SAT Reading: Sentence Completions

Sentence Completions

Select the words that best fit the meaning of the sentence as a whole.

The writer of this sestina had ------- for sentimental drivel, and the maudlin, sappy phrases he used created ------- poem that is intolerably sweet for readers with any sense of reality.

A.  an affinity . . . a subdued

B.   an aversion . . . a garish

C.   a loathing . . . a stringent

D.  a penchant . . . a cloying

E.  a propensity . . . an alluring


Knowsys Method

Always start by covering up your answer choices so that they do not distract you.  Read the sentence carefully.  When there are two blanks, work with the easier blank first.  In this case the first blank has several context clues that will help you make a prediction.  You may not know what "drivel" is, but it is "sentimental."  You also know that the author uses "sappy" phrases.  If the author uses sappy words, then it logically follows that he must like sentimental stuff.  Predict that he had "a liking" for sentimental drivel.  Look down at the first word of each answer choice.

A.  You may not know what the Latin root "aff" means (it means nearness), but the words affection and affable are both positive, so you should keep this answer choice. 

B.  "Aversion" is a negative word that indicates a turning away from something.  This is the opposite of your prediction.  Eliminate this choice.

C.  "Loathing"  is a very negative word that indicates disgust and hatred.  Eliminate this choice.

D.  The word "penchant" indicates an inclination toward something, so keep this answer choice. 

E.  Think about the pros and cons of something, the "pros" are positive.  People also refer to themselves as "pro" something that they support.  That matches your prediction.  Keep this answer choice.

Now look back at the original sentence.  If a poem is "intolerably sweet," how would you describe that poem?  You could predict that the poem is "too sweet" or even use the words in the sentence: "sentimental," "maudlin," and "sappy."  Look down at the answer choices that remain.

A.  If something is subdued, it has calmed down.  If you were to give it a taste, it would be bland rather than sweet or any strong flavor.  Eliminate this choice.

D.  Something that is cloying has too much of something.  This sentence is all about how a particular poem has too much sentiment and too much sweetness.  This matches your prediction.  Quickly check the last choice.   

E.  Something alluring may be sweet, but "alluring" is a positive word.  You are looking for a negative word that means "too sweet," but this word indicates something attractive.  It is not consistent with the criticism of the poem as "intolerable."  Eliminate this choice. 


The correct answer is (D). 

This is a difficult question. 


Words used in this SC:

Sestina: a poem with a particular format

Drivel: nonsense or stupidity

Maudlin: overemotional

Affinity: a liking 

Subdued: quiet, controlled

Aversion: a disliking

Garish: tastelessly showy or excessively elaborate

Loathing: a hatred

Stringent: tight, strict, or rigid

Penchant: a strong attraction or leaning

Cloying: so much that it is disgusting

Propensity: a natural inclination or preference

Alluring: charming or attractive


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