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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 up the answers before you read the sentence.  Read carefully.  Normally, a two-blank sentence will require two passes.  Make a prediction for one blank and eliminate any answer choice that does not match your prediction, then do the same for the second blank.  However, sometimes the two answer blanks will have a direct relationship.  Check for that kind of relationship.  Check all your answer choices even if one seems to be correct.

Until Florence Nightingale made nursing ------- , it was considered a ------- profession.

After you have read the whole sentence, you can see that the two blanks must directly contrast one another.  A change has happened.  Nursing was considered one thing “until” Florence Nightingale changed it.  There aren’t too many vocabulary clues about the words that fill the blanks, but look at the first blank.  If you know anything about Florence Nightingale from history, you know that her effect on nursing was positive.  If you do not know anything about Florence Nightingale, you still know that the SAT is not going to insult anyone in nursing by implying that it is currently a poor career choice, so you still know that the first blank must be positive.  If the other blank directly contrasts the first, it will have to be a negative word.  Look down at your answer choices.

(A) scientific . . painstaking
(B) essential . . dangerous
(C) noble . . lofty
(D) patriotic . . worthy
(E) respectable . . degrading

(A)  The word scientific is neutral, not positive (it is hard to show a contrast with a neutral word).  There is also no direct contrast because something that is scientific can also be painstaking.  Eliminate A.  (B)  Essential and dangerous are not contrasting words.  Eliminate B. (C)  These words are both positive rather than positive and negative.  They are also too close in meaning to contrast each other.  Eliminate C.  (D)  Both of these words are positive.  Eliminate D. (E) The first word is positive and the second word is negative.  They show a direct contrast.

The correct answer is (E).

Words used in this SC:
Painstaking: carefully attentive to details
Essential: necessary
Noble: honorable or aristocratic
Lofty: high or idealistic
Worthy: having value
Respectable: deserving regard
Degrading: lowering one’s social position


On sat.collegeboard.org, 70% of the responses were correct.

For more help with SAT reading questions, visit 
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