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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. 

Cover up the answer choices and read the sentence carefully.  Focus on the easier of the two blanks, making a prediction to fill it.  Eliminate any answer choice that does not match your prediction.  Use the same process with the other blank.

The “double feature,” which featured two films for the price of one, became popular in the 1930s as a scheme to ------- former moviegoers who had begun to stay home since the ------- of the Depression at the beginning of the decade.

Start with the first blank.  You know that companies offer good deals in order to bring in more customers.  The sentence even tells you that there are specific people who need to be brought in to the movies: those who used to come all the time before the Depression.  Predict the answer “bring in” and look down at your answer choices.

(A) lure . . advent
(B) discourage . . end
(C) dissuade . . dawn
(D) perplex . . onset
(E) instigate . . devastation

(A)  Does “lure” mean “bring in”?  Well, when you use a fishing lure to catch a fish, you bring it into your net, or cooler, from its native waters.  This answer choice matches your prediction, so keep it.

(B)  This is the opposite of your prediction.  The moviegoers are already discouraged from going to the movies by the bad economy.  The “double feature” is intended to encourage them to go to the movies anyway.  “Discourage” does not mean “bring in.”  Eliminate this answer choice.

(C)  This word comes directly from Latin.  The root “dis” means “off,” “against,” or “away.”  The root “suad” means “urge,” just as it does in the word “persuade.”  Thus, “dissuade” means to urge someone away rather than to bring that person in.  Eliminate this answer choice.

(D) You know the word “complex.”  If something is complex, it will perplex people.  The Latin root “per” means “through” and the root “plex” means “plait” or “braid.”  Something complicated is going on in this word.  There is nothing complicated about offering two movies for the price of one.  “Perplex” does not mean “bring in,” so you can eliminate this answer choice.

(E) The word “instigate” has Greek origins.  The root “stig” means “prick,” as in to stimulate or incite someone to action by provocation.  The “double feature” is meant to goad people into coming back to the movies, so this answer might work even though it does not match your prediction as well as choice (A).  Keep it.

Now turn your attention toward the second blank.  Even if you do not remember from your history class that the stock market crashed in 1929, you should notice that the sentence emphasizes the “beginning of the decade.”  The word “begun” is also used in the sentence to describe when the people stopped coming to the movies.  Clearly the word “beginning” is important to the meaning of this sentence.  People didn’t gradually quit going to the movies, they stopped at the very beginning of the Depression, even though that might not have been the most miserable period of the Depression.  Predict the word “beginning” and look down at your remaining answer choices.

(A) lure . . advent
(E) instigate . . devastation

(A)  The Latin root “ad” means “in addition to,” but it also means “movement toward.”  For Christians, the Christmas holiday historically begins with something called the “Advent season” that ushers in a day of celebration.  The word “advent” indicates the coming of a certain period.  This choice matches your prediction.

(E)  Although the Depression was a time of devastation, the word “devastation” does not match the word “beginning.”  Eliminate this choice.

The correct answer is (A).

Words used in this SC:
Lure: something that tempts or attracts
Advent: coming, or arrival
Dissuade: to convince someone not to do something
Perplex: to cause to feel puzzled or baffled
Onset: the start of something, or the start of an attack
Instigate: to urge forward
Devastation: destruction and desolation


On sat.collegeboard.org, 71% of the responses were correct.

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