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 two blank sentence completion questions in the critical reading section of SAT.
This question comes from a SAT practice test. Can you find the answer?
While industry in the late twentieth century believed itself to be ________ in its treatment of labourers, Cesar Chavez made a career of revealing the __________ experienced by farm workers.
A. generous… injustices
B. just … satisfaction
C. vindictive … challenges
D. superior … relationships
E. immutable … consistencies
1. Read the sentence carefully. You can read aloud the first time, but remember that during the actual SAT you must read silently, to yourself. If you have heard of Cesar Chavez, then you have some background knowledge, and you can immediately supply a context (setting) for the sentence. However, it is not essential. You can still figure out the meaning of the sentence.
2. Try to establish the relationship between the two missing words in terms of positive and negative. There are always four possibilities: positive/positive, positive/negative, negative/positive and negative/negative. There is also a third category – neutral words. As you read the sentence, you should be able to deduce that the first blank is positive and the second blank is negative. You can see that after the word “labourers” there is a change in direction. The word “while” at the beginning of the sentence also indicates that there will be a change of direction. So you are looking for a positive/negative correlation. That eliminates right away:
B. – positive/positive
C. – negative/positive
D. – positive/neutral (the word relationships is neutral; it requires an adjective in front of it to make it positive or negative)
E. – neutral/positive.
That leaves you with A, which is the answer, as it is the only positive/negative pair.
3. Even if you don’t know the words vindictive and/or immutable, the second word in each pair does not fit the positive/negative correlation, so you can eliminate it.
4. Now that you’ve got the answer, find out the meaning of vindictive and immutable!