SAT Test Prep


Lesson 3: Structural Keys

The Structural Key Words

Structural key words are the words or phrases that show the logical relationship between the statements in the sentence. Certain logical relationships require key words: for instance, it’s almost impossible to say that one thing caused another thing without using a word like because, therefore, thus, in order to, or consequently.

As you read the sentences, underline or circle any structural key words you see. Completing the sentence logically requires you to think about these key words first.

Here is a partial list of some structural key words:

Semicolons and Colons

Some punctuation marks can also help you determine the logical relation between parts of a sentence. Semicolons and colons, for instance, indicate a “supporting” relationship between statements. A semicolon (;) between two statements indicates that the second statement extends ordevelops the previous statement. A colon (:) between two statements indicates that the second statement explains the previous one.


The string arrangements by Rob Mathes are unobtrusive yet ------; the violins rise ------, but soon they reach deeply into the piece and transform it into a lyrically rich and moving experience.

(A) carefree . . stiffly (B) reserved . . involuntarily (C) profound . . subtly (D) detached . . carefully (E) hesitant . . methodically

The semicolon indicates that the second statement develops the first, repeating the same general idea but with more detail. The two clauses are parallel, that is, they have similar grammatical structures. The first says: These are A yet B; they do C but then D. The structure indicates that A and C go together, and B and D go together. If the arrangements are unobtrusive then they rise subtly, and if they reach deeply into the piece and transform it, they must be profound.


Newton inferred that the law of gravity was ------: even the gravitational pull of an ant on Earth will ------ a star millions of light-years away.

(A) universal . . influence (B) inconsequential . . accelerate (C) intense . . support (D) minute . . affect (E) complete . . replace

The colon after the first statement indicates that the second statement explains the first, in this case by giving an example. To understand the sentence as a whole, it’s probably best to try to understand the second statement first and then ask: “What general idea does that example explain?” The second part says that the gravitational pull of an ant will ------ a star far away. Well, a scientist like Isaac Newton wouldn’t be so silly as to say that an ant’s gravity could support or replace a star, so it must influence, accelerate, or affect it. If this is true, then even small gravitational effects must travel a long, long, long, long way. This is the important point of the example, so Newton’s theory must have been that gravity is universal.

Concept Review 3: Structural Keys

1. Name as many structural key words or phrases as you can that indicate a contrast of ideas.

2. Name as many words or phrases as you can that indicate a cause-and-effect relationship.

3. What do colons and semicolons indicate about the statements they join, and what does a colon do that a semicolon does not do?

Circle each structural key word, phrase, or punctuation mark in each sentence, and indicate above the word, phrase, or mark whether it shows support, contrast, cause and effect, or definition.

4. Although the words coming from his mouth were refined and deferential, his eyes betrayed a subtle ------ for his subject.

5. In order to be newsworthy, a story should be ------; that is, it should not merely warm over old facts the reader has heard many times before.

6. The building should be ------ not only for its long-recognized architectural merit but also for its ------ in the history of Black American theater.

7. Because the President was used to receiving the support of his advisers, he was ------ when he discovered that their views on the handling of the crisis were ------ with his own.

8. Some criminal investigators believe that polygraphs will reliably ------ deception by recording ------ reactions such as slight changes in breathing rate or perspiration rate elicited by a set of questions.

SAT Practice 3: Structural Keys

1. The ------ of the neighborhood is revealed by subtle practices, like the fact that so many people in the community use the same hand gestures when speaking.

(A) diversity

(B) adaptability

(C) modernization

(D) cohesiveness

(E) creativity

2. During the day, crabs move slowly and ------, but at night, they roam ------ across sandy sea bottoms, climbing reefs or foraging for kelp.

(A) frantically . . wildly

(B) cautiously . . freely

(C) gradually . . sluggishly

(D) deliberately . . carefully

(E) rashly . . rapidly

3. Because the President was used to receiving the support of his advisers, he was ------ when he discovered that their views on the handling of the crisis were ------ with his own.

(A) stunned . . irreconcilable

(B) relieved . . inconsistent

(C) amused . . consonant

(D) oblivious . . compatible

(E) sorry . . commensurate

4. The building should be ------ not only for its longrecognized architectural merit but also for its ------ in the history of Black American theater.

