Break Down Unfamiliar Words, Looking for Familiar Word Parts - Tips on Handling Sentence Completion Questions - SENTENCE COMPLETION QUESTIONS - SAT CRITICAL READING WORKBOOK






Tips on Handling Sentence
Completion Questions


Break Down Unfamiliar Words, Looking for Familiar Word Parts

To determine the meaning of an unfamiliar word, either in a sentence or among the answer choices, use what you know about word parts, the building blocks of our language: prefixes, suffixes, and most important of all, roots.

(A list of word parts appears later on in the book.)

Consider the following sentence:

Interviewing the flood victims on her show, Oprah Winfrey was wholly ________: she appeared to feel their loss as if it had been her own.


Note how the part of the sentence following the colon (the second clause) is being used to clarify Winfrey’s attitude or behavior. She appeared to feel the victims’ loss. The correct answer must have something to do with feeling.

Here are the five answer choices:

(A) self-possessed

(B) empathetic

(C) obsessive

(D) perceptive

(E) theoretical


From your study of word parts, you know that the root path means feeling or disease. Antipathy is a hostile feeling; sympathy, a kindly one. Empathy is an understanding of and identification with the feelings of another person. In identifying with the feelings of the flood victims, Winfrey was empathetic.


More Signals to Spot! image

Look for signals that indicate a word is being defined—phrases such as in other words, that is, or which means, and special punctuation clues. Commas, hyphens, and parentheses all are used to set off definitions.