Mastering GRE Text Completion: Essential Tips for Success


Acing the vocabulary questions on the GRE exam requires a combination of good vocabulary stock with quick comprehension skills and deliberate test-taking procedures. The vocabulary questions are divided into two major categories:

  1. Sentence Equivalence
  2. Text Completion

The Sentence Equivalence questions are simple and doesn’t have a variety. They have 1 blank and are accompanied by 6 answer choices, out of which two answers are correct.

On the other hand, Text Completion questions are of three types:

One blank

These questions will contain a single blank. One correct answer is to be chosen from 5 given answer choices.

Two blanks

These questions will contain two blanks and one have to choose one correct answer for each blank from the list of three given answer choices for each blank.

Three blanks

These questions will contain three blanks to be filled up and each blank will take one correct answer from the list of three given answer choices for each blank.

To get a credited response, all the answers should be correct. A partially correct answer will yield no score.

Let us look into a few tips that can help you to master the GRE Text Completion questions.

  • Work on Your Vocabulary

Having a good vocabulary is an integral part to deal with the GRE Text Completion questions. Active reading and revising the words regularly is essential. Add a variety to your reading materials to be able to understand the contextual meaning and the broad perspective behind certain words. But stocking up your vocabulary does not mean reading from any random dictionary. There are certain GRE Specific Vocabulary Word lists or GRE Specific Words Stock Apps that can help to learn the GRE Specific words. Also, one can take help of flashcards, prefixes and suffixes to deconstruct a word’s meaning and stock up words better.

For example: The word “Prescience” can be broken down into two parts.

Pre + Science

Pre: prior/before

Science: knowledge/information

The tentative meaning of this word can be having prior information about something or knowing something beforehand.

  • Looking for clues

Understanding the entire sentence is important before starting to solve the blank(s). You should read the sentence(s) carefully to grasp the context. While reading, also pay attention to the clues and the structural words. GRE Text Completion questions are always accompanied by clues. Once you are able to locate the clue, you will be able to solve the blank. Let us understand this better with the help of an example.

While visiting the Near East in the 1800s, P. Kingsworth was so __________________ belly dancing that later while penning down a letter to his sister, he mentioned that the dancers alone had made his trip worth the visit.

  1. Overwhelmed by
  2. Enamored by
  3. Taken aback by
  4. Beseeched by
  5. Flustered by

Explanation: The sentence here takes about Kingsworth and the experience that he had with the dancers performing belly dance. The clue for the sentence here is that the dancers who performed the belly dancing were alone sufficient to make his visit worthwhile. So, it is obvious that he enjoyed it and was fascinated by the dance form and the dancers. Enamored by is potential choice that explains his feeling. Overwhelmed by is extreme as it states that Kingsworth received much more than he could have handled or expected. Taken aback by on the other hand merely states that he was surprised or shocked by the performance of the dancers but that doesn’t necessarily suggest that his experience was a pleasant one. Similarly, beseeched by does not specify how Kingsworth felt, whereas if he were flustered by the performers, he would not have found his encounter with the dancers worthwhile.

  • Guessing the Word

As discussed above, GRE Text Completion questions are always going to have clues and structural words to help you guess the answer. If we look into the example above, a word of our own could have been “impressed” or “fascinated” based on the clue that “the dancers alone made his trip worthwhile”.

Thus, it is always better to guess a word based on the clues that will fit in and give logical meaning to the sentence.

Let us look into another example to see the role of structural words:

While Laura was dressed confidently and greeted guests with a happy face, it was evident from her continuous stutter that she was _________ deep within.

  1. cheerful
  2. sanguine
  3. beamed
  4. diffident
  5. contrite

Explanation: Here, the blank is talking about Laura. The clue states that “she was dressed confidently and greeted guests with a happy face” But, there is a transition word “while” which brings in a sense of contrast and indicates that she tried to look confident but was not. The blank is also accompanied by the next clue that states “her continuous stutter” which also indicates lack of confidence. So, your own word can be “not confident” or “nervous”.

Cheerful means full of good spirits, sanguine indicates hope, so does beamed.

Diffident is a good match here as it means hesitant in acting or speaking through lack of self-confidence. Contrite is an extreme word that means feeling or showing sorrow and remorse. There is no such clue here that suggests that Laura felt apologetic or regretful.

