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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. 

Approach each reading question systematically.  Cover up the answer choices.  Focus on the blank that seems easier and make a prediction for that blank.  Then eliminate any answer choice that does not match your prediction for that blank.  Use the same process with the other blank.

Explorer David Livingstone has ------- reputation: some historians revile him as a proponent of imperialism, while others ------- him as a founder of African Nationalism.

Look at the first blank.  The structure of this sentence tells you everything that you need to know about David Livingstone’s reputation.  Some people believe one thing about him, but others believe something else.  Predict that his reputation is “twofold.” 

(A) a substantial . . exalt
(B) a sketchy . . vilify
(C) an illustrious . . dismiss
(D) a dichotomous . . praise
(E) a pristine . . castigate

(A) Something that is substantial has a lot of substance.  You don’t care whether Livingstone’s reputation is big; you care that his reputation is divisive.  Eliminate this choice because it does not match your prediction.  (B) The word “sketchy” does not mean “twofold.”  Eliminate this choice.  (C) The word “illustrious” is related to the word “illuminated.”  If something is illuminated, it is visible.  Livingstone’s reputation seems a little unclear because different people believe different things about him.  Eliminate this choice.  (D)  You should recognize the Latin root “di,” which means “two.”  This matches your prediction.  Keep this choice.  (E)  If you are not sure what this word means, keep it and move on to the next blank.

Start with the information that you know.  Some people “revile” Livingston.  You know that something vile is really bad.  Even if you are not sure about the meaning of this word, you might remember imperialism mentioned in a negative context in a history class.  If some people think that this man had a negative influence, but others do not feel the same way, it makes sense that the others think of Livingston as having a positive influence.  Predict a positive word or phrase.  You might choose the word “applaud” or “honor.”  Look down at the answer choices that you have not yet eliminated.

(D) a dichotomous . . praise
(E) a pristine . . castigate

(D)  The word “praise” is definitely positive.  Keep this choice.  (E)  This word may be confusing to you if you recognize that the Latin root “cast” means “pure.”  However, this word actually means “to purify,” and correction can be a painful process.  Anything in need of purification is not positive.  Eliminate this choice.

The correct answer is (D).

Words used in this SC:
Revile: to attack someone with abusive language
Proponent: one who supports something; an advocate
Imperialism: forcefully extending a nation’s authority
Substantial: of considerable amount, or of solid character
Exalt: honor, esteem
Sketchy: crudely outlined, incomplete, or unsafe
Vilify: defame or slander
Illustrious: highly distinguished or famous
Dismiss: discard or reject
Dichotomous: divided into two pieces
Praise: commendation or thanks
Pristine: unspoiled
Castigate: correct or punish severely


On sat.collegeboard.org, 62% of the responses were correct.

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