Overview and Review
[edit section] Inside Sentence Completion Guide
[edit section] Overview and Review
Now that we have identified some strategies for solving sentence completion questions, we can sum them up with an easy "checklist" that you should keep in your mind during the test.
[edit section] The Checklist
1.) What is the question asking?
Reword the fill-in-the-blank statement so that it becomes a question in your mind. Determine what the word you are looking for means. For example:
His _______________ speech made him come off as harsh, but he just did not like to use many words.
The question is asking: What word means "not using many words?"
2.) Determine if there are any keywords in the question
Remember that there are keywords that signal either opposite or similar word charges and/or meanings. Keywords determine the relationship between words and can often signal clues as to the nature of the answer:
Although there is much evidence to show the stability of the money supply, classical economists insist it is quite ________________.
You may not know much about economics here, but what does it matter? You are signaled by the word "Although," which indicates an OPPOSITE relationship. You are specifically looking for a word that means the opposite of "stable."
3.) Use Word Charges
By using keywords or other clues in the sentence, identify the sort of word that would be used to "fill in the blank." We have spent a whole lesson on this, but remember to assign charges to words that you know (and if possible, guess the charge of words that you do not know by using prefixes.)
We have provided a very brief list of the words that most frequently occur on the SAT CR test. We have also provided a list of prefixes and suffixes. Use both to your advantage to identify words and their respective charges:
He led a __________________ life, rarely eating out and never buying luxury items.
You should know the prefixes am-, mal-, and ben- indicate positive and negative charges, but we are looking for a word that is essentially neutral. You should also recall that contempt is a negatively-charged word. As it turns out, only C) frugal means "cheap."
5.) Identify extreme or impossible answer choices
There is only one right answer per SAT question. As a result, answer choices that are very close to each other in meaning are unlikely to be correct answers. In addition, you should look for answer choices that are too charged (or extreme, or general, or just plain wrong) to be correct IN CONTEXT. For example:
Many corporate executives have been accused of engaging in slightly _______________ financial transactions that may even be illegal.
laudable and C) praiseworthy are near-synonyms, so neither is the answer. You should also realize that since you are looking for a word with a negative charge ("may even be illegal"), the answer will not be A), which means fleeting. You are now forced to choose between D) and E). This is where reasoning comes in. You should realize that although E) carries a negative charge, it is too negative to describe these SLIGHTLY (negative word) transactions. Therefore, the answer must be D, which means unethical.
6.) Check your answer
When you do a math problem, you typically check your work. Although it's a bit more difficult to check your work in CR questions, read your answer aloud and ask yourself: "Does this sound right? Does this make sense?" If it does seem right, chances are that you have obtained the right answer. If not, chances are that you have not.
What if you are stumped? Well, remember that the SAT carries a "guessing penalty" - a penalty for incorrect responses. However, it is statistically to your benefit to guess if you can eliminate even one choice (using the multiple methods described above). Our recommendation: follow the conventional wisdom and guess when you can eliminate one choice. It is a small gamble, but the odds will likely be in your favor.
We have given you a very brief guide to the Sentence Completion/Vocab-in-Context portion of the SAT CR section. Studying our tips will improve your score. What will improve your score even more, however, is to simply begin reading literature - not so you only learn vocabulary, but also so you learn how to use vocabulary in context.
Good luck on the SAT Sentence Completion questions!
[edit section] Additional Resources
- SAT Vocabulary Flashcards
- SAT Sentence Completion Quizzes
- SAT Reading Cram Sheet
- SAT on Web School
- SAT Practice Tests