Select the words that best fit the meaning of the sentence as a whole.
The defendant's story seemed highly -------, especially since she had no witnesses to ------- her alibi.
A. innocuous . . vindicate
B. auspicious . . substantiate
C. inept . . debilitate
D. reticent . . scrutinize
E. implausible . . corroborate
Always start by covering up the answer choices so that they do not distract you. Read the sentence carefully, then predict what you think the answer should be. In two-blank sentence completions like this one, start with the easier blank first, which, in this case, is the second one. What would this defendant need a witness to do? To confirm or support her alibi. Using "confirm/support" as a prediction, let's look at the choices for the second blank.
A. "Vindicate," like many SAT words, has a Latin origin. It comes from "vindicare," which means "to set free, lay claim to, assert, or avenge." Today, the word is no longer associated with laying claim or achieving revenge; it means "to clear of guilt or blame" or "to prove to be right." The second meaning of vindicate matches somewhat with our prediction, so keep this choice for now.
B. "Substantiate" is easy to remember because it sounds like "substance." To substantiate something is to give substance to, to prove, or to establish that thing. This matches fairly well with our prediction, so keep this choice for now.
C. "Debilitate" comes from the Latin "debilitare," meaning "to weaken." To debilitate someone or something is to make that person or thing weak and potentially infirm. This is the opposite of our prediction, so eliminate this choice.
D. "Scrutinize" means "to examine closely." To help you remember this word, you could think of someone squinting their eyes to look at something very closely. This choice does not match our prediction, so eliminate it.
E. "Corroborate" comes from the Latin "corroborare," meaning "to strengthen." To corroborate something is to support it with evidence. This matches fairly well with our prediction, so keep this choice for now.
Now look at the second blank. If the defendant has no witnesses to confirm her alibi, then her story would be weak or difficult to believe. Using this as a prediction, let's look at the remaining options for the second blank.
A. “Innocuous” comes from the Latin roots “in” (not) and “nocuus” (to harm) and means “harmless or inoffensive.” This choice does not match our prediction, so eliminate it.
B. "Auspicious" sounds a little like "suspicious," but it means nearly the opposite. Something auspicious is favorable or promising of success. This choice does not match our prediction, so eliminate it.
E. The word "implausible" comes from the same Latin root (plaudere) as the word "applaud," though the two words have very different meanings today. Something implausible is unlikely to be true or hard to believe. (FYI, something plausible is reasonable or probable). This choice matches our prediction, so E must be correct.
The correct answer is E.
Source: Online Etymology Dictionary. Dan Harper. 2013. Web. 13 Jan. 2014.
Words used in this SC:
vindicate: to clear of guilt or blame
auspicious: favorable or promising success
substantiate: to give substance to, to prove, or to establish
inept: awkward or unskilled
debilitate: to diminish strength
reticent: quiet and reserved
scrutinize: to examine closely
implausible: 1) unlikely to be true or 2) hard to believe
corroborate: to support with evidence or authority
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