GRE Sentence Equivalence Questions

Student studying for GRE sentence equivalence questions

In this post you will learn about the GRE Sentence Equivalence test and find practice tips to help you prepare for this part of the exam.

Sentence Equivalence GRE questions are part of the Verbal Reasoning exam. Each section of this test has four or so GRE Sentence Equivalence questions, so you'll see about eight of these prompts on test day.

Choose the Best Words

GRE Sentence Equivalence questions are similar to Text Completion questions in that students must choose the best words to fill in the blanks of an incomplete sentence.

Two Correct Answers!

However, there are two correct answers for each Sentence Equivalence question, and you have to select the pair of synonyms that complete the sentence and fit its original meaning.

Sample Question

Studying a few Sentence Equivalence GRE practice questions is a smart way to prepare for what you might see on the actual test.

Each Sentence Equivalence question on the GRE will have directions and a format that looks like this:


Select the two answer choices that, when used to complete the sentence, fit the meaning of the sentence as a whole and produce completed sentences that are alike in meaning.

1. You can trust Mrs. Hernandez to make the best business decisions; her _________ is astoundingly sharp.

a. credulity b. aesthetic c. acumen d. gullibility e. insight f. condition

As you can see, the questions on the GRE Sentence Equivalence section are almost identical to the Text Completion questions with one blank space. However, where Text Completion questions require you to choose one response from a list of five, the Sentence Equivalence portion requests two answers from a list of six.

How to Answer

For this particular GRE Sentence Equivalence practice question, options C and E, "acumen" and "insight," are synonyms for "keen understanding." Choices A and D, "credulity" and "gullibility," are synonyms for "a tendency to be easily fooled." Since easily fooled people are unlikely to make good business decisions, options C and E make the most sense and are the correct answers.

Tips for Choosing Answers

Just like with the GRE Sentence Equivalence practice questions, eliminating non-synonyms first, then seeing which words fit the sentence's meaning is an excellent way to approach the Sentence Equivalence questions on the real exam.

Some other Sentence Equivalence GRE tips include the following:

Build Your Vocabulary:

Study lists of graduate-level vocabulary words to prepare for the complex words you might encounter on the test. Also, try reading academic articles that use similar language to the GRE. Whenever you come across an unfamiliar word, add it to your study list and look up the definition in the dictionary.

Use Your Own Words:

Before looking at the answer choices, read the prompt and come up with your own mental list of words that could fill in the blank and help the sentence make sense. From there, you can check the given list of response options for a pair of synonyms that have the same meaning as the words you listed in your head.

Understand the Difference Between Similar vs. Same:

Beware of words that have a similar connotation but different definitions. For example, "unique" means "one-of-a-kind," and "special" means "important, unusual, or fascinating." Many people use these words interchangeably, but they actually have different meanings, so they'd be an incorrect pairing on the GRE.

Search for Context Clues:

Some parts of the question may provide clues about the meaning of the paragraph, which can help you choose the best answers. For example, transitional words like “however” may signal a shift in tone or meaning. Use this as a context clue to find the words that function in the passage.

Do Not Be Discouraged:

If you come across an unfamiliar word in a Sentence Equivalence GRE question, don't panic. Look through the list and pick out words you know the meanings of and eliminate the incorrect answers from that collection first. If you don't find the right synonym pairing among the familiar words, the unfamiliar ones may be the right answer.

Eliminate Wrong Answers One-By-One:

Start by choosing a word that seems to make sense in the blank. Then, look for another word with the same meaning as the one you selected. If you don’t know the definitions of some of the other words, do not eliminate your first choice but rather try to weed out the ones that do or do not fit.

Be Flexible:

If you are sure you have selected the correct word but cannot find a synonym for it among the other answer choices, this can also be a clue that your first choice was the wrong one. Let it go and try some other combinations of answer choices.

Pay Attention to Sentence Format:

Refrain from focusing purely on the meaning of the words and pay attention to grammar and tense. A past-tense sentence will require a past-tense verb, while a word that describes an adjective will have to be an adverb, and so forth.

Read It Again

As always, read the sentence carefully before selecting your answers. You can even read it over a few times to get a clearer idea of its meaning. Then, after selecting your answers, go back and reread the paragraph with your answer choices in the blank. Make sure the complete paragraph is logical, grammatically correct, and maintains the style and tone of the original sentence.

Practice Tests & Study Resources

Online GRE Test Prep

Other Verbal Reasoning Tips

Overview of GRE Sections