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Fill In The Blanks Or Sentence Completion

Sentence completion questions test your ability to use your vocabulary and recognise logical consistency among the elements in a sentence. You need to know more than the dictionary definitions of the words involved. You need to know how the words fit together to make logical and stylistic sense.
Sentence completion questions actually measure one part of reading comprehension. If you can recognise how the different parts of a sentence affect one another, you should do well at choosing the answer that best completes the meaning of the sentence or provides a clear, logical statement of fact. The ability to recognise irony and humour will also stand you in good stead, as will the ability to recognise figurative language and to distinguish between formal and informal levels of speech.
Because the sentence completion questions contain many clues that help you to answer them correctly (far more clues than the antonyms provide, for example), and because analysing them helps you warm up for the reading passages later on in the test, on the paper-and-pencil test, answer them first. Then go on to tackle the analogies, the antonyms, and, finally, the time-consuming reading comprehension section.
Sentence completion questions may come from any of a number of different fields-art, literature, history, philosophy, botany, astronomy, geology, and so on. You cannot predict what subject matter the sentences on your test will involve.

What makes the hard questions hard?

  1. Vocabulary Level: Sentences contain words like intransigence, nonplussed, harbingers. Answer choices include words like penchant, abeyance, and eclectic.
  2. Grammatical Complexity . Sentences combine the entire range of grammatical possibilities adverbial clauses, relative clauses, prepositional phrases, gerunds, infinitives, and so on in convoluted ways. The more complex the sentence, the more difficult it is for you to spot the key words that can unlock its meaning.
  3. Tone. Sentences reflect the writer’s attitude towards the subject matter. It is simple to comprehend material that is presented neutrally. It is far more difficult to comprehend material that is ironic, condescending, playful, sombre, or otherwise complex in tone.
  4. Style. Ideas may be expressed in different manners ornately or sparely, poetically or prosaically, formally or informally, journalistically or academically, originally or imitatively. An author’s style depends on such details as word choice, imagery, repetition, rhythm, sentence structure and length. Work through the following Fundas and learn techniques that will help you with vocabulary, grammatical complexity, tone, and style.

Funda-1 : Before you look at the choices, read the sentence and think of a word that makes sense

See how the process works in a typical model question.
  1. Because experience had convinced her that he was both self-seeking and avaricious, she rejected the likelihood that his donation had been.................
    (A) redundant (B) frivolous
    (C) inexpensive (D) altruistic
This sentence presents a simple case of cause and effect. The key phrase here is self-seeking and avaricious. The woman has found the man to be selfish and greedy. Therefore, she refuses to believe he can do something_______. What words immediately come to mind? Selfless, generous, charitable? The missing word is, of course, altruistic. The woman expects selfishness (self-seeking) and greediness (avaricious), not altruism (magnanimity). The correct answer is Choice D.

Funda-2 : Look at all the possible answers before you make your final choice

See how this Funda helps you deal with another question.
  1. The evil of class and race hatred must be eliminated while it is still in an ....................... state; otherwise it may grow to dangerous proportions.
    (A) Amorphous (B) overt
    (C) uncultivated (D) embryonic
On the basis of a loose sense of this sentence’s meaning, you might be tempted to select Choice A. After all, this sentence basically tells you that you should wipe out hatred before it gets too dangerous. Clearly, if hatred is vague or amorphous, it is less formidable than if it is well defined. However, this reading of the sentence is inadequate: it fails to take into account the sentence’s key phrase.

Funda-3 : In double-blank sentences, go through the answers, testing the first word in each choice (and eliminating those that don’t fit)

  1. Critics of the movie version of The Colour Purple ——— its saccharine, overoptimistic mood at odds with the novel’s more .....................tone.
    (A) applauded...sombre
    (B) condemned...hopeful
    (C) acclaimed...positive
    (D) decried...acerbic
For a quick, general sense of the opening clause, break it up. What does it say? Critics……….the movie’s sugary sweet mood.
How would critics react to something sugary sweet and over-hopeful? They would disapprove. Your first missing word must be a synonym for disapprove.
Now eliminate the misfits. Choices A and C fail to meet the test: applauded and acclaimed signify approval, not disapproval. Choice B, condemned and choice D decried, however, all disapprobation; they require a second look.
To decide among Choices B and E, consider the second blank. The movie’s sugary, overly hopeful mood is at odds with the novel’s tone: the two moods disagree. Therefore, the novel’s tone is not hopeful or sugary sweet. It is instead on the bitter or sour side; in a word, acerbic The correct answer is clearly Choice D.

Funda-4 : Watch for signal words that link one part of the sentence to another

Note the function of such a contrast signal word in the following question.
  1. Paradoxically, the more ——— the details this artist chooses, the better able she is to depict her fantastic, otherworldly landscapes.
    (A) ethereal
    (B) realistic
    (C) fanciful
    (D) extravagant
The artist creates imaginary landscapes that do not seem to belong to this world. We normally would expect the details comprising these landscapes to be as fantastic and supernatural as the landscapes themselves. But the truth of the matter, however, is paradoxical: it contradicts what we expect. The details she chooses are realistic, and the more realistic they are, the more fantastic the paintings become. The correct answer is Choice B.

Funda-5 : Use your knowledge of word parts and parts of speech to figure out the meanings of unfamiliar words

Note the application of this Funda in the following typical example.
  1. This island is a colony; however, in most matters, it is and receives no orders from the mother country.
    (A) dichotomous
    (B) methodical
    (C) heretical
    (D) autonomous
First, eliminate any answer choices that are obviously incorrect. If a colony receives no orders from its mother country, it is essentially self-governing. It is not necessarily methodical or systematic nor is it by definition heretical (unorthodox). Thus, you may rule out Choices B and C.
The two answer choices remaining may be unfamiliar to you. Analyse them, using what you know of related words. Choice A, dichotomous, is related to the noun dichotomy, a division into two parts, as in the dichotomy between good and evil. Though the island colony may be separated from the mother country by distance, that has nothing to do with how the colony governs itself Choice D, autonomous, comes from the prefix auto-(self) and the root nom-(law). An autonomous nation is independent; it rules itself. Thus, the correct answer is autonomous Choice D.

Funda-6 : Break up complex sentences into simpler components

See how this Funda helps you to analyse the following sentence.
  1. Museum director Hoving ——— refers to the smuggled Greek urn as the “hot pot;” not because there are doubts about its authenticity or even great reservations as to its price, but because its ——— of acquisition is open to question.
    (A) informally…..costliness
    (B) characteristically…..date
    (C) colloquially…..manner
    (D) repeatedly…..swiftness
In calling the smuggled urn a “hot pot, “ Hoving is not necessarily speaking characteristically or redundantly or cheerfully. He is speaking either informally or colloquially. (Hot here is a slang term meaning stolen or illegally obtained.) Its costliness is not being questioned. However, because the urn has been smuggled into the country, there clearly are unresolved questions about how it got here, in other words, about its manner of acquisition. The correct answer is Choice C.

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