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Think You Got What It Takes to Ace the New GRE?

Recently, I’ve been laboring away at Sentence Equivalence Questions. In doing so, I’ve been trying to assign a difficulty level to each problem. With so few ETS samples, however, it’s tough to accurately rank problems. Moreover, even the most difficult questions we see in the new GRE book may not be the most difficult questions waiting for the test taker.

That said, here is what I believe to be a pretty difficult question. I could be totally wrong, but I think this one should give most pause. In fact, I’ll offer a one-month subscription to Magoosh GRE for the first person who is able to give me the correct response along with a short explanation.

Pearson’s prose has become increasingly —- ; even those who once extolled his intricate metaphors now believe that the excessive use of such language only serves to undermine any semblance of narrative.

(A) unguarded

(B) figurative

(C) ornate

(D) vague

(E) suspect

(F)  subtle

Good luck, and I look forward to hearing what you come up with!

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16 Responses to Think You Got What It Takes to Ace the New GRE?

  1. Linda December 2, 2017 at 1:00 pm #

    I don’t really see the difficulty here. The answer is (e) suspect.

    The passage is not about Pearson’s prose itself changing (becoming increasingly x). It’s about the critics’ view changing. All the other choices describe the prose itself. Only “suspect” describes others’ positions toward it.

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert December 3, 2017 at 12:11 pm #

      Hi Linda,

      Thanks for taking a stab at this question! This is a sentence equivalence question, which means that we have to “Select the TWO answer choices that, when used to complete the sentence, fit the meaning of the sentence as a whole and produce completed sentences that are alike in meaning.”

      The correct answers to this question are (B) Figurative and (C) Ornate, and I’d like to explain why 🙂 For these questions, it’s important to consider the placement of the blank in the sentence itself. In this sentence, the blank must be an adjective that describes the prose itself–what has the prose become? While the passage as a whole is about how the critics’ view is changing, the BLANK is only describing the prose, and so our answer choice must confine itself to a description of Pearson’s prose. We have clues that suggest “intricate metaphors,” which lead us to the answer choices that describe his prose as ornate and figurative.

      If Pearson’s prose were suspect, on the other hand, we might think that the critics believe that the prose is not his own; that he copied or falsified it somehow. There is nothing in this passage to suggest that Pearson’s prose is “suspect,” or under suspicion.

      I hope that helps! If you scroll through the comments, you’ll also find some other explanations for this SE question 🙂

  2. Shashank August 10, 2011 at 6:46 am #

    The subject is ‘Pearsons prose’ and the discussion is about his form of writing . The review is negative. The argument is that the form of writing is making it difficult to understand the raw meaning of the prose ‘use of such language only serves to undermine any semblance of narrative.’

    (A) unguarded – The word implies the sense of being natural , which ill-fits in this case

    (B) figurative – It is a method to make abstract thoughts more clear, which is not the case here .

    (D) vague – It maybe the answer . However, the blank is followed by the word ‘increasingly’ . However, it would imply that the ‘pearsons’ form of writing was always vague . The need of the argument, in the following sentence wouldnt be necessary but it
    is present here . “even those who once extolled his intricate metaphors now believe that the excessive use of such language only serves to undermine any semblance of narrative.”
    Hence, this is not the right word .

    (E) suspect – Meaning does not fit

    (F) subtle – Meaning does not fit

    (C) ornate – It fits perfect. The use of increasing ornamentation does make it difficult for the reader to understand the raw meaning of words.

    • Shashank August 10, 2011 at 6:57 am #

      Sorry , I dint notice it was a sentence equivalence question . In that case ‘unguarded’ and ‘suspect’ is the pair which fits well

      • Chris Lele
        Chris Lele August 10, 2011 at 10:18 am #

        The two words have to be similar, or at least create similar sentences. Unguarded and suspect are very different. Anyhow, you already mentioned, correctly, that unguarded doesn’t work.

        The two answers are (B) and (C). Scroll above for the full explanation.

  3. Carrie July 26, 2011 at 9:53 am #

    Hmmm given the sentence structure, I would have to say “E” suspect becasue it seems that the following part of the sentence pertains to the way critics view his writing, not that his writing is changing.

    If it were changing, then I would have to say “B” figurative, because that is essentially the opposite of narrative.

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele July 26, 2011 at 6:33 pm #

      Hi Carrie,

      This is a sentence equivalence question so there are two possible answers. Both of those answers have to be related words and complete similar sentences. I definitely think that suspect could work the way you’ve interpreted it; however, there is not
      another word amongst the choices that would give a similar meaning.

      Figurative can definitely work as well. Read my comments from April 5th and April 15th to see my reasoning (and my concession).

      Hope that helps!

  4. Guest July 21, 2011 at 12:02 am #

    I think you meant to type (B) and (C) for the correct answer (figurative and ornate) instead of (C) and (D) (ornate and vague)?

  5. Guest April 12, 2011 at 9:12 pm #

    In my humble opinion, I think D and F sounds right.

    Explanation: Although non of these 2 words’ meanings are close to “ornate” or “convoluted,” which is what the passage states from the lines “intricate metaphors,” these 2 words seems the closest to being a pair of synonyms.

