Stories are a haunted genre; hardly ___ kind of story, the ghost

Stories are a haunted genre; hardly (i) _____ kind of story, the ghost story is almost the paradigm of the form, and (ii) ______ was undoubtedly one effect that Poe had in mind when he wrote about how stories work.

Blank (i)

  1. a debased
  2. a normative
  3. a meticulous

Blank (ii)

  1. pessimism
  2. goosebumps
  3. curiosity

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 2 of the second Verbal section on Practice Test 1. Those text completion questions can be kind of tricky, especially those of the two-blank variety—but never fear, PrepScholar has got your back!

Oh, this is a tricky one, but it is full of clues, so let’s get to skimming for anything that might tell us how our blanks relate to the other information in the sentence. First, we should definitely note that this sentence is not one, not two, but THREE independent clauses, or complete ideas, all strung together. This is accomplished by separating the first independent clause from the other two with a semicolon, which usually notes a similar relationship between clauses. Then, the second and third ideas are separated by a comma and our beloved conjunction (or perhaps we know it as one of our FANBOYS) “and.” Between these two clues, we know that the second and third clauses, which each have blanks, should agree with the first clause, which makes the first clause a big ol’ clue.

The first part of the sentence tell us that stories are “haunted” by nature, which makes sense because the second tells us that “the ghost story is almost the paradigm” or perfect example or pattern of “the form,” referring once again to “stories” in general. The information in between these ideas is a phrase that should also describe “the ghost story,” except here is a bit of a hitch—the word “hardly” appears right before our blank, which is an adverb that switches the direction of our blank. So instead of a word that describes ghost stories, we want a word that hardly describes them. Since they are described as the “paradigm,” there are a lot of ways in which we could describe them as “not the paradigm,” but let’s keep it simple and guess that our blank should say something like “unusual.”

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.

a debased

Hmm. This doesn’t match our prediction. “Debased” describes something of low value or quality. Even though this doesn’t match our prediction, could it match our clues? It’s perfectly logical that people might think of ghost stories as kind of a low, silly form of story, but that perception would definitely contrast with the idea that they are the “paradigm,” or perfect example of how a story should work. Are we making an assumption? It’s kind of hard to tell—let’s see what we can do with our other choices before deciding on A.

a normative

This answer is nearly the opposite of our prediction. Since we did all the work to form a solid prediction, we should trust our gut and eliminate B.

a meticulous

To be “meticulous” is to pay careful attention to detail. We have no evidence that ghost stories are hardly crafted with careful detail, so we can eliminate C.

Alright, looks like we were right about A. Let’s move on to our second blank. Again, we know this last clause should agree with the first two, and so far we’ve learned that stories are “haunted” by nature, making ghost stories a perfect example of how a story might be patterned. This last blank should be an effect that, based on what we know so far, Poe “undoubtedly” was thinking about “when he wrote about how stories should work,” or what is essential to a story. Well, based on the fact that our sentence told us ghost stories are a “paradigm” and that “stories are a haunted genre,” it seems like “spook factor” or “scariness” might have been an effect Poe had in mind. These may be sort of silly predictions, but that’s ok! We just need to predict the general intent of the blank, not the exact GRE word.


Hmm. Pessimism has to do with being dark and cynical, so this must work, right? Well, do ghost stories have to be “pessimistic”? In other words, are they stories that always look for the worst in every situation? Not necessarily. They’re stories meant to exploit some of our fears about this life and the next, to capitalize on our awareness of mortality, but they don’t necessarily say that everything in this life is pointless or bad. This answer seems to work based on the dark theme of our sentence but doesn’t actually fit the context. We can eliminate D.


Ok, we thought “spook factor” was a silly prediction, but “goosebumps” is sort of a silly answer. I mean, really GRE? You couldn’t come up with a more formal idea for this blank? As weird as it might be for an answer on the GRE, “goosebumps,” a colloquial term for that creepy, frightened sensation we get when we read ghost stories, DOES fit the context of our blank. E actually seems like a decent answer.


Hmm. Some of us may react with “curiosity” to ghost stories, but this answer doesn’t match the idea that stories are, by nature, “haunted.” We also can’t assume that everyone is curious when it comes to ghost stories, so we can eliminate C.

Alright, let’s go ahead and plug these answers in:

“Stories are a haunted genre; hardly (i) a debased kind of story, the ghost story is almost the paradigm of the form, and (ii) goosebumps was undoubtedly one effect that Poe had in mind when he wrote about how stories work.”

Ok, in neither case were we perhaps expecting these to be answers, but now that they’re plugged into the sentence, all of our clauses do agree that “ghost stories” should actually be viewed as a good example of how a story should work—Poe would certainly agree! A and E are good answers.


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