SAT For Dummies

Part II

Comprehending the SAT: The Critical Reading Sections

Chapter 6

Practicing Sentence Completions

In This Chapter

 Getting comfortable with some guided sentence completions

 Analyzing your strengths and weaknesses by solving sentence completions on your own

Practice may not make perfect, but when it comes to sentence completions, practice definitely leads to higher scores. As you get comfortable with this type of question, you can quickly zero in on the clue words and maneuver around the SAT’s favorite tricks.

In this chapter, you find two sets of SAT-style sentence completions, arranged in increasing level of difficulty. After you finish each question in the first set, check the explanation that directly follows the question. No peeking! If you’re too tempted, place a sheet of paper over the answer. Even if you get the correct answer, read the whole explanation. You may discover some new vocabulary and tricks of the trade. The answers to the second set, which is set up like the real test, are in their own section following the last question in the set. No peeking there either! (For more info on answering sentence completions, check out Chapter 5.)

Level of difficulty is always an individual decision, so you may find some of the earlier sentences more difficult and some of the later sentences a walk in the park. But in general, look especially hard for traps in the last three sentence completions, including the ones in this chapter. Follow the guessing rules that I outline in Chapter 1.

Set 1: Tackling Some Guided Questions

1. Audrey Vazquez, who acknowledges Cervantes as a _____, takes inspiration from his famous windmill episode but raises the comedy to a new level.

(A) model

(B) descendant

(C) obstacle

(D) tragedian

(E) contradiction

The key word here is inspiration. If Audrey Vazquez takes inspiration from Cervantes, Cervantes has to be something positive, and he has to come before Audrey’s time. Boom! You can eliminate descendant and obstacle. Because the famous windmill episode is comedy, you can dumptragedian. Contradiction doesn’t make much sense, so model is best. Choice (A) is correct.

2. The labor leader’s foray into astrology has been ignored by all but the most inclusive biographers, and even they tend to _____ this period in his life.

(A) investigate

(B) explain

(C) fabricate

(D) emphasize

(E) minimize

The clue that cracks this sentence is even. You know you’re going to continue the same idea from the beginning of the sentence, which tells you that the period is ignored. What fits with ignored? Minimize means “to pay as little attention to as possible.” Choice (E) is correct.

3. The central achievement of Macbeth is Shakespeare’s ability to _____ the politics of his day and _____ the interplay of ambition and conscience.

(A) uncover . . . synthesize

(B) dissect . . . reveal

(C) penetrate . . . rearrange

(D) analyze . . . confuse

(E) idealize . . . downgrade

Think about the relationship between the two blanks. The first does something to politics, and the second relates to ambition and conscience. If you fill in the blanks with the first thing that comes into your head, you may say “dig into” the politics and “show” the ambition/conscience connection. So you can immediately knock out (D) and (E) because confuse and downgrade aren’t achievements. (A), (B), and (C) are all possible until you get to the second blank because uncover, dissect, and penetrate all tell you that Shakespeare is getting into politics. But only (B) fits when you hit the second blank. Synthesize means “to pull lots of loose ideas into a whole” or “to manufacture.” Rearrange doesn’t make sense. Choice (B) has it all: If Shakespeare dissects politics, he slices into it and examines the pieces in detail, thus revealing the way ambition and conscience relate to each other. Three cheers for (B).

4. _____ that intentions have some _____ in a discussion of poetry, let us refer to the journal of Alex Plug, which clearly states that his sonnet “On Homework” was written to express disgust with the last biology assignment.

(A) Denying . . . importance

(B) Acknowledging . . . ambiguity

(C) Granting . . . validity

(D) Reiterating . . . irrelevance

(E) Disproving . . . interest

You can rule out (A) because if you deny that intentions have importance, why bother listening to the author’s explanation of how he wrote “On Homework”? You can drop (D) and (E) for the same reason. (B) leaves the playing field because Plug’s journals clearly make a point, andambiguity implies that more than one interpretation is possible. Thus, Choice (C) is correct.

5. The failure of the parent to control his child’s behavior meant that the entire streetcar had to endure a flow of meaningless _____ from a youngster barely old enough to talk.

