2 What are sentence completions? Sentence completion questions require students to supply missing words, either one or two per sentence, chosen from a list of possible answers.
3 Skills NeededAbility to understand the literal meanings of words and use them in contexts that make logical senseUsing words in appropriate settings that show an awareness of the words’ tone or implications as well as their meaning
4 Organization The questions are organized from easy to hard. 19 questions test vocabulary and ability to understand fairly complex sentences.
5 Approaches Work on sentence completion questions first. Mark your test booklet.Remember that the difficulty of sentence completion questions increases as you move through a question set.Use the process of elimination.Consider related words, familiar sayings and phrases, roots, prefixes, and suffixes.
6 Approaches ContinuedRead the entire sentence, saying “blank” for the blank(s).Try to determine the standard dictionary definitions of the words in the sentence and the answers.Once you have chosen your answer(s), check your choice by reading the entire sentence with your answers inserted to make sure the sentence makes sense.
7 Watch Out For Introductory and transitional words Negatives (Some of the most difficult sentence completion questions contain negatives, which can make it hard to follow the logic of the sentences.)
8 Introductory and Transitional Words Connect Ideas that are SimilarAndAlsoBesidesFor exampleIn other wordsLikewiseAnotherIn additionMoreoverfurthermore
9 Introductory and Transitional Words Connect Ideas That are Opposite or in ContrastButNorNotinsteadHoweverIn contrastOn the other handAlthoughDespiteIn spite ofYetEven whileExceptNeverthelessNotwithstandingRegardless
10 Introductory and Transitional Words Connect Ideas in Cause-and-Effect RelationshipsBecauseConsequentlyThereforeThusHenceAs a resultIn order to
11 Introductory and Transitional Words Mean that a Certain Condition Must be ConsideredIfWhen
12 NegativesAccording to Burgess, a novelist should not preach, for sermonizing has no place in good fiction.Negatives: not, noTransition: for = second part of the sentence will explain the first
13 Two-blank QuestionsTry eliminating some answers based on just one blank.
14 The Forward Method Step 1: Cover up answer choices. Step 2: Read stem and determine stem type.Step 3: Supply your own words or phrases to complete the sentence.Step 4: Compare your choice to the answers and eliminate all that do not match.Step 5: Plug selected answer back into sentence and select the best fit.
15 Try This OneIgnoring criticisms that the film was excessively and biased, the director resisted efforts to cut particular scenes in order to produce a less fierce, more story.
16 Look for Introductory and Transitional Words in order to
17 Supply Your Own WordsYou will see there is another class of context clues in this item. The units [ and biased] and [less fierce, more ]. mirror each other. The first blank should match fierce; the second blank should match biased.Write your candidates here:First blank: __________________________________Second blank: ________________________________
18 Compare your choice to the answers and eliminate all that do not match. Here are the answer choices:(A) placid . . prejudicial(B) tranquil . .neutral(C) brutal . . unfair(D) violent . . even-handed(E) long . . compact
19 The Backward MethodYou can determine the stem type, but you can’t come up with words to fill the blanks.Step 1: Use positive or negative signs to determine what type of word you’ll need.Step 2: Go to the answer choices and assign positive or negative signs to each word.Step 3: Eliminate the choices that don’t fit, then select from the rest.Step 4: Plug your choice back into the stem as a check.
20 Some ethical philosophers argue that when the term “genocide” is used too liberally, the concept becomes , losing its power to mobilize international support for those ethnicities whose existence is truly endangered by mass murder.(A) conservative(B) militaristic(C) domestic(D) scarce(E) diluted
21 Explanation Which of these is negative, in the sense of “lessening?” A, conservative isn’t a particularly negative word in this context. It’s probably not the right answer, so eliminate it.Militaristic is probably negative enough for our purposes. Keep B.Domestic is certainly not negative. It doesn’t seem very positive, either—and words with neutral connotations can be used as a third category in the backward method. But we need a clearly negative word to complete this item, so eliminate C.D and E work. At this point, you’ve eliminated two options, so you’re ahead of the game. You have a 1-in-3 shot at getting a point and a 2-in-3 shot of losing a quarter-point. Those are good odds over several items, soPlug each choice into the sentence to see which “sounds” better, and choose that one.
