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About GRE Text Completion Section

Published On: 05 Jun 2012 | Last Updated On: 05 Jun 2012

Education Testing System (ETS)has brought in changes in the GRE exam pattern making it more students friendly and less complicated. The GRE exam pattern underwent major revision in 2011 especially in the verbal section. The revised design creates a natural and better test experience. The new verbal format will focus more on complex reasoning and questions on antonyms and analogies will not be asked.  No vocabulary out of the context will be asked. The new format also allows candidates to mark and go back to a question to make changes and revise it.

GRE Text Completion Questions

Skilled readers do not simply absorb the information presented on the page; instead, they maintain a constant attitude of interpretation and evaluation, reasoning from what they have read so far to create a picture of the whole and revising that picture as they go. Text Completion questions test this ability by omitting crucial words from short passages and asking the test taker to use the remaining information in the passage as a basis for selecting words or short phrases to fill the blanks and create a coherent, meaningful whole.

Question Structure

  • Passage composed of one to five sentences
  • One to three blanks
  • Three answer choices per blank (five answer choices in the case of a single blank)
  • The answer choices for different blanks function independently; i.e., selecting one answer choice for one blank does not affect what answer choices you can select for another blank
  • Single correct answer, consisting of one choice for each blank; no credit for partially correct answers

Tips for Answering

  • Do not merely try to consider each possible combination of answers; doing so will take too long and is open to error. Instead, try to analyze the passage in the following way:
  • Read through the passage to get an overall sense of it.
  • Identify words or phrases that seem particularly significant, either because they emphasize the structure of the passage (words like although or moreover) or because they are central to understanding what the passage is about.
  • Try to fill in the blanks with words or phrases that seem to complete the sentence, then see if similar words are offered among the answer choices.
  • Do not assume that the first blank is the one that should be filled first; perhaps one of the other blanks is easier to fill first. Select your choice for that blank, and then see whether you can complete another blank. If none of the choices for the other blank seem to make sense, go back and reconsider your first selection.
  • When you have made your selection for each blank, check to make sure the passage is logically, grammatically and stylistically coherent.

Sample Questions –

For each blank select one entry from the corresponding column of choices.
Fill all blanks in the way that best completes the text.

  1. It is refreshing to read a book about our planet by an author who does not allow facts to be (i) __________ by politics: well aware of the political disputes about the effects of human activities on climate and biodiversity, this author does not permit them to (ii)__________ his comprehensive description of what we know about our biosphere. He emphasizes the enormous gaps in our knowledge, the sparseness of our observations, and the (iii) __________, calling attention to the many aspects of planetary evolution that must be better understood before we can accurately diagnose the condition of our planet.

Blank (i)

Blank (ii)

Blank (iii)

(A) overshadowed

(D) enhance

(G) plausibility of our hypotheses

(B) invalidated

(E) obscure

(H) certainty of our entitlement

(C) illuminated

(F) underscore

(I) superficiality of our theories


The overall tone of the passage is clearly complimentary. To understand what the author of the book is being complimented on, it is useful to focus on the second blank. Here, we must determine what word would indicate something that the author is praised for not permitting. The only answer choice that fits the case is "obscure," since enhancing and underscoring are generally good things to do, not things one should refrain from doing. Choosing "obscure" clarifies the choice for the first blank; the only choice that fits well with "obscure" is "overshadowed." Notice that trying to fill blank (i) without filling blank (ii) first is hard — each choice has at least some initial plausibility. Since the third blank requires a phrase that matches "enormous gaps" and "sparseness of our observations," the best choice is "superficiality of our theories."

Thus the correct answer is choice A (overshadowed), choice E (obscure) and choice I (superficiality of our theories).

  1. Vain and prone to violence, Caravaggio could not handle success: the more his (i) __________ as an artist increased, the more (ii)__________ his life became.

Blank (i)

Blank (ii)

(A) temperance

(D) tumultuous

(B) notoriety

(E) providential

(C) eminence

(F) dispassionate


In this sentence, what follows the colon must explain or spell out what precedes it. So, roughly, what the second part must say is that as Caravaggio became more successful, his life got more out of control. When one looks for words to fill the blanks, it becomes clear that "tumultuous" is the best fit for blank (ii), since neither of the other choices suggests being out of control. And for blank (i), the best choice is "eminence," since to increase in eminence is a consequence of becoming more successful. It is true that Caravaggio might also increase in notoriety, but an increase in notoriety as an artist is not as clear a sign of success as an increase in eminence.

Thus the correct answer is choice C (eminence) and choice D (tumultuous).

  1. In parts of the Arctic, the land grades into the landfast ice so _______ that you can walk off the coast and not know you are over the hidden sea.

(A) permanently

(B) imperceptibly

(C) irregularly

(D) precariously

(E) slightly


The word that fills the blank has to characterize how the land grades into the ice in a way that explains how you can walk off the coast and over the sea without knowing it. The word that does that is "imperceptibly"; if the land grades imperceptibly into the ice, you might well not know that you had left the land. Describing the shift from land to ice as permanent, irregular or precarious would not help to explain how you would fail to know, while describing it as slight would suggest that there was hardly any grading from one to the other, the opposite of what is needed.

Thus the correct answer is choice B (imperceptibly).

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