Sentence Completions

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When the SAT test makers write an essay question, they give you a little bit of information.  Generally, it does not take much thought to agree with whatever has been stated, or to simply use the exact same words in the prompt to frame your essay.  Really high scoring students know that the way the question is phrased may prompt students to answer one way when normally they might answer another way.  For example, read this SAT essay prompt:

“There is, of course, no legitimate branch of science that enables us to predict the future accurately.  Yet the degree of change in the world is so overwhelming and so promising, that the future, I believe, is far brighter than anyone has contemplated since the end of the Second World War.  Assignment: Is the world changing for the better?”

Now, you may really believe the world is changing for the better, but this prompt leads many students to answer yes without providing good reasons.  Maybe the world is fixing one problem while a new problem develops.  Maybe someone needs to point out that there have been many wars after World War II.  Before you answer a prompt, rephrase the question in your own words and be sure that you know what it is asking and whether the prompt itself is influencing your thought about the subject.  You want your essay to clearly demonstrate that you have a reason beyond the prompt to think the way that you do.

Leading questions occur outside the SAT too.  Check out this current event that shows that how people ask questions can change the results of polls about global warming.  If you want to use this as one of your five prepared current events, make notes about the broad themes in this article as well as specific details and facts that you can use to back up an opinion on an SAT essay prompt.

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 as you read the sentence carefully.  That way, incorrect answers will not distract you as you predict a word to fill the blank.  When you have your prediction, match it to the correct answer choice.  Eliminate any answer that does not match your prediction.  Make sure that you look at all of the answer choices before you select an answer.

Bolstered by his unflagging determination and ------- physical preparation, Tom Whittaker became the first amputee to successfully climb to the summit of Mount Everest.

Did you notice two Knowsys SAT words in the sentence?  Even if you do not know what “bolstered” and “unflagging” mean, you know that Whittaker was determined to climb the mountain and that he was successful.  In order to do that he, he must have trained hard.  Predict that his physical preparation was “persistent,” “diligent,” “steady,” or even “unflagging,” if you recognize the term.  Then look down at your answer choices.

(A) fortuitous
(B) assiduous
(C) heedless
(D) expeditious
(E) pedantic

(A)  Perhaps you know that the Latin root “fort” generally means strong and figure that Whittaker’s preparation made him stronger.  Or perhaps you link this word to the word “fortunate” and realize that this is a positive word. This answer choice is here to trick you.  The word “fortuitous” does not just mean “fortunate,” although many fortuitous occurrences are fortunate.  The word “fortuitous” is related to the idea of chance, of accidental luck.  There is no way that Whittaker accidentally practiced or that he got lucky and just ended up physically prepared – he worked hard.  Bottom line: this choice doesn’t really match your prediction.  Eliminate it.

(B)  Assiduous is a difficult word.  If you don’t know it, you cannot eliminate it.

(C)  If you heed something, you pay attention to it.  Being heedless would be the opposite of paying attention.  You know that Whittaker paid attention to physical preparation.  Eliminate this choice.

(D)  Knowsys word!  If you don’t know the definition right away, think of expedited shipping.  That is when you pay extra to make sure a package gets somewhere quickly.  The idea here is not to prepare for the climb quickly, but to prepare for it in such a way as to be ready for the challenge.  “Expeditious” does not mean “diligent.”  Eliminate this choice.

(E)  This word is going to be really confusing if you assume that the Latin root “ped” means “foot.”  The same root can also mean “child.”  If you know that teachers have been called “pedagogues,” you will realize that this word also does not match your prediction.  “Pedantic” means acting like a teacher, especially in situations where no one wants a teacher.  Eliminate this choice.

You only have one answer remaining.  If you have eliminated all the other answer choices for specific reasons, then you can confidently select that answer, even if you do not know precisely what it means.

The correct answer is (B).

Words used in this SC:
Bolstered: encouraged or supported
Unflagging: not declining in strength or vigor, tireless
Amputee: a person who has had a limb removed
Fortuitous: happening by a lucky chance, accidental
Assiduous: hard-working, diligent, or industrious
Heedless: unaware, not noticing something
Expeditious: fast, prompt, speedy
Pedantic: teaching or ostentatious in one’s learning, too concerned about formal details

On, 37% of the responses were correct.

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