GRE Verbal : Style, Intensity, and Connotation in Three-Blank Texts

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for GRE Verbal

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Style, Intensity, And Connotation In Three Blank Texts

Choose the word or set of words that best completes the following sentence.

After years of detective work, Gerard could find even the most __________ of crimes to be rather pedestrian; however, this particular murder was so __________ that even he could not __________ its horror.

Possible Answers:

salubrious . . . gregarious . . . falsify

vindictive . . . licentious . . . consider

standard . . . amazing . . . believe

heinous . . . brutal . . . process

baffling . . . foreign . . . salute

Correct answer:

heinous . . . brutal . . . process

Explanation:

The end of the second sentence can actually help us with the first blank. Apparently, Gerard cannot understand the horror of this crime. (This will become even more clear as we consider the blanks all together.) It seems that even the most horrible of crimes did not shock him. (To be called "pedestrian" means more than walking on the street! It means also to be ordinary.) Something "heinous" is extremely wicked-seeming. That is the best option for the first blank. Options like "baffling" and "vindictive" just do not capture this great wickedness or horror. The murder was one that was apparently quite bad, so "brutal" works well for such a killing. The final blank is perhaps the weakest of them all, but the general idea is that Gerard could not process the idea or reality of its horror.

Example Question #2 : Style, Intensity, And Connotation In Three Blank Texts

Choose the word or set of words that best completes the following sentence.

After so many years of __________, Judy’s temperament was quite __________, so much so that her husband would carry tissues to dry the tears that regularly accompanied her __________ about the difficulties of life.

Possible Answers:

anger . . . mercurial . . . bombasts

illness . . . vexed . . . weeping

adversity . . . lachrymose . . . lamentations

feebleness . . . fatigued . . . moaning

devotion . . . flagged . . . remarks

Correct answer:

adversity . . . lachrymose . . . lamentations

Explanation:

The best clue for this sentence is the general fact stated at the very end of the sentence, namely that Judy apparently complained about the difficulties of life. This is a very general point and does not allow us to guess if her difficulties were from illness, angering situations, or anything else specific like that. Therefore, the general term "adversity" (meaning difficulties) is the best option for the first blank. The word "lachrymose" is related to the "lachrymal" glands, that is, the tear ducts. To be "lachrymose" is to be "weepy" in temperament—something indicated by the regular occurrence of tears mentioned in the sentence. Finally, "lamentations" are expressions of sadness, something that likely would accompany tears.

Example Question #3 : Style, Intensity, And Connotation In Three Blank Texts

Choose the word or set of words that best completes the following sentence.

After many years of __________ his trade, Timothy had become a(n) __________ pressman, now able to train the __________ who were learning how to run the newspaper's press.

Possible Answers:

plying . . . adept . . . novices

belittling . . . exhausted . . . neophytes

bearing . . . expert . . . maestros

enjoying . . . retiring . . . hires

mastering . . . journeyman . . . employees

Correct answer:

plying . . . adept . . . novices

Explanation:

The implication of this sentence clearly is that Timothy had worked at his trade for some time. It is a stock expression to speak of "plying one's trade," meaning diligently working at one's trade. He has mastered it, but he is not a journeyman, which is a type of trainee. Likewise, he is implied to be a master (of sorts), but the new men are not "maestros"!  So, after plying his trade, Timothy had become "adept," meaning "very able." To be a "novice" is to be someone new to something. The prefix "nov-" can often mean new, coming from the Latin "novus,"meaning new.

Example Question #4 : Style, Intensity, And Connotation In Three Blank Texts

Choose the word or set of words that best completes the following sentence.

The large plaza became an utter __________ of activity as the crowds __________, quickly filling the lot, which had heretofore been relatively __________.

Possible Answers:

disaster . . . rioted . . . disabused

occurrence . . . disseminated . . . palatial

protest . . . shouted . . . underappreciated

maelstrom . . . coalesced . . . vacant

rush . . . hurried . . . vapid

Correct answer:

maelstrom . . . coalesced . . . vacant

Explanation:

The best first clue to note is the fact that the lot was becoming filled. This implies that it had been empty heretofore. Thus, the last blank is best filled with "vacant" which means empty. It is related to words like "vacuum" and "vacation" (an "emptying" of time from work). A "maelstrom" is a kind of whirlpool, but it can also mean a very vigorous kind of activity that is like such a formation in the water. It seems the crowds are gathering in the once-empty lot. Therefore, they are "coalescing" there. This means coming together into one group.

