SAT CRITICAL READING

PART 3

 

SENTENCE COMPLETION QUESTIONS

 

Tips on Handling Sentence
Completion Questions


TIP 2

Spot Clues in the Sentence: Signal Words

Writers use transitions to link their ideas logically. These transitions or signal words are clues that can help you figure out what the sentence actually means.

Support Signals

 

Look for words or phrases that indicate that the omitted portion of the sentence continues a thought developed elsewhere in the sentence. Examples are andmoreoverin addition, and furthermore. In such cases, a synonym or near-synonym should provide the correct answer.

Here is an example of a sentence completion question in which a support signal provides a helpful clue.

He was habitually so docile and ____ that his friends could not understand his sudden outburst against his employers.

(A) submissive

(B) incorrigible

(C) contemptuous

(D) erratic

(E) hasty

 

The signal word and is your clue that the writer is trying to reinforce the notion of docility introduced in the sentence. Not only is this person docile, he is also blank. Look through the answer choices for a synonym or near-synonym of docile or obedient. You find one immediately: (A),submissive. Check through the other answer choices. Nothing else makes sense. The correct answer is (A).

Contrast Signals

 

Look for words or phrases that indicate a contrast between one idea and another. Examples are but, although, nevertheless, despite, however, even though, and on the other hand. In such cases, an antonym or near-antonym for another word in the sentence should provide the correct answer.

Here is an example of a sentence completion question in which a contrast signal pinpoints the correct answer for you.

We expected her to be jubilant over her victory, but she was ____ instead.

(A) triumphant

(B) adult

(C) morose

(D) loquacious

(E) culpable

 

The signal word but suggests that the winner’s expected reaction contrasts with her actual one. Instead of being “jubilant” (extremely joyful), she is sad. Look through the answer choices to find a word that is the opposite of jubilant. The correct answer is (C), morose or gloomy.

Cause and Effect Signals

 

Look for words or phrases that indicate that one thing causes another. Examples are because, since, therefore, consequently, accordingly, hence, thus, and as a result.

Here is an example of a sentence completion question in which a cause and effect signal should prove helpful to you.

Because his delivery was ____, the effect of his speech on the voters was nonexistent.

(A) plausible

(B) moving

(C) audible

(D) halting

(E) respectable

 

What sort of delivery would cause a speech to have no effect? A plausible (superficially pleasing and persuasive) delivery would probably have some effect on the voters. A moving or eloquent delivery certainly would. An audible delivery, one the audience could hear, would be more likely to have an effect than an inaudible one would. A respectable, appropriate delivery probably would have some impact as well. Only a halting or stumbling delivery would mar the voters’ appreciation of the speech and cause it to have little or no effect on them. Thus, the correct answer is (D).