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The GRE Advanced Triple Blank Text Completion

Wading Through Verbiage

To become skilled at Text Completions, you need to learn vocabulary, become comfortable with complex sentence structure, and apply helpful techniques, such as trying to come up with your own word.

If you follow the above, you will likely get to the more difficult section, assuming you do well on the Reading Comp. part of the test. But when you get to the most difficult verbal section, the GRE is going to throw its toughest stuff at you. Specifically, one of the Text Completions will likely have a question that is so difficult as to completely confound you on the first read. You might just want to skip the question and come back to it lest it becomes a time-suck.

But if you have enough time, and you are not so ready to capitulate to a hectoring triple-blank, here are some ways to attack it.


1)     Hover, don’t plod

Some of these big Text Completions can be much like quicksand: if you get caught up in a long-winded phrase or two, you are likely to sink. Your ability to gather the overall meaning of the paragraph will be impaired.

By hovering, I don’t necessarily mean skimming. You do want to pay careful attention to each word. But when you hit a snag, don’t become entangled. Keep reading; look for the “big picture”.

2)     Derive general meaning

By not becoming entangled, you’ll be able to more readily pick up on the “big picture” of the paragraph. Doing so is essential to helping you fill in the blanks.

3)     Fill in the easiest blank first

Which blank is the easiest? The one in which a word comes to mind. This blank often isn’t the first blank. Indeed, you only get a sense of the big picture once you’ve read the entire paragraph.

4)     Look for coherent meaning

The final step is to make sure that the answers you select all make sense. One way to test this is to read the entire paragraph with your selected answers. Does the paragraph make sense? If so, you probably have the right answers. If something seems a little bit off, check again.


A quick warning: Only attempt this question if you are looking to score in the mid-to-high 160’s on Verbal. Do not try to grapple with the meaning of this question; your time will be better spent elsewhere.

Should philosophy be (i) __________ the humanities, unceremoniously dropped alongside the English department, in which the aesthetic reigns triumphant and the analytical usually surfaces as little more than a tic in a novel’s more cerebral characters? Apparently, this rhetorical question has been duly answered by the fact that philosophy is (ii) __________ the humanities and not accorded a status commensurate with its logical nature—argumentative validity, on the other hand, has (iii) _________ on whether we appreciate literature.

(A)  beholden to
(B)  relegated to
(C)  grouped with

(D) subsumed under
(E)  unrelated to
(F)  superior to

(G)  a subtle effect
(H) little bearing
(I)  a direct relevance


Take a stab at the question. Answers are welcome, but if you are up to it, explanations are very welcome! 🙂 Then, when you’re ready: Explanation to Advanced Triple Blank Text Completion.


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.

46 Responses to The GRE Advanced Triple Blank Text Completion

  1. death September 21, 2015 at 12:38 pm #

    if I am looking for a score around 155 in verbal , can I avoid triple blanks ??

  2. Kamya May 30, 2014 at 1:28 pm #

    OMG!!!! I got them right. I read it once and instantly chose the options B,D and H, because it made sense with the words I substituted in the blanks before attacking the options.After a languid week, I was rather lazy to post a comment and thought of waiting for your answers 😉 I would definitely thank Magoosh for making me so daring to attempt such a tricky question. Kudos to Magoosh!!!!

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele May 30, 2014 at 3:42 pm #

      Awesome, Kamya!

      I think that’s the main thing–using your own words. Otherwise, those tricky answer choices may get you. It’s also good that you knew right away that you had it. You should do very well on the actual test 🙂

  3. Pushkar May 29, 2014 at 8:24 am #

    my answer would be
    B, D, H.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele May 29, 2014 at 2:18 pm #

      You got it! I think you are only the second person out of about 12 who correctly answered the question 🙂

  4. vaibhav May 29, 2014 at 3:57 am #

    My answers:


    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele May 29, 2014 at 2:19 pm #

      Very close! Check the first blank again. It’s a trickier than it first appears 🙂

  5. Mireille May 28, 2014 at 8:14 pm #

    Hi there!

    Well, what I would pick, would definitely be B / D / G. Definitely.

    Firstly, “unceremoniously dropped” gives us the hint for the first blank. The way things are phrased there, “unceremoniously dropped” comes in place as further exemplifying / detailing on what the first blank meant to say, therefore “relegated to” would be the one, since it is the closest in meaning to “dropping”.

