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Text Completion Strategies—Don’t Get Lost in the Forest

At first considered a monstrous eyesore by the city’s denizens, the Taipei 101 building has come to be seen as a(n)  —- part of the urban landscape; were the building to suddenly disappear, its absence would be striking.

(A) beatific

(B) noteworthy

(C) exceptional

(D) inextricable

(E) intrusive

Look for the Keyword and Unlock the Sentence

The key word is a specific word or words that refer to the blank. If you don’t find the correct keyword, you won’t be able to come up with your own word. In this sentence, one keyword is striking. Notice how the keyword comes at the end of the sentence. Many times test takers do not read the entire sentence,  and/or focus only on the beginning part of the sentence.

Other keywords include monstrous eyesore. It is also important to note how the sentence has a shift: at one time the building was a monstrous eyesore, now it has come to be seen as —-. This shift is called a time shift, and signals that the blank is opposite to monstrous eyesore.

At this point, you may be able to come up with your own word. On the other hand, you may still be unsure exactly what the sentence is trying to say. If so, take the next step….

Take Apart Sentence in Own Words

GRE Text Completions can be a forest, with the verbiage serving as dense underbrush. It is easy to get lost in the woods, so to speak. One sign that you are lost in a Text Completion is when you begin reading the sentence over and over again, each time becoming more disoriented (a feeling not too different from literally getting lost in the woods and going around in circles).

But there is a way out: break down the sentence (or cut down the trees, to continue the bosky metaphor). To do so, you must look away from the sentence and phrase it in your own words. Let’s try:

The building was really big and ugly at first but now is —- because if it suddenly disappeared, it would be striking.

Hmm, so it seems that now, the building is just part of the landscape. If it suddenly disappeared, then people would actually notice it is gone. Its absence would be striking. But now people don’t seem to notice it any more—it has become commonplace/everyday.

The answer choice therefore is (D) inextricable

Don’t Plug and Chug

With the time relentlessly ticking down, we are tempted to rush through the sentence by plugging and chugging. This ill-advised technique entails taking each answer choice, plugging it back into the sentence, and seeing if it sounds right. If you take this approach, you will most likely misinterpret the sentence and answer the question incorrectly.

Let’s give the plug and chug a try:

(A)  beatific….hmm, that kind of sounds right because the building was a monstrous eyesore but now is beautiful. Beatific means beautiful, right? (It actually means blissfully happy).

(B)  Oh wait, maybe it’s noteworthy because it so big and noticeable…but…

(C)  Or exceptional…but it’s pretty exceptional because it’s a monstrous eyesore

(D)  Can a building be inextricable? Isn’t it too big to be inextricable?

(E)  Or it could be intrusive, because if it disappeared than it would be noticeable, because it was intruding so much before…or, or…

You can see how by the end of plugging and chugging, your mind can very well be spinning, without getting any closer to the answer. And just like that, we’re lost in the woods again, endlessly circling about, as the time ticks down.

So, find the keyword, note any sentence shifts. If you are unsure what the sentence is saying, then break it down in your own words. Finally, put in your own word and match that word with the answer choices. Then, you’ll be out of the forest.

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11 Responses to Text Completion Strategies—Don’t Get Lost in the Forest

  1. Ri September 19, 2018 at 1:35 pm #

    The explanation is not as lucid as I’d like it to be. I don’t see how the building goes from being ugly to being “impossible to escape from”, due to the time shift, I thought that the blank should be the opposite of “monstrous eyesore” at first the building was ugly, but has come to be seen as exceptional (unusually outstanding). Can you please explain why that answer choice does not make sense? Thank you!

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert October 11, 2018 at 11:04 am #

      Hi Ri,

      The building itself is not impossible to escape from. Rather, if the building disappeared tomorrow, the landscape would suddenly look very strange. This sentence is basically saying that the building is very ugly, but it is now part of the identity of the city itself. If the building disappeared, people would really notice, even though it is very ugly. The issue with “exceptional” is that it doesn’t convey the sense that the building has become part of the urban landscape. A building can be exceptional in a positive or a negative way. We wouldn’t necessarily miss something that is extraordinary.

  2. Jomie October 23, 2016 at 11:18 pm #

    Hello Chris,

    Because the sentence is time shift, we should take opposite of monstrous eyesore. So opposite of ugly is beautiful, then the answer must be ” A ” right?


    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert October 25, 2016 at 8:27 am #

      Hi Jomie,

      Please note that “beatific” does not mean “beautiful.” Rather, it means “joyful” and “blissfully happy.” So, this does not fit well in the context of the sentence, and it is a testmaker’s trap!

  3. kavita jaiswal April 21, 2016 at 1:18 pm #

    Hi Chris,
    I am confuse.
    Inextricable means unsolvable, and unsolvable does not seems to fit in above sentence.
    Correct me if I am wrong.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert April 22, 2016 at 11:42 am #

      Hi Kavita,

      Happy to help! 🙂

      I would not say that inextricable means unsolvable. A better definition would be impossible to disentangle or separate or just closely joined or related. With that in mind, I think this sentence makes a lot more sense!

  4. Shannon June 19, 2013 at 1:05 pm #

    I’m having a hard time seeing how “unexceptional” would work best here. To me, if something is unexceptional and commonplace, and were to be removed, I probably wouldn’t notice it at all. if however, the building was famous, unique, cool, interesting, etc. and it were demolished or absent from the landscape, that would be striking! Though those aren’t in the answer choices. I originally thought inextricable was the answer… I guess it’s all about learning the test-maker’s logic!

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele June 20, 2013 at 11:38 am #

      Hi Shannon,

      Actually…this is a bad question that we had long ago purged from the product (I’d updated it but it has yet to make it back in). Unfortunately, this blog post snuck in under the radar.

      So your logic is perfectly valid, and (D) inextricable is the answer. I’ll update this post!

      Sorry for any confusion :).

  5. Maureen Neumeister January 17, 2012 at 2:05 pm #

    Nice work. Hopin’ for more! 🙂

  6. Joan November 27, 2011 at 1:06 am #

    Chris, I see your point. That said, my initial choice of ‘inextricable’ still resonates with me. My interpretation of that choice is slightly different from yours. I took ‘inextricable’ to mean that, the building had become a kind of landmark in the community despite it’s aesthetic shortcomings. In that sense, it’s disappearance from the landscape would be striking. Would you kindly comment?


    • Chris Lele
      Chris November 28, 2011 at 6:39 pm #

      Hi J.

      I agree – inextricable definitely works in the sense that if something inextricable were to suddenly disappear its absence could possibly be striking. However, just because an answer makes sense doesn’t mean that it is the best answer, and by extension, the right answer.

      The first part of the sentence notes that the building was once a “monstrous eyesore,” i.e. something that stands out as being really ugly. “Has come to be seen…” signals a time shift, so we know that the blank has to be the opposite of standing out. Something that is unexceptional is clearly the opposite. Inextricable, however, isn’t, by definition, the opposite of standing out. If something is inextricable it may be striking or it may not be striking.

      The last part of the sentence elaborates on the clue – the building has become not-striking (unexceptional) but were it suddenly to disappear than it would be striking (again notice direct opposite). Again, a case could be made for inextricable, but because text completions are written with these specific clues, we want to make sure the correct answer speaks directly to the clue, or in this case, clues.

      Hope that makes sense,


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