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GRE 3-blank Text Completion Questions — Achieving that 1 in 27!

Coming in at a total of approximately 12 questions (6 on each of the Verbal sections), the GRE Text Completion questions have come to replace the old Sentence Completion questions that we saw on the pre-2011 GRE test and that you remember from the SAT.


So your first question is: How is this any different from the basic, old Sentence Completion questions that I’ve been doing on the SAT or that I studied for back in 2008, but then realized that the recession wouldn’t let me go to grad school?


First off, I would have to say that the process of elimination and educated guessing doesn’t help you as much here. Let’s take a look at a sample question:


To ____(i)____ people accurately, census workers must be ____(ii)____: because there are often residents of a household with the same name, or people whose names have unusual spellings, workers who are anything less than ____(iii)____ in following correct procedures and reviewing cases may result in the same resident getting counted multiple times, or even not at all.

Blank i Blank ii Blank iii Rectify Derivative Meticulous Tally Fastidious Perfunctory Impute Industrious Inexact


Blank iBlank iiBlank iii



So, there we go. Three blanks. That is certainly different from the Sentence Completion question. For Text Completion you can have 1, 2 or 3 blanks. However, the 2 and 3 blank ones are unlike the previous sentence completion questions because each blank has 3 answers and you must get them all correct for the question to be correct. Therefore, the odds drop from a 1 in 4 chance to a 1 in 9 chance on the two blank and a 1 in 27 chance on the three blank (1/3*1/3*1/3) questions.


So before you jump the gun, you should read the whole paragraph. It is important to do this because these are text completion questions, not just sentence completion. So the three blanks need to be filled in the context of the paragraph. So, read it carefully.


Ok, so you probably couldn’t help yourself, but you started plugging words in. The important thing on the Text Completion questions is that you don’t need to do the first one first. Start from whichever one is the easiest. Sometimes filling in the second or third blank will give you an understanding of what sort of word you want for the other blanks.


Then, go through the process of Paraphrase, Signal Words, Substitution, Positive/Negative, and Latin/Greek Roots.


Now let’s figure out the general meaning of the text above and keep our signal words in. To blank people accurately, census workers must be of some quality: (now they are explaining why they need that specific quality and essentially defining it for us) sometimes houses have lots of people with the same name, so the worker has to be a certain very good quality so that he doesn’t mess up his job.


So, the first thing that should ring a bell is that we are using the third blank to define the second blank. There are structural clues here with the colon and the lack of other real defining words in the second half of the text.


So, let’s substitute our own words in there. Fortunately, the answer for blank i is given to you in the latter part of the sentence. A census worker needs to do something to people accurately. If you don’t know what a census worker does, you are later told that he counts people. So, we are looking for a word that means count, which is tally.


Next, we get to the second blank and we know it is something that people need to be in order for them to count people accurately. So, let’s just say that they need to be exact or something on similar lines. Fortunately, when we look at the third blank, we find that exact or precise would fit perfectly there as well.


If we don’t know any of the words in our answers for blank 2 and 3, then we can at least rule out “inexact”, because that one is definitely not it. In Blank 2, we have a few words that look similar to other words and that might help us. Industrious, looks like Industry. Except now we see the –ious added to the end and we know that only happens with adjectives (because we studied our common prefixes and suffixes worksheets). So, it is an adjective that describes something about industry. Well, in industry you work a lot, so this looks like it might mean “working a lot” (it means productive). So we can cancel this one, because it’s not the quantity of the work we have been talking about, but the quality. Also, if we have been through our math section already, we know what Derivative means that something comes from something else. It is not the original. So, that isn’t our answer here. We were looking for a word that sort of meant ‘exact’. Fastidious must mean that (it does, but in an excessive way).


Now we have blank 3. Inexact is already ruled out for us, being not exact. We don’t see any recognizable roots in Meticulous, so let’s take a look at Perfunctory. We see our prefix of per-, then a root that looks like function. We know it means “through” like in pervade or peruse, but it can also mean “very” like in perfect or pervert. But we have that –function ending there. Unfortunately, our Latin roots would lead us astray here. Perfunctory actually means “through the functions” or essentially “going through the motions” and is synonymous with careless. This is a situation in which knowing our prefix would have been very useful if its secondary definition hadn’t lined up so well with the answer we wanted.


And that’s why we get to our last piece of advice. Memorize a bunch of words. All of the above advice can help you narrow down your options and really shave off possible wrong answers. But knowing the word is still highly recommended and guessing can occasionally lead you astray, like we saw in Blank 3. Meticulous (which means to take extreme care) is just not a word that has a common Latin root. It comes from Metus which means “dread or terror” which actually comes from the Roman god Metus, or Deimos in Greek, the God of terror. Hope you enjoyed reading this article.

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