How SCs Work: A Bunch of Parts
Every sentence is built out of a bunch of parts. The most
important parts you need to know to beat SCs are clauses and conjunctions.
- Clauses: The parts of a sentence
that contain a noun and a verb. Every complete sentence must contain
at least one clause, and every clause should convey one idea. SCs
always present you with compound sentences, which
means they contain more than one clause. In compound sentences,
clauses can either support or contrast each
other. Clauses that support each other contain a consistent flow
of ideas with no opposition within the sentence. For example, this
sentence contains two clauses that support each other: “The test
was easy, so I aced it.” Clauses that contrast each other contain
a flow of ideas that oppose each other. For example, this sentence
contains clauses that contrast each other: “The test was easy, but
I failed it.”
- Conjunctions: Words that join clauses, like so and but in
the previous examples, are called conjunctions.
Conjunctions are important on SC questions because they often reveal
how a sentence’s clauses relate to each other. Knowing how clauses
relate enables you to determine what kind of word(s) you need to
fill in the blanks. In the sentence, “The test was easy, but I failed
it,” the conjunction but indicates that the two
clauses contrast—although you would expect that
the writer of this sentence would pass an easy test, the conjunction but signals
a contrast, which sets up the unexpected idea that the writer of
this sentence failed the test.
One of the simplest ways to understand how sentences work
is to imagine them as electrical ciruits. Let’s talk very basic
electricity for a few minutes.
Here’s how electricity works: An electric current flows
along a path called a circuit, which carries the current from one
point to another. Along the way, switches at certain key points
of the circuit tell the current which way the flow should go.
Think of every sentence as a circuit. The clauses are
the current and the conjunctions are the switches that direct the
flow of the sentence.
- sentence = circuit
- clauses = current
- conjunctions = switches
Some sentences flow in one direction from start to finish.
An example of a sentence in which the clauses flow one way is, “Sarah
slept until noon and was wired all night.” The two clauses, Sarah
slept until noon and was wired all night,
are joined by the conjunction and, a switch that
tells you that the two clauses support each
other. If someone sleeps until noon, you’d expect them to be wired
all night; the and in this sentence signals that
you’re expectations will be met.
Other conjunctions signal a contrast between
the clauses that make up a sentence. For example, in the sentence,
“Sarah slept until noon but was still tired by nine p.m.,” the conjunction but serves
as a switch that signals a contrast, or opposition, between the
two clauses in the sentence. You’d expect that Sarah would have trouble
falling asleep, since she slept until noon; that but signals
that you’re expectations will not be met in this