GRE Text Completion

Text Completion questions are designed to further test your ability to understand what you read. They will also test your vocabulary, particularly your ability to apply sophisticated vocabulary in context. You will be asked to read a short passage of 1-5 sentences. There will be 1-3 blanks in the passage where a crucial word is missing. You will need to fill in each blank using several options provided.

All Text Completion questions will be in multiple choice format. Each passage will have 1-3 blanks, and you will be given several options to choose from to fill in the blanks. Generally, passages with only one blank will have five options to choose from, while those with 2-3 blanks will have only three options per blank.

What does a Text Completion question look like?

Text Completion questions will always be based off a short passage of one or more sentences. The passage will have 1-3 blanks. You will be asked to read the passage and get a feel of what words will best complete it using several options given. Below are examples of what Text Completion questions will look like on the GRE revised General Test.

For each blank select one entry from the corresponding column of choices. Fill all blanks in the way that best completes the text.

1. Harry’ s ________ performance on the project both failed to impress his superiors and helped to lose the company an important client.

a) rapacious
b) desultory
c) indomitable
d) arcane
e) indefatigable

2. While far from the bane that some scholars have declared them to be, _________ versions of novels and essay do indeed excise essential elements; students would have to supplement their reading with ________sources to fully understand the intent of the original.

Blank IBlank II
a) Annotated     a) Complementary
b) Abridged b) Complimentary
c) Antedatedc) Compelling

3. If the candidate’ s speech was intended to stir up _______ feelings, he must have been solely disappointed by the almost ________ effect it had on the audience. Although it was refreshing to see a politician _________ inflammatory taglines in favor of reasoned argument, his speech was simply too long to hold the audience’ s attention.

Blank IBlank IIBlank III
a) Rancorous    a) Incendiarya) Eschew
b) Partisan    b) Noxious b) Preclude
c) Indigenous  c) Soporificc) Abhor

Answer key

1 Desultory
2 (i) Abridged (ii) Complementary
3 (i) Partisan (ii) soporific (iii) eschew

Text Completion Tips

In the first place, the passages used for Text Completion questions will generally be much shorter than those used for Reading Comprehension questions. This means that it will take you less time to carefully read a passage for a Text Completion. Moreover, Text completion questions are much more focused, and to answer them effectively, you may need to grasp subtle aspects of sentence structure.
When answering Text Completion questions, one of the key skills you will need is the ability to grasp the overall meaning of the passage even with certain words missing.
One of the key strategy while answering text completion question is to read the text completely to grasp the overall meaning of the passage. After doing this you will have an idea which the easiest blank is. Starting with the easiest blank first, fill all the blanks with a word of your own before you look at the answer options. Don’ t try to plug-in the answer choices because most of the times answer choices are smartly constructed. After filling the blank with a word of your own look for the closest synonym of the word out of options. If you are unsure of what some of the options mean and cannot identify closest synonym, try to eliminate words with opposite meanings to your own word.

Don’ t commit the mistake of filling the blank as you read. You have to read the entire passage and grasp the overall meaning of the passage first.

After reading the text completely. Don’ t assume that you should always fill in the first blank first. Always fill the easiest blank with a word of your own first. For some questions, it is difficult to fill in one blank without first correctly filling in another blank.

Often there are overt indications of which word will best complete the passage; either the word you need to complete the passage will be essentially defined in another clause, or the context will strongly suggest that you use a word with the opposite meaning to what has already been said. These contextual indicators are quite valuable, so keep a close eye out for them.
Be especially alert for words like “although” and “despite”. Also keep an eye out for words like “therefore”, “moreover” and “thus” which suggest summation or additional support for points that have already been made.
Always re-read the passage with the answer(s) you have selected and filled in to see whether the passage is grammatical and makes sense with the options you have chosen. Even if your choice seemed right, if it does not produce a coherent, grammatically correct passage, it is n’ t the correct answer.


Academic structures to know for Text Completions

In both text completion sections, there are certain phrases that may show up that can give the sentence a spin.

He was _______, always giving to those in need.

He was anything but ________, always giving to those in need.


What exactly does “anything but” mean?

We should know the meaning of “anything but” to attempt this question correctly and how these idiomatic phrases can be highly misleading if you’ re not paying close attention. Below are some of the most common phrases you can expect to see on the GRE. Keep an eye out for them when answering text completions, and be sure you feel comfortable with how they’ re used in sentences.


Nothing but

In most cases, the phrase nothing but means “only (something).”

When we went to her house, she was nothing but kind, showering us with gifts.

In his book critiques, Jones was nothing but fair, always judging an author on the merits of his or her latest novel, regardless of previous flops.


Anything but

In most cases, the phrase anything but means “not.”

He was anything but ________, always giving to those in need.

It’ s an expression that implies that he’ s many things, A, B, C and D…….but he’ s definitely not E. In this case, E would be the opposite of the second part of the sentence. A simple way to think about it is to replace anything but with not. As in, “he was (not) ________, always giving to those in need.”


All but

The phrase all but is identical to “.almost” It can also mean “everything except the ones mentioned” Contrast the two sentences below to see the differences in how the phrase is used.

