Tips for SAT Sentence Completions

If you have a relatively strong vocabulary, Sentence Completion questions can be an easy way to score points. Careful, though -- often the words themselves won't be terribly difficult, but the SAT does not always test the most obvious meaning of a word. There are a couple of strategies I like to use for this section, and I find it's most effective to employ them in combination with one another.

1) Identify and circle/underline the key words or phrases: sentences will always contain built-in clues to either the definition of one or both words, or to the relationship between the words.

Transitional words such as Although, However, and Furthermore are important because they will tell you the relationship between the words. Look for words that clearly indicate good things or bad things. Look for colons -- they signal explanations and definitions.

2) Try to fill your own words into the blanks. If you do this and one of the words is contained in an answer choice, check it first. There's no guarantee that it'll be right, but there's also a decent chance that it will.

Very often, the second blank is easier to figure out than the first. Start with it.

If filling in your own words takes too long...

3) Simply try to determine whether the words are positive or negative. If you know the second blank must be negative, for example, go through each answer choice looking *only* at the second blank.

If it's negative, keep it; if it's positive cross out the entire answer. If you're not sure, keep it in to be on the safe side.

Repeat for the first blank.

By now you should have gotten rid of at least two answers, sometimes three answers, and if you're really lucky, four answers.

Plug the remaining options in and see which one makes the most sense.

4) If the sentence gives you absolutely no clues as to whether the words should be positive or negative (this happens on occasion), try to determine the relationship between the words.

Are they the same (both positive or both negative), or are they opposites (one positive, one negative)?

Go through the answer choices looking *only* at the relationship between the words. If you can get down to two or even three answers, plug them in and check them in context.


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