22 The Backward MethodYou’ve determined the stem type and have supplied words to fill the blanks, but you don’t recognize any of the vocabulary in the answer choices.Step 1: Apply “deciphering techniques” to the vocabulary in the answer choices.Step 2: Plug each of the choices into the sentence, “listening” for which choices sound best.Step 3: Plug your choice back into the stem as a check.
23 The newly recognized amoral of the natural world, which was traditionally seen as reflecting an ultimately benevolent purpose, was Darwin’s most controversial intellectual legacy, generating strong reactions from those who wanted to preserve Nature’s supposed ratification of Christian eschatology.(A) stochasticity(B) malevolence(C) determinism(D) progressiveness(E) contingency
24 ExplanationCan you do anything with A? Unlikely, so don’t eliminate it.Look at B, malevolence. The prefix mal- means “bad”; the root vol means “will,” as in the word, volition. So, malevolence should mean something like “ill will.” Is that what you need to balance out benevolent purpose? Perhaps; perhaps not. But at least now you know what you’re dealing with in choice B.The blank is actually contrasted with purpose, which is modified by amoral. Similarly, you may not be familiar with determinism as a philosophical concept, but you might know what determined means in the sense of “ordained.” That’s actually the opposite of what you want, so cut C.Progressiveness may be unfamiliar, but “progress” is certainly more familiar. Since -ness refers to a “state of being,” does a word that means “a state of being progressive” work? As in C, this doesn’t really match “purposelessness,” so eliminate D.Contingency may stump you, but have you ever heard a form of this word in another context? It seems to mean that certain outcomes are not guaranteed but rather depend upon certain prior events. Does this match “purposelessness?” It just might—keep E.Read both A and E into the stem and choose the one that best fits. You’re down to a 50/50 chance to either gain a point or lose a quarter-point, so you’re well ahead of the wrong-answer penalty.
25 The Backward MethodYou can’t determine the stem type or supply words to fill the blanks.Step 1: Plug each of the choices into the sentence, “listening” for which choices sound better.Step 2: Eliminate any that don’t fit; choose from the remaining.Step 3: Plug your choice back into the stem as a check.
26 Globalization has not been the unmitigated for global poverty that its more starry-eyed supporters promised; in fact, many would argue that globalization has not just failed to want, it has even sharpened its bite.
27 Assign positive and negative signs Write a + or a – sign in the blankBlank one __________Blank two __________
28 Assign Positive and Negative Signs to the Answers (A) disaster . . increase(B) mediation . . alleviate(C) boon . . exacerbate(D) calamity . . reduce(E) panacea . . ameliorate
29 Test DirectionsEach sentence below has one or two blanks, each blank indicating that something has been omitted. Beneath the sentence are five words or sets of words labeled A through E. Choose the word or set of words that, when inserted in the sentence, best fits the meaning of the sentence as a whole.
30 Directions Look for key words in the sentences and circle them. Read each question again and, using the key words you identify, write down at least one word that logically fits into each of the blanks.
31 If your garden plot is small, it will not pay to grow crops that require a large amount of __________ in order to develop.
32 Hint Key words: “If” and “small” “If” the garden is “small,” then the crops will not have a lot of room in which to grow. The answer must be a word that suggests area.
33 If your garden plot is small, it will not pay to grow crops that require a large amount of __________ in order to develop.SunRainFertilizerSpacecare
34 ExplanationOnly the word “space,” choice (D), does this.
35 At a recent press conference, the usually reserved biochemist was unexpectedly __________ in addressing the ethical questions posed by her work.
36 HintWe are told that the scientist is usually “reserved,” but that, at the press conference, she behaved “unexpectedly.”The word that makes sense to fill in the blank must mean the opposite of (or at least be very different from) “reserved.”Because reserved means restrained or uncommunicative, the correct answer must be a word like frank or open or outspoken.
37 At a recent press conference, the usually reserved biochemist was unexpectedly __________ in addressing the ethical questions posed by her work.CorrectForthrightInarticulateRetentiveCautious
38 Explanation Only (B), forthright, is a word with this kind of meaning. Read the entire sentence with “forthright” filled in to see that it makes sense.
