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Fill In The Blanks

A sentence completion question consists of a sentence, with one, or sometimes two blanks. You must choose an answer that will complete the sentence. Sentence completions are, in part, a test of reading comprehension, but they are also a test of vocabulary. The basic idea of a sentence completion is to “fill in the blank.”

A. Strategies for questions on blanks

 

1.  Understand the context. The answer is given by clue words that appear in the sentence itself. The student should be able to guess whether the words needed are positive or negative.

 

2.   Understand the idiom. Try to think up a sentence using the answer choices in the phrase in a sentence. Second, although an answer choice may create a meaningful phrase, it may be wrong because it is not consistent with the overall logic of the sentence.

 

3.   Anticipate the blanks. Think of a word that you might like to insert in the sentence. Then insert your selection into the sentence to test it. Read the sentence through to make sure that your answer choice reads smoothly and correctly.

 

4.   Thought extenders and reversers.  Many words in the English language can signal an extension of a thought: and so therefore, since, because, as a result, and others.  Similarly, many words can signal a reversal of a thought: although, though, but, else, in spite of, despite, however etc.  Moreover, a sentence may contain both thought-extenders and thought-reversers. For this reason,  you must learn to recognize the logical structure of a sentence and pay attention to what that structure requires.

Examples:

Directions: Fill in the blanks in the sentence with one of the options listed below.

Example 12.1

1. Even those who disagreed with Carmen’s views rarely faulted her for expressing them, for the positions she took were as ______ as they were controversial.

a)  complicated

b)  political   

c)  subjective

d)  commonplace

e)  thoughtful

 

How to attempt: Here the word “for” that introduces the second part of the sentence is a thought extender – it will extend the idea – of people rarely faulting Carmen – so the blank needs to be something positive about Carmen. Only e) can fit into that criterion.

 Example 16.2

2. The modern age is a permissive one in which things can be said explicitly, but the old tradition of _______ dies hard.

a) garrulousness

b) exaggeration 

c)  excoriation

d) bombast

e) euphemism

 

How to attempt: Here the “but” is a thought reverser. The blank needs to be the opposite of explicitly said. Only euphemism fits in. The correct answer is e).

 

An Approach for filling Blanks:

1.  Know your vocabulary

2.  Understand the context.

3.  Identify the key words in the sentence

4.  Identify the thought extenders and the thought reversers

5.  Anticipate the blanks

6.  Check the options, keeping in mind the idiom.

Type I – One word blanks

Here, the student has to fill in one word that has been left out. Sometimes the question tests knowledge of grammar, and sometimes the knowledge of vocabulary.

 

1.  .I devote much of my time ________ writing.

a)  in

b)  to

c)  on

d)  at

In this question, a knowledge of prepositions is required. The correct answer is: to.

 

2.    If you are trying to make a strong impression on your audience, you cannot do so by being understated, tentative, or ________.

a)  hyperbolic

b)  restrained

c)  argumentative

d)  authoritative

Example 16.5

Here the blanks must be filled by a word that matches “understated, tentative.” These are powerful hints. The word matching these two words is: restrained.

Type II – Two word blanks

 

This is slightly more difficult question, as two words have to be filled simultaneously in one given sentence.

 Example 16.5

1.    The best punctuation is that of which the reader is least conscious; for when punctuation, or lack of it, ________ itself, it is usually because it ________.

a)  obtrudes, offends    

b)  enjoins, fails   

c)  conceals, recedes   

d)  effaces, counts

 Example 16.6

2.    The argument that the need for a looser fiscal policy ________ to demand outweighs the need to ________ budget deficits is persuasive.

a)  assess, minimize     

b)  outstrip, eliminate   

c)  stimulate, control    

d)  restrain, conceal

 

How to attempt:

 In Example 1, the second word must match the phrase “lack of punctuation.” If there is no punctuation, how would the reader react? He would be offended. The first word should contrast with “least conscious” and this word is obtrudes. Hence, a) is the answer.

 

In Example 2, the first word is answered by the question: what should a loose fiscal policy do? Will demand be stimulated or restrained? The second word should match “budget deficits” and these must be controlled. Hence, d) is the answer.

Type II – Two word blanks

This is slightly more difficult question, as two words have to be filled simultaneously in one given sentence.

1.      The best punctuation is that of which the reader is least conscious; for when punctuation, or lack of it, ________ itself, it is usually because it ________.

a)   obtrudes, offends    

b)   enjoins, fails 

c)    conceals, recedes    

d)   effaces, counts

 

 Example 

2.      The argument that the need for a looser fiscal policy ________ to demand outweighs the need to ________ budget deficits is persuasive.

a)   assess, minimize     

b)   outstrip, eliminate   

c)    stimulate, control    

d)   restrain, conceal

 

How to attempt:

 In Example 1, the second word must match the phrase “lack of punctuation.” If there is no punctuation, how would the reader react? He would be offended. The first word should contrast with “least conscious” and this word is obtrudes. Hence, a) is the answer.

In Example 2, the first word is answered by the question: what should a loose fiscal policy do? Will demand be stimulated or restrained? The second word should match “budget deficits” and these must be controlled. Hence, d) is the answer.

Type III – Filling words in paragraphs

 

In this question, a paragraph is given with several words missing. The student has to keep the entire paragraph in mind while filling each blank.

 Example 16.7

Example:

At that time, the White House was as serene as a resort hotel out of season. The corridors were ___[1]___ in the various offices, ____[2]         gray men in waistcoats talked to one another in low-pitched voices. The only color, or choler, curiously enough, was provided by President Eisenhower himself. Apparently, his ____[3]____ was easily set off; he scowled when he ____[4]____ the corridors.

 

1.     a. striking          

b. hollow         

       c. empty 

d. white

 

2.     a. quiet

b. faded  

       c. loud

d. stentorian

 

3.    a. laughter

b. curiosity      

       c. humour

d. temper

 

4.    a. paced

b. strolled       

       c. stormed

d. prowled

 

 How to attempt:

1. The word must match “resort hotel out of season.” How will such a hotel look like? Hollow and white are unsuitable adjectives for the corridors, the correct answer is empty.

2. The word quiet suits the context of the passage, as the general atmosphere seems hushed.

3. Scowled means “to frown”, so the answer is temper.

4. Pace is used to refer to continuous up and down movement. Prowled has associations with a predator looking for prey. The President paced the corridors rather than prowled.





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