SAT Test Prep
SENTENCE COMPLETION SKILLS
Lesson 5: Using Context Intelligently
Parallelism is often an essential element of the logical structure of a sentence. Noticing parallel structures often makes completing sentences much simpler. What is parallelism? Well, it’s discussed in a bit more detail in Chapter 15, Lesson 3, entitled “Parallelism.” In short, it is the similarity among phrases that are listing things or comparing things.
For instance, consider the sentence
Rather than being dull and arcane, her lecture on galaxy formation was ------ and------ .
This contains two ideas that are parallel: dull and arcane, and ------ and ------. By the law of parallelism, the first missing word is an adjective that contrasts with dull, and the second is an adjective that contrasts with arcane (obscure and hard to understand). The missing words should contrast with the tone and meaning of the first two adjectives, preferably in order. So a nice, tidy, logical way to complete the sentence would be:
Rather than being dull and arcane, her lecture on galaxy formation was exciting and easy to understand.
The modifiers (that is, adjectives and adverbs) in Sentence Completion questions are not chosen casually. Modifiers usually play key roles in the logical structure of the sentence. If you read a sentence a couple of times, and its main idea isn’t perfectly clear, try reading it through once more, this time focusing primarily on the adjectives and adverbs.
The training center, clean and regimented, is ------ to those seeking the ------ once associated with boxing.
(A) surprising . . austerity
(B) disappointing . . seediness
(C) convincing . . chaos
(D) refreshing . . camaraderie
(E) inspiring . . ambition
At first, you might focus on the modifiers clean and regimented. These could be positive descriptions, so such a training center might impress people who seek cleanliness and order. But no choice really fits this reading. The real key word is hard to miss: once. This word implies that people are seeking something that was once part of boxing but is not any more. Therefore, they would be disappointed by its absence, and so they must have been seeking something that is the opposite of clean and regimented, like seedy and undisciplined. (It may seem strange, but some people like that kind of stuff!)
Context and Common Sense
Your common sense is one of your best tools on Sentence Completion questions. For instance, if a sentence refers to a scientist, it’s not just for decoration. Think: what do scientists do or think that makes them different from nonscientists? Or how about teachers, or politicians, or advocates, or critics, etc.? Of course, the sentences won’t always show people acting in typical ways, but they generally require you to understand how these folks typically act or think.
An inveterate procrastinator, Pat could always be counted on to ------ any assignment he is given.
The only real context clue we have here is the fact that Pat is a procrastinator. If you know what a procrastinator does, then you know how to complete the sentence. Procrastinators postpone things.
Practice Your Verbal Inference Skills
Just like every other reading skill, verbal inference skills can be improved best by reading. Read books and articles with challenging vocabulary so that you can practice “figuring out” the meaning of unfamiliar words. Some students think it’s best to look up new vocabulary words as soon as they encounter them. Rather, it’s better to make an educated guess about the meaning before you look it up. Of course, once you do look it up, you should make a flashcard using the College Hill flashcard system described in Chapter 3, and practice it so that you never forget it.
Concept Review 5: Using Context Intelligently
1. What is parallelism, and how can it help you to complete sentences?
2. What is a modifier?
3. What should you do when you encounter an unfamiliar word in your reading?
Each of the three following sentences contains some of the same information, but in very different logical contexts. Complete each sentence with your own word or phrase according to the logical context.
4. Britain can hardly be considered _____________________, despite the fact that it is separated from the European continent both physically and linguistically.
5. Even while it maintains a deep respect, even reverence, for its history, Britain can hardly be considered ____________________.
6. Britain can hardly be considered _____________________, having been reduced to a mere shadow of the vast dominion it once was.
Complete the following sentences with your own words or phrases, utilizing any parallelism in each sentence.
7. The speakers ran the gamut from the eloquent to the bumbling; some were _____________________ while others spoke with profound _____________________.
8. I did not want to sit through another lecture that was rambling and mind-numbing; rather, I was hoping for one that was _____________________ and _____________________.
SAT Practice 5: Using Context Intelligently
1. Most art critics regard her early style as pedestrian and conventional, utterly devoid of technical or artistic ------.
2. Historical buildings in many developing towns, rather than being razed, are now being ------.
3. Some linguists claim that French is characterized by brevity of expression and therefore may be the most ------ of all languages.
4. The melée that punctuated the meeting between the rival factions was not entirely ------; the groups have long ------ each other on many important issues.
