Sentence Completions

Link of the Day

Today’s SAT question concerns polarizing issues.  Stem cell research has been the subject of polarizing debate in America for some time.  Take a look at this article and think about how the recent research of Johns Hopkins scientists might be able to change this debate.  Current events that are controversial make good examples for SAT essays – as long as you can stick to the facts and refrain from making broad pronouncements about which side is right and which side is wrong.

8/26 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. 

This sentence has two blanks, so focus on the easy blank first.  Just like single-blank questions, your method is to cover the answer choices, read the sentence carefully, and predict an answer to the blank you have selected.  Next, eliminate any answer choices that do not match your prediction.  When you go back to look at the other blank and predict that answer, you will not have to match your prediction for any of the answer choices that you already eliminated.

The meeting lasted more than five hours as participants ------- the presentation of the speaker, gradually polarized into factions, and, by the end, were further from ------- than at the start.

When your sentence has two blanks, it is especially important to paraphrase what you know about the sentence.  For this sentence, you know that there was a meeting that lasted a long time.  The participants broke up into factions.  At the end they were far from the start.

That is actually enough information to solve for both of the blanks.  The key information is hidden in the middle of the sentence; it is the part about the participants gradually polarizing into factions.  Look at the first blank that has to do with the presentation of the speaker.  Were the people listening to the speaker?  Can people break up into factions if they are sitting silent and passive?  No!  Perhaps the attendees at the meeting talked through the presentation or offered up their own arguments.  They most likely “hindered” the presentation of the speaker as they broke up into factions.  Look down at the options for your first blank:

(A) aided . . harmony
(B) interrupted . . a consensus
(C) denounced . . a scandal
(D) ended . . an argument
(E) encouraged . . disagreement

(A)  can be eliminated because factions fight, they do not aid the speaker.  This is the opposite of your prediction.  (B) is a perfect match. (C) and (D) are not perfect matches, but if you do not feel comfortable eliminating them yet, you can keep them as options as you look at the second blank in the original sentence. (E) is also the opposite of your prediction.

Look back at the second blank.  If the participants are in factions, they do not agree on anything.  People who do not agree need a solution that everyone involved can live with, so you might predict the word “agreement” or the word “compromise” for this blank.  Look down at the answer choices that you have not already eliminated.

(B) interrupted . . a consensus
(C) denounced . . a scandal
(D) ended . . an argument

(B) again matches perfectly.  (C) can be eliminated because we have no idea if anything scandalous was involved in the disagreement.  (D) can be eliminated because at the beginning no one was arguing.  The participants gradually started arguing, but that means that they could not be further from arguing at the end.

The correct answer is (B).

Words used in this SC:
Polarize: to divide into extremes
Factions: groups within a larger group that believe different things
Consensus: agreement among group members
Denounce: to criticize publicly

On, 75% of the responses were correct.

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