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Text Completions


The sentence completions used to form the most straightforward part of the test, and most students did well on them. However, with the new GRE format, ETS has decided to change the name to “text completions” and make their structure a little more complicated.


Formerly, sentences contained one or two blanks with five multiple choice answers, no matter how many blanks in the question. For example, a two-blank question used to look something like this:


The plane had been redesigned so many times before it reached the assembly line that its ________ conception was no longer ________.


  1. appropriate.....visible
  2. dilapidated.....relevant
  3. original..........recognizable
  4. initial.............understandable
  5. promised.......viable


This format makes answering the question easier, because if, for example, you weren’t sure of the answer to the first blank but were confident about the second blank, you could use process of elimination to narrow down your answer choices.


Now, questions come from passages from one to five sentences long, contain anywhere from one to three blanks, and each blank has its own set of three to five multiple choice answers (five if it is a single-blank question; three if it is a multiple blank question). Answer one of the blanks wrong, and you get the entire question wrong. Yes, the stakes are high. Use the following steps, however, to master these new question types, and show those tricky GRE question writers what you’re made of!

Before You Look at The Answer Choices, Think of a Word That “Fits” The Sentence


Don’t worry about coming up with a fancy or erudite word for the blank. As a matter of fact, you can make up your own word, as long as you know what it means. Then, go through the answer choices and eliminate ones that don’t match your word. If none of them match your word, revisit the sentence to make sure you’ve understood it.


Example :

Crestfallen by having done poorly on the GRE, Susan began to question her abilities. Her selfconfidence was ________ .





If somebody is crestfallen (despairing) and has begun to question herself, then her self-confidence would be “shot.” “Appeased,” “placated,” “elevated,” and “sustained” don’t mean shot, but “destroyed” certainly does. Hence, the answer is “destroyed.”

Be Alert to Transitional Words


Transitional words tell you what is coming up. They indicate that the author is now going to either draw a contrast with or support something stated previously. Recognizing these transitional words is essential for understanding the sentence or sentences.

This can include the following: however, but, yet, although, so, because, etc. Transitional words may change the meaning of a sentence, as well as the context of the missing word. 

He is an excellent marksman, but surprisingly, he _____ comes home empty-handed from a hunting trip.

A) often
B) never
C) rarely

A good shot or marksman would be expected to be a successful hunter. Watch out, though, for the transitional phrase: “but surprisingly”. It indicates the opposite of what you would expect, which means that this particular marksman must not be a successful hunter. A successful hunter would either “never” or “rarely” come home empty-handed from a hunt, but an unsuccessful hunter would “often” come home empty-handed, making A the correct answer choice.


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