Sentence Completion

Words of “Wiz-dom”-When you attack a Sentence Completion question, in addition to using the strategies and specific techniques you are going to be learning in this lesson, focus on the topic of the sentence (Pillar IV). The right answer has to be consistent with the topic. One way to approach identifying the topic is to restate (Pillar II) the sentence by saying to yourself, “This sentence is about …” So, in short, keeping the topic of the sentence in mind as you focus on each question will raise your score.

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The Strategy

1. Using your hand, cover the answers that follow the sentence. They will only distract and confuse you.

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2. Read the sentence and identify the topic and structural clues like key words and phrases, and internal punctuation (commas, semicolons, and colons).

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3. Predict a word for each blank. Ask yourself, “What word would make sense given the topic and structural clues?” If you can’t come up with a specific word, it’s fine to use a phrase to describe the word. At least try to predict if the word has a positive or negative meaning.

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4. Find the answer choice that best matches your prediction. As you eliminate answers, remember to draw a line through the letter of that answer so you don’t waste time coming back to it.

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5. Check your choice by reading the sentence with your answer plugged into the blanks. Does it make sense? Does it sound right? Does it flow? Is it consistent with the topic?

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Put the five step strategy together and do the following questions.

1. The driver was driving ___________ as he skidded around the corner and swerved back and forth in the street.

(A) funny
(B) cool
(C) noisily
(D) calmly
(E) dangerously

Answer to Question #1

7. The tremor in his voice, a _________ note that exposed his grief, would not go away as Trellasiter lamented the loss of his hunting falcon.

(A) melodious
(B) sorrowful
(C) confident
(D) quavering
(E) losing

Answer to Question #7

Sentence Completion Techniques:

Key Words and Phrases

Words of “Wiz-dom”-Other than the “definition” or vocabulary questions, the sentences tend to be complex. They will contain phrases and clauses that are in some way related to one another. Your task will be to determine how they relate. The test writer uses key words, key phrases, and internal punctuation as signals. You need to identify these signals and use them to raise your score.

They are like some of the same signals we covered in the Critical Reading lesson. One of the test writer favorites is reversal words: although, nevertheless, and however. Also watch for “causal” words like “because” and “on account of.”

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Positive vs. Negative

Words of “Wiz-dom”-The test writer is fond of words that have positive and negative meanings or feelings.  I like to suggest my students “check the charges–both positive and negative charges.” Watch for them. Use key words and phrases as directional signals. For example, “in addition” means the two parts of a sentence are consistent. “But” would signal a change.

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Decode Words

Words of “Wiz-dom”You can be sure that there will be words in the Sentence Completion section that you don’t know. The test writer wants to see what you can do with difficult vocabulary. However, don’t give up when you encounter them. Learn to recognize word parts and their meanings.  For example, “ex” means “out” as in external or exoskeleton.

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Trust Your Instincts

Words of “Wiz-dom”When you are coming up with your own words for the blank(s), have faith in the words and phrases you think fit best. When you focus on the question’s topic (Pillar IV), it is your own words that make the most sense. Then you restate (Pillar II) your words into the words of the test writer. Trust your instincts when it comes to whether words have positive or negative meanings. In many cases, they are words you’ve seen or heard before but forgotten. But your brain’s filing system somehow cataloged them as positive or negative. Trust your instincts.

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Common Elements

Words of “Wiz-dom”Here’s a technique that is useful when you’re befuddled by the Sentence Completion question. It works when there are two blanks. Look in the first column of answers and mark the ones that are synonyms. Do the same thing with the second column of answers. Now find the answer that you marked both words. Why does this work? The synonyms in the wrong answers serve as distractors from the right answer. It isn’t foolproof but that’s why you use it as a back door strategy or to decide between two possible answers.

The right answer is there (Pillar V). This strategy helps you find it.

Find the right answer from the following without even knowing what the sentence is.

(A) obsolete..insignificance
(B) ostentatious..applicability
(C) extinct..prominence
(D) modern..connection
(E) archaic..relevance

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Common Types

Words of “Wiz-dom”-Like all the other question formats on the test, Sentence Completion questions only have a limited number of categories. There are four types account for the vast majority of the questions. They are: Definition/Vocabulary, Contrast, Support, and Cause and Effect.

The following examples of each type will provide you with some practice predicting answers. Number a piece of paper from 1 through 12. Write down as many words as you can that would make sense for each blank. Try to use “SAT” words, in addition to “everyday” vocabulary.


  1. Because the escaped lion is a _____________, she is likely to eat members of the local wild animal population.

  2. Francis is extraordinarily ________, so he hardly ever speaks in class.

  3. Twisting constantly through the peaks and valleys, the mountain road is __________.


  1. Unlike his athletic brother, Mike is ___________.

  2. Despite the fact it was a top box-office hit, the movie was ____________ by the critics.

  3. Around his owners, the dog was __________ but when confronted by a stranger he became ____________.


  1. For devoting long, unpaid hours to her students, the counselor was ____________ by the community.

  2. Derek exhibited considerable investment ______________, converting a small amount of money into a retirement plan.

  3. Kristi has a _________ for animals, _____________ every stray she sees.

Cause and Effect:

  1. The test expert told us all to read, read, read because it was the best thing to __________ our vocabulary.

  2. The student’s scores _________ because he ___________ time each day on improving his skills.

  3. The police looked upon the suspect with __________ due to the mounting evidence.

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Sentence Completion Homework

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