I have trouble solving this GRE verbal reasoning question:

In a production process that is complex and often unpredictable, roles that start out discretely defined may become quite _______.

A. confused

B. perfunctory

C. independent

D. overt

E. exacting

First, I don't know the exact meaning of "discretely defined" in this context (I do know the meaning of "discrete" and "define").

Second, the answer to this question should be something corresponding to "complex and often unpredictable". It should be a negative word. I think A,B,E serve this purpose.

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  • Is this from an official sample test? None of the answers is really very good. The correct answer is the opposite of "discrete", of which the only one that comes close is "confused", but that's like shoving a hexagonal peg in a round hole. "Interdependent" is a word that should go there, or any of its synonyms. – Andrew Jul 3 '17 at 20:19
  • No. this is not from the official sample test I think. Could you please explain why the only word in the choices closed to "discrete" is "confused"? And what's the meaning of "discretely defined"? – No One Jul 3 '17 at 20:22
  • "discretely defined" means "each role was defined independently" in my opinion. Hence, the answer should be confused. – Cardinal Jul 3 '17 at 20:31
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    "Discrete" means " completely separate", "independent", "individual", etc. "Discretely defined" would simply mean that the roles are initially defined as separate from each other. The opposite of this is "not separate from each other", and while "confused" can be used, there are many better words like "commingled". – Andrew Jul 3 '17 at 20:34

That which is discrete is self-contained, distinct, having clearly defined boundaries. The sentence implies that this characteristic is eroded in some way (...may become quite __________). The only possible choice is confused, which means muddled together, indistinct, lacking clear definition and boundaries.

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  • But why do "roles that start out discretely defined" make people confused instead of making great demands on one's skill("exacting")? – No One Jul 3 '17 at 20:41
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    @TiWen It is not the people who are "confused"; it is the roles. Consult a dictionary to learn the several meanings of "confused". OED has: "a. Characterized by disorderly combination or intermixture; disordered, disorderly." The roles go from being separate or discrete to being confused or intermingled. – P. E. Dant Reinstate Monica Jul 3 '17 at 21:21

In the context of this question, roles that are discretely defined are roles that are different from each other with clear scope and do not have much overlap and dependence on other roles.

In this question, you are looking for an antonym, maybe something like amorphous. I believe the best answer would be confused, but even then I would not say it's a great answer.

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