Tag Archive for 'sentence completion'

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.

Remember, the experts at Test Masters are available year-round for all your test preparatory needs.


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.


GRE Verbal Reasoning Problem: An arduous hike

There is no reason to miss GRE sentence completion questions; it’s really all about vocabulary.


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. By the end of the long, arduous hike, Chris was walking with a ­­­______ gait, limping slowly back to the campsite.
        a. halting
        b. robust
        c. constant
        d. prompt
        e. facile

Explanation: This question is asking you to describe Chris’ gait, or the way he walks, after an arduous, or difficult, hike. Of the available answer choices only haltingly describes the way one might walk after a long, arduous hike. The answer is thus (a) haltingly.

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

Halting: hesitant or wavering. Imperfect; defective. Limping; lame.

Robust: full of health and strength; vigorous. Powerfully built; sturdy. Requiring or suited to physical strength or endurance. Rough or crude; boisterous. Marked by richness and fullness; full-bodied.

Constant: continually occurring; persistent. Unchanging in nature, value, or extent; invariable. Steadfast in purpose, loyalty, or affection; faithful.

Prompt: being on time; punctual. Carried out or performed without delay.

Facile: done or achieved with little effort or difficulty; easy. Working, acting, or speaking with effortless ease and fluency. Arrived at without due care, effort, or examination; superficial. Readily manifested, together with an aura of insincerity and lack of depth.

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 sample Critical Reading question!

New GRE: Changes to the Verbal Reasoning Section, Part 1

Verbal section changes

Unlike the math section of the new GRE, the verbal reasoning section is undergoing numerous changes (most of which are pretty significant), so I’ll have to split this post into two parts to make it a bit more digestible.

Change #1
No analogies or antonyms on the new GRE.

What It Means
There is a decreased focus on vocabulary on the new GRE. Analogies and antonyms are notoriously vocabulary-oriented questions. Both of these types of questions test not only your knowledge of definitions but also test your ability to understand words conceptually and identify relationships between two words or phrases. Just knowing a definition isn’t always enough — you have to have a solid understanding of the concept that the word represents. On the current test, the vocabulary can get pretty hard pretty quickly, so spending a significant amount of time studying vocabulary is an absolute must. On the new GRE, you will still need to have a decent vocabulary for the text completion questions, but there will be no questions that ask you vocabulary without context.

Change #2
New question type: sentence equivalence

What It Means
Sentence equivalence questions are pretty similar to text/sentence completion problems. Basically, you are given a sentence in which a word is left out, and you have to choose the two answer choices that will give the sentence the same meaning. Vocabulary is important here, but it’s in context, so you’ll have some help figuring out what words do and don’t work. Most of the time, this basically means that you’re looking for two words that have the same definition, but more difficult problems will probably be less straightforward than that. The important thing to remember is that there must be two answer choices that give the sentence the same meaning — regardless of how apposite one answer choice might be or how perfectly it seems to fit, if there isn’t a corresponding answer choice, then it’s not right!

Change #3
(Sort of) new question type: text completion

What It Means
Text completion is the new sentence completion. The idea behind the question hasn’t changed much — you are given between one and five sentences with up to three words left out, and you must glean from the context which of the answer choices would fit best in the blanks. What has changed is how the question is presented. Problems that only have one blank will give you five answer choices to choose from, just like on the old test; however, problems that have two or three blanks will give you three answer choices for each blank, and you must choose one answer choice for each blank that fits best with the text. For questions with three blanks (three answer choices per blank), this means that you now have 27 possible combinations of answers to choose from. Guessing just got a lot harder! Plus, since the words aren’t already paired together (as they are on the current GRE), you have to be able to figure out each blank individually, which is more difficult.

Stay tuned for Part 2 later this week!

GRE Verbal: Two Example Problems and Solutions

So just to clarify on our last post, the GRE will be offered in the month of July. Sorry about the confusion, folks! Time for some example problems!

Example Sentence Completion Problem

Example Sentence Completion Problem

All sentence completion questions are about half vocabulary and half context clue detective-ery, which is a word I just made up. Vocabulary is vocabulary — the only way to improve your vocab is to read more or study some vocab lists.

Continue reading “GRE Verbal: Two Example Problems and Solutions” »