SAT Test Prep
SENTENCE COMPLETION SKILLS
Lesson 4: Simplifying the Sentence
Some sentences are hard to interpret. But don’t give up immediately just because you can’t think of a good way to complete the sentence right away. When that happens, try to simplify your task using one of these strategies.
Process of Elimination
If you understand any part of the sentence, see if that understanding can help you to rule out any choices.
Statistics are often ------ information, but this is an ------ impression, because they must, by definition, obscure data by reducing many values to a single number.
(A) equated with . . erroneous
(B) mistaken for . . aesthetic
(C) superior to . . inaccurate
(D) relegated to . . insidious
(E) substituted for . . interesting
This sentence may be tough to understand at the first reading (or two). But you may know that statistics can’t be relegated to (assigned to the lower status of) information, because data is information. If you just focus on the relationship between statistics and information, you can probably eliminate choices (C), (D), and (E). From there, you can try out the remaining choices and see that (A) works best.
If a sentence does contain two blanks, it is usually easier to complete the second blank first. Why? Because by the time you get to the second blank, you will have read more context clues. Of course, the example we just used is an exception, but you will find that usually the second blank is easier to complete than the first.
Focus on Tone
If you can’t find the right word or words to complete the sentence, try to at least determine the tone of the word, that is, whether it’s positive, negative, or neutral. Then eliminate any choices that don’t have the right tone.
Without David’s ------, the dispute between the parties might never have been resolved so tactfully.
The right word might not come right to mind, but it should be pretty clear that whatever David used was a good thing, because it helped resolve the dispute tactfully. Therefore, if you notice any words that are negative or neutral, you can eliminate them! The beauty of this strategy is that you don’t have to know all of the words: just go to the ones you do know, and eliminate them if they’re not the right tone. (The answer, by the way, is (A).)
You may also often find it helpful to paraphrase the sentence, that is, restate it in your own words. This helps you to focus on the logic of the sentence as a whole, without getting stuck on any particular words or phrases. Just read the sentence completely, then try to restate the idea in the simplest terms possible. When you read the sentence again, you will probably find it easier to complete it, or at least to eliminate wrong choices.
Don’t Be Afraid to Cut and Paste
Remember that you don’t have to find the perfect word to fill the blank; you simply want to capture the right idea. Often, you will find it easy to just pick a word (or a form of a word) from elsewhere in the sentence.
Her account was so sterile that it made all of the other ------ seem ------ by contrast.
To complete the sentence, just reuse the words: accounts and unsterile sound a bit redundant, but they do the job!
Concept Review 4: Simplifying the Sentence
1. Why is it important to pay attention to tone?
2. What does paraphrase mean?
Place a + (positive), – (negative), or = (neutral) next to each word based on its tone.
Place a +, –, or = in each blank to indicate whether the word should be positive, negative, or neutral in tone, then use the tone to determine and check the answer.
12. A ------ politician, Congresswoman Andrews worked hard and made so few mistakes that her opponents seemed to be ------ by contrast.
(A) shrewd . . sages
(B) slothful . . drones
(C) canny . . blunderers
(D) dynamic . . firebrands
(E) conscientious . . geniuses
13. His inability to relate to the latest trends in art led him to fear that his critical faculties had ------ during his long hiatus.
14. To her chagrin, Ellen soon learned that she could not hide her ------; her friends at the party could see the signs of weariness on her face.
15. McLanham’s ------ prose, particularly when compared to that of his more flamboyant ------, illustrates how artists of the same era can reflect startlingly different perspectives on the same reality.
(A) stark . . contemporaries
(B) spartan . . enemies
(C) imprecise . . role models
(D) flowery . . friends
(E) well-crafted . . teachers
SAT Practice 4: Simplifying the Sentence
1. In genetic research, ------ mice are often essential because their ------ allows scientists to pose questions answerable only if all the mice in a group have similar hereditary traits.
(A) sedated . . temperament
(B) cloned . . unpredictability
(C) adaptable . . vigor
(D) inbred . . uniformity
(E) adult . . familiarity
2. Historians generally ------ the film, not only for its excessive sentimentality and unrealistic dialogue, but because it did not ------ a true understanding of the problems of the era.
(A) advocated . . exhibit
(B) challenged . . hinder
(C) panned . . demonstrate
(D) exalted . . ascertain
(E) censured . . eliminate
3. The fact that even the most traditional European languages have ------ such words as “e-mail” seems to indicate that no language is impervious to foreign influences.
4. Although many have ------ the theoretical undergirdings of her research, her experimental protocols have always been beyond reproach.