    As for the second blank, it becomes obvious why the question has been answered with an yes (yes, the philosophy has been unceremoniously dropped / relegated to humanities) when it is being made clear that it was “not accorded a status commensurate with etc etc”. Thus, it did not receive as much as it would have been worth, therefore…it was “subsumed under”. Poor baby! 🙁

    Ultimately, the hint for the third blank is found in “on the other hand”. Since it is now “on the other hand”, the author must tell us something totally different about philosophy this time, different, but more towards the opposite side to what we now know. So if we already know that philosophy has been the underdog all along, it is now time for philosophy to really shine — if the first two blanks were pretty gloomy and negative as far the philosophy was concerned, the third blank must be a very positive and bright one. Such as, “I might be the underdog in this story, but I still can move things around here. My effect might be made subtly, but I’ll make sure it is being made!” 🙂

    I admit, I strongly considered (I) besides (G) here, but I don’t know why, when I put it there, it doesn’t quite look right to me, at least not as good as “subtly effect”.

    Why g instead of i… I can’t really put it in words, but surely Chris can! And he will! 🙂

    Now, I can only hope I wasn’t too far off…

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele May 29, 2014 at 2:26 pm #

      Hi Mireille,

      You nailed the first two 🙂

      On the third blank though I think you misinterpreted “on the other hand”. The contrast is very sneaky, and it doesn’t contrast with the entire sentence per se (first two blanks positive, third blank negative).

      Have another shot at it, and I will post a full-lenght explanation in a few days (if you want a sneak peak, take a look at Solomon’s comment below).

      • Mireille May 29, 2014 at 11:31 pm #

        Oh noooooo… 🙁

        Thanks, Chris!

        …well, I did see Solomon bright, unmatched artistry right after I submitted mine. Then I had the feeling (yeah….kind of knew, as a matter of fact!) that I might have screwed it up, but still I wished in a miracle, since that “on the other hand” thingy is still unclear to me, even after reading Solomon’s reasoning. 🙁 (English is my second language, that might have something to do with this. Or my IQ :D).

        • Chris Lele
          Chris Lele May 30, 2014 at 3:47 pm #

          Hi Mireille,

          Not at all — in terms of IQ and the rest. This is a very tough question that would confuse many native speakers with high IQ’s. So awesome job even getting two of them. Hopefully, the explanation will clear things up :).

          • Mireille May 30, 2014 at 6:16 pm #

            …thanks Chris, you’re too kind. I did read the “on the other hand” dilemma quite a few times and I can see I read it wrong at first. In all honesty, though…I still can’t put my finger on when exactly the “on one hand” (I mean, the first hand, not the “other one”) comes in place. I feel like if I can picture that, then everything will finally become crystal clear. June 2nd is definitely a day I’m looking forward to now. 🙂 Thank you for your time and once again, for your kindness.

            • Chris Lele
              Chris Lele June 4, 2014 at 12:14 pm #

              Hi Mireille,

              Sometimes these paragraphs are just so opaque that nothing is really meant to be crystal clear :). I guess that’s the point of the toughest questions.

              Anyhow, good luck on the test, and I look forward to a report. Who knows, maybe none of the TC questions will be as bad as this one :).

        • Chris Lele
          Chris Lele June 2, 2014 at 11:10 am #

          The explanation is up 🙂

          (It’s the June 2 post).

      • Mireille May 29, 2014 at 11:41 pm #

        …hopefully we see more posts like this next. Such a nice idea you had, I totally enjoyed it, although I got let’s say…zero points! 😀

        • Chris Lele
          Chris Lele May 30, 2014 at 3:49 pm #

          Glad you liked it! I’m thinking of doing one for reading comp: a brutal, short passage with equally brutal questions. And, who knows, maybe I’ll do another nasty triple blank TC down the road 🙂

          • Mireille May 30, 2014 at 6:10 pm #

            …Chris, you start sounding a bit intimidating already! LOL Just tell us they’ll be just a piece of cake. Don’t take the cake away from us before we even have it! 😀

            • Chris Lele
              Chris Lele June 4, 2014 at 12:11 pm #

              Sorry :). You’re right–I should build up confidence. And you are capable of getting the next ones right (you got 2 or 3 on this one :)).

  6. Ram May 28, 2014 at 10:30 am #

    C,E,H ?

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele May 29, 2014 at 11:33 am #

      Hi Ram,

      You got the last blank right–which is the trickiest. Have a go at the first to answers. I’ll be posting a full-length explanation in the next couple days :).

