SAT Test Prep
SENTENCE COMPLETION SKILLS
1. Verbal Inference
2. The Four Logical Relationships
3. Structural Keys
4. Simplifying the Sentence
5. Using Context Intelligently
6. The Toughest Sentences
Lesson 1: Verbal Inference
What Are Sentence Completion Questions?
Every SAT will contain about 20 Sentence Completion questions as part of the Critical Reading portion of the test. These questions test your verbal inference skills. Your verbal inference skills are the skills you use to figure out the meaning and usage of an unfamiliar word when you read or hear it in a sentence.
Consider the following sentence:
As part of our game, we ran twice around the cregiendo until we became so trepindant that we collapsed in a heap on the porch.
Is the word cregiendo a noun, a verb, or an adjective? How about trepindant? Since they are nonsense words, you could not have known the answer to those questions before reading this sentence. After reading it, though, you should have some idea about what cregiendo and trepindant might mean. Cregiendo must be a noun because it’s the thing we ran around, and trepindant must be an adjective because it describes us after we ran around the cregiendo. With your vast verbal inference skills, you’ve probably figured out more than just the part of speech of cregiendo andtrepindant. Try these questions:
1. A cregiendo is about as big as (A) a spider (B) a pillow (C) a car (D) a house (E) a village.
2. Can a cregiendo be trepindant?
Even the world’s smartest and most powerful computers find these kinds of questions very, very tough. It’s easier to program a computer to become a chess grandmaster or to predict hurricanes than to answer such “common-sense” questions. Common sense seems simple, but this simplicity is deceptive. So revel in your brilliance!
Look at Question 1: A cregiendo is something that kids can run around, but running around it twice causes you to collapse. Your common sense tells you that such a thing would be roughly as big as a house. A village is way too big to run around in a game, and the other things are much too small to exhaust you.
Now look at Question 2: Since we became trepindant after running around the cregiendo, the word trepindant describes human beings, and perhaps other animals that can run, rather than, say, rocks. It also seems to describe a temporary state rather than a permanent trait, since we weren’ttrepindant before we started running around. What would make us collapse in a heap? Exhaustion, of course. So trepindant probably means exhausted, which big objects like cregiendos could never be.
Attacking the Questions
Attack Sentence Completion questions systematically: (1) Read the entire sentence, saying “blank” in place of the missing words. (2) Think about the logic of the sentence. (3) Complete the sentence with your own words. (4) Scan through the choices and look for a match. (It probably won’t be an exact match; pick the closest choice.)
Although these animals migrate, they are not -------; they remain loyal to their established ranges and seldom stray into new areas.
Don’t worry about the choices yet, just read the sentence. These animals seldom stray, so they must not be wanderers. It’s possible that they are not predators, or burrowers, or grazers, or scavengers also, but the sentence doesn’t provide any information about those traits. Your choice should be (E).
Check Your Work
Always reread the sentence with your selected response to check it. Too many students forget this simple step. Rereading helps you to avoid overlooking anything important. Check that the logic and the tone make sense.
Concept Review 1: Verbal Inference
1. What is “verbal inference”?
2. What should you do before trying to complete a Sentence Completion question?
Read the following sentences, think about them, then answer the questions about the nonsense words.
Far from being an arnacular pastime, numismatics, or the study of currency, can purnade our appreciation of the history and economic development of a nation.
3. Arnacular is (A) a verb (B) a noun (C) an adjective (D) an adverb (E) a preposition (F) a pronoun.
4. Can a person be arnacular?
5. Arnacular most nearly means (A) invalid (B) obsessive (C) aimless (D) interesting (E) foreign (F) dangerous.
6. Purnade is (A) a verb (B) a noun (C) an adjective (D) an adverb (E) a preposition (F) a pronoun.
7. Is purnading our appreciation of something probably a good thing or a bad thing?
8. Purnade most nearly means (A) undermine (B) complicate (C) heighten (D) clarify (E) ignore (F) adore.
Car buyers, when given a choice of engines, will typically choose the most powerful and gas-guzzling option, refuting the popular belief that fellinance is the primary concern of consumers.
9. Fellinance is (A) a verb (B) a noun (C) an adjective (D) an adverb (E) a preposition (F) a pronoun.
10. Are all car engines fellinant?
11. Is fellinance more likely to be associated with a small sedan or a large pickup truck?
12. Fellinance most nearly means (A) longevity (B) continuity (C) propriety (D) efficiency (E) luxury.
SAT Practice 1: Verbal Inference
1. Although he clearly was obsessed with the ------ of moral perfection, he was also aware of its potential ------: self-righteousness, arrogance, and condescension.
(A) pursuit . . pitfalls
(B) likelihood . . dangers
(C) contemplation . . insights
(D) morality . . tenets
(E) sanctity . . inequities
2. Whereas Gerald was always the frivolous one, Bernard felt compelled to compensate for his brother’s indiscretions by exercising profound moral ------.
