Cramming Vocab lists is a NO NO: Key Strategies to crack Text Completion in GRE

Cramming Vocab lists is a NO NO: Key Strategies to crack Text Completion in GRE

Cramming Vocab lists is a NO NO: Key Strategies to crack Text Completion in GRE

Text Completion in GRE Verbal can seem like a daunting task. But does this mean that you have to cram a vocab list of 3500 words. We don’t think so. As the stalwart, Amitabh Bachchan said ‘ English is a phunny language; and quite so, we think it’s best to use the words in context rather than rote their meanings.

However, let’s get started on ways to crack text completion

Text completion in GRE verbal requires you to fit a word into a sentence so that the sentence is compete and makes sense. This section tests you on how you can break down and understand complex sentences.

Here is what the structure looks like

Passage composed of one to five sentences

One to three blanks

Three answer choices per blank (five answer choices in the case of a single blank)

No marks for partially correct answers

Let’s see an example.

Sample questions from

It is refreshing to read a book about our planet by an author who does not allow facts to be (i)__________ by politics: well aware of the political disputes about the effects of human activities on climate and biodiversity, this author does not permit them to (ii)__________ his comprehensive description of what we know about our biosphere. He emphasizes the enormous gaps in our knowledge, the sparseness of our observations, and the (iii)__________, calling attention to the many aspects of planetary evolution that must be better understood before we can accurately diagnose the condition of our planet.

Sample Question Answers.

Blank (i) Blank (ii) Blank (iii)
(A) overshadowed (D) enhance (G) plausibility of our hypotheses
(B) invalidated (E) obscure (H) certainty of our entitlement
(C) illuminated (F) underscore (I) superficiality of our theories

Let’s go through steps keeping the above example in mind:

1) Read through the passage, so that it makes complete sense to you.

The tone of the passage is such that the author is being praised for what he has done. Read it a couple of times without looking at the answer options. In fact, ignore the blank space while reading through it. You will get a gist of the passage.

2) Look for signpost words or key phrases

Signpost words are words or phrases that express a connection between two ideas and make the transition from one point to the next in writing. Going back to the passage, one can note that in the first sentence, the key phrase would be ‘does not allow’. In the second, ‘does not permit’. And the third, ‘enormous gaps and sparseness of our observations’

3) Try and put in your own words into the blank spaces

Start with the easier blanks first. There will be something that you will find easier to solve- and while you are doing this come up with your own word. I want to remind you here not to look at the answer options. The answers are constructed so as to trap you.In the above example, you will find it easier to solve the second blank first. The word you could use here is doubtful or vague, since it is clear that the author hasn’t allowed something to happen. The word that fits in with doubtful will be ‘obscure’. Enhance and underscore, both mean to highlight or intensify. Now that this has been established, the first blank would be ‘overshadowed’ as it fits in well with ‘obscure’. The third blank requires a phrase that matches ‘enormous gaps’ and ‘sparseness of our observations,’ hence the best choice is “superficiality of our theories.”

Consider another ETS sample question:

“Since she believed him to be both candid and trustworthy, she refused to consider the possibility that his statement had been ______.”
– irrelevant   – facetious   – mistaken   – critical   – insincere

What words would you underline here?

How about ‘since she believed him’ and ‘she refused to consider? ‘Believed” and “refused” are key words in this sentence also.  These two small segments give us enough information to induce that the second half of the sentence must be a continuing statement of her belief in him; therefore, the missing word must be something like “false” (because she refuses to think he might have been lying).

“Insincere” and “facetious” and “mistaken” fit the general sense of falseness, but as we try the words and refine our grasp of the tone, we see that “insincere” most directly addresses the idea of trust indicated by her belief in him.  “Facetious” has a connotation more of unserious, while “mistaken” misses the issue of intent.

4) Words can have secondary or tertiary meanings

This is a bit of a googly thrown at you. Sometimes you are being tested to see if you understand the secondary or tertiary meanings of words. See this example.

The Senator made a _________ endorsement of the new immigration policy, stating that while its scope was limited, it does amend some of the inconsistencies of the current immigration policies.

    1. unrestrained
    2. wholehearted
    3. reviled
    4. qualified
    5. protracted

This sentence reads pretty easily. But I bet you haven’t got the answer! It is qualified
Why “qualified”?
We know that the senator’s endorsement wouldn’t have been a wholehearted one, because we know that he feels that the policy’s scope is limited. It couldn’t be unrestrained either for the same reason. Reviled shows anger, and protracted shows something that goes on for too long. That leaves us with qualified. “Qualified”, apart from meaning ‘to have the required qualifications’, also means ‘limited’.

5) Building your Vocabulary without having to cram words

Vocabulary building material can be exhausting. Imagine opening a book full of words. Words that you find unfamiliar and difficult. Hence just this material cannot be a substitute for what we have been talking about.

a) Read

Reading can never go out of fashion. To start with, read what interests you. Or read what you find simple. Non fiction preferably, even a newspaper will do. We suggest that you do it the old-fashioned way. Get a physical copy of any leading newspaper and read editorial section. Why, you may scream? Two simple reasons: (a) Editorials by nature are short and are supposed to summarise the critical item in about 250 words and b) It will have words/phrases that you have never known. Stop and look at words that you don’t understand clearly. Comprehend the sentence and then try to figure a meaning of that word. If you like, note down the word and its meaning. This is a powerful tool as whatever we write down sticks in our head a lot longer. If you invest just 15-30 mins a day in reading something from diverse topics, it will go a long way into make you a better speaker, conversationalist and a writer. You will be able to understand and communicate effectively across groups of people.

b) Stop and concentrate on words

In any conversation, or when you are watching television, or even listening to music, be aware of the words. The moment you come across a difficult word or a different usage, try and solve its meaning in your head

c) Use a dictionary

Use your own dictionary and circle words as you begin to understand their meaning.

d) Review with discipline

Keep some part of the day to study. 20 mins a day is better than 2 hours on a single day in a week. Go through the words you have picked up. Store your information in one place so that you are not overwhelmed with the amount of study.

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