The SAT Prep Black Book
SAT Sentence Completion
The Big Secret Of Sentence Completion Questions
The big secret of Sentence Completion questions is essentially identical to the big secret of the Passage-Based Reading questions: correct answer choices will restate ideas from the sentence.
In other words, we are not simply looking for words that make okay-sounding sentences when inserted in the blanks. On many questions, you will find more than one answer choice that makes a decent-sounding sentence. We want the only answer choice that specifically restates an idea from the sentence.
For some questions (often, but not always, the first ones in a set), the way that the correct answer restates a part of the sentence is pretty clear. The grammar of these kinds of sentences is straightforward, and the correct answer choices for these kinds of questions involve fairly normal words.
For other questions, the words in the question may be fairly easy words for most test-takers, but the grammar of the sentence may be so complicated that some test-takers lose track of its meaning and aren’t sure which ideas should be restated in the blanks.
Finally, there are other questions where the words are very challenging, and you might not really have much of an idea what the sentence or the words mean when you read the question for the first time. (As I’ve said many times by now, these types of questions are the ones that make people feel like they should memorize a lot of vocabulary. But that isn’t the best way to handle them. We’ll get to that later.)
We said before that there are basically two kinds of Sentence Completion questions, from the College Board’s standpoint: questions with one blank, and questions with two blanks. But it would also be true to say that, from a test-taker’s standpoint, there’s a more important way to divide up the Sentence Completion questions: there are questions where we know enough of the words to be sure which answer choice restates part of the sentence, and questions where we don’t know enough words to be sure.