Saturday, December 23, 2006

Sentence Completion

Sentence Completion
The Good, The Bad & The Ugly
Triggers & Clues

Sentence completions are not really that hard. They are poorly written, poorly worded, ambiguous, tricky, and full of traps. Usually you can put in more than one answer choice. But the key is "the best choice." That is, what ETS says is the best choice. So you've got to practice these and learn to think like a test writer. There are certain standard formats that are used. If you can recognize the format, you will have an easier time with these lovely wastes of time that you are paying money to torture yourself with.

STEP #1 – Choose your own word

Put your hand or answer form over the choices as you read the question. Try to think of a word that fits. WRITE that word down and then take a look at the answer choices. Find the one closest to your choice and MOVE ON!

STEP #2 – Find the “Clue” word or phrase

If a word does not jump out at you as an answer or you are having difficulty choosing your own answer, relax. ETS is generous; they usually give you one right in the question. Read the question carefully and look for, "the clue." Often the clue can be used as the answer, so find an answer choice that matches the clue.

STEP #3 – Find the “Trigger” word or phrase

Many of the sentence completions are long, often joining two phrases with a “trigger” word that is very helpful. These are words that trigger the flow of the sentence helping to determine the answer choice and the clue. They can be negative or positive; such as: “and;” "although";"while"; "but"; "therefore"; "however"

STEP #4 – The Good & the Bad

If you still cannot find a choice that fits, determine whether the word is a good word or a bad word. No not a four letter "bad" word, I mean happy or sad; positive or negative; agrees with or disagrees with - you get the idea. You can mark a (+) for good & a (-) for bad, up or down arrows or use smiley faces. Whatever works, as long as you practice your style and can use it on test day is all that matters.

STEP #5 – Two Blanks: Find one at a time

When you get to questions that ask for two words there is usually a clue and a trigger to whether the answer choices are both good, both bad or one of each. In the answer choices for two-blankers there WILL BE two answer choices where one of the words works, but they other one will be wrong. Do not get suckered into picking just one that works and move on. You must eliminate the obviously wrong choices and then work on the three remaining.

STEP #6 – The Ugly

Remember that sentence completions, like the math questions are written in "order of difficulty." The first third are supposed to be written so that the average high school student can answer them. (BTW - since the average vocabulary has dropped the words are actually easier. Blame the video generation or whatever, but at least that is good news for us).

For easy questions pick easy answers, ones that are not too ugly.

For the last three questions do not pick words that the average person will know – cross them out immediately because the CANNOT be the answer. On my last SAT, I picked the right answer on 5 or 6 really hard sentence completions, but eliminating the obviously wrong easy answers and then picking the ugliest word that I had no clue what it meant.

STEP #7 – Building Vocabulary

There is no better way to increase your vocabulary than to read and USE a dictionary to look up meanings of words that you do not understand. For hard words, the SAT favors classic works of literature from the 19th and early 20th centuries. Poe, Austen, & Shelly are full of great big words. Ayn Rand would be a perfect vocabulary builder. Here philosophical treatise "The Fountainhead" is considered to be a must read by any intellectual - so of course all of the ETS test writers consider themselves to be intellectual and will use words from someone like Rand.

No Shakespeare; Elizabethan is out but Victorian and early 19th century is very much in; Jane Austen, Poe, Hawthorn, etc.

Just forFun: Me & Mr. T