratio of the sides. What about squares? If you guessed that you square the ratio of the side lengths in order to get the ratio of the areas, you’d be right, as you can see from a quick demonstration. If the original square has side lengths of 1 and the new square has side lengths of 2, the side ratio is 1:2 and the area ratio is 1:4. If the new square has side lengths of 3, then the side ratio is 1:3 and the area ratio is 1:9. If the new square has side lengths of 4, then the side ratio is 1:4 and the area ratio is 1:16, and so on. Sure enough, you just square the original ratio.

The classic children’s science fiction novel, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, featured tesseracts as wormholes used to travel vast distances through space.

So now you know about cubes and squares, but what about tesseracts? “Tessawhats?” you say? A tesseract is to a cube as a cube is to a square, just as a cube is to a square what a square is to a line. Still confused? Let me explain it this way: say you draw a line a foot long running from east to west. This line only exists in one dimension: east-west. Then, you decide to square it by adding three more lines: two perpendicular to it running north to south and one parallel to it running east to west. This square exists in two dimensions: east-west and north-south. Now you decide to turn the square into a cube by adding lines in the up-down dimension, so that each edge of the original square is now the edge of another square emanating from it. This cube exists in three spatial dimensions: east-west, north-south, and up-down. Now you take this cube you’ve made and decide to square it…in a fourth spacial dimension.

What is this fourth dimension? Who knows. We live in a world in which we experience only three spacial dimensions, so it is impossible for us to imagine what a four dimensional object would look like. That hasn’t stopped mathematicians from naming four-dimensional objects, and this hypercube I’ve just described to you is called a tesseract. As you know, even though a cube is a three dimensional object, it is possible to draw a cube on a piece of paper in only two dimensions by using perspective and all those other artistic illusions. Likewise, some have attempted to render tesseracts in three dimensions in order to give some approximation of what they might look like. Having never seen an actual tesseract, though, you might still find these representations confusing.

A tesseract!

In terms of doing calculations, though, tesseracts are simple as can be. For a square with side lengths of 1 and another square with side lengths of 2, the ratio of side lengths is 1:2^1 (since sides are 1 dimensional), or 1:2, and the ratio of areas will be 1:2^2 (since squares are 2 dimensional) or 1:4. For a cube with side lengths of 1 and another cube with side lengths of 2, the ratio of volumes is 1:2^3 (since cubes are 3 dimensional), or 1:8. So, for a tesseract with side lengths of 1 and another tesseract with side lengths of 2, the ratio of hypervolumes(?) is 1:2^4 (since tesseracts are 4 dimensional), or 1:16. It just follows the pattern. Try not to think about it too much.

If you’re having trouble with tesseracts, don’t worry. They’re not on the test. I just wrote about them to mess with your head.

Remember, if you ever want extra help getting ready for the GRE, you can always study with experts like me through Test Masters. Until then, happy studying!

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.

GRE Verbal Reasoning Problem: Alaskan wildlife

Verbal Reasoning questions don’t have to be difficult, just be sure to prepare!

“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. Oil companies seeking permission to drill in Alaskan wildlife refuge areas argued that, for animals, the effects of previous drilling in comparable areas have been _____.
    1. irrepressible
    2. counterproductive
    3. negligible
    4. momentous
    5. magnanimous

Explanation: We are being asked what kind of argument oil companies would make, with regard to the effects their drilling might have on animals, if they were seeking permission to continue drilling. In this case, they would try to downplay any effects; they would essentially argue there have been no effects. Of the available answer choices, only “negligible” means not significant. Thus the answer choice is (c) negligible.

You can never have enough vocabulary words; here are the definitions of all the answer choices:

Irrepressible: difficult or impossible to control or restrain. As in, “my enthusiasm for vocabulary is irrepressible!”  XD

Counterproductive: Tending to hinder rather than serve one’s purpose.

Negligible: Not significant enough or important enough to be worth consideration, trifling.

Momentous: Of utmost importance. Of outstanding significance or consequence.

