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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. 

Completely ignore the answer choices, and read the sentence carefully.  Choose one blank, the easier one, and make a prediction.  Then eliminate any answer choices that do not match the meaning of your prediction.  Use the same process with the other blank, making sure to look at all of your remaining choices before selecting one.

Often inattentive when it comes to schoolwork, Maya was uncharacteristically ------- when she wrote her personal essay; rather than taking her typical ------- approach, she paid extremely close attention to every last detail.

Start with the first blank.  Maya is often inattentive.  If she is acting uncharacteristically, then she must be the opposite of inattentive.  Predict the word “attentive” and look down at your answer choices.

(A) thorough . . cautious
(B) painstaking . . precise
(C) inconsiderate . . thoughtful
(D) nonchalant . . efficient
(E) meticulous . . careless

(A)  Someone who does something thoroughly is being attentive.  Keep it.  (B)  If you take pains to do something, you definitely care about it.  Keep this choice.  (C)  To consider something is to think about it, so “inconsiderate” is the opposite of your prediction “attentive.”  Eliminate this choice.  (D) Knowsys word!  “Nonchalant” comes from Latin and essentially means “not hot.”  If you are cool towards something, you are indifferent about it.  “Indifferent” is the opposite of “attentive.”  Eliminate this choice.  (E)  Knowsys word!  Meticulous people care about detail, and showing care for details is being attentive.  Keep this word.  You've eliminated choices C and D. 

Turn your attention to the second blank.  You know that Maya is “often inattentive,” so what would her normal approach to something look like?  It would be “inattentive.”  Predict the word “inattentive” and look down at your remaining answer choices.

(A) thorough . . cautious
(B) painstaking . . precise
(E) meticulous . . careless

(A)  The word “cautious” does not mean inattentive.  If you are cautious, you are warily checking your surroundings for danger.  Eliminate this choice.  (B)  The word “precise” does not mean inattentive.  Eliminate it.  (E)  The word “careless” matches your prediction of “inattentive.”

Note: this sentence has many context clues; you can also find the answer by focusing on the clue that Maya “paid extremely close attention to every last detail” on this specific essay, which was out of character for her.

The correct answer is (E).

Words used in this SC:
Thorough: painstaking and careful not to miss any detail
Cautious: watchful and prudent
Painstaking: carefully attentive to details
Precise: exact, accurate
Inconsiderate: thoughtless, without care for others
Thoughtful: showing care and consideration
Nonchalant: indifferently cool, unconcerned
Efficient: performing in the best manner, without wasting time or effort
Meticulous: very careful and attentive to small details
Careless: without care or concern


On sat.collegeboard.org, 76% of the responses were correct.

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