"Give them the gift of words"

Dec
26th

Studying for the GRE: Words in Context

Categories: Vocabulary Improvement Tips | Tags:

One of the best features of the Vocab1 program is the opportunity it gives you to gain confidence in using new words by learning how to use them correctly in context. We provide numerous examples, as well as exercises that help you practice selecting the most appropriate word to complete a sentence. If you’re studying for the GRE, practicing sentence completion is an important part of your test preparation.

Here’s an example of a sentence-completion exercise:

The research assistant attempted to duplicate the professor’s laboratory tests, but the instructions he left for her to follow were so ____________ that her results never __________.

a) detailed … corresponded
b) outdated … differed
c) ambiguous … matched
d) precise … matched
e) illegible … finished

First, read the sentence to yourself and get a sense of its meaning. In this example, the sentence has a negative tone; you can see this by the use of the words attempted, but, and never. Keep this general idea in mind as you look at the pairs of words to choose from.

Let’s look at option (a): detailed and corresponded. If you fill these words in, the sentence says that the instructions were so detailed that the results never corresponded, or matched. This doesn’t make sense, because usually the more detailed the instructions are in a laboratory experiment, the more chance there is of getting the same result every time. The only way this would make sense is if the instructions were TOO complicated. Option (d) also uses a positive word in the first position, and another one in the second position. Using this pair of words, the sentence says that the instructions were so precise (accurate and easy to follow) that the results never matched. Again, this doesn’t make sense.

Filling in the blanks with the pair of words in option (b) gives us the statement that the instructions were so outdated that the results were the same every single time. Outdated generally means “no longer accurate” so it wouldn’t make sense that her tests, using bad data, would match his results. In addition, the assistant is trying to duplicate a set of results (and therefore “never differed” would be a good thing); however, the word but implies a negative outcome.

Option (e) looks like a good choice at first: the instructions were so illegible (hard to read) that the results never finished. Wait a minute, though – “results” don’t “finish.” If the sentence read “… that she could never finish the tests” then we could consider this pair, but as it is, the sentence would not be grammatically correct, so we can eliminate this option.

We’re left with option (c). Using these words turns the sentence into a statement that the results were so ambiguous, or unclear, that her results never matched his. The meaning of the sentence makes sense in context, and the sentence is grammatically correct. By first determining the overall intent of the sentence and then comparing all possible choices, we’ve come up with the right answer.