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The New GRE and Guessing

Math Multiple Answer

Consider each of the choices separately and select all that apply.

A multiple-choice test consists of five-answer choices, of which two are correct. What is the probability that a student will randomly choose both correct answers?

(A) 1/5

(B) 1/8

(C) 1/10

(D) 1/20

(E) This question applies directly to the new GRE.

This meta-question is an example of the very problem set forth; that is, there are two correct answers. One of them is (E), as this is the very format the new GRE will employ on some of its questions, including sentence completions.

The mathematical answer we can find by using a combinations formula. There are 5 possible answers to choose from and we want to choose from 2.

5!/(5-3)!3! = 10. That is there are ten possible answers and only one is correct, so the probability you choose that answer is 1/10.

Besides a little more practice on combination problems, we can also see that the chances of randomly guessing correctly are cut in half.

Sentence Equivalence:

Select exactly two words that best complete the sentence and produce sentences that are alike in meaning.

Mark’s countenance became increasingly ________ as rejection slips for his novel piled up in his in-box.

(A) belligerent

(B) morose

(C) crestfallen

(D) circumspect

(E) sanguine

(F) roseate

Even if you know the word in the blank has to have a negative connotation, not all of the negative answer choices will work. Let’s look at answer choice (A). Belligerent means hostile, inclined to fight.

Could Mark potentially be belligerent? Sure, but here the focus is the rejection. His first book is not getting published so he is not happy. There is also a stylistic consideration here: countenance is one’s facial expression. Usually behavior is described as belligerent and not one’s expression.

So much like the old sentence completions, put your own word in. Mark’s expression, and I’m choosing my own word here, is downcast. Which two words mean downcast? Morose and crestfallen: (B) and (C), respectively. Sanguine means cheerful and roseate means optimistic. Similar words, yet antithetical to the blank. Circumspect means cautious, which doesn’t make sense in the blank.

Therefore, vocabulary is still key. Since the question type above–known as a Sentence Equivalence question–requires two similar words in the blanks, you can have absolutely know idea what the sentence is saying, and still get the answer right by picking two words that are synonyms. In this case, vocabulary can be very important. If you have a weak vocabulary, and are basically guessing at random, your chances of getting a Sentence Equivalence question correct are 1 in 15.

With the question above, if you have a strong vocabulary, you can home in on morose and crestfallen. When you are morose you are sullen and gloomy. When you are crestfallen your hopes have been dashed and you have become dejected.

For more tips on maximizing your score on the new GRE, read our 5 General Strategies for Scoring Well on the Revised GRE.


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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