      • Chris Lele
        Chris Lele June 2, 2014 at 11:11 am #

        The explanation is up 🙂

        (It’s the June 2 post).

  7. Ram May 28, 2014 at 10:29 am #


  8. Amanda Veloz May 27, 2014 at 1:30 pm #

    I’m taking the GRE in August and I’m trying to work my head around the study plans. I’m going to be doing my masters in history, and the school said that I need a score of 155 in vocab and 4.0 in essay. They don’t really look at the math score for me to get accepted, but I also don’t want to get a bad score on the math. I rather focus more on the vocab, but I’m not great at math either. I’m undecided between the 90 day study plan for beginners or verbal focused.
    Please Help!!
    Thank you!! 🙂

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele May 29, 2014 at 11:38 am #

      Hi Amanda,

      I think a good plan would be for you to take a GRE mock exam by ETS (here is a link:

      This will allow you to get a sense of where you are scoring. Say your verbal is 148. Then you would definitely want to follow the verbal study plan. On the other hand, if your math score is below 140, then you might try to bump that up by using the general plan. Otherwise, don’t worry too much about quant, since your program doesn’t care too much (a 140 or higher should be fine).

      Hope that helps give you a little direction 🙂

  9. Nilesh May 27, 2014 at 10:32 am #


    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele May 29, 2014 at 11:41 am #

      Hi Nilesh,

      The first blank is right, but try again with the other two. I’ll be posting a full-length explanation in a couple of days :).

      • Chris Lele
        Chris Lele June 2, 2014 at 11:12 am #

        The explanation is up 🙂

        (It’s the June 2 post).

  10. Varun May 27, 2014 at 4:20 am #


    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele May 29, 2014 at 11:42 am #

      Hey Varun,

      You almost got it! (2 for 3). Try the first blank again. (C) works, but it’s not the best answer. (I’ll be posting a full-length explanation in the next few days).

      • Varun May 29, 2014 at 8:37 pm #

        Yup, I should have been a little more careful.
        The option ‘c’ is alluring and a common pitfall. Well, I am never gonna commit that mistake again. Thanks for the jolt.
        I have around two months for my preparation. I have gone through Kaplan’s word list. I have also tried a few diagnostic tests; I keep on scoring 14/20 in verbal except once when I scored a lucky 18. The problem appears to be the short passage. I don’t manage time properly and end up doing that passage-if tricky-at last in a minute or two. I get maths easily so that’s not an issue. I hope you throw some light on how to tackle verbal, especially when we have a tricky short passage in there…..

        • Chris Lele
          Chris Lele May 30, 2014 at 3:52 pm #

          Hi Varun,

          Yes, the tricky short passage. Many forget about that and run out of time. I am planning on doing a really tough short passage question and strategy blog post soon (much like this one). For now, I’d say the time element is big. Don’t spend too much time on the long passage–after all, there are only four questions following the passage. Of course don’t rush through it either, but you may want to consider tackling the tough short passage first.

          Good luck!

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele June 2, 2014 at 11:13 am #

      The explanation is up 🙂

      (It’s the June 2 post).

  11. Solomon May 27, 2014 at 4:06 am #

    Hello Magoosh community,

    Here is my analysis or perusal of the aforementioned paragraph. First, note the use of the phrase “unceremoniously dropped” at the beginning of the paragraph; this was the first hint that the previous blank is a negative word. Looking at the answers, choice C jumps out screaming, “hey pick me! Trust me I am not going to trick you”. Since the term relegated is suggestive of a decline from a higher-to-lower status–relatively speaking–and is related to the notion of being “dropped”, it seems like a safe choice wouldn’t you say? Maybe not. But who knows? Besides Chris of course!

    Now on to the second blank. Upon reaching this segment of the paragraph, I am starting to sense that the author’s tone belies a proclivity or a predilection for philosophy over its more “aesthetic” mistress, madame literature (how dare he/she accuse her of being uncritical..the chuztpah!). The author goes further on to state that the question has been answered and philosophy is not given a status equal with its superior logical merits; meaning that philosophy HAS been eaten up by the humanities, or (you see it too?) choice D, which is worded better.

    Here comes the true challenge: defeating Emperor Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. Oops sorry! This is 2014 and I am commenting on the Magoosh blog to give my humble attempt of answering a text completion. Time moves so fast. Nonetheless, just as the Emperor fell in retreat in that bloody battle for supremacy, it is by duty of fate that this blank should also retreat back to France. Or wherever it came from…China? Magoosh?

