GRE Prep: Top 3 Strategies for Text Completion Questions

GRE Prep: Top 3 Strategies for Text Completion Questions

In this post, we will analyze a medium-level Text Completion question and point out 3 key strategies that will help you tackle TC questions in general. Here it goes:

1. Get the gist!

– What is the main message?

Begin by getting an overall sense of the question. Ask yourself questions such as: Is the writer approving/disapproving something? How is the subject of the question characterized? What is the main message conveyed here?

Zoom-in on keywords in the above question to help you. We are told that the issues have “persistently recurred” and might lead to “portentous consequences”; from this we can infer that they are important and should not be ignored.

The phrase “not least because” gives us a further hint. This phrase is generally used to emphasize a particularly important example or reason that supports the main idea. For example, we can say that “She is a great employer, not least because she genuinely cares for the well-being of the team.” We know that she is a great employer particularly because she genuinely cares for her team.

Going back to our question, we can then infer that particularly because these important issues have been emphasized, the company probably should not ignore them/should pay attention to them. This gives us the general message of the question.

2. Use simple words

– Paraphrase the question

Once you have the general gist of the question, try to re-phrase it in your own words.

Our question would possibly read something like this:

It would be ___________ of the company not to ___________ these issues, particularly because they have huge effects and are unlikely to disappear.

Once you have simplified the question, the next step is to put in simple words for the blanks.

– Fill in the blanks with simple words

Since we have already gathered that the main message of the question is that the company should not ignore these issues, we can try to complete the sentence this way:

It would be _foolish_ of the company not to _tackle_ these issues, particularly because they have huge effects and are unlikely to disappear.

Having a sense of the kind of words needed for each blank simplifies the choice between the options given.

– Tackle the simplest blanks first

The second blank is easier than the first, since the latter offers some difficult vocabulary in its options. Of the three options given for the second blank, only “address” approximates the meaning of to tackle, or to deal with. The option “overlook” (inspect, miss, oversee) gives us the opposite meaning, and “invoke” (to petition, conjure, solicit or implement) does not work in this sentence context.

Now go back to the first blank. First eliminate the option that clearly does not approximate the meaning of foolish: “indolent” (lazy). The choice between the remaining two options requires you to be acquainted with their precise meanings: “remiss” means negligent or careless, and “precipitous” means steep or hasty.

In this sentence context, we are not given any extra information that would link hastiness and ignoring these issues, but we are able to make an inferential link between carelessness/negligence and ignoring issues that have showed up frequently. This allows us to favor “remiss” as the better choice.

3. Re-read

– Ensure coherence of complete question

As the last step, fill in the sentence with your choices and check for coherence and logic:

It would be _remiss_ of the company not to _address_ these delicate issues, not least because they have persistently recurred on the agenda and might have portentous consequences.

This sentence is congruent with our para-phrased and simplified versions, and it makes logical sense. This is how we derive the correct options: A (remiss) and B (address).

Now that you have understood the 3 key strategies to answering Text Completion questions, how about trying out this hard-level question?

To read the explanation to the above question (and test yourself with more hard-level questions), click here. To find out more about common Text Completion Question types, click here.

To go back to an overview of the GRE Verbal Reasoning component, click here.