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A Difficult Text Completion – Advanced Strategies

For an obscure poet to have penned such a refined, poignant sonnet is not at all (i) —. The sonnet, after all, has been a favored form for hundreds of years amongst the amateur and lionized alike. I would be (ii) —-, on the other hand, had not one, out of the sheer number produced during this time, surpassed Shakespeare on a bad day.

Blank (i)

(A) rare
(B) puzzling
(C) suspect

Blank (ii)

(A) confounded
(B) vindicated
(C) disappointed


In this Text Completion, we want to be careful not to rush into trying to answer the first blank without reading on. Here, if we only read the first sentence, any of the three choices could work. To figure out what goes in the first blank, we must read the entire Text Completion.

Even then, this is a tricky text completion because it has a special twist: the second blank informs the first blank. Usually, the two blanks “interacting” in such a way is rare. However, there are a few examples from ETS, so you should be aware that once in awhile, to narrow down the answer choices in one blank, you’ll have to look to the other blank.

In this case, the first blank can be any of the three answer choices. The next two sentences tell us more—even a little known poet can create a great sonnet, simply because so many poets have been writing sonnets over the years. The author would be surprised or shocked had not one of these obscure poets produced a sonnet better than what Shakespeare could produce on an off day. The only answer that works is (A) confounded – to be very confused.

(Notice how above I broke down the sentence in my own words. Remember, this is a key element to success on both Text Completions and Sentence Completions/Sentence Equivalence.)

Knowing that the second blank is (A), we can now solve the first blank. If the author of the passage would be confounded by the absence of a single great sonnet by an obscure poet, then an obscure poet who actually wrote a great sonnet would not be very confusing. Therefore the answer is (B) puzzling.

Why not (A) rare? Well, the author only expects that great sonnets have come from obscure pens. To say it is not rare suggests that obscure poets are typically writing great sonnets. The author definitely is not saying that. Finally, (C) suspect has a slightly negative connotation that does not fit with the sentence.

Answers: B, A


This was an advanced Text Completion. But stay tuned—I will be going over some basic steps to follow on all Text Completions so eventually you’ll be able to navigate through more treacherous ones, such as the example above. And to get hundreds of more such questions, get ready for the Magoosh New GRE product coming out very soon!

By the way, students who use Magoosh GRE improve their scores by an average of 8 points on the new scale (150 points on the old scale.) Click here to learn more.

3 Responses to A Difficult Text Completion – Advanced Strategies

  1. Nithesh August 20, 2014 at 12:03 pm #

    Hi Chris,

    I have a doubt in the above question. Why can’t ‘disappointed’ be the answer for second blank? As the author is conveying the sonnet was refined, poignant and he might be disappointed that such a sonnet could not surpass the Shakespeare sonnets.


    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele August 22, 2014 at 10:54 am #

      Hi Nitesh,

      I think you hit the nail on the head, when you said “might be”. The “might be” or possible answer choices are rarely correct–but they usually make for tricky wrong answers. The GRE is going to be more exact with its right answers, so it’s not debatable, a question of might be/might not be. By dropping in specific clues (“had not one…”), the GRE makes the correct answer one that is not a question of “might be”.

      Hope that helps 🙂

      • Nithesh August 22, 2014 at 5:34 pm #

        Thank you chris.

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