It is a dream of every student to score well on the GRE. One of the biggest obstacles that prevents many from achieving high scores though, is the text completion question format in the Verbal section. So, let us focus on a few important aspects of the text completion question format and understand how to best approach it..
Number of questions per Section on GRE Verbal:
Text Completion constitutes 30 percent of all question types on GRE Verbal and consumes more time per question on average than the other question types.
Insights into Vocabulary
If you didn’t know already, a lot of passive vocabulary is tested in text completion questions. Solving these questions requires a strong handle on advanced level vocabulary and the ability to break down and comprehend complex sentence structures. Most students, after successful completion of their preparation, are able to deal with complex sentence structures, but when vocabulary is tested passively they end up going on a wild goose chase in their pursuit to picking an option that is correct. Some ways to overcome this problem include: working with vocabulary lists, roots (prefix and suffix) and mnemonics to remember words efficiently.
Therefore, one aspect of doing well on Text Completion is building vocabulary. The other aspect though is approaching the question strategically and systematically.
Let’s look at how these questions should be approached to maximize accuracy.
Strategy for Text completion questions
Here’s Kaplan’s strategy for Text Completion questions:
Now let us apply the strategy on a standard question pattern:
Step 1: The sentence talks about two sisters and their personalities. The sentence uses the keywords ‘could not have been more different’ to suggest that they had contrasting personalities. We also know that Kate was calm and Jacie was a bit more quick and unpredictable.
Let’s work with the first blank since we know that we need a word to qualify Kate.We know that Kate is quiet and ‘not so adventurous’. She probably likes being by herself. The word ‘calm’ could fit well in context since we know Kate is quiet and we also know that she contrasts her sister who is ‘unpredictable and quick’.
The word closest to the prediction ‘calm’ is ‘placid’. The other option petulant and tempestuous mean to be unpredictable and volatile. These are the exact opposite of what we need and are classic GRE traps: they make you pick them since you might remember the word ‘unpredictable’ from the sentence. This is one important reason why following steps is extremely important on the GRE.
For the second blank we need a word that brings out the quality of Jacie. Since we know that her older sister is calm and we also know that Jacie is unpredictable and quick, the word ‘unpredictable’ or ‘volatile’ could work in this blank. Comparing this with the answer options we realize that ‘mercurial’ means exactly this. ‘Pliant’ means to be easy to handle or change, this is not the nature of Jacie and is sort of opposite of what we need. From the description of Jacie we realize that she is anything but boring!
Let’s put the words back in the sentence and see if they makes sense in context.
“The sisters could not have been more different; Kate, the older of the two, was placid and quiet, but Jacie was quick, unpredictable, and well-known for her mercurial nature.”
Yes! This sentence makes complete sense and there is nothing weird about the usage of the selected words in context. These are the correct options. This exercise should have helped you understand the importance of approaching the Text Completion question type step by step, but beyond everything else you probably also understood that vocabulary building is an absolutely essential part of the GRE preparation.