SAT Reading: Sentence Completions

Sentence Completions

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

In the 1954 film On the Waterfront, Marlon Brando plays a character who eventually takes a stand against the ------- methods that a corrupt union boss uses to ------- longshoremen and maintain his own power.

A.  disdainful . . . tout

B.   inept . . . enthrall

C.   equitable . . . debilitate

D.  ignominious . . . oppress

E.  unstinting . . . vindicate


Knowsys Method

Always start by covering up your answer choices so that they do not distract you.  Read the sentence carefully.  The keyword in this sentence is "corrupt."  Because you know that the union boss is corrupt, all of the words that describe him and his methods will be negative.  Take a look at the first blank.  Predict a word to fill the blank.  You can save time by predicting that a "corrupt" boss uses "corrupt" methods.  Predict the word "corrupt" (or a similar word like "dishonest" or "immoral") and look down at the first word in each of the choices.

A.  "Disdainful" is a negative word, but it does not match your prediction.  To be disdainful is not to be automatically bad, immoral, or corrupt.  Eliminate this choice.

B.  What does the word "inept" mean?  You know that the Latin root "in" can mean "not"  while the "ept" is connected with "apt," which means "suited to the purpose."  If something is not suited to the purpose, it is bad at something.  If a man is bad at being corrupt or immoral, no one needs to take a stand against him!  Eliminate this choice.

C.  The word "equitable" is related to the word "equal," but it has the sense of "fair."  This is the opposite of "corrupt," your prediction.  Eliminate this choice.

D.  Maybe you can spot the Latin "nominous," which means "name," in ignominious, but if you don't know the meaning of this word, you cannot eliminate it.  Keep it.

E.  If you do not know the meaning of any word, keep the word as an answer choice.

You eliminated three choices on the basis of the first word blank.  Look now at the second blank in the sentence.  You know that the corrupt boss wants to maintain his own power, so logically it makes sense that he would want to keep others from having power.  He will try to keep the longshoremen down.  If a word for this doesn't immediately come to mind, just use the general idea that he will "beat down" longshoremen as your prediction.  Look now at the answer choices that you have not yet eliminated.

D.  Does the word "oppress" mean "beat down"?  Yes.  Keep this choice.

E.  Maybe you don't know what this word means.  It looks like "vindictive," so it may sound negative to you, but the meaning is not the same.  If you plan to guess on a question, go with what you know instead of what you do not know.  Pick D because you know that "oppress" matched your prediction.


The correct answer is (D). 

This is a hard question.


Words used in this SC: 

Disdainful: contemptuous of someone seen as inferior

Tout:  to praise publicly, often extravagantly

Inept:  awkward or unskilled

Enthrall:  to charm or hold spellbound

Equitable:  fair to all concerned

 Debilitate: to diminish strength

Ignominious: disgraceful (meaning to lose one's good name, shameful)

Oppress: to burden or weigh down

Unstinting: generous

Vindicate: to clear of guilt or blame


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