The SAT Sentence Completions: Basic Principles
Here's an example:
- Elliot's analysis of the manuscript is disappointingly -------; Elliot seems content to remain on the surface of the intricate text.
Be Alert for Concept Clues
Grammatical clues (such as the words and phrases we just discussed) and punctuation clues are often enough to solve the sentence completion, but sometimes you will need to use concept clues. A concept clue is an idea that is repeated or contrasted within a sentence.
We find a simple example of this technique in the instructions. Here is the illustrative sentence:
- Trends are difficult to spot until they are well established because they usually begin as minor, seemingly ------- events.
Sometimes an idea will be contrasted with another, and such contrasts are also important concept clues. On the two-blank sentence completions, you will often find two concept clues, but the principle we have discussed is the same.
Use Common Sense
Simply using what you know about people and the world often helps you solve sentence completions. Consider the following example:
- The young poet, apparently eager to ------- academic commentators who criticized his earlier work for pandering to plebian sensibilities, began to include more erudite references and classical allusions in his poems.
What would a young poet be eager to do regarding academic commentators of his work? Unless he were self-destructive, a young poet would be eager to please or impress commentators of his work, especially those who had criticized his work earlier. The answer to this question is choice A. Even if you weren't familiar with this word, you could have eliminated the other choices using process of elimination. Once again, notice how we can sometimesthough not alwaysget away with ignoring difficult words in a sentence completion.
You've learned an astonishing amount about the world and the people in it use it. As you'll see when we get to the reading passages, common sense often rescues us on those questions, too.
Don't Be Too Clever on the Sentence Completions
Sentence completions are straightforward, as are the reading questions. Unlike the kind of reading you are required to do in your school literature classes, the sentences contain no subtleties or surprises.
I say this because if I were giving a lecture right now on sentence completions to you and a dozen classmates, it's about this point that some braniac would raise his hand and challenge me with a comment like, "Well, maybe a young poet would be angry at the critics of his previous work, and so maybe he'd actually be trying to antagonize them."
Yeah, right. Heck, why stop there? Maybe the poet hates poetry and is trying to sabotage his own career. No way. Whenever a sentence includes something contrary to common sense, the sentence will highlight this fact by including a word like "surprisingly" or in some other way letting us know that something unusual is going on.
Keep things simple. If you start to overanalyze a sentence or choice, you can quickly find yourself in deep water. Being clever may win points with your English teacher, but this isn't school. On the SAT, being too clever is likely to cost you time as well as points. Let's move on to step two.
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From The RocketReview Revolution: The Ultimate Guide to the New SAT and the PSAT by Adam Robinson. Copyright © 2005. Used by arrangement with Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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