Wednesday, May 17, 2006

GRE -- Tips for Sentence Completion


1). Before You Look At The Answer-Choices, Think Of A Word That "Fits" The Sentence.

Example: Crestfallen by having done poorly on the GRE, Susan began to question her abilities. Her self-confidence was ..........

(A) appeased
(B) destroyed
(C) placated
(D) elevated
(E) sustained

If somebody is crestfallen (despairing) and has begun to question herself, then her self-confidence would be destroyed. Hence, the answer is (B).

2). Be alert to transitional words.Transitional words tell you what is coming up. They indicate that the author is now going to draw a contrast with something stated previously, or support something stated previously.

i). Contrast Indicators - To contrast two things is to point out how they differ. In this type of sentence completion problem, we look for a word that has the opposite meaning (an antonym) of some key word or phrase in the sentence.

Following are some of the most common contrast indicators:


Example: Although the warring parties had settled a number of disputes, past experience made them .......... to express optimism that the talks would be a success.

(A) rash
(B) ambivalent
(C) scornful
(D) overjoyed
(E) reticent

"Although" sets up a contrast between what has occurred--success on some issues--and what can be expected to occur--success for the whole talks. Hence, the parties are reluctant to express optimism. The common word "reluctant" is not offered as an answer-choice, but a synonym--reticent--is. The answer is (E).

ii). Support Indicators - Supporting words support or further explain what has already been said. These words often introduce synonyms for words elsewhere in the sentence.

Following are some common supporting words:

In Addition

Example: Davis is an opprobrious and .......... speaker, equally caustic toward friend or foe--a true curmudgeon.

(A) lofty

(B) vituperative
(C) unstinting
(D) retiring
(E) laudatory

"And" in the sentence indicates that the missing adjective is similar in meaning to "opprobrious," which is very negative. Now, vituperative--the only negative word--means "abusive." Hence, the answer is (B).

iii). Cause And Effect Indicators - These words indicate that one thing causes another to occur.

Some of the most common cause and effect indicators are

If , Then .

Example: Because the House has the votes to override a presidential veto, the President has no choice but to ..........

(A) object
(B) abdicate
(C) abstain
(D) capitulate
(E) compromise

Since the House has the votes to pass the bill or motion, the President would be wise to compromise and make the best of the situation. The answer is (E).

3). Apposition - This rather advanced grammatical structure is very common on the GRE. (Don't confuse "apposition" with "opposition": they have opposite meanings.)

Words or phrases in apposition are placed next to each other, and the second word or phrase defines, clarifies, or gives evidence to the first word or phrase.

The second word or phrase will be set off from the first by a comma, semicolon, hyphen, or parentheses.

Note: If a comma is not followed by a linking word--such as and, for, yet--then the following phrase is probably appositional.

Identifying an appositional structure, can greatly simplify a sentence completion problem since the appositional word, phrase, or clause will define the missing word.

Example: His novels are .......... ; he uses a long circumlocution when a direct coupling of a simple subject and verb would be best.

(A) prolix
(B) pedestrian
(C) succinct
(D) vapid
(E) risque

The sentence has no linking words (such as because, although, etc.). Hence, the phrase following the semicolon is in apposition to the missing word--it defines or further clarifies the missing word. Now, writing filled with circumlocutions is aptly described as prolix. The answer is (A).