    The hint for this blank actually comes from the previous part of the paragraph where the author states that literature contains little analysis, which you can roughly take to be consistent with the phrase “argumentative validity”. During a discourse of argumentative validity, I would assume that various parties would utilize logical reasoning to argue for or against the credibility of their beliefs and opinions. Since literature is described as an art form where the “aesthetic reigns” over logic, argumentative validity would have….choice H.

    A final note to Chris: even if you tell me that I am wrong, I still got love for you homie! But umm…can I get a shoutout on Vocab Wednesday? I mean…like not even a special Vocab-Wednesday-fan-night type of thing? Choose letters that start with S? Say my name say my name….

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele May 29, 2014 at 11:48 am #

      Solomon, Solomon, Solomon 🙂

      That was seriously the best comment ever! You really made my day, esp. the part where you liken the third blank to defeating (or at least trying to defeat!) Napoleon at Waterloo.

      Well, Napoleon on all his minions–at least the other two blanks–have been successfully slain (and with panache, I may add).

      I’ll point students to your explanation, but for what it’s worth, I’ll be posting my own–albeit prosaic–explanation in a few days.

      And yes, there will definitely be a Vocab Wed. letter “S” in the offing (salubrious, salacious, salutary, sapient, sedulous, and soporific…ha, ha, I can’t control myself :)).

      • Solomon June 2, 2014 at 12:19 pm #

        Dear Chris,

        It is certainly a privilege to be able to be the one that made your day! I have crossed this accomplishment from my bucket list. I feel as if I making inroads in terms of achieving true happiness now. I hope that you and your family (whether it be Magoosh or your immediate family) are doing well. I look forward to Vocab Wednesday with the letter ‘S’ theme. Perhaps you could relate the meaning of the words to the stories of my namesake, King Solomon. Just an idea 🙂

        • Chris Lele
          Chris Lele June 4, 2014 at 11:44 am #

          I feel honored 🙂

          I’ll keep that in mind with King Solomon–otherwise ‘S’ is such a vast pool to draw from, a veritable Atlantic of words.

          And I’ll be posting some more tough questions (TC, RC) in the near future. Looking forward to your insights (and general waggishness :)).

  12. Altamash May 27, 2014 at 1:44 am #

    Hi Chris
    Here are my answers
    blank 1): C
    blank 2);E
    blank 3):G

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele May 29, 2014 at 11:49 am #

      Hi Altamash,

      That triple blank truly is a nasty one, esp. the answer choices. Check out the comment above for a full–and very colorful–explanation. I’ll be posting my own explanation–which will be much drier–in the next few days.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele June 2, 2014 at 11:13 am #

      The explanation is up 🙂

      (It’s the June 2 post).

  13. Hashir May 26, 2014 at 1:07 pm #


    Not Sure about third blank. Quite tough to crack !

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele May 29, 2014 at 2:15 pm #

      Hi Hashir,

      Actually, you got the third blank correct (and the first, too!). It was the second blank that was a stumbling block. Have another look (I’ll be posting up a full-length explanation soon).

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele June 2, 2014 at 11:13 am #

      The explanation is up 🙂

      (It’s the June 2 post).

  14. Sriram May 26, 2014 at 11:26 am #

    Should philosophy be thankful to humanities when its been unceremoniously dropped? I guess not, so I would pick (i)beholden to. Since philosophy has not been accorded a status commensurate with its nature, it can’t be superior to the humanities and not being related to philosophy makes no sense. So for (ii), I would go for (D)subsumed under. The last blank should be(H) little bearing considering the sentence shift ‘on the other hand’.

    • Sriram May 29, 2014 at 12:38 pm #

      Hi Chris,
      Wondering if I got the answers right?

      • Chris Lele
        Chris Lele May 29, 2014 at 2:10 pm #

        Oops! Sorry, Sriram :). It seems as though your comment got buried under the fray (this has become quite the popular post!).

        So, for the answers you got very close. 2 for 3. The first blank though is not (A). Take another shot at it. I’ll have an explanation out in a couple of days (but if you can’t wait, Solomon’s comment above gives a colorful explanation :)).

      • Chris Lele
        Chris Lele June 2, 2014 at 11:16 am #

        The explanation is up 🙂

        (It’s the June 2 post).

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