How SCs Work: A Bunch of Parts
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.
SC Electricity
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 case.
Help | Feedback | Make a request | Report an error