39 Despite her __________ nature, DeMott was capable of tactful negotiation and even won praise for her patient efforts toward __________ when a local squabble developed.
40 Hint Sometimes it is helpful to look at the second blank first. “Despite” means that the word describing “nature” will be opposite to or unlike “tactful negotiation,” because Demott’s nature would lead us to believe that she was not capable of such tact.
41 Despite her __________ nature, DeMott was capable of tactful negotiation and even won praise for her patient efforts toward __________ when a local squabble developed.diplomatic . . amitycongenial . . concordaltruistic . . dissensionrebellious . . insurrectiontempestuous . . reconciliation
42 Explanation“Patient efforts toward” dissension or insurrection makes no sense, so we can eliminate choices (C) and (D).“Diplomatic” and “congenial” would lead us to expect tact, so we can eliminate choices (A) and (B).
43 Many famous scientific inventions have been __________, the by-products of research whose goals were quite unrelated.
44 HintSaying that the inventions were “by-products of research whose goals were quite unrelated” means that the inventions were lucky breaks or unexpected.You must look at the second part of the sentence and see how it affects the meaning of the first part.
45 Many famous scientific inventions have been __________, the by-products of research whose goals were quite unrelated.FortuitousNeglectedInoperableLucrativeunfeasible
46 ExplanationIf you looked at just the first part of the sentence, “Many famous scientific inventions have been ___________,” any of the answer choices would fit. Try each of the choices in the first part of the sentence.Only the answer choice fortuitous means “lucky” or “unexpected.”
47 The excitement does not __________ but __________ his senses, giving him a keener perception of a thousand details.
48 Hint“But” means that the answer will involve two words that are somehow opposed in meaning.
49 The excitement does not __________ but __________ his senses, giving him a keener perception of a thousand details.slow . . divertsblur . . sharpensoverrule . . constrictsheighten . . aggravatesforewarn . . quickens
50 ExplanationAll of the choices except (B), “blur . . sharpens,” can be eliminated. Only the words in choice (B) are opposed in meaning.Also, “sharpens his senses” fits with the phrase “giving him a keener perception of a thousand details.”“Heighten” and “quickens” are words that are often found with the words “senses,” and therefore might tempt the careless test-taker.
51 In many Latin American countries, work performed by women is often conducted outside the commercial sector and is, therefore, unfortunately __________ by economists compiling national statistics.
52 HintThe word “therefore” connects the second part of the sentence to the first part; the situation described in the first part is the reason for what happens in the second part.You must also consider the word “unfortunately,” which is a clue that the idea expressed by the words to follow will be something negative.
53 In many Latin American countries, work performed by women is often conducted outside the commercial sector and is, therefore, unfortunately __________ by economists compiling national statistics.MonopolizedApprovedOverlookedSubduedanalyzed
54 ExplanationChoice (B), “approved,” is positive, and choice (E), “analyzed,” is neutral, so we can eliminate them.Choice (A), “monopolized,” does not fit with the sense of the economists’ role in compiling statistics.Choice (D), “subdued,” makes some sense in terms of its meaning of reducing the force of something, but it does not fit with the rest of the sentence as well as (C), “overlooked.”
55 Every Night Do one section of sentence completions in six minutes. Correct work and figure out why certain answers are correct.
56 Every Night Do some homework Select another set of sentence completions with the same number of questions.
57 Every Night Do some more homework. Do one more set of sentence completions with the same number of questions and aim for the best score of the day.
58 PacingSpend one week in rotation on each of the skills and types of questions.Take an entire section of the SAT, every two weeks.Two weeks later, add another section until you build up to the full critical reading and writing section.
59 Six Most Common Mistakes Looking at the answer choices first, without having some idea of what the correct answer should be.Spending too much time (more than a minute) on any one item in a set.Failing to practice sufficiently—reading the book is not enough!Failing to practice the step methods on every practice test item. You’ll need these methods when the answer isn’t obvious to you.Refusing to fly Bombing Runs. That is, refusing to do items out of order based on your judgment of which will be easier and yield points more quickly.Refusing to guess when you’ve eliminated one answer choice.