Example Question #5 : Style, Intensity, And Connotation In Three Blank Texts

Choose the word or set of words that best completes the following sentence.

Although Dorothy said that she was merely __________, in fact, she had a quite quite __________ personality, which greatly annoyed her sister, who had a much harsher __________.

Possible Answers:

concerned . . . judgmental . . . worldview

caring . . . loving . . . outlook

outrageous . . . insane . . . perspective

legalistic . . . judicious . . .  kindling

sentimental . . . maudlin . . . temperament

Correct answer:

sentimental . . . maudlin . . . temperament

Explanation:

This sentence expresses an intensification from the first blank to the second one. To find the appropriate meaning, we can begin by looking at the description given of Dorothy's sister. Her sister was harsher in some way. This means that Dorothy must have been kinder or, at least, less harsh. "Caring . . . loving" is the most tempting wrong pair. This is a kind of intensification. However, it is not as good as "sentimental . . . maudlin".  Maudlin means excessively sentimental. This works well. Furthermore, it is more likely that we are talking about her sister's personality than her sister's "outlook." Therefore, "temperament" is a better choice for the last blank than is "outlook."

Example Question #6 : Style, Intensity, And Connotation In Three Blank Texts

Choose the word or set of words that best completes the following sentence.

Ronald had quite a jittery temperament and would __________ at the smallest of __________. Therefore, it was not surprising that he jumped up and hit his head when the tuba's music suddenly __________ through the large hall.

Possible Answers:

cry . . . strains . . . intoned

incline . . . occasions . . . blasted

start . . . sounds . . . resonated

limp . . . happenings . . . echoed

upend . . . trinkets . . . boomed

Correct answer:

start . . . sounds . . . resonated

Explanation:

Several initial clues help to interpret this sentence. Of course, it is important to notice that Ronald is "jittery", implying that he has a nervous temperament. Now, his reaction to the tuba music is to jump up and hit his head. Thus, we have a pair here between the first blank and this action. Almost all of the options for the third blank are tempting, so it is necessary to read them in conjunction with options for the first blank. (On some tests the answers might be independent; however, this kind of "parallel reading of options" is an important skill to have for unraveling the options provided on test day as well.)

The tuba clearly makes a loud sound and elicits a large reaction. We can be almost totally sure that the second blank will be "sounds," so long as the other two words match well. At the smallest sound, Ronald would react as well. We only know that he would jump, so our first blank should be as close to that as possible. When someone "starts," he or she jumps with a sudden, small movement in surprise. This is much better than the other options provided for the first blank. Clearly, the tuba is eliciting an strong reaction, so the sound must have been rather loud. Therefore, "resonated" does well describe the sound the tuba made as its sound filled the hall. Certainly, "blasted" and "boomed" could work, but they are not paired well with the options for the first blank. 

Example Question #7 : Style, Intensity, And Connotation In Three Blank Texts

Choose the word or set of words that best completes the following sentence.

Admittedly, being a __________ requires one to be __________ to a superior's instructions; however, some people are utterly __________, refusing to question any orders whatsoever.

Possible Answers:

rascal . . . inferior . . . belittled

thug . . . fierce . . . tenacious

worker . . . amenable . . . churlish

mortal . . . available . . . trodden

subordinate . . . obedient . . . obsequious

Correct answer:

subordinate . . . obedient . . . obsequious

Explanation:

The easiest pair of blanks in this question are the last two. They represent an intensification. We can tell this by the word "utterly," which signals completeness. The only pair that might be tempting in this regard is "fierce . . . tenacious," for the latter means persisting with vigor or (more literally) holding on to something fiercely. (The word comes from the Latin "teneo," meaning to hold or keep.) That does not make much sense with the hint phrase "refusing to question any orders whatsoever."

Thus, the best pair is "obedient . . . obsequious." To be "obsequious" is to be excessively obedient—like someone who cringes and follows every order given to him or her. The relationship that helps us choose the first blank is one between a superior and someone "under" the superior. A "subordinate" is such a person. The word literally means placed ("-ordinate") under ("sub-").

