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Text Completion Strategies—Don’t Get Lost in the Forest

At first considered a monstrous eyesore by the city’s denizens, the Taipei 101 building has come to be seen as a(n)  —- part of the urban landscape; were the building to suddenly disappear, its absence would be striking.

(A) beatific

(B) noteworthy

(C) exceptional

(D) inextricable

(E) intrusive

Look for the Keyword and Unlock the Sentence

The key word is a specific word or words that refer to the blank. If you don’t find the correct keyword, you won’t be able to come up with your own word. In this sentence, one keyword is striking. Notice how the keyword comes at the end of the sentence. Many times test takers do not read the entire sentence,  and/or focus only on the beginning part of the sentence.

Other keywords include monstrous eyesore. It is also important to note how the sentence has a shift: at one time the building was a monstrous eyesore, now it has come to be seen as —-. This shift is called a time shift, and signals that the blank is opposite to monstrous eyesore.

At this point, you may be able to come up with your own word. On the other hand, you may still be unsure exactly what the sentence is trying to say. If so, take the next step….

Take Apart Sentence in Own Words

GRE Text Completions can be a forest, with the verbiage serving as dense underbrush. It is easy to get lost in the woods, so to speak. One sign that you are lost in a Text Completion is when you begin reading the sentence over and over again, each time becoming more disoriented (a feeling not too different from literally getting lost in the woods and going around in circles).

But there is a way out: break down the sentence (or cut down the trees, to continue the bosky metaphor). To do so, you must look away from the sentence and phrase it in your own words. Let’s try:

The building was really big and ugly at first but now is —- because if it suddenly disappeared, it would be striking.

Hmm, so it seems that now, the building is just part of the landscape. If it suddenly disappeared, then people would actually notice it is gone. Its absence would be striking. But now people don’t seem to notice it any more—it has become commonplace/everyday.

The answer choice therefore is (D) inextricable

Don’t Plug and Chug

With the time relentlessly ticking down, we are tempted to rush through the sentence by plugging and chugging. This ill-advised technique entails taking each answer choice, plugging it back into the sentence, and seeing if it sounds right. If you take this approach, you will most likely misinterpret the sentence and answer the question incorrectly.

Let’s give the plug and chug a try:

(A)  beatific….hmm, that kind of sounds right because the building was a monstrous eyesore but now is beautiful. Beatific means beautiful, right? (It actually means blissfully happy).

(B)  Oh wait, maybe it’s noteworthy because it so big and noticeable…but…

(C)  Or exceptional…but it’s pretty exceptional because it’s a monstrous eyesore

(D)  Can a building be inextricable? Isn’t it too big to be inextricable?

(E)  Or it could be intrusive, because if it disappeared than it would be noticeable, because it was intruding so much before…or, or…

You can see how by the end of plugging and chugging, your mind can very well be spinning, without getting any closer to the answer. And just like that, we’re lost in the woods again, endlessly circling about, as the time ticks down.

So, find the keyword, note any sentence shifts. If you are unsure what the sentence is saying, then break it down in your own words. Finally, put in your own word and match that word with the answer choices. Then, you’ll be out of the forest.

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