(A) surprising . . supported
(B) unusual . . copied
(C) explicit . . evaluated
(D) unanticipated . . opposed
(E) expected . . encountered
5. Having been devastated by the earthquake, the freeway was virtually ------ to all but the most rugged of vehicles.
6. Those who assume that they can easily be ------ chefs in the classic tradition are almost as ------ as those who think they can write a novel if they simply sit down and type.
(A) amateur . . candid
(B) renowned . . skeptical
(C) superb . . timid
(D) clumsy . . pessimistic
(E) competent . . naive
7. Many opponents of psychoanalysis contend that since its assumptions cannot be tested with scientific rigor, it is properly characterized as merely ------ system rather than a reliable therapeutic method.
(A) a concise
(B) a courageous
(C) a necessary
(D) an intuitive
(E) an ornamental
8. Paranoia, extreme competitiveness, and many other ------ of the modern rat race, despite what many cutthroat executives are saying, are hardly ------ to long-term success in the business world.
(A) by-products . . conducive
(B) responsibilities . . detrimental
(C) ornaments . . helpful
(D) establishments . . reliable
(E) inequities . . charitable
9. Under certain conditions, the virus can mutate into ------ strain, transforming what was once simply ------ into a menacing poison.
(A) a new . . an epidemic
(B) a deficient . . a derivative
(C) an erratic . . a rudiment
(D) a virulent . . a nuisance
(E) an advanced . . a disease
Answer Key 5: Using Context Intelligently
Concept Review 5
1. Parallelism is the grammatical and logical consistency in phrases that list or compare things in a sentence.
2. A modifier is a word or phrase that describes another word. A word that modifies a noun is called an adjective, and a word that modifies a verb, an adjective, or another adverb is an adverb.
3. Try to infer its meaning from its usage in the sentence, then look it up in the dictionary to see if you are correct, then make a flashcard for the word using the College Hill system described in Chapter 3.
4. Britain can hardly be considered an island, despite the fact that it is separated from the European continent both physically and linguistically.
5. Even while it maintains a deep respect, even reverence, for its history, Britain can hardly be considered archaic.
6. Britain can hardly be considered an empire, having been reduced to a mere shadow of the vast dominion it once was.
7. The speakers ran the gamut from the eloquent to the bumbling; some were articulate while others spoke with profound ineptitude. (You may have used different words, but be sure that the first word is positive in tone and corresponds roughly to articulate and that the second word is negative and corresponds roughly to ineptitude in meaning.)
8. I did not want to sit through another lecture that was rambling and mind-numbing; rather, I was hoping for one that was focused and engaging. (You may have used different words, but be sure that both words are positive in tone and that the first corresponds roughly to focused and that the second word corresponds roughly to engaging in meaning.)
SAT Practice 5
1. E Something pedestrian and conventional is ordinary and uses methods that have been used many times before. Therefore it is not
new. lucidity = clarity; analysis = examination of parts; articulation = expression; mediocrity = averageness; innovation = novelty, creativity
2. B To raze something is to destroy it completely. If a historical building is not razed, it is preserved or, even better, made new again.
renovated = made new again
3. C Brevity of expression is conciseness. vivid = full of lively forms or colors; concise = to the point; accessible = easily understood; concrete = perceived through the senses
4. D A melée is a fight. If the groups were fighting, they probably have disagreed with each other. Therefore the melée was not unexpected.
5. B A highway that has been devastated by the earthquake would be hard to travel through. impassable = unable to be travelled through
6. E Those who think they can write a novel if they simply sit down and type are probably unaware of how challenging such a task is. They are naive.
amateur = nonprofessional; candid = frank and honest; renowned = reputable, well-known; skeptical = inclined to doubting; superb = exceptional; timid = shy; naive = lacking a sophisticated understanding
7. D If something cannot be tested with scientific rigor and is not a reliable method, it must be without a reasonable, scientific basis.
intuitive = based on hunches rather than reason; ornamental = decorative
8. A Despite indicates contrast. Paranoia and extreme competitiveness are certainly bad things. Of course, cutthroat executives would claim that they help, but they can’t really be helpful to success in the business world.
by-products = results of a process; conducive = helpful; detrimental = harmful; inequities = unfair situations
9. D If something is transformed into a menacing poison, then it must not have been so bad before. Perhaps it was only a little bit troublesome.
epidemic = a broad outbreak; derivative = repetitive of previous works; rudiment = basic element; virulent = dangerous; nuisance = annoyance