Friday, July 10, 2009

That SAT Sentence Completion

My son is helping kids with their SAT prep and SSAT prep. That's his summer job, and he has been expressing surprise at the problems the students have been having with vocabulary. It is true English is a tricky language, just check out the video below, but that is particularly so for those persons for whom it is a foreign language. If English is your native language you may have the homonyms and heteronyms down pat but the English language comprises a lot of words - some say around one quarter of a million, the most of comparable languages - and so you may be a bit intimidated when faced with the prospect of learning more.

The SAT critical reading includes a section called Sentence Completion. You have to complete the sentence by filling in one or two blanks. Here are some examples:

  1. ___________by nature, John spoke rarely, even to his own family.

    (a) garrulous
    (b) equivocal
    (c) taciturn
    (d) arrogant
    (e) gregarious

  2. The intellectual flexibility inherent in a multicultural nation has been________in classrooms where emphasis on British-American literature has not reflected the cultural_______of our country.

    (a) eradicated - unanimity
    (b) encouraged - aspirations
    (c) stifled - diversity
    (d) thwarted - uniformity
    (e) inculcated - divide

I'd love if you would try it out by leaving your answers in your comments :D.

Many students have difficulty with this section because their vocabulary is just not well developed. These words aren't "hard" but some consider them "bigger" than the words they are accustomed to use in normal conversation. Hello, these are everyday words for people who are considered "educated". So don't leave school without them.

Want some ideas on how to expand your vocabulary?
  • Read. I cannot emphasize this enough. Read widely: science fiction, periodicals, newspapers, murder mysteries and more. When you read and discover that you don't know a word, stop and consult a dictionary. If you don't have access to one write down the word to research later and if you don't have a note pad underline the word and check it out later. It is an advantage to learn words through reading as you see the word in context which helps you to understand it more.

  • Play Word Games. Yes I believe in engaging in fun activities to help to educate. Scrabble, crosswords and word puzzle books are sources you may consider.

  • Learn and Use a New Word everyday. You can commit to looking up a new word or you can register with or a similar site to get your word -a -day via email. Some words this week were panalopy, somnolent, defenestrate. If you are reading this and don't know the meanings then grab that dictionary or open a new tab and head to

  • Make a Word List. Each time you learn a new word add it to your list. along with the definition and an example of usage. You may even add synonyms and antonyms. Keep the list so that you can consult it regularly. It is not necessary or recommended to make a long list at once as that can become overwhelming and counter-productive. Go slow. Try to use the words you learn and this will help you to remember them.


Harriet said...

Both "C."

Dawn @Moms Inspire Learning said...

My children aren't going to be taking the SAT's for a while now, but these are great tips. Children of all ages will be way ahead of the game if they read and play word games on a regular basis.

Thank you so much for mentioning Wordsmith. It's so much easier to learn new words when a new word is delivered to you each day!

Great post!

Amanda said...

taciturn and stifled-diverstiy

This is a great blog... I am bookmarking you!

God bless-

Sadiebug and her Mom said...

Oh, I hated the SAT's. If they were a measure of how well I would do in life, I would have just curled up in a ball and cried. I did just as badly on the GRE's. Somehow both universities let me in anyway. And for that, I am grateful.

Martha said...

I feel smarter just reading your posts. Thank you!