3. In need of a ------ from persecution, many young refugees wandered far from their homeland seeking ------ communities in which to settle.
(A) nightmare . . just
(B) haven . . tolerant
(C) plight . . magnanimous
(D) pledge . . malevolent
(E) sanctuary . . invidious
4. The synthesized voices from today’s computerized machines are a far cry from the ------ sounds of older machines; rather, they sound almost like real human speech.
5. Even in communities that value ------, investment in technologically advanced industries can be an important source of ------.
(A) progress . . prestige
(B) liberty . . concern
(C) competition . . decay
(D) tradition . . income
(E) profits . . dismay
6. Some contend that the quatrains of Nostradamus ------ events that would not take place for centuries, including ------ like wars, conflagrations, and earthquakes.
(A) foreboded . . cataclysms
(B) mitigated . . marvels
(C) impersonated . . myths
(D) transcended . . auguries
(E) disrupted . . coincidences
7. While the script for the movie consummately depicted the wit and charm of Oscar Wilde, the incompetent actor portraying him mutilated the most ------ lines.
8. Rather than ------ the attitude of the entire community from that of a few individuals, she was willing to concede that there were many conflicting opinions on the matter.
9. For all Nick’s ------ at the office, his close friends knew that this trait ------ his true contemplative and introspective nature.
(A) bluster . . belied
(B) pomposity . . determined
(C) sarcasm . . revealed
(D) presumptuousness . . emphasized
(E) shallowness . . bolstered
Answer Key 1: Verbal Inference
Concept Review 1
1. The ability to determine the tone, meaning, and usage of unknown words when they are read or heard in context.
2. Read the entire sentence, saying “blank” when you encounter a missing word; think about the overall meaning of the sentence; and try to complete it with your own words before checking the choices.
3. (C) an adjective
4. Probably. Words that describe pastimes, like fun, popular, or dangerous, can often be used to describe people.
5. (C) aimless
6. (A) a verb
7. Probably good, because studying usually helps you to appreciate things, rather than the opposite.
8. (C) heighten
9. (B) a noun
10. No. Since buyers can choose between engines with fellinance or without it, it must not be universal.
11. A small sedan. Since fellinance is not a quality of powerful and gas-guzzling engines, it is more likely a quality of smaller engines.
12. (D) efficiency
SAT Practice 1
1. A The colon introduces examples. What are selfrighteousness, arrogance, and condescension examples of? Certainly not something good! So insights and tenets (core beliefs) don’t make sense. The likelihood of perfection doesn’t have dangers, the sanctity of perfection doesn’t haveinequities (unequal treatments), but the pursuit of perfection can certainly have pitfalls (negative consequences) like those listed.
contemplation = deep thought; sanctity = holiness
2. C Whereas indicates a contrast. Frivolous means lacking soberness or seriousness. The missing word has to indicate a quality that a serious person would have, like prudence (conservative wisdom).
hysteria = irrational and excessive emotion; equivocation = failure to commit to a position
3. B Refugees are people in search of safety, usually from war. They wouldn’t seek malevolent (illwishing) or invidious (causing resentment) communities. They are not in need of a nightmare or a plight (difficult situation). The only choice that makes sense indicates that they are seeking ahaven (safe place) from persecution in a tolerant community.
just = proper and righteous; magnanimous = generous; pledge = oath; sanctuary = safe place
4. E Today’s computerized machines make sounds that are almost like real human speech, so they must be a far cry from artificial-sounding speech, or mechanical speech.
melancholy = depressed; cordial = friendly; fervid = passionate; inflammatory = tending to incite anger
5. D Even in indicates irony (a reversal of expectations). If technologically advanced industries bring something important, that will certainly not be concern, decay, or dismay. Since technological advances are far from traditional, it would be ironic that a traditional community would valuetechnology.
prestige = public esteem; liberty = freedom
6. A If the events would not take place for centuries, he must have predicted them. Wars, conflagrations, and earthquakes are types of cataclysms (events that cause widespread destruction).
foreboded = predicted; mitigated = improved a situation; transcended = rose above; auguries = predictions
7. C If the script consummately (with superior skill) depicted wit and charm, it must be very good. An incompetent (unskilled) actor would mutilate the ingenious (brilliant) lines.
tactless = inconsiderate; sober = serious; unintelligible = hard to understand
8. D If you aren’t willing to concede that there were many conflicting opinions, then you must believe that everyone shares the same opinion. Therefore, you would not have to ask everyone’s opinion, but could infer (make a generalization about) everyone’s attitude from those of just a few individuals.
distinguishing = recognizing as distinct; expelling = throwing out
9. A Here the phrase for all is an idiom meaning despite, so it indicates irony. If Nick’s true nature is contemplative and introspective, it would be ironic if he were outgoing and blustery in the office. This trait would misrepresent or belie his true nature.
pomposity = haughtiness; sarcasm = bitter insulting attitude; presumptuousness = overconfidence; bolstered = supported