Try these GRE Sentence Equivalence practice questions from the 5lb. Book of GRE Practice Problems to test your Sentence Equivalence skills. These five problems start simple, but the last few are as complex as anything you’ll see in an official GRE Sentence Equivalence problem.
To make the best use of these GRE Sentence Equivalence practice questions, start by setting a 6.5-minute timer, then do the entire set without pausing. Only check the explanations after you’re done, and try to figure out as much as you can on your own before checking the answer!
GRE Sentence Equivalence Question 1: Dancers
A field trip was arranged so that this troupe of ______ dancers could observe the real masters of their art.
GRE Sentence Equivalence Question 2: Distrust
Many people erroneously believe that humans are naturally ______ to distrust or even fear those outside of their social or cultural group; anthropologists and social scientists, however, have consistently shown that xenophobia is a learned behavior.
GRE Sentence Equivalence Question 3: New Law
By framing the new law as a question of urgent safety rather than of privacy, the government obviated the need to pass through the standard channels of legislation, effectively ______ all formal dissent and relegating any would-be naysayer from a position of engaged activist to that of powerless bystander.
GRE Sentence Equivalence Question 4: Communism
Isherwood’s sympathy for communism during the interwar period was not only a reaction against fascism, but also a mark of his fellow feeling for the laboring classes and his ______ to engage as an equal with working people.
GRE Sentence Equivalence Question 5: Incumbent
Only by overlooking the grievances frequently expressed by her constituency could the incumbent think that the pandering advertisements would do anything but ______ her campaign.
Okay, you’re done with the set! Bring out your problem log before you move on to the explanations. Try not to just skim the explanations, looking for whether you got the problem right or wrong! Instead, pause first and look over the questions again on your own. See if you can catch any mistakes you might have made. Feel free to look up any unknown words at this point, too! Once you’re satisfied that you’ve gotten as much as you can out of these problems, move on to the explanations.
Explanation 1: Dancers
This GRE Sentence Equivalence problem is relatively light on clues. The only clue is that the dancers are observing the real masters of their art. Who would need to observe the real masters of an art? People who are new to that art. In fact, two of the answer choices are synonyms meaning new: novice and fledgling. These are the correct answers. Expert and seasoned are antonyms of the correct answer, while torpid, meaning lazy or motionless, is unrelated. Lithe is a tempting answer, since it is often used to refer to dancers; however, there is no specific support for it in the sentence, and there is no synonym for it in the answer choices. This is an example of a theme trap.
Explanation 2: Distrust
In this GRE Sentence Equivalence problem, the sentence contrasts two ideas: the erroneous beliefs of many people, and the correct beliefs of anthropologists and social scientists. One of the core skills tested by the GRE Verbal section is your ability to figure out how two or more ideas relate to each other. In this case, there’s a contrast between the ideas.
The anthropologists and social scientists have shown that xenophobia, or the fear of outsiders, is a learned behavior. To contrast with this, other people must believe that fearing outsiders is natural or inborn. Indoctrinated, taught, and compelled are the opposite of this, while proven is unrelated and also has no synonym among the other answer choices. The only synonyms that mean something like inborn are disposed (to) and prone (to).
Explanation 3: New Law
In the first half of the sentence, the government obviated the need to pass through the standard channels of legislation. In other words, it enacted a law without going through the usual legal process.
Two things happened as a result of this. Those two things are joined with an and, showing that they’re directly related. One result was that the government’s decision relegated any would-be naysayer to a powerless bystander. In other words, the decision kept people who disagreed with the law from voicing their complaints. This is the same thing as stopping or preventing formal dissent. So, the word that goes in the blank should mean something akin to stopping. Be sure to predict this answer before you check the answer choices!
Lobbying for something means promoting it, not stopping it. Instigating and facilitating mean something similar. The only remaining answer choices are curtailing, undermining, and targeting. Of these, curtailing and undermining are the best synonyms: in the sentence, they both mean that the government prevented any attempts at formally disagreeing with the law.
Explanation 4: Communism
This GRE Sentence Equivalence problem offers three reasons for Isherwood’s sympathy for communism. First, it was a reaction against fascism. Second, it was a mark of his fellow feeling for the laboring classes. Finally, it was a mark of his ______ to engage as an equal with working people. What goes in the blank?
All you have to go on is the relationship between the three reasons, and the fact (from earlier in the sentence) that Isherwood was sympathetic to communism. Communism is an ideology that promotes workers’ ownership of their labor; also, Isherwood is described as having fellow feeling for the laboring classes. On this basis, he probably had a tendency to engage as an equal with working people.
Disinclination and unwillingness are synonyms, but they mean the opposite of tendency. Eliminate these. Implacability and joviality are both unrelated to the sentence. Someone who is implacable can’t be calmed down, and someone who is jovial is happy and cheerful. Eliminate these as well. That leaves hankering and proclivity as the right answers. Although these two words aren’t perfect synonyms—hankering refers to someone’s desire to do something, while proclivity refers more to their habits or tendencies—in this context, they both mean the same thing, which is that Isherwood did want to engage with working people.
Explanation 5: Incumbent
The answer choices in this GRE Sentence Equivalence problem aren’t incredibly tough—although there are some GRE vocabulary words here!—but the sentence itself is a tangled mess. That’s why this one is included here. Carefully break it down into ideas that relate to each other.
Start with the basic framework of the sentence: Only by doing something, the candidate thinks something.
The blank appears in the second half of the sentence, so start by figuring out the first half. The candidate is overlooking something. What is she overlooking? Grievances frequently expressed by her constituency. So, the candidate is ignoring complaints, and there are a lot of those complaints!
In the second half, the candidate has an idea about the effect of her pandering advertisements. Specifically, she thinks that they won’t have a certain effect on her campaign.
Pandering is a negative quality: someone who panders is working excessively hard (and obviously so) to please a person or group, often being insincere in the process. So, if the candidate is overlooking complaints, she must think that her pandering, trying to please constituents, is actually helping her campaign.
So, she must think that the pandering advertisements won’t hurt the campaign. The blank should mean something like hurt.
Of the answer choices, three are positive: eliminate bolster, encourage, and restore. Of the three remaining words, the correct answers are hobble and hamstring, which are synonyms meaning ‘prevent success.’ The other negative word, aggrieve, refers to inflicting pain or sadness on someone. Only a person can be aggrieved; it doesn’t make sense to talk about aggrieving a campaign. 📝
See that “SUBSCRIBE” button in the top right corner? Click on it to receive all our GRE blog updates straight to your inbox!
Chelsey Cooley is a Manhattan Prep instructor based in Seattle, Washington. Chelsey always followed her heart when it came to her education. Luckily, her heart led her straight to the perfect background for GMAT and GRE teaching: she has undergraduate degrees in mathematics and history, a master’s degree in linguistics, a 790 on the GMAT, and a perfect 170Q/170V on the GRE. Check out Chelsey’s upcoming GRE prep offerings here.