Synonyms and Antonyms on the GRE

Synonyms and Antonyms on the GREKnowledge of synonyms and antonyms are imperative for your GRE practice, and still important on the revised GRE, especially in sentence equivalence questions. In each sentence equivalence question you’ll be presented with a sentence that has a blank, followed by several answer choices.  Instead of picking just one word to fill in the blank, you have to pick two words that can be used to complete the sentence without changing the meaning. Read on for some helpful GRE practice tips and tricks.


Instructions:  From the answer choices provided, select the two words that would complete the sentence in such a manner as to produce two complete sentences that convey the same meaning.

The light rays in sunlight reaching the earth share a significant property with the light rays in a laser beam:  the rays are _________________ , which allows the rays to travel alongside one another for long distances without dispersion.

A.    diffracted

B.    collimated

C.    focused

D.    curvilinear

E.    convergent

F.     parallel


Carefully consider the answer choices.  It’s good practice to try to separate the choices into groups that may have similar meanings.  If you have no clue as to the meaning of some of the words, don’t worry.  Concentrate at first on the words you do know.  Try to eliminate answers in a methodical way.

Here the two words in the answer choices that look most familiar are probably “focused” and “parallel.”  They don’t look like synonyms for each other, so let’s see if we can find a synonym for at least one of them in the list.  “Convergent” sounds like it might work as a synonym for “focused,” since when light rays are focused they converge to a focal point.

Does “focused” make sense in the blank?  It doesn’t seem like a great fit.  Focusing causes light rays to converge to a focal point, but once the rays pass the focal point, they begin to spread back apart.  The sentence says that the rays “travel long distances... without dispersion.”  “Dispersion” means “scattering” or “spreading apart,” which is what focused rays would do after passing the focal point.  So “focused” and “convergent” do not seem to be the right pair of words for the blank.

On the other hand, “parallel” might make quite a bit of sense in the blank.  Parallel lines always stay the same distance from each other, which means that they never intersect and they never spread farther apart.  So parallel light rays would be able to travel long distances without dispersing.  We’re halfway there:  now to find a synonym for “parallel.”  “Diffracted” means bent, which doesn’t seem like a good match.  “Curvilinear” sounds like it has something to do with curvy lines, rather than straight lines, which doesn’t seem like a good match for the meaning of parallel either.  If we try either one of those words in the blank, there doesn’t seem to be any reason to believe that bent or curvy lines would be especially well suited to traveling far without dispersing.

It turns out that “collimated” is the word that we’re looking for.  Collimated light rays travel parallel to one another.  So the correct pair of answers are Choices B and F.

Good luck with your GRE practice!

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