All but the most famous actors of our day will likely not be remembered fifty years from now.

At the end of the marathon, Charles was all but dead; he stumbled across the finish line, mentioning something about his pet iguana.


At once X and Y

The phrase at once X and Y is a tricky structure! First off, X and Y are words or phrases that are opposite in meaning. Second, that’ s an “and” you see, and not an “or.” So this phrase is used to suggest an element of surprise because a person/thing has these opposing qualities.

At once melodious and dissonant, Perkins symphony is full of beautiful melodies that are suddenly interrupted by a burst of clashing gongs and screeching sopranos.

Melodious = X; dissonant = Y

He was at once hysterically funny, making people roll on the floor in laughter, and overly serious as soon as the conversation turned to politics.

Hysterically funny = X; overly serious = Y

At once forward-thinking and traditionalist, the mayor’ s new plan will usher in unprecedented changes while using approaches that have shown enduring efficacy in the civic share.

Forward-thinking = X; traditionalist = Y


Nothing more than

The phrase nothing more than is used to show that somebody is n’ t very good at something. The word that follows “than” should be a negative description.

He is nothing more than a second-rate musician, busking at a bus stops, his friends are always happy to escape his warbling falsetto.

Harry is nothing more than a seasoned Hollywood hack; his scripts are as numerous as they are contrived.


All the more so

If you want to add emphasis but need an entire phrase to do so, you can use all the more so.

Quentin’ s sudden termination was shocking- all the more so because he helped build the company as many know it today.


For all

The phrase for all is another way of saying “despite.”

For all his hard work, Michael was passed over for a promotion.

For all their talk on purging the environment of toxins, the two brothers can’ t do without their hourly smoke break.


If anything

The phrase if anything means “if at all.” It’ s meant to suggest that somebody is disagreeing with something and wants to prove that the other case is actually true.

Bob: It seems like this city is getting more dangerous every day.

Steve: Actually, it does n’ t seem that much worse from when I first moved here. If anything, the crime rate has actually dropped since the city’ s population has almost doubled in the last ten years.


As such

The phrase as such can be confusing because it is often misinterpreted as “therefore.” However, as such must refer to something that came before it.

Correct: The CEO walked around the office as though he was King Kong, walking over anyone who came in his way. As such, anyone who was n’ t upper management tried to avoid him.

Incorrect: We missed our train to Brussels. As such, we will have to take another one.


Not so much A as B

The phrase not so much A as B implies that to describe a situation, B is a better word or phrase than A.

The scholar was not so much insightful as he was patient: he would peruse texts far longer than any of his peers.

He was not so much jealous as downright resentful of his sister’ s talents, believing that their parents had put little interest in his education.


But for

The phrase but for is just another way of saying “except for.”

But for her eloquence, she had little aptitude as an attorney.

His contribution to cinema has been mostly forgotten but for his Oscar-winning role.


Save (for)

Similarly, the phrase save (for) means the same as “except(for).”

Watching TV was Mama’ s favorite activity, save for eating chocolate cream puffs.

Randy did not consider any of the class ruffians friends, save for Donald, who once came to his defense in a playground scuffle.


Stem from

To stem from just means to “come from” or “be caused by.”

His insecurity stems from his lack of friends in grade school.

The current crises stem from the former administration’ s inability to rein in spending.


GRE Text Completion

Sample Questions

Q 1) Ms. Llewellyn is known to gently ___________ students who do not do their homework, but because of her generally amiable demeanor, she refuses to punish anyone, and seldom even raises her voice.

a) Pillory
b) Detest
c) Malign
d) Penalize
e) chide

Ans 1) The sentence describes what the teacher “gently” does to “students who do not do their homework”. Her demeanor is generally amiable to punish them, so the blank must contain something like lightly criticize or “chide”.
Malign or Pillory means to criticize, it is impossible to gently “detest” or “pillory” them. “detest” means to loathe or hate.
Demeanor means person’s behavior or outward manner. Seldom means “almost never”.

Q 2) Far too ________ to consider a career in the political limelight, the unassuming aide contented herself with a career behind the scenes, ________ supporting the political heavyweights of her day.

a) Pillory
b) Detest
c) Malign
d) Penalize
e) chide

Ans 2) “Diffident” means lacking confident. “Apathetic” means showing no emotion or having no feeling. “implicit” means suggested but not stated directly. It has second meaning also. “implicit” means something stated directly without any doubt. “skeptical” means having or expressing doubt about something (such as a claim or statement).
“unassuming” means shy or not having or showing a desire to be noticed, praised etc. The initial “Far too” indicates that the first blank will oppose “limelight” (an old theatrical expression meaning to be in the spotlight) and agree with “unassuming” (Shy).
“Diffident” (shy or reserved) is a good match and is also a clue for the second blank, which must match the first one; “quietly” is the best choice.
She is supporting the political heavyweights of her day. Because of shyness, she does not want her to be in limelight. Focus is on her “shyness” and “diffidence”. Therefore, quietly is the best choice. “Implicitly”, “Skeptically” do not make sense.