(A) designed . . role

(B) commissioned . . usefulness

(C) preserved . . importance

(D) demolished . . future

(E) constructed . . place

5. The lecture on number theory and its applications might have been particularly trying for the nonspecialists in the audience had the professor not ------ it with humorous asides.

(A) exhorted

(B) leavened

(C) intercepted

(D) countermanded

(E) rebuffed

6. His ------ maintained that Mr. Frank was constantly at odds with the corporate officers; yet the truth was that his ideas were not at all ------ with the officers’ reasonable goals.

(A) detractors . . in accord

(B) supporters . . at variance

(C) advocates . . harmonious

(D) disparagers . . incompatible

(E) apologists . . in conflict

7. In spite of the ------ of Larry’s speech, most of the audience was ------ well before he had finished.

(A) conciseness . . cheering

(B) humor . . intrigued

(C) appropriateness . . enrapt

(D) brevity . . asleep

(E) cleverness . . reluctant

8. If a child is ------ by arbitrary parental restrictions and denied the opportunity to exercise personal responsibility, at adolescence the child is likely to engage in dangerous and self-destructive behavior.

(A) nurtured

(B) appeased

(C) confined

(D) fascinated

(E) liberated

9. Although the government has frequently ------ some parental responsibilities, at heart it must still be parents, not agencies, who are ------ to care for children.

(A) obscured . . assumed

(B) precluded . . adjured

(C) exulted . . incompetent

(D) disavowed . . impelled

(E) usurped . . obligated

Answer Key 3: Structural Keys

Concept Review 3

1. but, however, in contrast, nevertheless, whereas, although, etc.

2. because, therefore, thus, by, etc.

3. Colons indicate that an explanation or a list of examples will follow; semicolons indicate that the statement that follows will extend or develop the previous one.

4. Although (contrast)

5. In order to (cause and effect); semicolon (support); that is (definition)

6. not only … but also (support)

7. Because (cause and effect); discovered (contrast)

8. by (cause and effect); such as (support)

SAT Practice 3

1. D The word like indicates examples. What are common hand gestures examples of? The unity or sameness of the community.

diversity = variety; adaptability = ability to fit in; cohesiveness = unity

2. B The but indicates contrast. The first missing word must fit well with slowly.

frantically = wildly; sluggishly = slowly; rashly = hastily

3. A Because indicates cause and effect. The word discover indicates surprise. If the President was used to receiving the support of his advisers, then it would be surprising to discover that they didn’t agree with him on something.

irreconcilable = unable to be made to agree; consonant = in agreement with; oblivious = unaware; compatible = fitting well together; commensurate = in proportion to

4. C Not only … but also … indicates a supportive relationship between the ideas.

commissioned = paid for an artistic work to be created; demolished = destroyed

5. B It might have been trying (difficult to tolerate) had the professor not ------ it with humorous asides. What do humorous asides do to make something easier to tolerate? They lighten it up.

exhorted = urged strongly; leavened = lightened with humor; intercepted = caught in transit; countermanded = cancelled; rebuffed = refused abruptly

6. D It’s not particularly good to be constantly at odds with the corporate officers, so this is something that critics would say of him. The word yet indicates a contrast. If the officers’ goals were reasonable, then one would likely not disagree with them.

detractors = critics; accord = agreement; variance = disagreement; advocates = supporters; harmonious = in pleasant agreement; disparagers = critics; incompatible = difficult to reconcile; apologists = those who make supportive arguments

7. D In spite of shows irony. It would certainly be ironic if the speech were short and yet still put people to sleep.

conciseness = brevity; enrapt = enthralled; brevity = briefness

8. C Parental restrictions by definition are things that confine; nurtured = cared for; appeased = made less angry; liberated = freed

9. E Although indicates contrast. The sentence makes it clear that although government has overtaken some parental responsibilities, still, parents, not agencies, should care for children.

obscured = made less clear; precluded = prevented; adjured = commanded solemnly; exulted = rejoiced; disavowed = renounced; impelled = urged to action; usurped = took over; obligated = morally compelled