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Sentence Completions

Critical Reading: 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. 

Use the same method for every sentence completion question.  Cover your answers so that you are not distracted by incorrect choices as you read the sentence carefully.  Then make a prediction for the easier blank.  Eliminate any choices that do not match your prediction.  Then make a prediction for the other blank. Eliminate any remaining choices that do not match your prediction.  You can be sure of your answer with this method.

Although they are perceived as ------- by some, the various vocalizations of the common loon may sound harsh and ------- to others.

This question requires you to think logically about the relationship between the two blanks.  The word “although” signals that there is a contrast.  Paraphrase the sentence to yourself: “Some people think the loon sounds one way, but others think it sounds another way.”  The second blank is linked with “and,” a conjunction that does not show contrast.  Whatever is in that blank must be like the word before it, “harsh.”  “Harsh” is a negative word, so the second blank must be negative.  Predict a negative word for the second blank and look down at your answer choices.

(A) irritable . . migratory
(B) mellifluous . . discordant
(C) soothing . . palatable
(D) pervasive . . strident
(E) loathsome . . intolerable

(A) The word migratory is not negative; it is neutral.  Migrating is not good or bad, it is just something that birds do.  Eliminate this choice.  (B) Discordant sounds negative, so keep it.  (C) Good food is palatable, so this is actually a positive word.  Eliminate it.  (D) Strident sounds negative, so keep it.  (E) Intolerable also sounds negative, so keep it as well.

Now go back to thinking about the original sentence.  The first blank had to contrast with the second blank because of the word “although.”  A positive word would contrast a negative word.  Predict a positive word for the first blank and look down at your remaining answer choices.

(B) mellifluous . . discordant
(D) pervasive . . strident
(E) loathsome . . intolerable

(B)  Mellifluous has the same root as melody.  These words come from the Latin prefix “mell-,” which means honey.  In this case it means “like honey,” not actual honey.  Think of the qualities of honey as being sweet and pleasing. (The Latin root “flu” means flow – think of the word “fluid.”)  This is definitely a positive word.  Keep it.  (D) Does the word pervasive sound positive?  Pervasive things are everywhere, which means that it could be a good or a bad thing depending on what is in abundance.  Eliminate this word.  (E) Loathsome is a really negative word.  Eliminate it.

The correct answer is (B).

Words used in this SC:
Vocalization: an utterance, sounds or words out loud
Loon: a bird
Irritable: easily annoyed
Migratory: someone that migrates, travels each season
Mellifluous: sweet and smooth (often used to describe words or voices)
Discordant: harsh or dissonant sounding
Soothing: giving relief
Palatable: pleasing to the taste
Pervasive: throughout everything
Strident: loud, shrill, grating, obnoxious
Loathsome: highly offensive, sickening
Intolerable: offensive, not proper or right to allow


On sat.collegeboard.org, 54% of the responses were correct.

For more help with SAT vocabulary, visit www.myknowsys.com!