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Sentence Completions

Choose the word or set of words that, when inserted in the sentence, best fits the meaning of the sentence as a whole. 

Always cover the answer choices before you read a sentence completion sentence.  You want to read the sentence with an unprejudiced mind.  Read it carefully and predict an answer to fill one of the blanks (the easier one!).  Then eliminate any answer choices that do not match your prediction for the same blank.  When you come to the other blank, you will be able to ignore the choices you already eliminated as you eliminate any remaining answer choices that do not match your prediction.

The scientist ascribed the ------- of the park’s remaining trees to the ------- of the same termite species that had damaged homes throughout the city.

Did you read the sentence carefully?  If so, you might have paraphrased the sentence as you read it: Something happens to trees due to something of termites that also eat houses.  Termites eat wood.  Look at the first blank.  If you want a really quick and accurate prediction, use the words that are already in the sentence.  Bugs that “damaged” homes are likely to “damage” trees in the park.  Use the word “damage” as your prediction and look down at the first blank.

(A)   decimation . . prevalence
(B)   survival . . presence
(C)   growth . . mutation
(D)   reduction . . disappearance
(E)    study . . hatching

(A) matches your prediction.  (B) and (C) are the opposite.  Eliminate them.  (D) seems iffy.  What is a reduced tree?  You can keep it as an option if you only predicted something negative, but you should eliminate it if you realize that a population of trees can be reduced, or the number of leaves on a tree can be reduced, but the trees themselves are not reduced.  (E) does not match your prediction.  You could talk yourself into believing that the scientists are studying the destruction of trees, so this answer is on topic, but your method should be to eliminate anything that does not match your prediction.  You take the time to make a prediction so that you do not have to take the time to think about the relevance of each of the answer choices.

You only have one answer choice left, but for the sake of practice, look at the second blank.  The damage to trees is due to the _______ of termites.  In order to damage trees, termites have to be there!  Predict a word such as “presence.” Notice that the word “presence” is in a wrong answer choice.  That is perfectly fine.  You are using your prediction to eliminate choices that do not match, not trying to predict the exact word out of numerous synonyms that the SAT test makers might have chosen.  Besides, there is another choice that means “a lot of these things are there,” “prevalence,” and that fits your blank best of all.

The correct answer is (A).  

Words used in this SC:
Decimation: the destruction of a large portion of something
Prevalence: widespread presence
Mutation: a change or alteration, often becoming worse
Reduction: act of lessening something


On sat.collegeboard.org, 63% of the responses were correct.

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