Breaking down the SAT: Sentence Completion

The sentence completion section of the SAT will test your vocabulary and ability to make sense of “context clues” while reading. In this section, you will be given questions that consist of sentences where either one or two blanks are present, indicating missing words. You then must choose from among five answers to find the word or words that make the most sense in the context of the sentence.

These types of questions make up about a fourth of the Critical Reading section of the SAT, so it is important to be familiar with them since you will only have a little less than a minute to answer each one. Online SAT test prep is a great way to familiarize yourself with the types of questions you will be confronted with and how to answer them.

A good strategy for answering these fill-in-the-blank questions is to read the sentence quickly and fill in your own word to complete the sentence. To do this, you will need to look for context words that the test writers include in the sentence. Words like “however,” “because of,” or “additionally” can clue you in as to whether you need a contrasting word or a complementary one.

After coming up with your own word to complete the sentence, look to see if there is a synonym for your word among the answers. Consider all the answers. If there is more than one that is close to what you chose, try reading the sentence with both of those words in context to see which makes more sense.

Let’s look at an example:

Even though Vincent van Gogh painted many of the world’s greatest masterpieces, people in his own time thought he was ____.

A) able B) inexpert C) unrivaled D) merited E) masterful

Reading through this sentence, we can see there is a clue word right at the very beginning: “even though.” “Even though” usually sets a sentence up for a contrast at the end-even though this happened, something unexpected was the outcome. Keeping that in mind, we can come up with our own word for the end of this sentence that contrasts with the fact that Van Gogh painted many of the world’s greatest masterpieces-perhaps, “not good.”

Looking through the answers, most of them have the opposite meaning from “not good,” except for B) inexpert. So B must be our answer.

This section is typically ordered from least to most difficult question, so be sure to leave enough time to answer the harder questions by moving quickly at the beginning. You can use online SAT test prep to practice answering questions and become familiar with techniques that will save you time.

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