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GRE Verbal Guide

GRE Sentence Completion

As its name suggests, the Sentence Completion question requires you to complete a sentence with one or two blanks. Immediately after the question are the five answer choices. Which choice is correct solely depends on the information provided by the original sentence. That’s to say, the original sentence is the only place where you can seek clues for filling the blank.

There are about 6 Sentence Completion questions on the test day, and in most cases, the first question in the verbal section is Sentence Completion. Sentence Completion is rarely difficult for most students, but sometimes it may be a problem for international students when they are unfamiliar with the key word or phrase that serves the clue for completing sentence. You should know there are no more clues that you can seek elsewhere like the long passage in reading comprehension question. That’s why some international students prefer reading compression questions to sentence completion questions. There is no shortcut for understanding the meaning of key words. The only way is to memorize as more English words as possible.

Given that you know the meaning of every word or phrase in the question, the sentence can be easily completed by identifying the clues in the original sentences. In the following passages, we will discuss how to seek problem solving clues, such as transitional words that indicate the relationship of each sub-sentence, and so on.

GRE Analogy

In an analogy question, you are given a pair of capitalized words and other five pairs of lower-case words. You are then required to choose a pair of words among the five that has the same logical relationship as the original capitalized pair. The analogy question not only tests your vocabulary base, but also tests your ability to recognize the logical relationship between two words. Here is an example.

Example

HORSE : MARE ::

(A) cat : kitten

(B) human : woman

(C) bull : cow

(D) child : adult

(E) animal : pig

The first colon (:) means "to" and the two colons (::) means "is as". We read the question as "horse to mare is as…" Next, we need to define the relationship between this pair of words. What is the relationship between horse and mare? A “mare” is a female horse. So, a rationale for this analogy could be “Y (a mare) is a female X”. Because analogy problems require us to look for a pair of words that have the same relationship has the initial two words, we are looking for a pair in which the second word is a female of second word. Once you have determined the relationship between the given pair of words and state it in your mind in sentence form, read through the answer choices substituting the possible pairs into the same sentence you have created to describe the initial pair.

Let's work through the answer choices. Is a kitten a female cat? No, this does not make sense. Is a woman a female adult? Yes, this really makes sense. Choices B, C, and D do not have such relationship.

Trap: It is extremely important to pick up the pair of words that has the same order in relationship.

How to define the relationship

Think of a sentence that expresses the relationship between the two capitalized words. Your sentence should not be too general. If it is, then it is highly possible that more one answer choices would fit into that sentence. Therefore, you should explain the relationship as precisely as you could. The more precise your sentence, the easier it is to pick up the right answer.

Let's look at an example.

TELESCOPE : ASTRONOMER ::

(A)  picture : artist

(B)  environment : ecologist

(C)  element : chemist

(D)  brush : painter

(E)  movie : director

We are trying to create a sentence that describes a relationship between the words telescope and astronomer. Let's say we use the sentence, a “telescope” is an instrument commonly used in the work of an “astronomer”. Therefore, a rationale for this analogy could be “X (a telescope) is an instrument commonly used in or associated with the work of a person called a Y (astronomer).” A “brush” is an instrument commonly used in the work of a “painter.” Therefore, D is the best answer.

Don’t pick up the choice until you believe it is the best of the five pairs. Let’s look at an example to see why we should approach the analogy problem in such way.

MATRIX : NUMBER ::

(A)  gas : molecule

(B)  snow : precipitation

(C)  act : opera

(D)  school : fish

(E)  crystal : atom

You may define the relationship of the word “matrix” and “number” as: matrix is composed of numerous numbers. In this way, choice A would be great because gas is composed of numerous molecules. If you do not move to the last choice, you will not find a better pair. Choice E is the one. Crystal is defined as a regular arrangement of atoms. For the setup pair, matrix can be defined as a regular arrangement of numbers. The two pairs of words perfect match in relationship. Therefore, E is the best answer.

GRE Antonyms

There are about 9 antonyms on verbal section of the GRE. The questions are mixed in with the analogies, sentence completions, and reading comprehension. In antonym question, you are given a capitalized word, and then required a pick up a word among five that is opposite or nearly opposite to the original word in meaning. A sample antonym questions looks like this:

PROFOUND

(A)    superficial

(B)    precipitous

(C)    deep

(D)    tarnished

(E)    innocuous

Which of the words is opposite in meaning to the word “profound”? The word “profound” can be adjective or noun. Should we consider it in two functions? The answer is that the five words should be considered in same function. Here it is an adjective. “Profound” means difficult to understand or far below the surface. In choice A, “superficial” means lying on surface, directly opposite to the meaning of “profound”. “Precipitous” means steep in rise or fall, “deep” means same as “profound”, “tarnished” means losing luster, and “innocuous” means harmless. Among the five words, only “superficial” has the meanings that are opposite to the given capitalized.

Trap: Be alert to secondary meaning of a word. The GRE writers often use common words but with its uncommon meaning.

•  Put the words in sentence

A single word is difficult to understand, when combined into phrases or sentences, however, we have little trouble. If you don’t recognize the meaning of a word, think of a phrase in which you have hear it before.

•  Consider the root word

You may not know a given word, but you can spot the root word to deduce the meaning of the original word. Most words are derived from other words.

 


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