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Critical Reading: Sentence Completion

  • Each Sentence Completion question gives you a sentence that has a blank (or sometimes two blanks) in it. It is your job to decide on which choice best fills the blank.
  • In English questions, your job is to find the "best" answer. This means you have to always read all the choices before answering. It also means that the correct answer is not always a great answer-just the least bad choice.
  • When you look at a Sentence Completion question, do the following things in order:
    1. Read the sentence before looking at the choices.
    2. Understand what the sentence is saying. What's happening in it?
    3. Guess what might fit in the blank(s). Try to come up with a word (or words) that could fit before you look at the choices.
    Once you've done all the above, then you can look at the choices.
  • When you're coming up with a possible word that could fit, you don't always have to come up with an actual word. Often it's enough to just figure out what kind of word the blank will be: positive, negative, or neutral. Then use that information to narrow down the possible choices.
  • As you figure out which choices are not possible, cross them out in your test booklet. (Then later, if you still can't find the answer, it's that much easier to make an educated guess.)
  • Once you think you've found the answer, read the sentence with your choice filling in the blank. If it works, yay! If it doesn't, cross it out and keep moving.
  • On double blank questions (when the sentence has two blanks), both words have to fit. If just one of the words doesn't fit, the whole choice is wrong. However, this can make it easier sometimes: check against one blank at a time and you can quickly eliminate wrong choices.
  • Stay on the lookout for negating words/prefixes: no, none, not; in-, non-, un-. If one of those pops up and you don't notice it, you'll make a choice that is opposite to the answer!
  • Pay attention to clue words and question types. By noticing how the sentence is built, it can clue you in to what the answer is. Here are the four main types, along with their corresponding clue words:
    • Definition/Example [no specific clue words],
    • Contrast [Contradiction/Opposition clue words],
    • Correlation [Similarity/Support clue words],
    • Logical Argument [Logical Connection clue words].
  • To do well on Sentence Completion, you need to have a strong vocabulary. Below are some ways to improve your vocabulary.
  • Learn prefixes, suffixes, and root words. By understanding how words are put together, you can often decode difficult words that you haven't previously learned. It doesn't always work, but it can be a really easy way to quickly increase your vocabulary.
  • Get curious about words. When you see a word you haven't learned before, look it up. Find out what it means. Then look up its etymology (word origin) and learn the story of where it came from: this can often help you remember a difficult word's meaning. My favorite website to look up etymologies is the Online Etymology Dictionary. Check it out!
  • If you really want to learn a lot of words fast, you can search up cram lists for the SAT. They're not likely to stick in your head for long, but if you do it in the weeks leading up to the test, it will probably last just long enough to be useful.
  • The best way to increase your vocabulary in the long-term is to just read a lot. Read books that are not extremely easy for you and you'll start picking up new words just by exposure.

Critical Reading: Sentence Completion

Lecture Slides are screen-captured images of important points in the lecture. Students can download and print out these lecture slide images to do practice problems as well as take notes while watching the lecture.

  • Intro 0:00
  • Legal Disclaimer 0:11
  • Introduction 0:21
    • What We're Going to Discuss
  • The Best Choice 0:53
    • Read All Choices Before Deciding on English Questions
    • Sometimes the 'Best' Choice is the Least Bad One
  • Read, Understand, Guess 2:54
    • Understand the Sentence Before you Start Considering Vocab Words
    • Make a Guess!
  • Positive / Negative / Neutral 4:44
    • Figure Out If the Blank is a Positive, Negative or Neutral Word
  • Eliminating Wrong Choices 6:43
    • Cross Out Choices That Definitely Don't Fit
    • Process of Elimination
  • Read the Sentence Using Your Choice 8:04
    • This is a Great Way to Eliminate Wrong Choices
  • Educated Guessing 8:59
    • You Can Almost Always Eliminate At Least a Couple of Choices
  • Double Blanks 10:03
    • Both Words have to Fit
    • This Can Be Used to Your Advantage
  • Negation 11:06
    • Examples
    • Pay Attention to Double Negation
  • Clue Words & Question Types 12:14
    • Pay Attention to 'Clue Words'
  • Clue Words 12:48
    • Contradiction / Opposition
    • Similarity / Support
    • Logical Connection / Cause and Effect
    • Three Major Types
  • Question Types 17:03
    • Definition / Example
    • Example
    • Contrast
    • Example
    • Correlation
    • Example
    • Logical Argument
    • Example
    • Review
    • By Paying Attention to Clue Words, You Can More Easily Figure Out Which Question Type You're Looking At
  • Vocabulary 26:48
    • Prefixes, Suffixes and Root Words
    • Examples
    • Know Your Prefixes and Suffixes If You're Going to Use This Strategy
    • Vocabulary: Etymology
    • What is It?
    • How can It Help?
    • Word Histories Can Be Interesting
    • Example
    • Online Etymology Dictionary
    • Cram Lists
    • Resources
    • Read!