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The New GRE and the Good Old Sentence Completion

In the tumult of changes coming to the new GRE, it is easy to forget that some things remain the same. Yes, the test will still be long (indeed, longer), the prepping just as involved, and the concepts equally manifold. With all this talk of Sentence Equivalence Questions, Text Completions, and Numeric Entry, however, we may forget that an old friend has not left us—the Sentence Completion.

Yep, that’s right. Those vague and unnecessarily wordy sentences with only one answer per blank (yes, that almost seems archaic now) are still with us. Instead of having 5-6 Sentence Completions, we now have only a few per section on the revised GRE.

So, how do we know when we are dealing with a Sentence Completion vs. a Sentence Equivalence? For the last thing we would want is to pick multiple answers when only one is required. The good news is that directions will always accompany each question. Additionally, Sentence Completions will still adhere to the same format of circles around the answer choices. In contrast, Sentence Equivalence questions will have squares around the answer choices A – F, and Text Completions will have an i, ii, (iii) respectively above a trio of answer choices.

The strategies to approaching a Sentence Completion have not changed. You will notice that the approach is very similar to the strategies employed on a Sentence Equivalence question. There are, however, a few important differences.

First off, let’s talk about the similarities:

  1. Read the Sentence
  2. If Complex, Break Down in Your Own Words
  3. Look for the Clue
  4. Come up with Own Word
  5. Match Word with Answer Choices

The differences:

  1. You are only looking for one answer
  2. In double-blank Sentence Completions you do not have an answer for each column. Each of the five pairs of words refers to one of the five answers, (A) – (E).
  3. In terms of strategy, we can use the power of elimination—when one of the words in a pair does fit in the blank, there is no way that the pair can be the correct answer. You can then eliminate both words. This strategy can be very helpful in the instance that you do not know one of the words in a pair. If you know the other word in the pair and it doesn’t work in the blank, then you can eliminate both.

In the coming days, I’ll post a dual-blank sentence completion. So get ready!

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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