Magnanimous: Courageously noble in mind and heart. Generous in forgiving, eschewing resentment or revenge. Unselfish.

Need more help? Visit Test Masters to learn more about how you can prepare for the GRE, and for more information about GRE courses in your area. Click here for a GRE Critical Reading Problem.

Sample Math Problem: Two trains leave the station…

If a nineteenth-century Russian adulteress goes to a train station…

“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. This week we will turn our attention toward a sample GRE Math problem.

Ah, the dreaded train problem. Surely these kinds of questions must be the the most infamous of all inane word problems. They can haunt the mathematically disinclined for years after leaving school, causing people undue anxiety waiting in traffic for a locomotive to pass. You probably thought you left these behind long ago, but they’re back. Who cares about some stupid trains, you ask? The GRE, that’s who.

Never fear though – all GRE math questions are written so that they they can be solved in less than two minutes, if you know what to do. This means that they aren’t going to require going through a lot of complicated steps to solve, and remember, the GRE doesn’t test anything beyond high school math. It just asks questions in unfamiliar ways that may require you to read carefully, and if you’re more of a verbal person than a math person, that shouldn’t be so bad, right? With some practice, the test makers’ tricks become familiar and recognizable, and problems that once seemed confusing become plain as day. Today, we’ll banish your siderodromophobia (fear of trains) for good.

Consider the following GRE math problem:

“At 10:00 AM train A left the station and an hour later train B left the same station on a parallel track. If train A traveled at a constant speed of 60 miles per hour and train B at 80 miles per hour, then at what time did train B pass train A?”

Monet’s “The Arival of the Train” at the Gare St. Lazare in Paris.

The first step to solving this problem is understanding what the question is really asking. What is this question asking? Well, “at what time did train B pass train A.” Yes, but what does that mean? When will train B pass train A? When they have traveled the same distance.

This is key to understanding how to solve the problem. We are going to need to know how to use the information we have been given, the speeds of the trains and the times at which they left the station, to calculate the distance they have traveled. As you know, the distance formula is usually written as:

speed = distance/time

If we want to find distance, we rearrange this familiar equation like this:

distance = speed(time)

So, if we want to calculate train A’s distance after a given length of time, we would multiply train A’s speed times the length of time it has been traveling. We know train A’s speed is 60 mph, so if we let the variable t represent the number of hours it has been since 10:00, we could write this as:

If you like the Monet painting, consider visiting the Musee d’Orsay. It’s full of them.

train A’s distance = 60(t)

Now, for train B, it’s slightly more complicated. How far has train A gone by 11:00, one hour after leaving the station? 60 miles, of course. But how long has train B gone? Zero, because train B doesn’t start traveling until 11:00. If we were to write this mathematically, we would have to express the distance traveled by train B as:

train B’s distance = 80(t – 1)

We have to write (t – 1) because train B starts an hour later than train A. This makes sense, because if we let t be one, that is, one hour after 10:00, then train B has gone zero miles:

80(1 – 1) = 80(0) = 0

Now, what were we trying to find again? The time when train A and train B have traveled the same distance.In other words, we want to know when:

train A’s distance = train B’s distance

If train A’s distance is equal to 60(t) and train B’s distance is equal to 80(t – 1), then we can just set those termsd equal to each other and solve for t:

60(t) = 80(t – 1)

60t = 80t – 80

80 = 20t

4 = t

So, four hours after 10:00 is when train A and train B have traveled the same distance. So that’s 2:00 PM. Was that so bad?

All you need to do is break it down step by step and practice. Try this one on your own and post the answer as a comment if you think you got it right:

“Train A leaves Paris at noon and travels at a constant speed of 75 mph toward Berlin. At the same time, train B leaves Berlin headed toward Paris at a constant speed of 50 mph. If Paris and Berlin are 500 miles apart, then at what time will the two trains pass each other?”

Remember, if you want, you can always get extra help studying for the GRE from the experts at Test Masters. Good luck!

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