SAT English Study Tip #1 – SAT Sentence Completion – Part II

Sat English


In Part I, you learned how to use a ‘thinking strategy’ to help to conquer the SAT Sentence Completions.  Now, it’s time to practice! Keep in mind – you are using a reliable thinking tool that will help to narrow down the selections and to confidently & successfully choose from options that make sense to you.


Step 1 – Cover the Multiple-Choice Options

Step 2 – Read, Paraphrase, Look for Hints

Step 3 – Categorize & Match

Example 1

Despite the ____________ of the lecturer’s presentation, the majority of people in attendance found themselves _____________ with the speaker’s ideas and guiding principles.

(a) interest … enthralled

(b) greatness … satisfied

(c) strength … bored

(d) intensity … shocked

(e) power … inspired



Step 1 – Cover the Multiple-Choice Options

Step 2 – Read, Paraphrase, Look for Hints

> So, there is a speaker and a presentation of some sort. As presentations go, it will either be really good or really bad, right? The word ‘despite’ is a big hint here. Translate the scenario as ‘even though the presentation was this, most of the audience thought it was that .You now know to look for a pair of words opposite in meaning. If the lecture is really good, then that would mean you’re looking for a ‘positive’ word for the first blank, something that would accurately describe a worthy lecture. That would mean a ‘negative’ word would follow in the second blank, since you are predicting opposites.

However, the presentation could also have been very bad. If it was very bad, then a ‘negative’ word would go first, followed by a ‘positive’ word to describe the reaction from the audience. Again, the word ‘despite’ helps us in our prediction.

Step 3 – Categorize & Match

So, you are looking for opposite meanings, one positive/one negative, or vice-versa. The only choices that fit that description are option (c) and maybe option (d). Of the two, option (c) seems the most logical, as choice (d) would be a bit of a stretch to make it seem to fit – an ‘intense’ presentation would likely mean people would be ‘shocked’, so this does not fit our hint of ‘despite’ indicating opposites. Option (c) is correct.

Example 2

The defendant’s attempt to  ____________ his guilt was betrayed by the overwhelming tremor of his hand as he tried to write his name on the slip of paper the judge presented.

(a) determine

(b) extenuate

(c) conceal

(d) intensify

(e) display



Step 1 – Cover the Multiple-Choice Options

Step 2 – Read, Paraphrase, Look for Hint

> It’s very natural for any defendant to do what???? Guard the truth? Hide   guilt? Prove innocence? All of these would be satisfactory. However, the BIG HINT here is the word ‘betrayed’. The defendant tried to protect himself in some way, but the plan was foiled/betrayed by the fact his hand shook with nervousness. He couldn’t help it and that must mean he tried to hide the fact he was guilty in the first place (‘negative’ word – something negative, hidden, dishonest)

Step 3 – Match Your Answer

This is an easy one. You are looking a ‘negative’ word that means ‘to hide’. Of the multiple-choices, the one that stands out is option (c). Though option (b) may seem somewhat appropriate, ‘extenuate’ means more to ‘make light of’ rather than ‘to hide’. Option (c) is correct.

Example 3

The dancer transcended neither in grace nor technical prowess, but the  ____________ musical arrangement gave the performance a(n) _____________ of excellence.

(a) soothing … mandate

(b) gradual … sensation

(c) superb … aura

(d) chronic … effervescence

(e) well-rehearsed … diction



Step 1 – Cover the Multiple-Choice Options

Step 2 – Read, Paraphrase, Look for Hints

> Well, the dancer isn’t very good it seems – no grace, bad technique. He/she needs all the help one could hope for, right? The musical arrangement must be the thing that gives the performance credit. The key hints here are ‘but’ and ‘excellence’. The first tells us to look for the two fill-in-the-blanks to contain words that are opposite to characteristics of the weak dancer. If the dancer was so bad, but the performance turned out to be of ‘excellence’, then it must have had help from the ‘positive’ musical arrangement and the ‘positive’ result of excellent

Step 3 – Match Your Answer

Option (c) is really the only fitting choice here.  Even though some of the options pair positive words with similar meanings, none would seemingly fit with the overwhelming level of  excellence trying to be described in the passage. Option (c) is correct.

Example 4

The discouragement and _____________ that so frequently plagues perfectionists can sometimes lead to significant, yet predictable, decreases in ______________ and overall production.

(a) involvement … laziness

(b) compulsion … creativity

(c) enthusiasm … efficiency

(d) boredom … idleness

(e) uplift … motivation


Step 1 – Cover the Multiple-Choice Option

Step 2 – Read, Paraphrase, Look for Hints

> Perfectionists are sometimes over-achievers, right? They are demanding of themselves and expect great things. The first blank would naturally fit a word that goes along with the first trait listed in the passage (discouragement) – something that speaks to the constant drive for success, never being happy with substandard (‘negative’ word). The second blank would be filled-in with a word to go along with ‘production’ or ‘end-result’. Production is a good thing (‘positive’ word) and, therefore, should be matched with another positive outcom

Step 3 – Match Your Answer

You are looking for opposites – a ‘negative’ word to describe an overpowering character trait common of a perfectionist, followed by a ‘positive’ word to go-along with someone who won’t give up until things are as good as possible, or even much better and different than a previous work. Options (b) and (d) give you choices that have a ‘negative’ word for the first blank. However, option (d) does not fit a ‘positive’ word going in the second blank as ‘idleness’ (a.k.a. sitting still) is certainly not on the same lines as ‘production’. Therefore, option (b) is correct.

As you can see, using this ‘thinking strategy’ will help you to narrow down the options for each question you encounter. Even if you see a question with challenging vocabulary or words you don’t know, predicting a ‘positive/negative’ fit will help to eliminate those options where you know the vocabulary is just not right for the blanks. When choosing your answers, always allow yourself the freedom to immediately target those words that jump out at you and fit your ‘positive/negative prediction’ – forget about plugging in all the words to see the best fit – this wastes time and clouds your judgment. Finally, stick to the 3-step process and watch your success rate climb along with your speed and confidence.

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