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Sentence Completion – Pt. 1

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The sentence completion part of the SAT is an amalgam of the old part of the verbal section.  Oddly, this part of the exam isn’t testing you on your vocabulary knowledge – not entirely anyway.  The purpose of these exercises is to test your ability to recognize the logical structure of the sentence.  Students often try to memorize vocabulary words via massive and brain bludgeoning lists.  This is pure folly.  Look at any practice test.  The first 3 of 5, or 7 of 9 questions WILL NOT have difficult, or “SAT” level vocabulary.  Once you are able to recognize the type of question / sentence, your ability to answer correctly will improve.  This gives you an advantage over the other kids.  While they’ve been trying to memorize a list, you’ll be able to ID what you have to look for and you can immediately drill down to the two or three answers that are possible.  Why have they built this part of the exam this way?  Because within this part of the test are what used to be the antonym and analogies section of the test.  In order to successfully do this, the exam writers have created six kinds of sentence completion questions:

  • Contrast – extremely common, look for: ‘however’, ‘but’, ‘unlike’, ‘although’, ‘despite’, ‘even though’, ‘or’, ‘while…
  • Comparison – common, look for: ‘like’, ‘as’, ‘likewise’, ‘such as’, ‘and’, ‘while’, ‘in common’…
  • Cause / Effect – common, look for: ‘because’, ’cause’, ‘consequently’, ‘as a result’…
  • Time Sequence – not too common, look for: dates, time, numbers, units (of time mostly), ‘since’….
  • Restatement – extremely common, look for: the second half of the sentence will be the definition of the answer…
  • Illustration – not common, look for: sentences that describe a scene, painting, photo or something colorful…

Probably the most common type of sentence completion question is the contrast kind.  Within the sentence you’ll have key words that will enable you to label the question type immediately.  Either the key words you see or the blank(s) themselves will be antonyms, hence the ‘hidden’ antonym test question that has ‘disappeared’.  Sometimes the key words or blank fill ins will double as an analogy, thereby testing the old material in the newer way.

TIP – Beware of distractors!  There will be words included in the answers that are near in meaning and somewhat synonymous.  These are intended to throw you off the scent.  Remember that you are always looking for the best answer – and there will be answers that are close.  These answers are there just to confuse you.  Don’t be fooled.

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