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New GRE Text Completions – Advanced Strategies


Oftentimes, it is easy to become so wrapped up in one blank of a text completion that you forget to notice how the blanks are related. This, especially, becomes true on one-sentence triple blank questions, in which you have little information to work with. Often, the sentence only makes sense when you assume one of the blanks is a particular answer. Then, you reason backwards.

Of course, you should always think through a sentence first, and not simply try plugging in the answer choices. Only when you are unsure between two answer choices should you try the technique recommended above.

So, let’s attack the following question, trying, as much as is possible, to come up with our own words.

The war became a(n) (i) ____________ affair, and the citizenry, once (ii) ___________ by grisly news reports, soon became (iii) ___________ even the most shocking images from the frontline.

i ii iii
(a) morbid (d) riled up (g) dismissive of
(b) humdrum (e) absorbed (h) inured to
(c) inflected (f) shaken (i) weary of


For the first blank, the answer is not clear from the surrounding context. When this is the case, do not get wrapped up in the first blank. Instead, continue reading. Here, the relationship between the second and third blank is a lot clearer: we see a classic time shift, Once A, now B. Relying on the clue, even the most shocking images, you can come up with a word that means unaffected by for the third blank. The second-blank would be the opposite – affected by.

Dealing with the second blank first, that leaves us with (D) and (F), (E) absorbed is too neutral. For the third-blank, we can definitely get rid of (I) weary of, which means tired. Remember, we need unaffected. (G) dismissive kind of works, so let’s keep it for now. Also, you may not know (H) inured.

Now we can figure out the first blank. The citizenry is no longer affected by the war. Coming up with our own word we can say the war has become a routine affair. Only (B) humdrum matches this definition. (C) inflected refers to a tone/pitch of sound/voice and does not fit the context here.

Now, we can return to the other two blanks. For the second blank, we have (D) riled up, which means agitated by, and (F) shaken, which means shocked, usually at an emotional level. That works better with the context of a grisly war that has now become routine. And if the war has become routine, then (focusing on the third blank) it is one that people have gotten used to. However, if you have become dismissive of something, you actively shoo it away.

Another reason dismissive doesn’t work is because it is not really the opposite of of (F) shaken. Therefore, and here is the important part, the answer must be inured, probably the most difficult word of the batch. It means accustomed to something negative, and it’s an important word for the new GRE, so make sure you learn it.

Finally, we want to see if the answers (B), (F), and (H) create a logical sentence. And now, only after working through the sentence, should we plug in the answer choices and read the sentence. If it makes sense, then you know you’ve chosen the right answers. Let’s try:

The war became a humdrum affair, and the citizenry, once shaken by grisly news reports, soon became inured to even the most shocking images from the frontline.

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6 Responses to New GRE Text Completions – Advanced Strategies

  1. Mary Beth M October 27, 2016 at 9:03 pm #

    This is a good example of a tough text completion! Working too quickly, it’s easy to select ‘morbid’ because its connotation fits the context of war. But as you rightly point out, the morbidity has been a constant of the war, and even if it sounds better to my ear stylistically than does humdrum (again b/c of connotation/context), its denotation is not the one we’re looking for.

    I can’t write this as a note to myself b/c it’s not a Magoosh lesson, so I’m writing it here 🙂 thanks, Chris!

  2. Jaimie June 16, 2015 at 12:10 am #

    I want to know how we can be certain that “shaken” is a better answer than “riled up”.
    To me, they both make sense! :/

  3. shreya April 22, 2015 at 8:44 am #

    Why isn’t the answer “morbid”?

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele April 22, 2015 at 4:31 pm #

      Hi Shreya,

      From the context, it seems that the war has always been “morbid”. Notice that the grisly affairs have been a constant, but what’s changed isn’t how morbid things are but people’s reaction to such morbid/grisly events. They’ve become (notice the shift in states “become” signifies) used to pictures/stories of the carnage. Therefore, the war has become “humdrum”, or routine and boring.

      Hope that helps!

  4. Namrata August 26, 2013 at 11:14 am #

    “(c) inflected” is mentioned as an answer choice for the first blank in the question.
    From your explanation I understand that it was supposed to be (c) protracted ?

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele August 26, 2013 at 11:54 am #

      Hi Namrata,

      Oops, that is an unfortunate typo! Thanks for point it out. Not quite sure how that one got past the censors :).

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