SAT Reading: Sentence Completions

Sentence Completions

Select the word that best fits the meaning of the sentence as a whole.

Poisonous coral snakes and ------- milk snakes have similar color patterns and markings, so it is important to learn how to ------- these two varieties from one another.  

A.  docile . . depict
B.  succulent . . disparage
C.  trenchant . . finagle
D.  innocuous . . discern
E.  pugnacious . . incline

Knowsys Method

Always start by covering up your answer choices so that they do not distract you.  Read the sentence carefully, and then predict what you think the answer should be.  In two-blank sentence completions, start with the blank that is easier.  The first blank is easier in this sentence, so we will start there.  These two snakes look similar but are different from one another.  If coral snakes are poisonous, it is likely that the other snake mentioned in the sentence is not poisonous, or harmless.   Using “harmless” as our prediction, let’s look at the answer choices.

A.  Surprisingly, “docile” shares the same Latin origin as “doctor.”  Both words come from “docere,” which means “teach.”  The modern meaning of “docile” is “easily taught or obedient.”  An animal that is easily taught could be harmless, so keep this choice for now.

B.  “Succulent” is almost onomatopoeic: it means “juicy or tasty.”  This does not match our prediction, so eliminate this choice.

C.   “Trenchant” means “perceptive or insightful.”  A useful mnemonic to remember this word is that trenches are deep just like insight is (metaphorically) deep.  This choice does not match our prediction, so eliminate it.

D.   “Innocuous” comes from the Latin roots “in” (not) and “nocuus” (to harm) and means “harmless or inoffensive.”  This choice matches our prediction, so keep it for now.  

E. “Pugnacious”  comes from the Latin “pugnare,”  which means “to fight.”  The term “pugnacious” means “quarrelsome or combative,”  which is almost the opposite of our prediction, so eliminate this choice.  

Now, predict what you think should fit in the second blank.  If one snake is poisonous and the other is harmless, it would be important to learn how to distinguish them from each other.  Using “distinguish” as our prediction, let’s look at the choices we still have left.  

A.  The meaning of “depict” is easy to remember.  The word sort of sounds like “picture,” and it means “to describe or give a picture of (something).”  This does not match our prediction, so eliminate this choice.  

D.  “Discern” comes from the Latin “dis” (away) and “cernere,” (separate, sift).  It means “to understand, to see, or to recognize as different.”  This matches our prediction, so D is the correct answer.  

The correct answer is D. 

Words used in this SC:
docile: 1) obedient or 2) easily taught or managed
depict: to describe or give a picture of
succulent: moist, tasty, juicy, or inviting
disparage: to criticize disrespectfully
trenchant: very perceptive and insightful
finagle: to get something by indirect means or by trickery
innocuous: harmless
discern: 1) to understand, 2) to see, or 3) to recognize as different
pugnacious: quarrelsome or combative
induce: to persuade, influence, or cause

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