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How To Deal with a Difficult Sentence Completion

Try the following sentence completion, noting your approach:

Once spurned by the scientific community, Wegener’s tectonic plate theory has gathered an almost —- following in many circles, yet such an unquestioning embrace could very well lead to the —- of an otherwise valid hypothesis.

(A) triumphant…confounding

(B) unstoppable…rebuttal

(C) equitable…attrition

(D) idolatrous…corruption

(E) ecclesiastical…repudiation

Difficult Sentence Completions can eat up a lot of time and fluster the test taker. Part of the reason is that the test taker falls into one of the following categories. Do you?

The Manic Reader

The Manic Reader encounters a difficult Sentence Completion and begins reading it over and over and over again. The result? Well, it’s sort of like spinning around in circles. After one minute you haven’t gotten anywhere.

The Plugger

One of the answers has to be right. Right? Well, yes. But the Plugger keeps trying to plug the answers in the blanks seeing which one(s) sound right. Using this method, the plugger can convince himself that almost any of the answers work.

The Avoider

Sometimes the sentence isn’t too bad—it’s the answer choices. The Avoider usually narrows it down to two possible answer choices, one a word he knows and the other a word he—and most people—doesn’t know. Even though the word he knows doesn’t quite work, the Avoider will convince himself that it kind of works rather take the plunge into the unknown word. Don’t avoid the difficult words; they are often the correct choice.

The Smart Guesser

GRE likes big words right? Well, if you read a sentence and you have no idea what it is asking just pick the answer choice that has the most difficult word(s). This is what the smart guesser does before moving on. Of course the smart guesser isn’t always right (and the answer isn’t always the most esoteric word(s)—but if you are almost out of time then this may be the only strategy.

Ideally of course, we do not want to fall into any one of these categories. So what should you do?

Tomorrow, I will tell you how to tackle sentence completions, including the difficult one above.

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.

2 Responses to How To Deal with a Difficult Sentence Completion

  1. Navneet Mailbox February 10, 2011 at 8:04 pm #

    Answer : (D) …. keyword : “unquestioning embrace” , “otherwise valid hypothesis”

    • Chrislele February 10, 2011 at 10:42 pm #

      Yep, that's the right answer! And I like Navneet how you justified your answer with the keywords in the sentence. That is the basis of much of the next blogpost. Stay tuned!

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