Far from viewing Jefferson as a skeptical but enlightened

Far from viewing Jefferson as a skeptical but enlightened intellectual, historians of the 1960s portrayed him as ______ thinker, eager to fill the young with his political orthodoxy while censoring ideas he did not like.

  1. an adventurous
  2. a doctrinaire
  3. an eclectic
  4. a judicious
  5. a cynical

So, you were trying to be a good test taker and practice for the GRE with PowerPrep online. Buuuut then you had some questions about the verbal section—specifically question 1 of the second Verbal section of Practice Test 1. Those Text completion questions can be kind of tricky, even if they’re only one blank questions—but never fear, PrepScholar has got your back!

First, let’s search our sentence for clues as to how the blank may relate to the other information in our sentence. We should quickly note that the sentence begins “far from,” which suggests that the way the “historians of the 1960s portrayed” Jefferson, which is what we’re looking to describe with our blank, contrasts with the way he is described in the first part of the sentence, “as a skeptical but enlightened individual.” We should also note that there is a comma just after the word “thinker,” which suggests that this last part of the sentence comments on how Jefferson was portrayed and provides a secondary clue: apparently he was seen as teaching people his political ideas and leaving out ideas that he didn’t agree with.

Alright, so we want the word in our blank to contrast with “skeptical but enlightened” and describe someone who would “fill the young with his political orthodoxy,” or dogma, while “censoring ideas he did not like.” Hmm. This is definitely a tricky one to predict, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. If we’ve been studying GRE words, we might come up with a prediction like “dogmatic” to go into our blank, but even if this doesn’t immediately come to mind, a word like “extreme” might be just as serviceable.

Now that we have an idea of what our blank should say, we can start looking at our answers. It’s important that we try to form our own idea of what would fit in the blank before looking at our answers. This way we won’t get caught up trying to test out answers to see if they work. Instead we can match an answer.

an adventurous

We have no evidence that Jefferson was one to go on wild escapades or that this is how 1960s historians might have portrayed him. A can be eliminated because “adventurous” doesn’t relate to our clues.

a doctrinaire

Hmm. A “doctrine” is a set of professed beliefs, so this word could maybe fit? If we aren’t sure about it, let’s skip B and come back.

an eclectic

Something “eclectic” is taken from many sources, but our evidence tells us that these historians viewed Jefferson as someone who might discount ideas that don’t agree with his “political orthodoxy.” We can eliminate C because it contradicts our clues.

a judicious

To be “judicious” is to have good judgement, in other words, to be prudent or possibly tactful. This choice doesn’t really contrast with the description of Jeferson as a “skeptical but enlightened intellectual,” so we can eliminate D.

a cynical

Tempting—this word is definitely more negative in tone than a lot of our other choices, which seems to fit our blank a little better. BUT we don’t have any evidence that Jefferson was especially pessimistic or that he had little faith in humanity, which “cynical” would certainly suggest. We had one other choice we weren’t sure about and then this choice that we know doesn’t quite seem to fit, even though it sounds vaguely ok. We should trust our gut and eliminate E.

That means the only remaining answer is B! Even if we aren’t sure what “doctrinaire” means, we’ve eliminated all other options. In fact, “doctrinaire” describes someone seeking to impose a doctrine, or set of beliefs in all circumstances. In other words, this is a synonym of “dogmatic,” which makes it a perfect choice for our blank.

“Far from viewing Jefferson as a skeptical but enlightened intellectual, historians of the 1960s portrayed him as doctrinaire thinker, eager to fill the young with his political orthodoxy while censoring ideas he did not like.”

Indeed, this choice both contrasts with “skeptical but enlightened” and matches “eager to fill the young with his political orthodoxy.” B is the best answer.


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