Top 4 Tips for Acing GRE Sentence Equivalence Questions

Before diving into the preparation of the GRE verbal section, it is important to understand its structure and the magnitude of the contribution of each category of questions towards the final score. Once equipped with this information, you will be able to ration your time and efforts among the various categories to maximise your GRE score. So, first, we will take a quick look at the structure of the GRE verbal section and then, for this post, focus on how the Sentence Equivalence category can contribute towards achieving a GRE score of 160+.

The GRE verbal section consists of two subsections of 20 questions each. It is a computer-adaptive test, i.e. the difficulty level and hence the highest possible score of the second subsection depends on your performance in the first section. You get 30 minutes to attempt each sub-section. Each sub-section consists of the following types of questions:

  • Text completion – 6 Questions

  • Sentence equivalence – 4 Questions

  • Reading comprehension – 10 Questions

Since this post is about Sentence Equivalence, let's zoom in on this category. As you can see, there will be about four sentence equivalence questions on each 20-question subsection of the Verbal section, adding up to about eight total. This means that an accuracy of 80% or more in Sentence Equivalence is critical to pull the probability in your favour of getting a score of 160 or more in the Verbal section. Sentence Equivalence questions can act as score boosters, provided you invest time and effort to understand the strategies needed to solve the question and avoid the traps. Let's begin by first understanding what Sentence Equivalence is exactly all about.


In this post, we will learn the step-by-step approach to GRE Sentence Equivalence questions and simultaneously apply it to solve some medium-level GRE questions.

Retrofitted with stabilising devices, some of which _________ its aesthetics, the bridge has been reopened, no longer prone to excessive swaying but not quite the breathtaking structure it originally was.

A. impair 

B. resist 

C. improve

D. enhance 

E. restore

F. compromise


STEP #1: Identify


Read the question carefully to identify the sentence structure and the keywords, i.e. conjunction and adverbs. They can help you establish the context and the tone of the word required in the blank and, thus, limit its definition.

For instance, the sentence structure and the keywords of the question mentioned above have been highlighted as follows:

…..some of which _ its aesthetics, …..but not quite the breathtaking structure it originally was.


After analysing the structure and keywords of this question, we can conclude that the addition of these stabilising devices did something negative to the aesthetics of the bridge, as it is not as breathtaking as it originally was.


STEP #2: Substitute


After identifying, you would have assimilated the overall context of the sentence. Now, think of an approximate meaning of the word you might substitute in the blank to make the sentence coherent. This will establish a broad context of the word you are looking for and thus help eliminate the options.

For instance, the substitute word for the question mentioned above has been highlighted as follows:

…..some of which undermines aesthetics, …..but not quite the breathtaking structure it originally was.

Here, we need a negative word which represents a decrease. Let's say we substitute ‘undermine’. Now, among your answer choices, look for words that broadly relate to the word ‘undermine’.


STEP #3: Eliminate


After substituting, you will have a broad idea of the category of the words you are looking for. You are now ready to read the answer options. So now, analyse the options carefully and do the following:

1. Pair Similar Words: The words should be similar in meaning, not necessarily synonymous. Remember, the question is of sentence equivalence, not word equivalence. Hence, both words have to create sentences with approximately similar meanings.

2. Eliminate Free Floaters: Words that are not synonymous to any of the other answer choices should be eliminated even if they individually fit the sentence.

3. Eliminate Wrong Pairs: Words that are perfect synonyms but don’t actually make sense in the overall context or tone of the sentence should be eliminated.

For instance, pairs, free floaters and wrong pairs for the question mentioned above have been highlighted as follows:

…..some of which undermine its aesthetics, …..but not quite the breathtaking structure it originally was.

A. impair 

B. resist

C. improve 

D. enhance 

E. restore

F. compromise


Pair Similar Words: Impair, Compromise (A, F) & Improve, Enhance (C, D)

Eliminate Free Floaters: Resist (B) and Restore (E)

Eliminate Wrong Pairs: We need a negative pair. Hence, the pair: Improve, Enhance (C, D) is wrong.

Correct Pair: After elimination, we are left with the following pair: Impair, Compromise (A, F). It also falls in the similar category as undermine.

To implement these steps efficiently, you need to be adept at the GRE vocabulary. Start memorising the words systematically by downloading Jamboree’s Simplified GRE Vocabulary Builder app.


STEP #4: Plug-in


After eliminating, you will be left with the final answer choice. Before moving on to the next question, plug in the final selection and re-read the sentence. Ensure the words make sense in the sentence and produce equivalent sentences, i.e. sentences similar in meaning.

For instance, the final selection of the words for the question mentioned above have been highlighted as follows:

A)…..some of which impair its aesthetics, …but not quite the breathtaking structure it

originally was.

F) …..some of which compromise its aesthetics, …but not quite the breathtaking structure it originally was.

Both words not only fit the context but also produce sentences with similar meanings.


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