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GRE Sentence Equivalence Format Video

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  • 0:01 Sentence Equivalence
  • 0:46 The Rules
  • 1:42 Example Question
  • 4:04 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Elizabeth Foster

Elizabeth has been involved with tutoring since high school and has a B.A. in Classics.

Sentence equivalence questions on the GRE revised General Test have a weird and confusing format. But don't let that hold you back from doing your best! Here's what you'll see and how to tackle it.

Sentence Equivalence

On the most basic level, sentence equivalence questions test your reading comprehension with fill-in-the-blank vocab questions. You'll have to use both your reading comprehension skills and your vocab knowledge to answer the questions correctly. But there's also another challenge: the format of the questions can be tricky all by itself.

Okay, it's not quite that bad. But it's still helpful to get to know the format in advance. In this lesson, we'll go through the sentence equivalence question format step by step, with illustrations, so you can actually figure out what you're supposed to be trying to do. Even if it seems completely impossible at first, don't give up: it gets a lot easier once you start doing practice questions of your own.

The Rules

Before digging into an example question, we'll just walk you through the question format so you have a basic idea of what you're trying to do. On each sentence equivalence question, this is what you'll get:

'Rather than openly denouncing his opponents, the mayor launched a(n) _____ campaign to dissolve their credibility.

A. Clandestine
B. Empirical
C. Improvident
D. Surreptitious
E. Censorious
F. Spurious'

Each question gives you one sentence, with one blank and six possible words to go in the blank. Of those six answer choices, there are two that you could plug into the sentence to make the sentence as a whole mean the same thing. Those two are the correct answers, and your job is to identify both of them. You don't get any partial credit; you have to correctly identify both of the words.

Example Question

Now let's walk through this question to see how you can approach that format strategically. When you tackle sentence equivalence questions, everyone's first instinct is to do something like this:

  • Rather than openly denouncing his opponents, the mayor launched a clandestine campaign to dissolve their credibility.
  • Rather than openly denouncing his opponents, the mayor launched an empirical campaign to dissolve their credibility.
  • Rather than openly denouncing his opponents, the mayor launched an improvident campaign to dissolve their credibility.
  • Rather than openly denouncing his opponents, the mayor launched a surreptitious campaign to dissolve their credibility.
  • Rather than openly denouncing his opponents, the mayor launched a censorious campaign to dissolve their credibility.
  • Rather than openly denouncing his opponents, the mayor launched a spurious campaign to dissolve their credibility.

That's a natural instinct, but it's not actually the most strategic way to go about answering sentence equivalence questions. For one thing, it takes forever: you'll have to compare every possible answer to every other possible answer. For the math nerds in the audience, that gives you 15 different combinations of sentences that you have to compare, which is way more sentences than you have time to deal with. A better strategy is to mine the sentence for clues and start by eliminating answer choices that way.

'Rather than openly denouncing his opponents, the mayor launched a(n) _____ campaign to dissolve their credibility.'

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