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GRE Sentence Equivalence


Sentence Equivalence questions have vague instructions (“select exactly two words that best complete the sentence and produce sentences that are alike in meaning”): even though the Revised GRE has debuted, many are still scratching their heads, wondering what the difference is between synonymous sentences and synonyms.

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Even if a Sentence Equivalence question is straightforward, you may suddenly find yourself  unsure of how to proceed. What if three answer choices work? Two of them are synonyms, and one of them isn’t. You feel, however, that one of the synonyms somewhat works in the sentence, but the one lone word that does not have a synonym amongst the answer choices works even better. What, then, is the answer?

Here are some good strategies for dealing with Sentence Equivalence questions:

  • Always look for synonyms.
  • If you can’t find any synonyms amongst the answer choices, given you know the definition of every word, then the correct answers will be non-synonyms.
  • If you do not know a few of the words, do not just pick two words because they create synonymous sentences.
  • Choose a word you do not know, and match it with one of the answer choices that work.
  • If the above sounds like a gamble, that’s because approaching Sentence Equivalence, in terms of guessing, is so complex, at least compared to the old GRE’s one in five answer choices. Essentially, you will want to do anything to increase the odds of guessing correctly. And, to do so, the steps above will be your most helpful strategy.
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5 Responses to GRE Sentence Equivalence

  1. Shubham July 24, 2012 at 6:46 am #

    Hello Chris,

    I have a doubt.

    Precisely because non-technicians often fail to relate to abstruse__________ , Riley ordered that the recruitment manual language be carefully revised to facilitate external consumption.


    I marked vernacular and dialect but it’s wrong. My doubt is all the words slang, vernacular, argot, dialect argot and jargon almost means the same. Can ETS create so close options.

    Source: MGRE

    • Chris Lele
      Chris July 26, 2012 at 3:13 pm #

      No, ETS would never create such questions. This is a poorly written question and it reinforces my general point on MGRE – its SE and TC aren’t very good.

  2. Shubham July 11, 2012 at 12:20 am #


    I have a doubt. Could you please clarify?

    Q) The reasoning in this editorial is so ________ that we cannot see how anyone can be deceived by it.

    A unsound

    B coherent

    C astute

    D dispassionate

    E scrupulous

    F specious

    • Chris Lele
      Chris July 11, 2012 at 10:20 pm #

      The blank is some negative word. More specifically it refers to reasoning that is so suspect that nobody would be deceived by it. (A) unsound means not reasonable. (F) specious means misleading but false.

      Hope that helps!

      • chandramauli September 12, 2012 at 8:08 am #

        I firmly believe that the two words should be related to something ‘simple’ or ‘perspicuous’. The intended meaning is that the reasoning is so well connected that No one should be deceived by it. COHERENT and SCRUPULOUS (meticulous) make perfect sense.

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