Spotting Consistent Ideas in GRE Sentence Equivalence

Sentence Equivalence is one of the newer GRE Verbal question types (replacing the older Sentence Completions). Like Sentence Completions, Sentence Equivalence consists of one sentence with one blank. Unlike Sentence Completions, there are two correct answers and not one, and you must get both to get the question correct.

To solve Sentence Equivalence, you’ll need to know 1) the relationship of the blank to the rest of the sentence, and 2) the meaning of the entire sentence. There are approximately 8 total Sentence Equivalence questions on the GRE, 4 on each Verbal section. These questions should take approximately 1 minute each.

Consistent Ideas is one of the four types of Sentence Equivalence questions. In Consistent Ideas questions, the blank will mirror or extent the logic of the rest of the sentence. Like it sounds, the blank will continue the ideas of the rest of the sentence. You’ll be able to recognize this type because of certain constructions.

Here are common “Consistent Ideas” key words and phrases to look out for: for this reason, again, to reiterate, along with, in addition, for example, to illustrate, thus, likewise, similarly, since, also, and, next, as well as, as a result, to sum up, concluding, additionally, etc.

Let’s look at an example Sentence Equivalence question:

1. As a teacher of creative writing, Mercedes demanded her students’ best work; likewise, her own fiction was often subjected to ———– analysis by those same students.

A. scrupulous
B. equitable
C. reverent
D. spiteful
E. malicious
F. rigorous

We know this is a Sentence Equivalence Consistent Ideas question because of the keyword “likewise.” The semicolon tells us the second half of the sentence will mirror the logic of the first half. The key phrase is “demanded” which explains the relationship. We can predict something like “demanding” for the blank. We need a word that is neither positive nor negative, but shows a strong, exacting demand.

4 Steps for Two-Blank Sentence Equivalence Questions

One the Revised GRE, Sentence Equivalence questions contain one, two, or three blanks. Two of the answer choices (out of six presented on the GRE) will be correct, and you will need to understand both the meaning of the sentence/s as a whole and be able to identify the clues in the sentence to find the correct blanks. For better scores on GRE Verbal questions like these, follow these easy tips on your GRE Test Day!

STEP 1: Write down the keywords. As you read the sentence, you will be on the lookout for keywords, words that describe the blank or relate to the overall flow of the sentence (transition words). Write them down! It may seem redundant, but the act of writing them down will slow down your impulses and force your brain to think critically. What do the words tell you about the blank?

STEP 2: Write down a prediction for the easiest blank. Once you’ve analyzed the keywords and punctuation of a sentence, you can come up with a prediction for the blank which seems the most straightforward to you. It doesn’t have to be a great prediction, but make sure you do write something down. Even a simple prediction like, “a negative word” or “something like sad” is great! Don’t let yourself read the answer choices without a written-down prediction. If you don’t write it down, you will likely forget it as you read the answer choices.

STEP 3: Eliminate answer choices based on that prediction. Instead of scanning the answers quickly looking for the correct one, carefully move through the choices from A to F, eliminating the answer choices that could not possible match your prediction. Only worry about scanning the column for the blank you predicted for – don’t even read the other words.

STEP 4: Plug in for the remaining blank, if necessary. If you have more than two answer choices left after eliminating, then plug them into the sentence to see which ones are correct. Remember that for Sentence Equivalence, there will be two correct answers!

How to Solve 1-Blank GRE Sentence Equivalence Questions

In Sentence Equivalence questions on the New GRE, the blank(s) will always have a relationship to the rest of the sentence. We identify keywords because it helps us understand this relationship. Some blanks will have a “defining” relationship, meaning the blank will be defined by the rest of the sentence, so you’ll look for a word to embody the description. Other blanks will have a “contrasting” relationship, and you’ll need to choose the word that provides the best contrast to the describing keywords.

On harder Sentence Equivalence, you will often see a more complex relationship, such as “causation.” Let’s see an example of how we can identify keywords to show us the relationship, and allow us to predict for the blank.

Although appliance manufacturers would have you believe otherwise, items like blenders and toasters are not requirements for the creation of a delicious meal; for centuries, our ancestors cooked without these modern _______.

A) conveniences
B) hindrances
C) requisitions
D) creeds
E) incidents
F) utilities

Let’s pick out the keywords:

Although appliance manufacturers would have you believe otherwise, items like blenders and toasters are not requirements for the creation of a delicious meal; for centuries, our ancestors cooked without these modern _______.

“Although” is a common keyword that introduces a contrast. The manufacturers want you to believe the “blenders and toasters” ARE requirements. The word “these” in the second clause refers back to the “blenders and toasters” in the first clause. The clauses here contrast with each other, but the blank is going to be a word that describes “blenders and toasters.” A good prediction would be a word like “appliances.” Essentially, a word that could describe an tangible object.

Scanning the answer choices, B, C, D, and E do not refer to tangible objects. The correct answers must be A and F. After identifying the keywords and making a prediction, we barely had to consider each answer choices. Process of elimination allows us to identify the correct choices (always two for sentence equivalence questions) quickly and effectively! There’s never a need to re-read the sentence 6 times with each answer choice plugged in.