GRE Prep: Hard-level Sentence Equivalence Questions (Part 4)

GRE Prep: Hard-level Sentence Equivalence Questions (Part 4)

Before we tackle more hard-level questions, make sure you’ve already gone through the three key strategies for sentence equivalence (SE) questions that we covered in an earlier post. (Also, if you have unknowingly stumbled upon this post independently, we advise backtracking and going through part 1, part 2, and part 3 of this entire series on hard SE questions.)

In the previous post, we ended with a difficult SE question containing multiple negatives. Let’s start by taking a look at that:


Given that the director’s usual attitude towards such matters cannot be characterized as ____________________, this measure of disapprobation was, to say the least, hardly expected.

A) complaisant

B) tendentious

C) critical

D) yielding

E) censorious

F) fickle

Let us apply the same strategy of breaking down the sentence into digestible bits by grouping together key phrases that relate to each other:


Given that the director’s usual attitude towards such matters cannot be characterized as ____________________, this measure of disapprobation was, to say the least, hardly expected.

A) complaisant

B) tendentious

C) critical

D) yielding

E) censorious

F) fickle

So

  1. This measure of disapprobation (if you don’t know the meaning, you can guess that it might be something negative, along the lines of disapproval or disagreement) was surprising.
  2. This means that it was expected that the director would agree or comply.
  3. Which means that his usual attitude is probably compliant, or easy-going or open-minded.
  4. Which further means that his usual attitude cannot be characterized as the opposite, i.e. difficult, contentious, opinionated (not positive).

Let’s take a look at our options:


A) complaisant (means “willing to please”, clearly positive—eliminate)

B) tendentious (not positive or negative—keep)

C) critical (not positive—keep)

D) yielding (clearly positive—eliminate)

E) censorious (not positive—keep)

F) fickle (not positive or negative—keep)

This means we are left with tendentious, critical, censorious and fickle.

From here, the steps of elimination are straightforward:

  1. Eliminate words that do not fit into the sentence context: the word fickle, while not clearly positive or negative, would not be associated with measures of disapprobation (strong disapproval); in fact, someone who is fickle is more likely to swing between decisions or make hasty choices. (Remaining choices: tendentious, critical, censorious)
  2. Eliminate words that do not form pairs: if you are unfamiliar with both tendentious and censorious, then you will have to make your most educated guess as to which pairs up with critical, or if both words pair up with each other.

Given that censorious seems most likely to be taken from the root word censor, we could advance a guess that the adjective refers to a tendency to censor, judge, criticize.

If tendentious has anything to do with tendency, then the adjective might refer to a predisposition, or an inclination towards a certain belief or value.

Hence your best guess at this stage would be critical and censorious; tendentious could work in the sentence context, but it does not pair up with the other two words.

Our guess, and indeed the correct answers: C (critical) and E (censorious).

(P.S. tendentious means expressing or intending to promote a certain cause or belief, while censorious means severely critical.)

If you benefitted from the above exercise, why not try solving the following very tricky question?


Historians have postulated that the poet resisted publishing these poems in her lifetime not because she was disgruntled with them, but because publication was aligned with print, whose normalizing tendencies she knew would ___________ her minute literary inflexions.

A) misconceive

B) miscarry

C) garble

D) obviate

E) deflect

F) trivialize

To check the solution to the above question and challenge yourself with more difficult SE questions, read on to part 5 of this series!