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GRE Strategies: Sentence Equivalence & Text Completion Video

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  • 0:02 Introducing the Questions
  • 0:50 Vocab Strategies
  • 2:38 Other Strategies
  • 3:54 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.

GRE vocab is no frivolous jape! Learn about vocab-boosting strategies and other tips and tricks for success on the Sentence Equivalence and Text Completion questions on the GRE.

Introducing the Questions

On the Verbal Reasoning section of the GRE revised General Test, roughly half of the questions will be reading comprehension. The other half will be split between Sentence Equivalence and Text Completion questions.

Both of these questions are basically about vocab, but they test you in different ways:

  • Sentence Equivalence questions give you one sentence with a blank and have you pick two words that make equivalent and coherent sentences.
  • Text Completion questions give you one to five sentences with one to three blanks and have you pick words for the blank or blanks separately.

You already learned more about the formatting on these questions in two other lessons in this course. In this lesson, you'll learn some general vocabulary strategies and other tips that you can apply to both question types.

Vocab Strategies

Once you get past the new formats, Sentence Equivalence and Text Completion questions are mainly hard because of the vocab. The GRE test writers really do love their $10 words, and trying to memorize all the vocabulary words you're likely to see on the test would take you several years of study.

The solution: don't try to memorize every word on the test! You don't have time to do it anyway, even if you wanted to try. Instead, use these tips to maximize your vocabulary with minimal memorization:

Use roots, prefixes, and suffixes to clue you in to the meanings of different words. The fancier and more obscure a word is, the more likely it is to have Greek or Latin roots.

Learning Greek and Latin roots can help you a lot with these huge fancy words; use them to break a word down into its component parts and at least guess at the meaning from there. For example, take the word 'somnambulating'. You might not know what that means, but you can figure out from roots that 'somn-' has to do with sleep (as in 'insomnia') and 'ambul' has something to do with walking (as in 'ambulatory'). So, you can probably figure out that 'somnambulating' has something to do with walking and sleeping, which is exactly correct!

Use elimination. You don't have to know exactly what a word means to eliminate it. For example, if you know the word is negative, but you want a positive word, you can cross it out regardless of what it means.

Build your vocab list strategically. Instead of starting with a massive list of words that sound like they ought to be on the GRE, build your vocab list from words you actually encounter in prep materials. This will be less overwhelming, and you'll be more likely to actually remember the words if you focus on a manageable number.

Other Strategies

Getting a handle on roots and elimination strategies and taking a strategic approach to your vocab list are all helpful for the vocab GRE questions. But here are some other miscellaneous tips and strategies that will help you on both the Sentence Equivalence and Text Completion strategies:

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