offers hundreds of practice questions and video explanations. Go there now.

Sign up or log in to Magoosh GRE Prep.

To Plug or Not to Plug? – That is the Text Completion Question


In general, when approaching text completions, you should try to come up with your own word(s) that fit in the blank. Only when you’ve done so, should you return to the blanks and plug them in to see if the sentence makes sense.

The exception to coming up with your own word(s) is when the sentence is really vague.  In these cases you have to look at the relationship between the two blanks.

Let’s take a look below:

At times __________ , she could just as suddenly become _________, a change that, though in some ways welcome, was so unpredictable as to be jarring.

(a) uncertain(d) parsimonious
(b) morose(e) selfish
(c) magnanimous(f) jubilant
Improve your GRE score with Magoosh.


The relationship between the blanks is that they are opposite, something you should be able to notice from the clue words, change and just as suddenly become…

On the other hand, if you were to spend time trying to come up with your own word for the blank, you could come up with a variety of different words for the first and second blanks, even if you know the two blanks are in opposition. Instead you should look at the pairs of answer choices that are antonyms. In the question above, we have morose, jubilant and magnanimous, selfish.

Now we need to pay closer attention to the sentence, specifically the last part, to note that the change is somewhat welcome. Therefore the second word has to be a positive word. So the answer is (B) morose and (F) jubilant.

Sometimes the relationship between the blanks is not as straightforward in a vague text completion. In these rare cases you will have to plug pairs of words into the two blanks, respectively, to see which pair makes the most sense. The good news with two and three-blank text completions, versus one-blanks, is that you only have three words for each blank – not five.

Try the following question:

To critics the author’s latest work was —-; with so few people purchasing the book, this reception proved to be —-.

(a) disastrous(d) poignant
(b) puzzling(e) noteworthy
(c) captivating(f) ironic


This is a very vague text completion you can easily misinterpret if you plug in answer choices. In this case, however, you don’t have too many other options besides plugging and chugging, as it were.

One strategy is to note the relationship between the blanks. If the first blank is negative, then the second blank has to be something that reaffirms the critic’s reception (the book sold very poorly, after all). If the first word is positive, then the second blank is a word that shows the reception didn’t match the consumer’s behavior. Even this relationship is nowhere as straightforward as it was in the prior text completion.

So let’s plug in (A). If the work was disastrous would few people buying the book make the critic’s reception (A) poignant, (B) noteworthy, or (C) ironic? Well if it was disastrous and nobody bought the book it definitely wouldn’t be ironic. Would it be poignant, or emotionally touching? No. What about (B) noteworthy? Just because nobody bought the book after the critics panned it, does not make the critic’s reception noteworthy.

What about (B) puzzling? Puzzling is similar to, but not as extreme as, disastrous. Again, we are looking for a word that would be positive for the second blank. Emotionally moving doesn’t relate to puzzling nor does noteworthy.

So what about (C) captivating? Well, if the critics said the book was very gripping and interesting, i.e. captivating, then nobody ended up buying it, that development would be ironic.

As you can see, very vague sentence completions require a lot of patience. The key is not to become flustered because you feel the question can have more than one possible answer (that would make the question a Sentence Equivalence). Persevering and working logically through the different answer choices will help you on this very difficult type of text completion.

Magoosh students score 12 points better than average on the GRE. Click here to learn more!

Most Popular Resources

18 Responses to To Plug or Not to Plug? – That is the Text Completion Question

  1. Aditi January 4, 2018 at 2:16 am #

    c and f for the second question

    • Magoosh Test Prep Expert
      Magoosh Test Prep Expert January 4, 2018 at 12:20 pm #

      Correct! Great job, Aditi 🙂

  2. Sumukh Bharadwaj V November 8, 2017 at 6:41 am #

    I think the key to answer the second text completion is the phrase few people bought the book from which we could deduce that the reception was lackluster and the first blank would be opposite of this word.

  3. Sumukh Bharadwaj November 8, 2017 at 6:38 am #

    I think the key to the second question is the word few people from which we could deduce that the reception was not that great. in other terms ironic.

  4. shreya June 10, 2015 at 11:13 pm #

    Why isn’t the answer of second question disastrous and noteworthy?

  5. arundhati April 15, 2015 at 8:06 am #

    Why are (c) and (f) the correct choices and not (a) and (e)?

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele April 16, 2015 at 3:44 pm #

      Hi Arundhati,

      I’d love to answer your question, but I’m not sure whether you are talking about the first question or the second question 🙂

  6. ShingShing January 31, 2014 at 7:29 am #

    Typo – the first question’s answer should be (B)morose and (F)jubilant 🙂

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele January 31, 2014 at 1:24 pm #

      Thanks for the heads up 🙂

  7. nazik December 7, 2013 at 3:23 pm #

    What about answers c) magnanimous and d) parsimonious for the first question?

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele December 9, 2013 at 11:56 am #

      Hi Nazik,

      Notice the question say, “though in sometimes welcome”. Therefore, we know the second blank has to be a positive word. “Parsimonious”, meaning stingy, is always negative.

      Hope that helps!

      • nazik December 9, 2013 at 1:39 pm #

        thanks, Chris.

        • Chris Lele
          Chris Lele December 10, 2013 at 10:59 am #

          You’re welcome 🙂

  8. PCM November 25, 2013 at 5:28 am #

    In the first question, for the first blank, why doesn’t the answer “hostile” work? If an emotional change is jarring, isn’t it more extreme than “morose”?

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele December 9, 2013 at 11:52 am #

      Sure, I guess you have a point. The blanks are supposed to be opposite, though “jubilant” and “morose” contrast better since they are moods. That said, I think an answer that is more clearly wrong, such as “uncertain”, which doesn’t contrast as well.

      I’ll make the change now :).

  9. smatkar August 7, 2013 at 8:41 am #

    so what is the answer of 2nd question?

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele August 7, 2013 at 11:55 am #

      Hi Smatkar,

      The answer to the second question is (C) and (F). Sorry if that was confusing :)!

      • Sowmya August 28, 2015 at 12:53 am #

        Why can’t uncertain come in the first blank?

Magoosh blog comment policy: To create the best experience for our readers, we will only approve comments that are relevant to the article, general enough to be helpful to other students, concise, and well-written! 😄 Due to the high volume of comments across all of our blogs, we cannot promise that all comments will receive responses from our instructors.

We highly encourage students to help each other out and respond to other students' comments if you can!

If you are a Premium Magoosh student and would like more personalized service from our instructors, you can use the Help tab on the Magoosh dashboard. Thanks!

Leave a Reply