PSAT Preparation Sentence Completion Tips
Don’t be like Joe! • Joe Bloggs, the average student (who hasn’t had the infinite wisdom of Mr. Ambrose bestowed upon him) would do it this way: • Read the sentence five times. • Plug in a different option each time. • Pick the one that “sounds right.” • This method is flawed for a few reasons: • You are wasting precious time, which needs to be saved for the reading passages. • More than once answer can wind up “sounding right.”
You’re smarter than you think! • Try this… • In the following sentences, what word do you think should go in the blank? • Susan was ________________ when the formula, which had worked just yesterday, failed to produce the expected result. • Although she was never considered pretty as a child, Margaret grew up to be a ___________ adult. • Once a cheerful person, the years of fruitless struggle against government waste made him a very ______________ man.
The Method • Cover the answer choices with your hand. This will ensure that you don’t do what Joe does, which is to read the sentence five times, trying one of the answer choices each time. • Speak for yourself: Read the sentence, and write your own word in the blank. • Uncover the words, and pick the word that is a synonym for the word you wrote. When in doubt, narrow down using connotations.
The Clue and Trigger Words • Every sentence has some clue in it. Look for the clue, and it will help you to determine the word that goes in the blank. • What is the clue in the following sentences? • Susan was _______________ when the formula, which had worked just yesterday, failed to produce the expect result. • The park was so ________________ that the children could play in it for hours without getting bored.
Why Every Sentence Needs a Clue • John made some _____________ comments about Marcus’s artwork. • Intelligent • Critical • Interesting • Dry • Appreciative There is no clue here! Any of these answers would work! On the PSAT, there is always one right answer and one right answer only.
Now we have a clue! • John made some ____________ comments about Marcus’s artwork, which John thought was fantastic. (A) Intelligent (B) Critical (C) Interesting (D) Dry (E) Appreciative Now you have a clue!
Trigger Words • And • Since • So • Therefore • Because • In fact • But • However • Yet • Although/Though • In contrast • Rather Same-Direction Triggers Opposite-Direction Triggers
Punctuation Triggers • What follows the colon or semicolon will be an explanation or further description of something that came before. • John’s friend was rather _______________: He spoke unless he was forced to. • So you want to figure out what is a work that implies “spoken only when forced to.”
Time Triggers • This is an “opposite-direction” trigger. • It draws a contrast between what used to be true and what is true today. • Once a cheerful person, the years of fruitless struggle against government waste made him a very ___________ man. • So we need to find a word that is the opposite of cheerful.
Let’s try one… • Many feature films are criticized for their ____________ content, even though television news is more often the medium that depicts violent events in excessive. • What word would you use to fill the blank?
Now check out the options! • Discretionary • Graphic • Dramatic • Artistic • Honest Which word means the same as the word you suggested? When in doubt, consider the connotations.
Let’s try one… • Unlike her award-winning first book, Roberta’s new volume can only be considered a ____________ effort. • What word would you use to fill the blank?
Now check out the options! • Significant • Mediocre • Whimsical • Feasible • Laudable Which word means the same as the word you suggested? When in doubt, consider the connotations.
Two blanks: Twice as Easy The scientific community was ____________ when a living specimen of the coelacanth, which ichthyologists had feared was ____________, was discovered by deep-sea fishermen. Fill in the blanks with your own words!
Answer Options • perplexed…common • overjoyed…dangerous • unconcerned…exterminated • astounded…extinct • dismayed…alive Which ones match up with your words?
Relationship between Blanks • If you get stuck, figure out the relationship between blanks. • The author is reliably _____________; every book he writes is more _____________ than one before. • The semicolon suggests that what comes in the second half of the sentence is an example/explanation/illustration of what is in the first half. • So the two words should be somewhat synonymous.
So here are the options! • The author is reliably ________________; every book he writes is more _____________ than the one before. • dull…inspired • exceptional…hackneyed • artistic…informed • imaginative…creative • original…lackluster • Eliminate the opposites. • Check out the options that remain.
Tips for Sentence Completions • Cover the answer choices with your hand. • Insert your own word. • Look at the answer choices; pick the word that is the closest to your word. • Use process of elimination to narrow down. • Pay attention to clues and trigger words. • Consider the connotation of the word that goes in the blank – positive, negative, etc. • On a two-blank question, just do one blank at a time.