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.
Start by covering up the answer choices and reading the sentence carefully. Use context clues to predict a word to fill the blank. Once you have a prediction, uncover the answer choice and find the word that matches your prediction in meaning. Eliminate any word that does not match. Make sure to check all of the possibilities even if one of the first choices seems to match exactly.
Although the scientist claimed to have made a major breakthrough in his research, the evidence he offered as proof of his assertion was ------- at best.
This question tests your ability to think logically as well as your vocabulary. The word “although” tells you that there must be a contrast between the first portion of the sentence and the second. That means you need something that contrasts with the claim that a scientist made a major breakthrough. The next portion of the sentence has to do with evidence. What kind of evidence would not support the claim of a major breakthrough? We know the scientist offered some evidence, but it was not enough or not sufficient. Predict the words “very little” or the word “scanty.” Any prediction along these lines will work as you examine your answer choices.
(A) Does “conclusive” mean “very little?” No. If the evidence was conclusive, it would support the scientist’s claim. You are looking for something that does not support it. Eliminate this choice.
(B) This word is here to trick even those of you who know your Latin roots. The Latin root “in” can either mean “in” or “not.” The Latin root “dub” means “doubtful.” So this word could mean “in doubt” or “not doubtful,” which is either what you are looking for or not what you are looking for in order to create a contrast with a definite claim. Before you get caught up in an internal debate, ask yourself does either of these words mean “very little?” No. Eliminate this choice.
(C) You may not know this word, but it should sound negative to you. Etymologists haven’t quite determined where this word came from first, but it relates to nouns in German and other languages that mean “trash” or “rag.” After the 1550s, the word has shifted slightly in meaning to “worthless” or “insignificant.” Keep this word if you aren’t sure whether it means “very little.”
(D) The word “copious” is the opposite of what you need. It comes from the Latin root “copia,” which means “abundant.” Think of the related word “cornucopia” that you should associate with the harvest. Eliminate this choice.
(E) Think of the related word “extend.” When you extend your arms, you reach out as far as you can. The word “extensive” means “far-reaching.” This is the opposite of what you need, so eliminate this choice.
The correct answer is (C).
Words used in this SC:
Indubitable: clearly true, having no possibility of doubt
Paltry: meager, of little value
Copious: great in quantity or number
On sat.collegeboard.org, 52% of the responses were correct.
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