Sunday, August 14, 2011

28 out of 30

Again with the GRE Verbal, not the Quantitative. This time, it was three sets of ten Sentence Equivalence questions. These are a new type of question on the revised GRE. The object of the game is to select two words from a list, keeping in mind that both words must (1) properly complete the sentence (i.e., so that the result makes sense) and (2) keep the sentence's meaning similar, no matter which of the two correct words is used in the blank.

Here's an example from the Basic Level set in my Kaplan book:

5. The residents, who for many years relished the safe, idyllic surroundings of their suburban neighborhood, have in recent months faced __________ of vandalism.

A. a deficiency
B. an epidemic
C. a backlash
D. a scourge
E. an abatement
F. a revelry

The correct answers are B and D. Answer (A) makes no sense, since the contrast is between an idyllic existence and the recent appearance of crime. Answer (C) fails to make the grade because the sentence provides no evidence that the violence is the result of a backlash against anything. Answers (E) and (F), in their respective ways, also make no sense.

Here are the two problems I got wrong. Both are from the Advanced set. Feel free to leave your answers in the comments.

25. Not only was the author's prose __________ , but also his well-known penchant for dissembling colored the way that reviewers read his texts.

A. fulsome
B. effulgent
C. effusive
D. unctuous
E. cryptic
F. vulgar

27. The unchecked __________ of state secrets is a source of great concern to intelligence agencies.

A. proliferation
B. retention
C. lassitude
D. acquisition
E. dissemination
F. quality

Let me tell you: both of these problems bugged me even after I'd read the answer key and the explanations.



JSA said...

25. F
27. A

I wasn't very sure about 25, but I was basically just looking for something that would also "color the way that reviewers read his text".

Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Tough questions. I can only guess, based on a few possible indications.

26. E. cryptic

Because the author seems to be hiding things in his prose.

27. E. dissemination

I considered D. acquisition. But dissemination seemed more like something that could be described as "unchecked."

I'm curious as to the real answers.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

JSA said...

Jeez; I mistyped -- I meant "E" for 27 as well.

Kevin Kim said...

It could be that my explanation in the blog post wasn't clear, but you're supposed to select TWO words in each case. Problem 25 has two answers, and 27 does as well. The whole idea is that the two words you pick should (1) make sense and (2) give the sentence roughly the same meaning. As in problem 5 above, which I used as an example: "an epidemic of vandalism" and "a scourge of vandalism" both convey roughly the same meaning.

Would you two gents care to try again before I display the correct answers and begin ranting and raving about why I dislike both of these problems? (In this instance, I have to blame Kaplan, not ETS.)

JSA said...


25. D&F
27. A&E

For 27, if the removed the word "unchecked", I think B would be better than A.

Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

25. D. unctuous

Because we think that "unctuous" words are not sincere, therefore similar to "dissembling." (And I meant "25. E. cryptic" above.)

27. A. proliferation

I could imagine "acquisition," but it doesn't seem to fit with "unchecked."

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

Kevin Kim said...

So if I understand correctly:

JSA's picks are

25. D, F
27. A, E

Jeff's picks are

25. D, E
27. A, E

Note: on the actual test, both answers to a given problem must be correct for you to receive credit for the problem. No partial credit is given if only one of the two answers is correct.

The correct answers are:

25. A, D (fulsome, unctuous)
27. A, E (proliferation, dissemination)

The Kaplan text's reasons for choosing fulsome and unctuous for #25 are that both words have to do with insincerity. Fulsome, Kaplan says, means "excessive" or "over the top," which is "an excellent way to describe insincere prose." Unctuous means "excessively smug," which is "certainly insincere in its tenor." Cryptic, meanwhile, "makes sense on its own, but no other answer choice creates a similar sentence."

Both of you guessed (A, E) for #27, so there's little to discuss, I suppose, but I'm miffed by the question: to me, proliferate is intransitive whereas disseminate is transitive. For state secrets to proliferate is only natural: build new secret weapons, and you naturally have more secrets to protect. Kaplan, however, notes that dissemination and proliferation mean "spreading." Personally, I think that's not enough of a reason to pick proliferation, but if we're to play by the rules, then we have to select the pair of words that lead to sentences with similar meanings.

I feel gypped. In my opinion, #27 is a poorly written question.

As for #25... like Jeff, I selected (E), "cryptic," as one of my answers. The Kaplan text defines "to dissemble" as "to speak or act hypocritically," which is not what I usually think of. I normally take a dissembler to be a liar or, at the very least, a person who evades the truth when speaking. Hypocrisy requires a comparison of a person's speech and thoughts with their actions.

Test prep manuals repeatedly tell us not to "overthink" these tests, but I don't think that anything I've written here represents overthinking. Quite the contrary, these are exactly the sort of thoughts that flash through my mind during the test.

Final note: fulsome need not be negative in connotation. I've heard the phrase "fulsome praise" used before in reference to sincere, lavish praise. A quick check of confirms that I'm right: the word isn't exclusively negative.

JSA said...

I think you're right; both questions are poorly designed.

I didn't even realize that "fulsome" had a second sense, but a quick bit of research turned up this advice to avoid the word altogether. Given this other meaning of the word, I can sort of see the point of the question. I bet they wrote the question with the assumption that you would want to pick one of A-C and, realizing they are all roughly the same, would have to choose the one that had an insincere sense.

I also agree with your misgivings about "proliferation". Proliferation doesn't at all imply a leak -- it could just mean that the government is being more secretive, and thus more things are secret. Or it could mean that the spy agencies are doing a bang-up job and discovering far more secrets of enemy states.