(A) lingered over
5. Director T. C. Kehrwuld, whose mastery of stark objectivity in film has long been recognized by critics, has released another cinematic masterpiece which, while bound to satisfy those same critics, may be too ------ for public acceptance.
6. The humanists in the class emphasized the ------ of scientific discovery, asserting that although the world could have formulated calculus without Newton, it would never have produced the Hammerklavier Sonata without Beethoven.
7. Even Emily, who had to be ------ to participate at first, eventually confessed that she ------ a great deal from the workshop.
(A) cajoled . . benefitted
(B) inclined . . intuited
(C) restrained . . resented
(D) persuaded . . obscured
(E) discouraged . . recalled
8. Although his manner was didactic and imperious, this fact was generally ------ and occasionally even ------ as qualities befitting a man of his stature.
(A) encouraged . . dismissed
(B) overlooked . . ignored
(C) discussed . . denounced
(D) criticized . . glorified
(E) tolerated . . applauded
9. The novel’s realistic depiction of social injustice in early-nineteenth-century America was an unmistakable ------ of the new republic’s ------ to its democratic ideals.
(A) denunciation . . infidelity
(B) disavowal . . reversion
(C) trivialization . . devotion
(D) revelation . . gratitude
(E) commendation . . allegiance
Answer Key 4: Simplifying the Sentence
Concept Review 4
1. Because it is often easier to attend to tone than to meaning, and it can be used to eliminate inappropriate choices.
2. To restate in your own, simpler terms.
3. lurid (–)
4. purchase (=)
5. euphoria (+)
6. innocuous (+)
7. pretentious (–)
8. overwhelm (=)
9. rejuvenate (+)
10. modify (=)
11. insidious (–)
12. C A (+) politician, Congresswoman Andrews worked hard and made so few mistakes that her opponents seemed to be (–) by contrast.
shrewd = smart; sages = wise people; slothful = lazy; drones = mindless laborers; canny = smart; blunderers = people prone to mistakes; dynamic = energetic; firebrands = troublemakers; conscientious = attentive
13. B His inability to relate to the latest trends in art led him to fear that his critical faculties had (–) during his long hiatus.
diversified = made more various; atrophied = weakened from disuse; converted = changed; enhanced = made more valuable, effective, or beautiful
14. E To her chagrin, Ellen soon learned that she could not hide her (–); her friends at the party could see the signs of weariness on her face.
incoherence = confusion
15. A McLanham’s (=) prose, particularly when compared to that of his more flamboyant (=), illustrates how artists of the same era can reflect startlingly different perspectives on the same reality.
stark = plain; contemporaries = peers; spartan = stark
SAT Practice 4
1. D If mice all have similar traits, they are uniform, probably because they are very closely related. They must be clones or close family members.
sedated = put to sleep; temperament = disposition; vigor = energetic health; inbred = bred with family members; uniformity = lack of variation
2. C If the film has excessive sentimentality and unrealistic dialogue, historians must not like it. They would criticize the film. It must not have shown a true understanding of the problems of the era.
advocated = spoke in favor of; exhibit = display; hinder = impede; panned = criticized harshly; exalted = praised highly; ascertain = determined the truth of; censured = criticized
3. E If this fact indicates that no language is impervious to foreign influences, it must reveal a strong influence from foreign sources. Incorporating such words as “e-mail” would show that influence.
originated = started; invalidated = made worthless; recounted = retold; incorporated = assumed into a whole
4. B Although indicates contrast. Although her protocols have always been beyond reproach, many must have questioned the undergirdings of her research.
lingered over = considered carefully; disputed = called into question; presumed = assumed to be true
5. D Stark objectivity in film means plain, unadorned perspective. Stark and austere are synonyms.
flamboyant = ornate; maudlin = depressed; ecstatic = very happy; humane = compassionate
6. D To say that the world could have formulated calculus without Newton is to suggest that scientific discovery does not depend on the creativity of particular individuals.
monotony = tedium; triviality = ordinariness; impersonality = detachment from personal qualities; intricacy = complicatedness
7. A If Emily only eventually confessed about the workshop, she must have had to be forced to participate at first, but then she must have gotten a lot out of it.
cajoled = coaxed persistently; intuited = determined by a hunch; restrained = held back; obscured = made unclear
8. E If being didactic (preachy) and imperious (overbearing) were thought befitting (appropriate), they must have been accepted.
9. A What is the relationship between a depiction of social injustice in a society and that society’s democratic ideals? Such a depiction would certainly call those ideals into question, perhaps even denounce them.
denunciation = harsh criticism; infidelity = unfaithfulness; disavowal = swearing off; reversion = return to a previous state; devotion = strong commitment; revelation = revealing experience; commendation = praise; allegiance = faithfulness