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Become a GRE Verbal Magician!

Knowing your vocabulary can make a huge difference on Sentence Equivalence.

Imagine knowing the answer to a sentence completion without even reading the sentence. Sounds like something only a verbal Houdini could pull off. Well, you don’t need to be a GRE magician to pull off such an astonishing act. Welcome to Sentence Equivalence.

That’s right. In a Sentence Equivalence question, you do not even have to read the sentence to be able to answer the question correctly. You are simply picking two words (from the six) that are synonyms. Why is this good news? Try the question below.

Even if the ecological apocalypse forecast by many on the Left never becomes a reality, some argue that such dire warnings have helped ____________ the severity of the destruction humankind has since wrought on the environment.

(A) understand

(B) presage

(C) undermine

(D) determine

(E) mitigate

(F)  lessen

You could have spent a good minute re-reading this question and resorted to plugging and chugging: (A) sounds good. And hey, so does (B). Or wait, does it really. What about (C) undermine…

You get the point—going directly into the answers, you get tangled in a knot that even the redoubtable Houdini couldn’t get out of. Instead, look at the six words. Which two are synonyms? Well, if you know your vocabulary, the answer is straightforward: (E) mitigate and (F) lessen are the answers.

This trick, of course, only works if there is only one pair of synonyms. The good news is that more than half the Sentence Equivalence questions only have one pair of synonyms in the answer choices (I’m judging this based on the latest ETS GRE book). So, if you know your vocabulary, in many cases, you will be able to cast off those pesky chains and, like a Houdini, escape from the clutches of the sentence itself.

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.

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