Sentence Completions

Link of the Day:

Current events can be part of tradition or even mandated by the U.S. Constitution.  Read this article about President Obama’s inauguration, and think about how the present interacts with the past.  How and why do things change or stay the same?  Look for themes that are likely to show up in an SAT essay, and make note of interesting details and facts that could be used to support your opinions about these themes.

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 your answer choices and devote all of your attention to reading the sentence carefully.  Choose the easier of the two blanks to examine first.  Predict a word to fill the blank, and then eliminate answer choices that do not match your prediction for that blank.  Repeat the same process with the second blank.

Ms. Fergusson’s main criticism of the artist’s rendering of the ancient mammal’s physical appearance is that, unsupported by even a ------- of fossil evidence, the image is bound to be -------.

If a sentence seems complicated, paraphrase it.   Ms. Fergusson is critical of a drawing because it is unsupported by even some kind of evidence so the image is something.  Focus on the second blank.  If the appearance of the rendering is unsupported, what kind of drawing will it be?  Unsupported!  Using a word from the sentence as your prediction can help you be more precise and save time.  Look down at your answer choices.

(A) modicum . . speculative
(B) particle . . supplemented
(C) perusal . . substantiated
(D) fabrication . . obsolete
(E) recapitulation . . exhausted

(A) The word “speculative” has to do with “conjecture” or “abstract reasoning,” so it could mean “unsupported.”  Keep it.  (B)  A “supplement” is something additional.  The problem is that the artist may have just made up the image or added more than is backed by evidence.  If you are not sure about this word, keep it.  (C) The word “substantiated” is the opposite of “unsupported.”  Eliminate this answer choice.  (D)  The word “obsolete” should be connected to the word “old” in your mind.  That does not match your prediction.  Eliminate this choice.  (E)  The word “exhausted” should be connected to the word “tired” in your mind.  That does not match your prediction.  Eliminate this choice.

Now look at that first blank.  You know that there is not enough evidence about the appearance of this mammal.  Logically, you can deduce that there is only a little bit of evidence, if any.  Use “little bit” as your prediction, and look down at your remaining answer choices.

(A) modicum . . speculative
(B) particle . . supplemented

(A) Maybe you know the Latin root “modus” can mean “measure” or “size,” so you can discern that this word relates to the amount of something, whether it is a lot or a little.  Maybe you have heard someone say that a person needs “at least a modicum of common sense.”  If you aren’t sure about the meaning of the word, keep this answer choice.  (B)  This answer is meant to distract you because a particle is very small.  Read the sentence with this word in the blank.  How would anyone ever know that this mammal existed if there was not a particle of fossil evidence?  The word “supplement” means in addition to something else, but if there is not a particle of evidence, you cannot add to it.  This choice is illogical, so you must eliminate it.

The correct answer is (A).

Words used in this SC:
Modicum: a small or minimal amount
Speculative: based on guess or unfounded opinions
Particle: a tiny piece of matter
Supplemented: added to something
Perusal: reading or study
Substantiated: supported, proved, or established
Fabrication: something made up or a lie
Obsolete: no longer in use, outdated
Recapitulation: a review or summary
Exhausted: without energy or used up

Did you spot the two Knowsys vocabulary words in this question?

On, 55% of the responses were correct.

For more help with SAT vocabulary, visit!