GRE Text Completion: Tips & Strategies

The Graduate Records Examination is a standardized entrance test required for most graduate courses in the USA as well as many other countries. Often considered one of the toughest sections due to its intimidating vocabulary, the GRE verbal reasoning section, and especially the text completion part, if handled in the right manner, can be smoother than expected. This article discusses what the section is made up of and how to confidently face it.

What is Text Completion?

The GRE’s administrative body ETS made important changes in 2011 with a goal of reducing candidates’ emphasis on rote vocabulary learning, by changing the way GRE verbal questions are asked. The text completion section hence became a key part of the exam.

It contains texts that contain one or more blanks and multiple options for each blank, wherein the candidate has to select the most appropriate answer for each blank space from the given options. There are mainly three types of questions:

• Single blank questions with five answer choices.
• Double blank questions with three answer choices.
• Triple blank questions with three answer choices.

Each type can contain a total of three to five GRE verbal questions and some blanks may require a number of words. Take a look at the following sample question by ETS for a better idea:

You can choose one of the GRE verbal practice PDFs at ETS or at Manya.
How to prepare for GRE verbal reasoning?

The reason many candidates can find the text completion part difficult is because of the habit of viewing text completion more as a ‘filling’ task rather than an ‘interpretation’ task. There are a few important GRE verbal tricks which if followed, can make the text completion task seem friendlier.

Focus on the Question First

A lot of test-takers tend to look at both the text and the answer choices in parallel and try to make sense of it. However, this increases the complexity of the GRE verbal section and reduces one’s ability to easily interpret the question. A good way is to leave the options aside for a moment and carefully read the text with blanks. In most probability, you can automatically come up with some fitting words for the blanks, which may not be among the options, but can still provide much better clarity while selecting one of the choices.

Identify Signal Words

Signal words are those that signal the inclination or the attitude the sentence is going to assume further. For example,

Q: ‘His work was largely commended by the critics, but the masses (insert blank) his work’ Options:

• had a fondness for
• failed to acknowledge
• were marvelled by

In this case, the word ‘but’ signals that the second part of the sentence is going to contradict the fact in the first part, which indicates a positive response to the work. Thus the second part should indicate a non-positive response, thus the option ‘failed to acknowledge’ is correct. It is wise to list down and categorise the types of signal words for the sake of GRE prep, such as ‘and’, ‘also’ and ‘furthermore’ that signal continuation, or words such as ‘but’, ‘although’, ‘however’ that signal contradiction.

Using the Elimination Method

If more than one choice sounds correct and you seem to be confused over which one actually fits, then start with the one that does not sound fitting. Once you eliminate some options, there are fewer to choose from, which makes the process slightly easier.

Maximise Your Vocabulary Arsenal

This looks like the most obvious one, but increasing your GRE verbal word list is also the most basic requirement. All the other tips will be of no use if you do not know the words. Even though it is nearly impossible to learn all the English words there are, if you are well-versed with a number of them, you can be better at understanding context and applying logic to find the correct words.

Use Your Own Sequence

In a two or three blanks text, do not consider it mandatory to go in a fixed sequence. If you are struggling with the first word, read the text carefully and try going for the second or third word first. In the end, the correct way of doing things is what gets it done right.


The verbal section in GRE carries a maximum of 170 marks, out of which the text completion carries about a quarter of it. It is thus crucial to get a perfect hold of the text completion part. For working on the vocabulary, a GRE vocab builder or a GRE verbal reasoning book can be useful.

Did this article help you? We would like it to help others as well. Please share it with your peers. Also, if you are looking to seriously conquer the exam with a significant GRE verbal score, a quality GRE course by Manya-The Princeton review can be of great help. All the best!

Learn top experienced tips to ace the GRE: Download our FREE, Complete Study Guide to the GRE!

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