Practice Problems
Practice Problems
Let’s now try a few examples based on what you’ve learned.

Directions: Each question consists of a word printed in capital letters, followed by five words or phrases. Choose the word or phrase that is most nearly opposite in meaning to the word in capital letters.

Since some of the questions require you to distinguish fine shades of meaning, be sure to consider all of the choices before deciding which one is best.

1. BRAZEN:
(A) profound
(B) devilish
(C) reticent
(D) courteous
(E) distressed
2. SANCTIFICATION:
(A) religiosity
(B) atheism
(C) prescription
(D) salutation
(E) desecration
3. INTERMINABLE:
(A) returnable
(B) finite
(C) lengthy
(D) justifiable
(E) luxurious
4. VARIEGATED:
(A) subliminal
(B) dazzling
(C) bland
(D) uniform
(E) magnanimous
5. SOUND:
(A) perplexing
(B) judicious
(C) deafening
(D) long forgotten
(E) ill-conceived
Guided Explanations
1. C
Step 1: Simplify the Word. Brazen means “bold,” “loud,” and “cocky”—it describes someone who’s really in your face.
Step 2: Predict an Opposite. The opposite of someone who’s loud and in your face is someone who’s quiet or shy. Let’s go with that as our prediction.
Step 3: Match Your Prediction to the Answer Choices. If you know that reticent means “quiet and reserved,” then you’d scan right to C and pick up the point. But even if you didn’t know that word, no other word matches our prediction, so you’d be left with C anyway. The next closest choice, the trap if you will, is courteous. While a quiet or shy person may be courteous, he or she may not be. Reticent better expresses the opposite of brazen, so C is correct.
2. E
Step 1: Simplify the Word. The word sanctification is difficult, but perhaps you benefited from an understanding of the word root sanct, which means holy. Or maybe you went the word association route: Sanctify and sanction mean “to bless or allow,” so the word has a positive charge in any case. Even if you don’t fully grasp the stem word, you can get a sense of its meaning from its root and a sense of its charge from words that sound similar.
Step 2: Predict an Opposite. If you know that sanctification means “dedication” or “blessing,” a prediction like violation or destruction might spring to mind.
Step 3: Match Your Prediction to the Answer Choices. Choice E, desecration (meaning “defilement” or “vandalism”), comes closest to the predictions above. If you had to rely mainly on the positive charge of the stem word, then you could at least have determined that the answer must be negatively charged, allowing you to eliminate D, salutation (meaning “greeting” or “salute”), as too positive. Prescription, whether it refers to a recommendation or to medicine, is too neutral to serve as an opposite, so you can chop C on that count. Choices A and B are both traps, seeming to relate in some meaningful way to the religious aspect of sanctification. Religiosity is just what it sounds like—the quality of being religious—so it’s actually in line with the stem word, if not a precise synonym. Atheism seems to go against the religious notion of sanctification but doesn’t qualify as a full-fledged opposite. We need something that actively defies the spirit of consecration or dedication, and desecration best fits the bill.
3. B
Step 1: Simplify the Word. If you had trouble with the meaning of interminable, analyzing its components or placing it in a context may have helped you out. First the components: The word root term often designates some sort of ending, as in termination and “the terminal phase of the project.” If nothing else, you may have heard about someone who was terminated from his job, meaning fired. The prefix in denotes “not” or “without,” so interminable means “without end.” Perhaps a sentence got you there instead: Have you ever heard someone (or yourself) say, “That lecture/plane ride/sermon/holiday dinner with the relatives was interminable? It’s an emphatic way of saying the darn thing seemed to go on forever, and ever, and ever. . . . Maybe you just knew the word, or maybe you used some clues like these. Either way, our best simplification is endless.
Step 2: Predict an Opposite. The opposite of something that’s endless is something that’s limited or restricted, so let’s go with those as our predictions.
Step 3: Match Your Prediction to the Answer Choices. Finite is a synonym for limited or restricted and is therefore the best antonym of the bunch. Something that’s finite ends; something that’s interminable doesn’t. Incidentally, don’t worry that in the sentence we constructed in Step 1 the interminable events (plane ride, holiday dinner, etc.) technically do have endings. We used a figure of speech—a valid form of context—to get closer to the definition, which is fine as long as we remember that the actual definition may be more precise.
4. D
Step 1: Simplify the Word. If you know the word variegated, then good for you!—you’re surely in the minority. If not, then possibly you saw in that word the beginnings of other words you do know like varied and variety. True to form, variegated has a related meaning: “diversified” and “diverse,” particularly in terms of appearance. We can go with “varied looking” as our simplification.
Step 2: Predict an Opposite. The opposite of something that is “varied looking” is an appearance that is standardized, homogenous, the same. We’ll keep those ideas in mind as we hit the choices.
Step 3: Match Your Prediction to the Answer Choices. The prefix uni means one, so uniform means “having one form or appearance.” That’s the best antonym of the bunch, so D is correct. The closest trap choice is probably bland (C), but just because something isn’t varied in appearance doesn’t necessarily make it bland. Dazzling (B) has a similar kind of tenuous connection to variegated, although if anything it belongs in the same camp so is even further from qualifying as an opposite. Subliminal (A) means “unconscious” or “hidden,” which has no obvious connection one way or the other to variegated. Magnanimous, choice E, means “generous” or “high-minded,” which also has nothing to do with variety or appearance.
5. E
Step 1: Simplify the Word. Simplify a simple word like sound? No need to, right? Wrong. You may have assumed that sound is being used here as a noun, as in the thing that happens when you accidentally knock over Aunt Mabel’s thousand-dollar crystal bowl (besides a whuppin’). If you went down that path, you wouldn’t find anything quite resembling an opposite among the choices, although a trap is laid in that direction, as you’ll see below. Here’s where it helps to remember that the test makers like to use secondary meanings of common words to shake things up a bit. If you used our technique of noticing the part of speech of the answer choices, you’d see that they’re not nouns but adjectives, which means that the noun form of sound—the kind of sound you hear—is not the meaning in play here. What does sound mean when used as an adjective? Try creating some context: You’ve no doubt heard about a sound argument—in fact, you yourself are charged with creating a sound argument in another section of the GRE. In this context, sound means “well thought-out” or “logical.”
Step 2: Predict an Opposite. Once we nail down the correct form of the word, predicting an opposite isn’t very difficult. The opposite of logical is illogical, so looking for something along those lines will be our plan of attack in Step 3.
Step 3: Match Your Prediction to the Answer Choices. Ill-conceived, meaning “badly thought-out,” closely captures the essence of illogical, so E gets the point.
There are a few nasty traps lurking in this one, so let’s have a look at them. While an illogical argument may be perplexing (“confusing, hard to understand”), it need not be, nor does something perplexing necessarily need to be illogical. So choice A is one step removed from being a viable opposite. C, meanwhile, seems to play off the more common definition of sound as something we hear, yet we still wouldn’t say that the opposite of sound is deafening. The opposite of sound may be silence, and some genius coined the well-known phrase “the silence was deafening,” but this is all too far afield to get the point, especially when E is pretty much dead on. In case you’re wondering, one definition of judicious is “well thought-out,” so B is actually synonymous with sound, while long forgotten, choice D, has no connection to sound at all.
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