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 answers so that you are not drawn to one before you have all the information you can glean from the sentence. Read the sentence carefully and make a prediction to fill the blank. Then match your prediction to the correct answer, eliminating any answer choice that does not match. Be sure to look at all the answer choices before selecting an answer.
The jellyfish’s slow pulsing action propels it in a graceful, seemingly ------- drift, but its tentacles contain a poison potent enough to stun a swimming human.
This sentence requires you to use logic to find the answer. If you are trying to save time by only reading part of the sentence, you will get this question wrong. For example, if you only read up to the blank, you may select the answer “rhythmic” because grace and rhythm seem to go hand in hand, and the jellyfish has a pulsing action. However, if you read a bit farther, you will come to the word “but.” The word “but” sets up a contrast. One thing about this jellyfish must be the opposite of what you would expect. You can’t change the portion after the “but,” so you must contrast that portion of the sentence. What is the opposite of being dangerous to humans? Being safe – the jellyfish seems safe. Predict the word “safe” and look down at your answer choices.
(A) Does sinister mean safe? No! Even if you do not know the dictionary definition for sinister, you can probably identify it as a negative word. Eliminate this choice. (B) The word “rhythmic” has nothing to do with “safe.” Eliminate this choice. (C) This word comes from an Old Norse word, myrkr, which means “darkness.” It does not mean safe. Eliminate it. (D) “Harmless” can mean “safe.” This word matches exactly! It seems as if the jellyfish will not harm people, but it is poisonous. Keep this answer and quickly check the last choice. (E) “Patient” does not mean “safe.” Eliminate this choice.
The correct answer is (D).
Words used in this SC:
Sinister: ominous or unlucky, seeming to be evil
Rhythmic: regularly recurring sound or movement
Murky: hard to see through, gloomy
Harmless: without the power or desire to injure
Patient: content to wait if necessary
On sat.collegeboard.org, 70% of the responses were correct.
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