[edit section] Inside Sentence Completion Guide
[edit section] Keywords
Vocab-in-context questions or sentence completion questions do not generally test you on vocabulary. We've gone over this before - it's a common misconception. What these questions do cover is your ability to identify word charges, common prefixes and suffixes, and keywords in the sentence. We've gone over the former two, but what about those keywords?
[edit section] Keywords and Context
A keyword is any hint that indicates to you what the unknown (blank) word may be, including its charge, degree, or relation to other words. For example:
Despite his sometimes ____________ rambling, we did find some _____________ in his lecture.
A) corrupt ... predictable
terse ... pontificate
C) palpable ... moorish
D) incessant ... value
E) indeterminate ... criticisms
The word "Despite" always indicates an opposite charge. When two words are involved, they will be opposites in charge. So, we can eliminate choices A, B, C, and E as they all contain two words with similar charges (negative). Only D has a negative and then a positive word. (Incessant, for your information, means never-ending.)
Here are some of the keywords to look out for:
- Although/But/Even though/Yet/Still/Though/Despite/In spite of/Regardless of: Indicates an opposite charge and an opposite relationship (In spite of his ignorance, he could still add and subtract pretty well.)
- And/So/For/Therefore/Thus/Because/Due to: Indicates that the words will carry similar charges
He was a _____________ swimmer but a terrible person.
The keyword "but" indicates that there will be an opposite involved. Since he is a terrible person, he will have to be an excellent (opposite of terrible) swimmer. The only word that means excellent is D) laudable, which, using suffixes, means worthy of lauding or worthy of praise.
Here's another example:
Due to her incessant ______________, the two of us were unable to get any work done.
The keywords "Due to" indicate to us that there will be a cause-effect (similar charge) relationship between "not being able to get any work done" and the word. The only word with a negative charge and the correct meaning is D) negligence, which means lack of attention to duty.
Of course, there are many other keywords than the ones that we have described. In fact, almost every question has some form of a keyword. Consider this seemingly innocuous question:
The cheetah, the world's _____________ land animal, could even keep pace with road vehicles for a while.
We won't simulate the choices here (this question is probably too easy to actually be on the SAT). The point is that this question is NOT testing you on your knowledge of biology; it's testing you on your knowledge of the relationship between "keep pace with road vehicles" and the quality of something that could do that. Obviously, the quality we're describing here is speed.
You should also be able to recognize questions that are purely vocabulary-based. Though these questions are few and far-between, there will be at least three or four on any given SAT. Here is such a question:
Some consider Buzz Aldrin a _______________ for solar travel because of his outspoken love of being in space.
C) evangelist <--- (the right answer)
Obviously, although there are word charges, keywords, and prefixes in the answer choices, your ability to answer this question will ultimately depend on your knowledge of vocabulary. In our next lesson, we will look at a laundry list of SAT vocabulary words that appear time and time again. For now, take Sentence Completion Test III to get a hang of today's lesson.
[edit section] Additional Resources
- SAT Vocabulary Flashcards
- SAT Sentence Completion Quizzes
- SAT Reading Cram Sheet
- SAT on Web School
- SAT Practice Exams