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Use Transitional Words and Apposition


Example 1:


Despite receiving approbation for his work several times that year, Tim felt ________ about his job in the floundering economy.


  1. confident
  2. anxious
  3. apprehensive
  4. stoic
  5. amenable
  6. secure


Perhaps you aren't sure of the definition of approbation in the above example. You can still use your knowledge of transitional words to increase your chances of selecting the correct pair of answers. The signal word despite at the beginning of the sentence sets up a contradiction, so you know the blank will be opposite in meaning to the beginning.


You may not know the meaning of the word approbation, but you probably can tell whether it has a positive or negative connotation. In this case, approbation has a positive connotation, so, since youve already established that the sentence is a contradiction, you know the blank should have a negative connotation.


Which set of answer choices are confident and secure or anxious and apprehensive has a negative connotation? Anxious and apprehensive. Thus, (B) and (C) are the correct answer choices.

Example 2:


During Hitler's rise to power in Germany, some prominent leaders in Europe opposed taking a severe stand against him, favoring instead a policy of __________ to make amends for the injurious Versailles Treaty.


  1. containment
  2. pacification
  3. capitulation
  4. appeasement
  5. apathy
  6. defamation


Notice the key transitional word, instead. So, we can deduce that the policy of ________ must be in opposition to taking a severe stand against him. The opposite of being severely against someone would be being kind or indulgent to them. A policy of (A) containment is not indulgent, so it can be eliminated. (B) pacification is a possibility. (C) capitulation, or surrender, is a possibility. (D) appeasement is also an option. (E) apathy, or demonstrating no emotion, does not fit, so it can be eliminated. (F) defamation, or slander, can also be eliminated. Among answers (B), (C), and (D), (B) and (D) give the sentence the most similar meaning. The correct answer is (B) and (D).

Example 3:


The writer of the scandalous magazine article exposing the indiscretions of a prominent politician found the public had an ambivalent reaction to her article; she was subject to both admiration and ________.


  1. reproach
  2. acclaim
  3. avarice
  4. censure
  5. adumbration
  6. commendation


If you are confident in your understanding of the sentence and all of its vocabulary, then you can effectively come up with your own word to fill in the blank. You might come up with negative feedback or criticism. Then, you can eliminate answer choices (B), (C), (E), and (F), and you are left with answers (A) and (D).


Another process of elimination tactic you might have taken is to look for pairs of synonyms among the answer choices. Even if you are not sure of the definition of (C) avarice or (E) adumbration, you should be able to spot that (A) reproach and (D) censure are synonymous as well as (B) acclaim and (F) commendation. Since there are usually two sets of synonyms that have opposite meanings of each other, you should still be able to eliminate answers (C) and (D).


If you aren't sure of the meaning of ambivalent (if so, look it up in the vocabulary section), then the signal word you should spot is both. Since admiration, acclaim, and commendation are all fairly similar in meaning, it would be redundant to use two of them in this context. So, the blank must mean something different from admiration. The answer, then, is (A) reproach and (D) censure.


Finally, you might also recognize the use of apposition in this sentence. As there is no transitional word following the semi-colon, she was subject both admiration and ______ modifies or defines an ambivalent reaction. If you know the meaning of ambivalent (having confliction emotions), then you know that the blank should be a conflicting emotion to admiration. This would be (A) reproach and (D) censure.

Example 4:


Though in acting circles he has a reputation of being a consummate professional, at times he can be quite ________ on the stage.


  1. jocund
  2. efficient
  3. playful
  4. adept
  5. aloof
  6. stern


Assuming you understand the sentence, first come up with your own word to fit the blank. One would expect a professional to behave seriously, so you might come up with silly to fit the blank. (A) jocund and (C) playful are synonymous to silly, while all the others can be effectively eliminated.


However, perhaps your word for the blank was something more along the lines of unprofessional. None of the answer choices would be the clear match for this word, in which case, we should use process of elimination to find pairs of words among the answers. (A) jocund and (C) playful are similar, so keep them. (E) aloof and (F) stern are somewhat related. (B) efficient and (D) adept are our lone rangers. Now, both sets of synonyms could arguably fit within the sentence, so let's reexamine both sets to see which set gives the sentence the most similar meaning when both answer choices are plugged in to the blank. (E) aloof and (F) stern give the sentence different meanings, so the answer is (A) and (C).


If you struggled to understand the sentence, recognize the signal word though at the beginning. This key word clues you in to a contradiction between professional and the blank. Thus, since professional has a positive connotation, the blank should be negative. This can help you narrow down the answer choices.

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