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 your answers so that you can focus on reading the question carefully and predict an answer to fill the blank. Once you have a prediction, you can easily eliminate answer choices that do not match your prediction in meaning. Be sure to look at all 5 answer choices, even if the first answer that you see seems to match exactly.
Because he was ------- in the face of danger, the explorer won the government’s highest award for conspicuous bravery.
This sentence is great because it gives you a word to fill the blank. Someone who is given an award for bravery will be “brave” in the face of danger. Sentences that use simple vocabulary and seem to give away the answer like this will often have more difficult vocabulary in the answer choices. Look at each word separately and don’t confuse yourself by bouncing back and forth between answers.
(A) Does virile mean brave? In Latin the prefix “vir” means man, so this answer is supposed to distract you if you associate manliness with bravery. Think about it this way: is a man necessarily brave? No. Eliminate this choice. (B) You may be more familiar with the word “heed” than the word “heedless,” as in “heed my warning.” Someone who is heedless would not heed a warning, which sounds more foolish than brave. Eliminate this choice. (C) The related word “daunting” can give you a clue to this word’s meaning. A daunting task is frightening and intimidating. If someone is dauntless, they would be the opposite: brave and inspiring. This choice matches perfectly. Keep it and quickly check the other choices. (D) Even if you do not know the word “callow,” you can probably tell that this is not a positive word. “Brave” is a very positive prediction, so you can eliminate this choice. (E) The Latin root “tim” means to be afraid. You probably know the word “timid.” This is the opposite of your prediction; eliminate it. Note: don’t confuse timorousness with temerity: the second actually means daring or recklessness. In this case there is a big difference between an “i” and an “e.”
The correct answer is (C).
Words used in this SC:
Conspicuous: obvious or attracting attention
Virile: possessing manly characteristics or strength
Heedless: unaware or careless
Dauntless: fearless and bold
Callow: immature or inexperienced, juvenile
Timorous: fearful, timid
On sat.collegeboard.org, 62% of the responses were correct.
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