Blog

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. 

Cover up your answer choices and predict a word to fill the blank.  Then match your prediction to the correct answer choice, eliminating any word that does not match.  Be sure to check all of the choices before you select your answer.

The ------- of Queen Elizabeth I impressed her contemporaries: she seemed to know what dignitaries and foreign leaders were thinking.

This is a straightforward vocabulary question; the definition of the word that belongs in the blank comes right after the colon.  If the Queen always knows what others are thinking, she must have “discernment” or “understanding” and a lot of “insight.”  Predict one of these words, or one of their synonyms, and look down at your answer choices.

(A) symbiosis
(B) malevolence
(C) punctiliousness
(D) consternation
(E) perspicacity

(A)  The root “sym” is a Greek root meaning “with” or “together.”  “Bio” means “life.”  You have probably run across the word “symbiotic” in your science classes.  Symbiotic relationships are mutually beneficial, so this is a tempting choice.  However, notice that the Queen is set apart from her contemporaries; she impresses them.  She is not going to be interdependent on someone else.  She depends on her own discernment, and you do not know whether other leaders can also find out what she is thinking.  Does “symbiosis” mean “understanding”?  No.  Eliminate it.

(B)  This word is easy to eliminate.  The Latin root “mal” means “bad.”  If you know this, or even if you speak Spanish, you can quickly identify this as a negative word.  You are looking for a positive attribute of the Queen that would impress others – your prediction was positive.  

(C)  This word will not be intimidating when you remember that you know the related word “punctual.”  If you are careful to be precise or arrive on time that may be a good quality, but it certainly does not mean “understanding.”  Eliminate this choice.

(D)  The root “con” can be difficult for students because it has several meanings, but in this case the “con” is related to the word “confusion.”  This is a negative word.  Eliminate it.

(E)  This is probably another word that you have never used, but it is related to one we use all the time: perspective.  “Per” means “through” while “spec” means “look.”  Is the Queen able to see though others?  Yes!  She can understand the thoughts behind their words and actions.  “Perspicacity” matches “understanding.”

The correct answer is (E).

Words used in this SC:
Symbiosis: a relationship of mutual benefit
Malevolence: hostile attitude or feeling
Punctiliousness: paying strict attention to detail
Consternation: amazement or terror so strong that a response is impossible
Perspicacity: acute discernment or understanding


On sat.collegeboard.org, 56% of the responses were correct.

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