(A) prattle

(B) joviality

(C) criticism

(D) maledictions

(E) maladies

You know the sentence refers to a problem because the streetcar riders must endure, or put up with something, so you can rule out joviality (fun, jolliness). “Barely old enough to talk” tells you that the problem concerns words; time to dump maladies (ills) and maledictions (curses).Criticism could be verbal trouble, but tiny little kids seldom lecture on the flaws in Spielberg’s latest movie. Prattle — meaningless chatter — fits best. Pat yourself on the back if you said Choice (A).

6. Although _____ images of the region persist, the area in fact has witnessed a _____ of ­economic and social activity.

(A) photographic . . . mutation

(B) sordid . . . devastation

(C) illusory . . . decline

(D) geographic . . . predominance

(E) negative . . . resurgence

The clue word although tips you off: The sentence contrasts two ideas. Choice (E) gives you opposite directions — negative is on the way down, and resurgence (resurrection or rebirth) is on the way up. No other pair contains this contrast, so Choice (E) is correct.

7. The most controversial section is Ms. Haldock’s frank _____ on patriotism.

(A) platitude

(B) metamorphosis

(C) consensus

(D) treatise

(E) neologism

The clues are the words controversial and frank — concepts usually applied to ideas in written or oral form. Choices (A), (D), and (E) may refer to words (platitude means “soothing proverb or saying,” treatise means “a written discussion of ideas,” and neologism means “newly coined word”). Of the three, only treatise fits with controversial, an adjective applied to things that people argue about. Choice (D) is correct.

Now that you’ve completed a set, look at the questions you answered incorrectly. Decide why you made a mistake. Was it an issue of vocabulary? Missing a word clue? Eliminating clearly wrong answers and then making a bad guess? After you examine your pattern of errors, you know what you need to work on. If it’s vocabulary, check out Chapter 2 for some tips. Also look at the words that look like this (and their accompanying definitions) that I tuck into this and all chapters. If word clues trip you up, take a look at Chapter 5.

Set 2: Practicing Some Questions on Your Own

1. His expression was _____ at every game; I don’t think I saw him smile even when his team scored a hundred points.

(A) downcast

(B) affable

(C) joyful

(D) pert

(E) mirthful

2. The king’s _____ was evident when he declined to increase the tax rebate for his loyal but _____ subjects.

(A) benevolence . . . poverty-stricken

(B) greed . . . undertaxed

(C) laziness . . . stubborn

(D) popularity . . . aged

(E) miserliness . . . needy

3. The judges who select the recipients of Woodron Fellowships _____ the purpose of the foundation when they financed Edward Ebert’s research on the origin of mathematics, a project that is sure to _____ that topic successfully.

(A) violated . . . describe

(B) exonerated . . . delineate

(C) contravened . . . explicate

(D) honored . . . illuminate

(E) supported . . . obfuscate

4. The comedian’s _____ body made his ­emergence from the narrow chimney appear ridiculous and nearly impossible.

(A) wizened

(B) lithe

(C) rotund

(D) sooty

(E) emaciated

5. Agnell’s submission is in stark contrast to her growing awareness of the value of _____ speech.

(A) impromptu

(B) controversial

(C) rebellious

(D) protective

(E) timorous

6. The beauty queen received her award ­primarily for her _____.

(A) protocol

(B) pulchritude

(C) luminescence

(D) integrity

(E) chicanery

7. The _____ spectator did not hesitate to offer his opinion on every aspect of the game, even though he knew very little about sporting events.

(A) inhibited

(B) vociferous

(C) credulous

(D) brusque

(E) judicious

8. The approaching rain gave us a(n) _____ excuse to escape the _____ party.

(A) ubiquitous . . . jovial

(B) unsolicited . . . riotous

(C) plausible . . . boring

(D) multifarious . . . elegant

(E) intrinsic . . . obligatory

Answers to Set 2

1. A. You’re looking for a downer, and the only word that doesn’t apply to the can’t-stop-­grinning types is downcast, so (A) is the correct answer. Affable means “friendly,” as in your basic chat-over-the-back-fence neighbor. Pert (also known as a shampoo) means “chirpy,” as in your basic kid-sister-on-a-good-day attitude. Mirth means “laughter,” so you can figure out mirthful yourself.

