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Explanations to the TC Challenge Questions

About a month back, I released some new TC questions I’d come up with—questions inspired, albeit somewhat loosely, by ETS’s verbal guide. The response to these questions was more than I had expected. I was quite surprised. Of course, many people simply wanted the answers and the explanations. In that regard, I was totally
derelict. So my apologies! Here are the questions and the long-awaited explanations :).


Long considered folk wisdom, the notion that talent is _______ has recently been called into doubt by those asserting that the emergence of talent is predicated on a complex interplay of circumstances (disciplined training, external motivation, early exposure), thereby suggesting that _______ may play a far less crucial role than previously thought.

Blank (i)

(A) hard-wired
(B) fleeting
(C) moldable

Blank (ii)

(D) practice
(E) upbringing
(F) genetics


Those questioning the “notion” believe that talent is based (“predicated”) on circumstances or, more loosely speaking, environment. Therefore, they are questioning the notion that talent is innate/hard-wired, i.e., something we are born with. Therefore, what will play a far less crucial role than previously thought (“long considered folk wisdom”) is genetics. Answers are (A) and (F).



Surveys recently administered to middle-level managers in the technology sector suggest that an eager willingness on the part of a new employee to complete tasks is hardly a reliable indicator of whether that employee will continue to work (i) ____________; after all, even the most (ii) ____________ of new hires takes a while to exhibit the first signs of malingering.

Blank (i)
(A) after hours
(B) uninterrupted
(C) with gusto

Blank (ii)
(D) uncaring
(E) outgoing
(F) alacritous


This question is all about eager willingness. The first blank will relate to the clue continuing to work with eager willingness. (A) is not a direct match with the clue—just ask anyone who has hard to work after hours. (B) is also vague and doesn’t clearly match up with the idea of showing eager willingness while you work (you can plod through your work uninterrupted. This leads to the second blank.

The context is as follows: Just because you work eagerly at first does not mean you will continue to do so. Even those who eventually end up avoiding work by feigning illness (that’s what a malingerer does) will take a while not to act with eager willingness. This points to (F), which means eager willingness. Now, you don’t necessarily have to know that word; you just have to know that neither (D) and (E) squarely fit the context. For instance, you can definitely be an outgoing malingerer (I’ve known quite a few of these over the years).



The notion that our political parties trumpet their differences during election time only to make amends as soon as the incumbent is sworn into office has become ________; reelection into any political office has long come with _______—nary a peep of dissent against the party line or your political career is kaput.

Blank (i)
(A) trite
(B) untenable
(C) hazardous

Blank (ii)
(D) a heightened sense of danger
(E) a series of broken promises
(F) the concession of unflinching partisanship


This is a toughie. The first part is saying that there is an idea floating about, one that goes like this: during election time the different parties pretend they are much different, but once the election is over that changes and they are buddy-buddy (“make amends”). The second part of the sentence shows that this notion is totally wrong: anyone who wants to get reelected will always stick to the party line.

Therefore, once an incumbent is in office, the differences are still very important. (A) was a trap answer that many went for. It actually means unoriginal. We want a word, however, that shows that the notion is flat out wrong, or (B). If an idea or a position is untenable it cannot be defended. (F) matches up nicely with the idea of being in lockstep with the party line.

Very Hard #1

Amrulka maintains that the media is all too quick to peddle the common trope of the prevaricating politician; in doing so, she argues, it overlooks the possibility that the inability to account for one’s actions during a scandal is not necessarily tantamount to _______.

(A) ineptitude
(B) complicity
(C) vindication
(D) backpedalling
(E) repudiation


This question is pretty dense. Luckily, there is a clue: prevaricating means intentionally lying. The sentence is saying that just because a politician doesn’t speak out about a scandal he or she has been implicated in doesn’t mean they are guilty. Answer: (B).

(D) and (E) both imply trying to account for one’s actions. Though (D) implies that the person implicated is not doing a very convincing job. Still, the specific word we need is guilty and only complicity matches that.


Very Hard #2

In an age in which the shameless confessional has reached its clumsy apotheosis on social media sites, which are ceaselessly abuzz with up-to-the-minute revelations, the work of the memoirist seems (i)______ the zeitgeist. This turn of events is not altogether surprising considering that, unlike those who pour forth their innermost thoughts the moment they hatch, the memoirist does the opposite: she must mull over—often to the point of obsession—those details that will best make for a compelling narrative, even if the result (ii) ______ the original sentiment. Her art, then, is ultimately one of (iii) ______

Blank (i)
(A) suspiciously dependent upon
(B) curiously disconnected from
(C) more in step than ever with

Blank (ii)
(D) invokes
(E) obscures
(F) disregards

Blank (iii)
(G) outright refusal
(H) subtle concession
(I) partial concealment


This sentence has a lot going on in terms verbiage. The key is to home in on the important parts. How does the memoirist relate to those who use social media sites to transmit “shameless confessional” . The “unlike” hints that the memoirist is different from the shameless confessors. Therefore, (B) works best. “Zeitgeist”, by the way, means the spirit of the times. Notice this word applies the shameless confessors (“in an age”).

For the second blank, we are explicitly dealing with how the memoirist differs from the confessors. She actually withholds details in the name of a good story. So she is partially concealing (this points to (I) for the third blank) certain details— something that is very different from shamelessly confessing. (E) works well with the idea that she is giving the unvarnished truth. In other words, what the memoirist originally felt not come through clearly in her writing, since she is more focused on a compelling story.

Notice, too, how (E) and (I) are consistent. Sure, (F) and (G) are also consistent, but both are far too extreme for the context. The memoirist is not disregarding her experience completely and refusing to tell anything. She simply not just dumping thoughts the “moment they hatch”, the way many do on social media sites these days.

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