GRE Sentence Equivalence - Key Words

Similar to the tactics for text completion questions, the correct answer to a sentence equivalence question will always maintain the overall flow and meaning of the sentence. To easily detect the flow of a sentence, you'll want to look for key words which indicate a shift in meaning, tone, etc., or which otherwise maintain certain tone and hence imply continuation of a theme.

For example, consider the following sentence:

In most ways Sarah was traditional; however her taste in music was _____.

  • multifarious
  • peculiar
  • demanding
  • predictable
  • eccentric
  • voracious

Even before you look at the answer choices, you should note that this sentence is a compound sentence—there are two statements, joined through the use of a semicolon. Most importantly, notice that the second part of the statement begins with the word “however,” which is a contrast word, and so the general tone and meaning of the second part of the sentence should be in contrast to the first. In the first part of the sentence the main idea is that of being overjoyed, which is a positive emotion, and so the second part of the sentence should imply the opposite, as indicated by the use of the contrast word “however.” Possible answer choices for the blank are thus stress, consternation, angst, etc., all of which are roughly opposite in meaning of joy. Only after you have done such analysis should you then proceed to the answer choices.

If we think about the word multifarious, it means varied, or having many parts. That doesn’t seem to work. Peculiar means unusual, or strange, and that could work. Demanding seems to extreme for the context of this sentence. Predictable is too similar to traditional, and seeing as how we are looking for an opposite, it won’t work. Eccentric is the opposite of traditional, meaning unconventional, so that would definitely work. And voracious, meaning eager, does not make any sense in this case. Thus, the answer choices peculiar and eccentric seem to work best, as they both signify the opposite of traditional. Last, but not least, read the sentence with your answer choices to make sure they sound grammatically, stylistically, and logically correct.