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Test PrepSATReadingSentence Completions

SAT Reading Skill Review: Sentence Completions

Success on sentence completion questions requires more than just an amazing vocabulary (though that will certainly help). You also need to understand how to tackle these questions. Why? Because the folks who produce the SAT don’t just write a question with a correct answer, they intentionally create four additional choices designed to be appealing. So, to guard against selecting one of these distractor choices, you need to be methodical in your approach.

Here is a solid three step process to sentence completion questions:

Step 1: Find the Clue

The sentence always provides clues as to which fill-in-the-blank answer makes the most sense. Pay attention!

  1. Determine what the blank is referring to in the sentence.
  2. Keep a special eye out for transitional words (and, but, instead, however, etc.)
  3. On questions with two blanks, determine if the blanks are going to be synonymous (or at least related) or if they’ll be at odds with one another.
Step 2: Fill in the Blank

If you can, come up with your own words that fit in the blank(s) before you look at the answer choices. DO NOT plug all the answer choices into the sentence and read it five times. Chances are, at least a few of them will sound okay. We’re not looking for okay, we’re looking for best.

Step 3: Eliminate Distractors

Find the answer choice that best matches the word(s) you’ve come up with. Along the way, eliminate answer choices that are the opposite of what you are looking for. If you are dealing with a question that has two blanks, tackle one blank at a time, jump to the answer choices and eliminate those options that don’t fit with your word. If one word doesn’t fit, it doesn’t matter how good the other one is. 

Examples

  1. I have nothing but admiration for the ___ and insightful professor.

    (A)  abstract
    (B)  lax
    (C)  obtuse
    (D)  naive
    (E)  sagacious

  2. Megan’s campaign speech was so ___ that it sounded more like a ___ than a political platform.

    (A)  inquisitive . . . tirade
    (B)  vitriolic . . . diatribe
    (C)  verbose . . . satire
    (D)  candid . . . manifesto
    (E)  reticent . . . sermon

Answers and Explanations

  1. The correct answer is E. The word and indicates that we’re looking for a synonym or near synonym of insightful. Watch out for the words nothing but, though. This grammatically acceptable double negative means that I do have admiration, so we’re looking for an admirable trait. Admiration and insightful are our clues here. In fact, we could even reuse the clue to come up with a word like admirable to go into the blank (or some other admirable quality). Only sagacious, or wise, fits the bill. Choice A, abstract, isn’t really an admirable quality or not. Lax (choice B) is definitely not an admirable quality and certainly doesn’t go along with insightful. Ditto for obtuse (choice C) and naïve (choice D). Even if you didn’t know what sagacious meant, you have a good chance of eliminating the other four choices and choosing choice E by default.

     

  2. The correct answer is B. The words so and that indicate a cause and effect. So we want a pair of words that have a cause-and-effect relationship. On this basis alone, you could eliminate choices A, C, and E assuming you are familiar with those words. Since the speech was vitriolic (burning and caustic), the speech came across as a diatribe (a bitter, critical speech). The only other word pair that shows a logical cause-and-effect relationship is choice D, but manifesto doesn’t contrast with political statement. Remember, you want something that is more than a political statement. 

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