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New Question from the New ETS Test

Below is a Text Completion from the latest online GRE test.  That’s right: the following question is an actual GRE question, which many a poor soul had to suffer through at some point in the last year. I’ve chosen a relatively difficult question, not so much as to intimidate as to illustrate the depth and complexity of the material you are likely to encounter test day.

Historical research makes two somewhat antithetical truths that sounded (i) ______ come to seem profound: knowledge of the past comes entirely from written documents, giving written words great (ii) ______, and the more material you uncover, the more (iii) ______ your subject becomes.


Blank (i)

(A)  deep

(B)  portentous

(C)  banal


Blank (ii)

(D)  consequence

(E)  antiquity

(F)   simultaneity


Blank (iii)

(G)  elusive

(H) contemporary

(I)    circumstantial



First we want to note the word ‘antithetical’, which means opposite. Thus we have to anticipate that two parts of this Text Completion are going to be in opposition. This opposition doesn’t necessarily refer to the first blank. ‘…come to seem profound’ are the keywords that refer to the first blank. The words ‘come to’ signal a shift, indicating that the first blank is a word that contrasts with profound. (C) banal, which means commonplace and trite, fits the bill nicely. (B) portentous refers to a solemn tone. (A) deep is the same as profound.

For the second blank, we need a word that encompasses the following idea: only written words can capture the post. Thus written words are of great (D) consequence. Watch out for (E) antiquity, which plays on this idea of the past. We wouldn’t say that because only words are capable of capturing the past that words are therefore very old and antique.

Finally, for the third blank, we are looking for an idea that is opposite (don’t forget ‘antithetical’) to the idea that words are of great consequence. If words are so powerful then they should be able to bring a historical figure to life.  Yet the opposition between the two ideas is that words fail to capture the essence of the historical figure, who becomes (G) elusive, or hard to pin down.

To solve this question, I had to rely on a combination of keywords (‘antithetical’, ‘profound’) and a sense of the overall idea the sentence was trying to impart. In the end, this big picture interpretation is just important as spotting the key words and knowing the vocabulary.



Very soon I will be releasing videos for every question (including this one) covered on the ETS’s new online GRE test. Stay tuned!

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.

32 Responses to New Question from the New ETS Test

  1. Charlescada August 3, 2015 at 3:02 pm #

    These are either questions that enable ETS to make test scores comparable across administrations or new questions that help ETS determine how such questions function under actual testing conditions.

  2. Bibek Bhandari June 29, 2015 at 2:03 am #

    At first, I had been wrong on third blank, but once I reread the lines keeping the words in the blank, I finally got things right. Will I get time to do so in the real test?

  3. chirag August 19, 2012 at 2:48 am #

    hey dont ypu have a weekly subscription,a little bit cheap.i want to take material but its a bit costly.
    please help… 🙁

  4. anonymous August 6, 2012 at 10:36 am #


  5. Denis August 1, 2012 at 10:27 am #

    Hi Chris,

    I’m upset to say I ended up getting this question wrong; what nonplusses me is the third blank. With the first and second blanks, there are palpable hints to tip the test taker off as to what the correct answers are: ‘profound’ for the first and ‘entirely’ for the second. I fail to see how, ‘and the more material you uncover, the more,’ is an opposition; I ended up interpreting this portion of the sentence as support for the third blank, leading me to select (I) ‘circumstantial.’ I would greatly appreciate it if you would further expound upon how you concluded there was an opposition in play.

    Best regards,

    • Chris Lele
      Chris August 2, 2012 at 5:25 pm #

      Hi Denis,

      I think the key word is ‘antithetical.’ The two truths have to be somewhat opposite. If it is true that words lend such a great weight to history, then we would expect them to be able to pin down the subject. Yet–and here’s the contrast–the subject becomes more elusive.

      Hope that helps!