2. E. The clues in the sentence concern the tax rebate. If the king declined (refused) to increase the rebate, he didn’t lower taxes. So (A), the trap in this question, is out because if the king displayed benevolence, he’d take less money from his poor subjects. On the other hand, if he showed miserliness, he counted every penny and didn’t return any more than he absolutely had to, even though his subjects were needy. Choice (E) is right.

3. D. Use real-world knowledge to get a foothold here. Fellowships are fancy scholarships and are designed to add to the body of knowledge. So any positive word in the first blank must be matched by a positive word in the second blank. Or both blanks can be negative. The wordsuccessfully implies that you’re aiming for positive, so you can rule out (A) and (C), in which the first choices are negative, and (E), in which the second choice is negative. Choice (B) falls away because you don’t exonerate a purpose (prove that the purpose is guiltless), though you can exonerate the officers of the Woodron Fellowship if you can prove that they didn’t spend a month in the Bahamas snorkeling away the scholarship money. Choice (D) is correct.

4. C. What makes an entry through a narrow chimney nearly impossible? A fat body. Hence Choice (C) is the answer you seek: Rotund is a word for those who shop for pants with 60-inch waists. The other choices don’t fit: wizened means “shriveled up,” lithe means “graceful” (think ballerina), and emaciated means “thin to the point of starving.” Choice (D) is meant to distract you because soot does come from chimneys. However, because soot comes from chimneys, a sooty body is the opposite of nearly impossible for anyone who has slithered down one.

5. C. You need a contrast to submission, so you can rule out impromptu (off the cuff, unplanned), protective, (serving to shield or defend) and timorous (fearful, shy). Controversial is a possibility, but to rebel is the opposite of to submit, so rebellious is a better choice. Choice (C) is your best bet here.

6. B. Okay, pulchritude sounds like something you’d get arrested for, but it actually means “beauty.” The next closest is luminescence because beautiful people tend to shine, but this word is better for things that really light up, like 40-watt bulbs. Protocol (the rules of diplomacy) andintegrity (honesty) don’t win beauty crowns, though chicanery (trickery) might. Still, (B) is best.

7. B. Vociferous people talk a lot and loudly — just the sort of spectators who think they know everything. Inhibited people are restrained and quiet. Credulous (believing too easily, as in “You’ll sell me the Brooklyn Bridge? Great!”) and judicious (wise) don’t fit; neither doesbrusque (rude, abrupt). Choice (B) is right.

8. C. This relatively easy sentence becomes a killer when you look at the word choices, which are strictly for the “I read the whole thesaurus last night” set of people. But you can take an educated guess on the second blank. If you’re talking about an excuse and an escape, the party is probably boring, which is Choice (C). Then real-world clues help. You want to get out of a boring party? Plead weather, and you’ll be believed because your excuse is plausible, or believable. The other choices don’t come close, though (B) may have caught your eye because rain isunsolicited (not asked for) and parties may be riotous (the neighbors may call the cops). Choice (C) is correct.

Getting the lowdown on sentence completions

Finish this sentence: SAT sentence completions

(A) are best when buttered lightly and eaten with globs of strawberry jelly

(B) should be sent for a very long walk on a short pier jutting into any convenient ocean

(C) are tough even for those with good vocabulary and reading skills

(D) make up a bit less than a third of the Critical Reading portion of the SAT

(E) may be answered only if you’re in touch with your inner thesaurus

The correct answer is Choice (A). Just kidding. Though I do like strawberry jelly and I wouldn’t mind dunking these questions in the Atlantic (Choice B). The real clinkers here are (C) and (E). True, if you’ve been working on your vocabulary (see Chapter 2 for hints), you already have a leg up on SAT sentence completions. But even if you haven’t been buttering pages of the dictionary and eating them with a dab of strawberry, you can still do well on this section if you stay alert to reading clues. Choice (D), by the way, is the correct answer.