A text completion is one of the new question types on the GRE. It is similar to a sentence completion, but has a few important differences. For one, there can be multiple sentences in a text completion. In fact, the question may sometimes run on for an entire paragraph. That’s because some have as many as three blanks.
The other important difference is that each blank has only three possible answer choices, but you have to get all three correct in order to get the question correct (that amounts to a 1 in 27 chance in guessing).
Now that we know our enemy, below are five important strategies you should follow if you want to do well on text completions:
1. Don’t Dive In
Read the entire stem first. The reason for this strategy is that the first blank is often ambiguous, unless you have read the entire paragraph.
2. Breaking Down the Text Completion
Text Completions are sometimes a paragraph long, so it is easy to get lost in them. A great strategy is trying to understand the big picture. Breaking down the paragraph in your own words (paraphrasing the paragraph) will help you get a grasp on what the sentences are talking about. Then you’re ready for step #3.
3. Use Your Own Words
Here, we’re on familiar footing. Much like the sentence completions and the sentence equivalence questions, we want to use the strategy of putting in our own word(s) in the blank or blanks. To do so, you must always justify your answers not just on the context, but some of the specific words or phrases in the sentence itself. I’ve commonly referred to these word(s) as the clue.
4. The Second (or Third) Blank First
Because the first blank is difficult to deal with, first try finding a word for the second or third blank. Then work your way backwards to the first blank. The caveat—this technique only applies if you can come up with a word for the second or third blank. If you can’t, then work with the first blank.
5. Use the Entire Text Completion as Context
When you’ve finally chosen your two/three answers, plug them back into the blanks. Does the completed sentence make sense with how you earlier paraphrased it?
To read more about strategies for text completions, and to do a few practice questions, you should read all of our text completion blog posts.