  6. Olivia August 1, 2012 at 7:13 am #

    +1 for one of the replies above…I’m also taking GRE on 7th, which is very close now…

    I’ve come across all the video explanations on Magoosh about the ETS materials and find them quite well-explained. Feel regretted that I should discover this blog at an earlier time instead of spending months doing pointless bad-designed GRE practices.

    Chris, I have one question which I don’t quite understand in the old revised paper test. It is Section 3 Verbal Question 24, which seemed to be missed out in the video list.

    In early-twentieth-century England, it was
    fashionable to claim that only a completely new style
    of writing could address a world undergoing
    unprecedented transformation— just as one literary
    critic recently claimed that only the new “aesthetic of
    exploratory excess” can address a world under-
    England, T. S. Eliot, a man fascinated by the
    “presence” of the past, wrote the most innovative
    poetry of his time. The lesson for today’s literary
    community seems obvious: a reorientation toward
    tradition would benefit writers no less than readers.
    But if our writers and critics indeed respect the
    novel’s rich tradition (as they claim to), then why do
    they disdain the urge to tell an exciting story?

    24. In the context of the passage as a whole, “address”
    (lines 3 and 6) is closest in meaning to
    A. reveal
    B. belie
    C. speak to
    D. direction attention toward
    E. attempt to remediate

    I chose A with quite much confidence but was very surprised to see that the answer is C. Would you please give me some insights on this? Thanks a lot!

    • jonah August 2, 2012 at 2:59 pm #

      Hey Olivia,

      Chris might have a better explanation (he’s quite good at explaining these things), but “Speak to” is actually a synonym for “address”. Your choice, “Reveal”, could also make sense in the sentences in place of “address” but, to me, it would suggest something much more precise than “Speak to”.

      For example: “…only a completely new style of writing could REVEAL a world undergoing unprecedented transformation” is actually a very nice sentence but it’s kind of a poetic way of saying that the writing is required for us to witness/understand the new reality that this unprecedented transformation has created. While this might indeed be true (and one could argue that good writing truly does serve this purpose), “Speak to” is much more general and can simply mean to address a certain subject matter. My guess is that’s why it’s the correct answer.

      It seems like many of the reading comprehension questions will provide multiple answer choices that could potentially work, but usually there are small details that lead the test-makers to conclude that one of the options is the “best” one.

      Hope that helps!

      • Chris Lele
        Chris August 2, 2012 at 5:22 pm #

        Jonah, great response!

        One thing I would add is that the correct answer for vocabulary-in-context questions, that is the word that could best replace the word in quotation marks, must also be a definition of the word.

        For instance, if you put ‘reveal’ as a word you are implying that the writer is using ‘address’ in a very similar way. The two words, however, do not overlap in terms of their definitions.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris August 2, 2012 at 5:22 pm #

      Check out Jonah’s explanation above. (My two cents is below his comment :)).

    • dinesh August 10, 2012 at 9:17 pm #

      hi oliva
      what is your gre score….. i was meandering in the net for any personnel experiences

  7. lawal August 1, 2012 at 4:47 am #

    Now that first blank is clearer..i also feel the word “seem” indicates that the blank should be opposite of profound -deep. “superfical” could be a good “own word” and “banal” kind of best matches up with “superficial”.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris August 2, 2012 at 5:23 pm #

      Exactly :).

  8. Wajhi July 31, 2012 at 7:26 am #

    I am still kind of confused one the first blank. I kind of understand the meaning of ‘antithetical’ but cannot seem to put deep into the blank.

    • jonah July 31, 2012 at 1:39 pm #

      Hi Wajhi,

      “Deep” can be a synonym for “profound”. It doesn’t make sense in the first blank because “antithetical” tells us that we need a word that is the opposite of profound. That’s why for the first blank Chris chose “banal”, which means unoriginal, commonplace, trivial, etc…

      Hope that helps.

      • Wajhi August 1, 2012 at 1:52 am #

        Oh ok my bad ! I got the question right the first time 🙂 . And mistakenly thought Chris choose the option deep instead of banal. Thanks for clearing this for me !