    Especially the word subtle makes sense if you substitute it into the sentence: Pearson’s prose has become increasingly subtle… and excessive use of such [subtle] language only serves to undermine any semblence of prose. The more unclear his language usage, the less his writing resembles any sort of understandable prose.

    Vague is a close synonym of subtle, and I think it can make sense when substituted into the sentence as well. Although, vague by itself is not less correct than any other answer choice. However, it is the link and similar meaning between vague and subtle that prompted me to choose this 2nd answer choice. Basically, I would bubble in “subtle” on an actual GRE test, not vague. But if my logic is correct, then they both should be correct theoretically.

    I was heavily considering B (figurative) as well. But on closer inspection, I think figurative and “intricate metaphors” actually are not that similar in meaning. Although using “intricate metaphors” and “figurative expressions” are definitely part of the figurative writing style, but if we choose figurative, then this answer choice just sort of stands alone… it has no synonym partner. So basically, figurative would NOT be a wrong answer if this were just the old GRE test, where you choose ONE best answer.

    But taken into context that there is another right answer out there, figurative doesn’t match.

    Let me know what you guys think!

    Thank you so much for posting this practice!

    • Guest April 12, 2011 at 9:14 pm #

      In my previous explanation, I meant to say that “vague by itself is not any MORE correct than any other answer choice.”

    • Chris Lele
      Chris April 15, 2011 at 3:37 am #

      After receiving a lot of feedback on this Sentence Equivalence question, I’ve been mulling it over. I’ve also looked closely at those questions from the Revised GRE book. I’m thinking that the answer choices in my Sentence Equivalence are a little too close, a little too debatable. The relationship between the Sentence Equivalence answer choices from ETS are a little more straightforward than these.

      As for my sentence, I can conceivably see how both subtle and vague could work. They are not the best answers, I still think ornate and figurative are, but at the same, one can argue—as you did—that they are closer in meaning than figurative and ornate.

      To make sure this question adheres to ETS structure as much as possible, I think I would get rid or either subtle or vague. I’d leave one, of course. Probably vague. That would make this question more valid, and still, I hope, challenging.

      So thanks for your insights. This is the type of invaluable feedback we need from the Magoosh community to make sure that we are coming up with the highest quality questions. When it comes down to it, the New GRE is still a relative unknown, and until the public (including myself of course) can take the test several times, our approximations of the test will be exactly that, approximations.

  6. Chrislele April 5, 2011 at 11:32 pm #

    The clue in this sentence is intricate metaphors. At one time, some people liked Pearson’s complicated metaphors. But now, these same people find it excessive. Therefore Pearson has become too metaphorical. Now, we need to look at the answers, which I admit are the tough part to this question.

    First off, we want words that are similar both to each other and mean metaphorical.

    Figurative works in the sense that is a synonym for metaphorical. Addressing bossmanglb’s comment–figurative alone isn’t excessive. But the increasingly figurate part shows that now Pearson’s narratives are difficult to follow because the language is so figurate that it detracts from the story.

    Ornate works as well. When language is ornate it is overly showy/flowery. Metaphorical can work here esp. in the case of intricate metaphors.

    When writing this question I knew the words had to be synonyms but I wondered just how close they had to be. Granted, figurative isn’t exactly ornate–there are slight shades of difference. I consulted a Thesaurus to double check and both words are primary entries for one another. Would this pass muster on a ETS question? I’m not 100% sure as I would have to see more ETS questions to really get a better sense of how close the synonyms have to be, but regardless (C), (D) is the best answer.

    If we look at vague, by definition metaphors aren’t vague. So if something becomes increasingly metaphorical does it become vague? Yeah, well, sort of, kind of. Then to say vague is a synonym with metaphorical and ornate is definitely a stretch (when I looked in the thesaurus it didn’t come up in either the primary or secondary definitions.)

    All that said, I may tweak this one just a little, but I think it sounds like it about a level 4 or 5 difficulty.

    Thanks again for the input, and let me know (any of you other there) if you want further clarification on this explanation.

  7. Bossmanglb April 5, 2011 at 2:45 pm #

    I initially thought B & C…but given the ‘;’ and the lack of a contrasting conjunction, it seems the blank might be more definitely negative or excessive than ‘figurative’. (Though figurative and ornate are near synonyms, ornate is of stronger degree). That said, “increasingly figurative” is also of greater degree that just saying “Pearson’s prose has become figurative;…”

    Unguarded can mean careless; vague (in the sense of difficult to establish or not explicitly stated) is what I would expect if something had an excessive number of metaphors; suspect also seems to work because even those who initially appreciated Pearson’s prose have now joined the ranks of his critics and detractors, hence the quality of his prose has become increasingly suspect; and finally, subtle superficially works because too many metaphors make his prose too difficult or mysterious to understand. But subtle lacks the negativity I’m seeking.
    So, I’ll go with C & E.

    • Bossmanglb April 5, 2011 at 4:58 pm #

      ugh, sorry. mis-type: I mean C & D

  8. Bossmanglb April 5, 2011 at 2:22 pm #

    Wow. I initially tried to do this late at night…and now I’m thinking completely differently about it.

    Is this an April Fool’s joke, because all of them seem to work!

    • hansoo April 5, 2011 at 7:38 pm #

      This is a tough one!

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