Example Question #8 : Style, Intensity, And Connotation In Three Blank Texts

Choose the word or set of words that best completes the following sentence.

The small skin abrasion did not seem to __________ Ronald's __________; nevertheless, he was filled with fear at the thought of how he could become __________ so easily.

Possible Answers:

hint at . . . mortality . . . wounded

alleviate . . . braggadocio . . . scratched

adulterate . . . allure . . . rancid

betoken . . . health . . . destroyed

wheedle in . . . carelessness. . . maimed 

Correct answer:

hint at . . . mortality . . . wounded

Explanation:

Clearly, Ronald is filled with fear at his wound—as is indicated by the second independent clause in this sentence. However, we should not say that he was filled with fear at the thought of how he could become maimed (or any other form of extreme injury). He was merely wounded by a small skin abrasion (i.e. a scrape). The sentence hints that he was filled with more fear than necessary. If the abrasion filled Ronald with such fear, it likely made him think of the fact that he could die—i.e. the fact that he is mortal. Though perhaps an overreaction, the sentence hints that he was reminded of his mortality. Hence, "hint at . . . mortality" is the best pairing for the first two blanks.

Example Question #9 : Style, Intensity, And Connotation In Three Blank Texts

Choose the word or set of words that best completes the following sentence.

Many think that the medieval university was a(n) __________ environment with little __________ when, in fact, it was the locus of quite __________ disagreement both publicly and privately.

Possible Answers:

academic . . . imbecility . . . docile

bitter . . . agreement . . . questionable

pedantic . . . exultation . . . surprising

equitable . . . unfairness . . . tumultuous

tranquil . . . disputation . . . fervid

Correct answer:

tranquil . . . disputation . . . fervid

Explanation:

The sentence hints at a contrast between the first and the third blanks. Additionally, the third blank is signaled to be a strong adjective, given the adverb "quite." The word "fervid" means extremely passionate, which works well as regards both the intensity and the noun that is being described, namely "disagreement." In contrast to this, one would think the medieval university to be a calm environment. Hence, "tranquil" is an excellent option for the first blank, meaning free from disturbance. Such tranquility was broken by public and private disagreement. Thus, the best choice for the second blank is "disputation," which well describes such disagreement.

Example Question #10 : Style, Intensity, And Connotation In Three Blank Texts

Choose the set of words that best completes the following sentences.

The interview with the renown physicist was an exercise in futility; his responses were so __________ that even the interviewer, who had a PhD in the subject herself, found his explanations to be overly __________ and nearly impossible to follow. It was clear he was not willing to forego the use of technical __________ in order to make his work more accessible to laypeople.

Possible Answers:

ancillary . . . recondite . . . pandering

arcane . . . esoteric . . . jargon

spurious . . . substantial . . . slang

circumlocutory . . . trenchant . . . trappings

cryptic . . . superfluous . . . know-how

Correct answer:

arcane . . . esoteric . . . jargon

Explanation:

Based on the context of the sentence, we know that the interivewer found the physicist's responses to be "overtly" some negative characteristic, which made them some other characteristic and "impossible to follow." Based on this, the correct answer could begin with "arcane," which means likely to be understood by a small group of people, or "cryptic," which means puzzling and difficult to understand. "Circumlocutory" (said to avoid directly talking about a topic), "ancillary" (extraneous or additional), and "spurious" (seemingly true or authentic but actually not) wouldn't make sense, given that we're specifically told that this characteristic has to do with the physicist's remarks being "hard to follow."

From here, note that the first two blanks are likely similar in meaning, then consider the two remaining answer choices: "arcane . . . esoteric . . . jargon" and "cryptic . . . superfluous . . . know-how." "Arcane" and "esoteric" are similar in meaning, but "cryptic" is not close in meaning to "superfluous" (unnecessary), and "superfluous" doesn't make sense in the sentence's context. This means that the correct answer is "arcane . . . esoteric . . . jargon"; checking the third blank reveals that "jargon," meaning highly specialized language which is not readily understood by people who don't specialize in the subject, makes sense.

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