  • Tone of the passage/blank

Along with the clues and structural words, the tone of the passage or the blank in question can also help in guessing the word. If we look into the example above, the sentence initially had a positive tone but with the introduction of the structural word (while), the word we are looking for became a negative word. If we look at the answer options, Option a, b, and c had a positive tone while d and e had a negative connotation. So, now we are down to choosing between two answer choices and here knowing the meaning is very essential.

  • Getting rid of bad answer choices

Based on the contextual clues, presence of structural words, and the tone of the passage, you can get rid of bad answer choices. If there are answer choices that talks about something else in the passage and not the intended blank, you can easily get rid of that. Many a times ETS will provide words which may mean something close but would still be a trap; so, watch out for such trap words and match with the word you have come up with. If the particular word in question is not matching to your word, directly eliminate it. Any answer choice that goes in the opposite direction of what the blank is talking about, you can straight away eliminate such an answer choice. Lastly, the tone too will help to get rid of answer choices with the opposite tone. But, in all the three scenarios, vocabulary plays a crucial role. So, one crucial GRE Text Completion tip for GRE Text Completion questions is to read and revise your words regularly.

  • Treating all questions as alike

Another important GRE Text Completion tip is to not treat all the questions types as one.

For example, in a single blank question, you should focus on the entire sentence to grasp the meaning and then proceed towards understanding what is the blank looking for. However, for a two-blank question, the focus should also be on the relationship between both the blanks. Similarly, for a question with three blanks, read to establish the relationship first. Also, there is no order in which the blanks should be solved. Go for the blank that has the best clues. It will help in solving the other blanks as well, as the blanks for GRE Text Completion questions will always be interlinked.

  • Practice and preparation

All GRE Text Completion tips on one side and practice on the other. These tips and strategies can only be mastered if you utilize it on questions. Do not wait to directly apply these tips on the test. Employ them while you practice a bunch of questions and also when you take the practice test. Always practice questions from the official tests or other trustable resources like the Princeton Review that has a good amount of GRE Text Completion practice questions.

  • Review and repeat

After practicing a bunch of questions or taking a test, always review them carefully. It is always advised to attempt GRE Text Completion practice questions from resources where they provide explanation. Work along with the explanation can help to get a clearer understanding and close inspection will help you to understand where you are making the mistakes so that you do not repeat them. Another important GRE Text Completion tip for reviewing the questions is to keep a track of the erroneous words or difficult words. Maintain a word list and add these words along with two three synonyms and antonyms. This will not only help to retain the meaning of words but also expand your vocabulary.

  • Befriend Time

As the GRE is a time bound test always keep a tab of the time. While applying the tips and techniques, monitor the time. While reviewing the questions too, understand which questions are taking more time and accordingly work on them to reduce the time spent.

  • Consistency and Confidence

Overall, be regular with your practice as consistency is always the key to success. Stay calm and composed and be confident with your practice.

To summarize, note that having a strong vocabulary is crucial for mastering the GRE Text Completion questions but it is not the sole important factor. You need to become skilled at understanding the logic behind a sentence and be able to identity circumstantial clues that divulge the intended meaning. Furthermore, you should work towards practicing the effective strategies for tackling the GRE Text Completion questions on the test.

Sharing is caring:
Book your Free Counselling Session now!


Is vocabulary tested on the GRE Verbal Reasoning?

Yes, vocabulary is tested on the GRE Verbal Reasoning questions namely Text Completion and Sentence Equivalence.

Will having a strong Vocabulary help in solving GRE Text Completion questions?

Although, having a strong vocabulary is an extremely important tool to solve the GRE Text Completion questions, it is not the sole tool that one should rely on.

Is there a variety of the GRE Text Completion questions?

Yes, the GRE Text Completion questions are of three types: single blank, dual blank and triple blank.

Do the GRE Text Completion questions appear in only one module?

No, the Text Completion questions will appear on both the modules of the GRE Verbal Reasoning Section.

How many questions can I expect from the GRE Text Completion questions on the test?

Roughly 6-7 questions of the Verbal Reasoning Section will be from Text Completion.

Should I read words from a dictionary to solve the GRE Text Completion practice questions?

Not necessarily. You can look for the GRE Vocabulary specific word lists instead of learning random words from a dictionary. Manya GRE WordsApp contains 1500+ words.

Planning to study abroad?
Get free 1-on-1 counselling with our experts

Subscribe to this blog