All You Need To Know About SAT: Part 15

Written by: Helen Donohoe


***Helen Donohoe, M.S.Ed., is a teacher of English and French in the Hamilton/Burlington area. She holds practice SAT sessions on Saturdays on an informal, drop-in basis at Cedar Springs Racquet Club where she is a member, long-time tennis hacker and aficionado.

In this section of the website we will be publishing short paragraphs on various aspects of SAT. Please leave your questions/comments here, and Helen will be happy to respond to any specific concerns from students/parents***


Strategies for tackling the sentence completion questions.

These questions are always in the first part of the critical reading sections. There are usually between five and nine of them and as I explained in the last article, some of the questions are one blank while others are two blank. Let’s start with a one blank question from an actual test:

Conservationists are contemplating a plan to remove the broken crates, washed-up cargo, and other ________ left over from the shipwreck.

A.      raiment           B.      detritus           C.      periphery           D.      desolation           E.      trajectory

First of all, determine the meaning of the sentence and try to find a word of your own that fits. You’re very likely to come up with the word “garbage” or “trash.” Now study the five choices. As tennis players, you should know what the trajectory of the ball is, so that is obviously not the answer. Eliminate E. You should also figure out that periphery has got something to do with peripheral vision (essential in all sports!), so again, that is not the right choice. Eliminate C. The word desolation is certainly a word that describes what you might actually feel and describe when you come upon a shipwreck. But does it actually have anything to do with garbage? Possibly, but the connection is very weak and desolation is not a synonym for garbage. Eliminate D. Now you’re left with raiment and detritus. Although raiment sounds a bit like remain(s), which certainly explains garbage, you cannot change the initial vowel in a word – that is, you cannot simply change ai in raiment to e without changing the root of the word and therefore the meaning. So it’s safe to say that raiment cannot be the answer. Eliminate A. You’re left with detritus. B is the answer. Detritus is another word for debris (débris in French.) So now you know the meaning of detritus and you will always remember it. The word raiment? It’s an old-fashioned word for clothing, especially the garments worn by priests or ministers. Now if you had only known that, you see how much easier the question would be!

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