When you run into a Text Completion question on the GRE Verbal test, the text may have one, two, or even three words missing. Your job is to look at a column of possible word choices, and choose the most suitable word for each blank.

With Text Completion questions, half the challenge is interpreting the sentence, and the other half is sorting through the vocabulary.

Here are some tips for working through Text Completion questions:

  • Look for clues in the sentence to determine its meaning.

  • Recognize irony, figures of speech, and formal diction.

  • Use transition words ("but, however, therefore") to get the gist of the phrases.

  • Break the sentence into smaller pieces so you can parse them more easily.

  • Check one word blank at a time to eliminate answer choices.

Remember that the meaning of the sentence may not always be clear, and the vocabulary can be tricky, so watch out for trap word-choice answers that do the following:

  • Appear to fit the sentence but don't support its meaning

  • Support the meaning of the sentence but aren't used properly

  • Appear to have one meaning but actually mean something else, such as "condone," which means "approve"

Practice questions

  1. The referee's comments could not be heard over the (i) ________ of voices from the opposing side of the field, but his (ii) ________ was sufficient to express the penalty.

    Blank (i)

    A. melodiousness

    B. cacophony

    C. scarcity

    Blank (ii)

    D. demeanor

    E. gesticulation

    F. carriage

  2. Although bees are (i) ________ to people, they are vital to farming. Yet, because of the (ii) ________ of the bee population, the world's food supply is becoming (iii) ________.

    Blank (i)

    A. delinquents

    B. traitors

    C. menaces

    Blank (ii)

    D. decimation

    E. phylogeny

    F. reversion

    Blank (iii)

    G. abolished

    H. preserved

    I. imperiled

Answers and explanations

  1. B. cacophony; E. gesticulation

    If the voices are from the opposing side, they would likely not be described as melodious, Choice (A). And a scarcity of voices could not drown out the referee, ruling out Choice (C). Thus, a cacophony, Choice (B), or loud and harsh tones, fits the sentence best.

    The term in the second blank signifies that the referee's ruling could still be understood despite the harsh voices because of his actions. Both demeanor and carriage, Choices (D) and (F), refer to states of the body or behavior, but gesticulation, Choice (E), specifically refers to gestures or signals, which is what this sentence is seeking for the second blank.

  2. C. menaces; D. decimation; I. imperiled

    Try to fill in the blanks with your own words first. You can predict that the word for the first blank is something harmful because the word "although" at the beginning of the sentence signifies something opposite of "vital." Both delinquents and traitors, Choices (A) and (B), are negative characteristics, but neither is harmful by nature. Only menaces, Choice (C), carries the intention to inflict harm.

    The second and third blanks are related by the "because of" preposition linking the two words. You can guess that both blanks are also negatively charged based on the conjunction "yet." Despite the vital support of bees in farming, the food supply isn't being helped. Looking at the choices for the third blank, abolished, Choice (G), means destroyed or gone, which is too strong for this context. Preserved, Choice (H), is positive, so only imperiled (placed into danger), Choice (I), serves the context.

    The second blank is the cause of the third blank; thus, phylogeny (the history of a species), Choice (E), doesn't make sense. Reversion, Choice (F), is a change in a population, but decimation, Choice (D), meaning a drastic reduction in number, has the desired effect.

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