      • Chris Lele
        Chris August 1, 2012 at 5:36 pm #

        Great explanation, Jonah. Thanks!

  9. vaisnavi July 31, 2012 at 2:00 am #

    I have solved their entire verbal questions and noticed that the sentence equivalence questions r relatively easier.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris August 1, 2012 at 5:39 pm #

      Hi Vaisnavi,

      Yes, I think the SE questions are def. easier than the three-blankers :).

  10. lawal July 31, 2012 at 1:13 am #

    oh!! looking back i missed the 1st blank-#sad#..this sentences are so byzantine

    • Chris Lele
      Chris August 1, 2012 at 5:41 pm #

      Definitely byzantine :).

  11. Ajay July 31, 2012 at 12:04 am #

    Hey Chris,
    I got this question rite.

    So Thanks 🙂

    could you release those videos before 5th August by any chance ? I am giving my GRE on 6th . This blog has been very helpful in my preparation.

    Thanks .

    • Chris Lele
      Chris August 1, 2012 at 5:43 pm #

      Hi Ajay,

      Sorry, I tried to do them with dispatch, but there are still some post-production steps to take care of…meaning, the videos will not be out until after the 5th. Sorry :(.

  12. lawal July 31, 2012 at 12:01 am #

    Chris! for the 1st time i actually got a 3 blank TC right.i did it without looking at your answers..
    my own words were
    1st blank…-LIE
    2nd bland — REVERENCE
    3rd blank —KNOWLEDGE
    Although they dont exactly match up but they sort off gave me an idea on what to think of the answer choices to pick.
    Sometimes i also try to look at the answer choices and eliminate some answer choices refering to the big picture of the sentence. for example “banal”- no where in the sentence states about anything been hackneyed

    antitquity was a clear trap answer…i eliminated that immediately

    Contemporary also i saw as a trap answer….
    I hope this strategy works out well for me on test day.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris August 1, 2012 at 5:45 pm #

      Coming up with your own words is an excellent strategy, and one I espouse in our lesson videos. It definitely worked out well here, and I encourage you to continue doing so as a first step. Only if you are stymied should you then resort to plugging the words in to make sense of the text completion.

  13. Jaren July 30, 2012 at 4:57 pm #

    yep I had this exact question on the GRE last week, I now know that I missed the 3rd blank!

    • Chris Lele
      Chris August 1, 2012 at 5:46 pm #

      Wow, it seems like they must have just taken that one down off the actual test. Talk about fresh off the press :).

  14. Apoorv July 30, 2012 at 11:07 am #

    Hi Chris,

    This was one tough deal to crack,though I was able to reach the correct answers ,this question has made me worried about the level of questions during real GRE .In which category will you put this question ??

    I am retaking GRE in September and have been simulating magoosh practice tests as that of GRE.

    Below are my avg scores :

    Verbal : 13-14 Correct out of 20 in 30 mins
    Quant : 18-20 correct out of 20 in 35 mins.

    I am not sure how to interpret these scores.The predicted scores on my dashboard are for the total questions i attempted so far.

    I think for quant the number correct questions is satisfactory,But for verbal i can not say.

    I still have a month time for my GRE want to improve as much as i can.
    Prev score : 316 ,Want to increase it by minimum 10points.


    • Chris Lele
      Chris August 1, 2012 at 5:48 pm #

      Hi Apoorv,

      This is definitely on the more difficult side of things. You’ll probably see one or at most two TC’s that are this difficult. We just released a new batch of TC, some of which should hopefully be as difficult as this one. If you haven’t checked those should help train you for test day.

  15. anuja July 30, 2012 at 10:58 am #

    Almost got it correct, though I speculated the second blank…
    Nice question..
    Thanks for sharing!!

    • Chris Lele
      Chris August 1, 2012 at 6:05 pm #

      You are welcome :).

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