Of course you can read…but this isn’t about reading. It’s all about beating the College Board, the organization that writes the SAT, at its own games. The first such game you’ll encounter is called sentence completion.

– Choose a word or pair of words to complete an incomplete sentence.
– Choose not the correct answer, but rather the “best” one. Lets take an example:

My nephew, a third-grader at Sunday Meadows Primary School, likes to eat _____ at lunch.

a. glue
b. bugs
c. oranges
d. cellophane
e. boogers

Step by Step

1. Cover up the answer choices with your hand
2. Read the sentence
3. Underline the clue
4. Come up with your own word or phrase to go in the blank
5. Use the process of elimination (POE)

The clue is the word “eat,” and the question then is, what does he like to eat at lunch?
You might guess “sandwiches”…generally, you’d think of something edible
Eliminate things that are clearly very different from the answer that came to your mind.
Doing so will leave you with “oranges” which is the correct answer for the above question.

Trigger Words

“but” – suggests that the blank is supposed to be in opposition to the other part of the sentence
“and” – suggests that the blank is supposed to be in agreement with the other part of the sentence

My job pays well, and _____.
You expect to hear something good about the job or the money
Example: My job pays well, and I like the people I work with.
Example: My job pays well, and the retirement benefits are amazing.

My job pays well, but _____.
You expect to hear something bad about the job or the money
Example: My job pays well, but not as well as the last one I had.
Example: My job pays well, but I would rather be a commercial fisherman than continue in proctology.

Doubles? No Trouble!

Jon may seem _____ at work with his deferential attitude and soft voice, but he moves his hips, shouts, and becomes utterly _____ on the dance floor.

Take it one piece at a time
What’s a word to describe someone with a differential attitude and soft voice? Perhaps “quiet.”
How would you describe someone who moves his hips a lot and shouts on the dance floor? Maybe “uncontrollable.”

Now look at the choices…

a. sad; immovable
b. reserved; authentic
c. hopeless; unrestrained
d. agreeable; disdainful
e. relaxed; suggestive

First Things First
Compare your answers, quiet and uncontrollable.

  • a. sad; immovable (No – a person who speaks softly isn’t necessarily sad, and Jon is definitely not immovable on the dance floor.)
  • b. reserved; authentic (Keep this one; he’s reserved at work and his dancing sounds authentic.)
  • c. hopeless; unrestrained (No – he’s not necessarily hopeless, though he sounds unrestrained when he dances.)
  • d. agreeable; disdainful (No – he’s agreeable at work but he doesn’t dance disdainfully.)
  • e. relaxed; suggestive (No – we don’t know if he’s relaxed at work or if he looks suggestive when dancing.)

Given the analysis above, the answer is B.

What’s the Good Word…or the Bad?

The loss of the contract was the most devastating _____ in a long string of apparent failuers, but in fact the young entrepreneur was soon to experience an amazing _____ .

The first part of the sentence is talking about failure; something bad. The second part is talking about something amazing that stands in contrast, which would probably be something very good.

Fit it in – disaster, success

It’s a Good Thing…NOT!

The loss of the contract was the most devastating _____ in a long string of apparent failuers, but in fact the young entrepreneur was soon to experience an amazing _____ .

a. gain; loss
b. disaster; letdown
c. thing; change
d. agreement; albatross
e. disappointment; boon

Compare to your answers, disaster and success.

  • a. gain; loss (No – it’s tempting, but it’s in the wrong order.)
  • b. disaster; letdown (No – the first word even matched our own words but there’s no contrast.)
  • c. thing; change (Keep it as a possibility – this makes sense…but keep looking for something better; it’s a little weak since both words are neutral.)
  • d. agreement; albatross (No – a contract is an agreement but again, this is a neutral term; an albatross however, is an obstacle and not something good.)
  • e. disappointment; boon (Yes – a disappointment is a bad thing, and a boon is something to be thankful for!)

So, choose E!

More Strategies for Your Game Plan

  • Fill in the blank with any word or phrase that will help you convey the meaning you’re looking for to yourself. (Awkward words or phrases like “poopyhead” or “missing guy” are fine.
  • Never eliminate a choice unless you are certain of what it means.
  • If you can’t elikminate any answer choices at all on a question, skip it.

Critical Reading Practice Questions

1. Eddie Vedder’s voice is possibly among the most _____ in all of pop music – by turns innocent, snarling, wistful, groaning, and exultant.

a. distinctive
b. angry
c. shocking
d. expressive
e. virtuosic

2. Her extensively detailed journal about the making of her album was such a _____ effort that it seems a _____ she had time to record the music itself.

a. Herculean; dithyramb
b. painstaking; miracle
c. fantastic; pity
d. catastrophic; waste
e. useless; bust

3. The lawyer may have possessed a _____ demeanor in the courtroom, but at home he was in a constant state of _____, unable even to find his own shoes in the morning.

a. professional; disorganization
b. glib; pomposity
c. cranky; kindness
d. calm; stupor
e. disgusted; repose



1. d
2. b
3. a