Sentence Equivalence Strategies – Choose Your Own Word

On the GRE, the answer choices can be your enemy. In the case of Sentence Equivalence and Text Completions, if you happen to catch yourself plugging the answer choices into the blank, stop. By placing an answer choice in the blank, you bias your interpretation of the sentence and, suddenly, the word seems to make sense in context.

To avoid falling for this trap, make sure to come up with your own word for the blank. Also make sure that this word is based on information in the sentence (the clue). Once you do so, match up your word with the answer choice(s).

In the case of Sentence Equivalence, the strategy of coming up with your own word also applies. Try it with the following question.


It has been said that the media have no memory, meaning that the news is only as __________ as the front page of the daily rag.

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(A) ostentatious

(B) enduring

(C) fleeting

(D) timely

(E) temperamental

(F) long-lived


1. Break Down the Sentence and Look For Clue

First, break down the sentence in your own words. Basically, nothing lasts long in the media, the media have no memory… (the Clue). The sentence goes on to say that the news is only as —- as the front page. What word would fit in the blank? Long-lasting.


2. Match Words with Answers

Which answer choices mean long lasting? Answer choice (B) enduring and (F) long-lived.

By following the steps above, you will be able to successfully handle those Sentence Equivalence and Text Completions in which you know most of the vocabulary.


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4 Responses to Sentence Equivalence Strategies – Choose Your Own Word

  1. sridhar March 27, 2016 at 6:54 am #

    Hi Chris,
    In the beginning i thought the answer would be “fleeting”, but after seeing your explanation got to know the construction of sentences like “only as…as…”.

    Thanks for explaining it with an example.

  2. Amrita March 11, 2013 at 5:21 am #

    Hi Chris.
    Since the sentence equivalence here talks about media having short memory, I was just wondering that why can’t fleeting be the answer.

    • jonas August 5, 2013 at 1:57 am #

      yeah, answer is wrong!, fleeting is the best match!

      • Chris Lele
        Chris Lele August 5, 2013 at 1:45 pm #

        Hmm…it looks like I was never saw Amrita’s question.

        So the way the sentence works is we don’t just want to find a word that is similar to “have no memory.” Notice how the news is being compared to the front page of a rag (a ‘rag’ is a negative expression referring to low-quality newspapers). The “rag news” doesn’t last long, and so the news is only as long-lasting as the daily rag.

        Also the “only as…as…” construction implies that the word in the blank is going to be the opposite of fleeting. For instance, the way ‘tall’ is used in the first sentence is the way same way as enduring/long-lived is used in the first blank.

        He is not that tall: he is only as tall as his little brother.

        I would not say:

        He is not that tall: he is only as short as his little brother.

        Finally, fleeting has no other pair of similar words amongst the answer choices. So there is no way it could be the answer. If you encounter the same problem test-day (you choose an answer on SE that has no similar words), then you’ve misinterpreted the sentence, and are much better off simply choosing the pair of synonyms in the answer choices.

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