Practice the Process
Practice the Process
The best way to get the five-step SC process down cold is to practice. To that end, we give you examples of every type of SC under the sun: one-blankers, two-blankers, one-way, two-way, every single possible combination.
There are four different types of SCs.
  1. One-Blank/One-Way
  2. One-Blank/Two-Way
  3. Two-Blank/One-Way
  4. Two-Blank/Two-Way
Through the rest of this chapter we give you examples of each type, sometimes more than one. We then work out each example according to our five-step process.
SC Type 1: One-Blank/One-Way
About a third of the SAT SCs are one-blank/one-way. That’s good news. They’re the simplest type. Because the flow is one way, the blank will agree with the rest of the sentence. One-blank/one-way SCs almost never contain switch words.
There are two basic one-blank/one-way varieties:
  • A simple sentence with no switch and with one missing word.
  • A compound sentence with two halves split by a semicolon, colon, or comma. Usually, the first half of these SCs contains the blank, and the second half describes the word that goes in the blank.
Want some examples of what these actually look like? You got ’em.
Example: Simple Sentence
The ---- waves in Maui terrified the surfers.
1. Spot the Switch
This sentence contains no switch and isn’t about a change over time, so it must be one-way.
2. Go with the Flow
Since the sentence is one-way, the blank must agree with the rest of the sentence. Well, what’s the blank about? It refers to the size of the waves. Meanwhile, the rest of the sentence refers to the fact that the waves terrified the surfers.
What’s the switch? none
Which way does the flow go? one way
What idea does the blank support or contrast? Supports “waves that terrify the surfers”
3. Fill in the Blank
You know that the waves have to be the kind of waves that could terrify the surfers. What kind of waves could do that? How about really big waves.
The really big waves in Maui terrified the surfers.
4. Compare Your Answer to the Answer Choices
Now go to the answer choices and find the one that matches up with the answer you created just from looking at the sentence.
(A) slight
(B) gentle
(C) tremendous
(D) rolling
(E) salty
The answer that seems to match really big best is C, tremendous.
5. Plug It In
The last step. Plug the choice you think is the answer back into the sentence.
The tremendous waves in Maui terrified the surfers.
Works perfectly. You’re done.
Example: Compound Sentence with a Colon
Employees were constantly amazed by the CEO’s ---- speeches: She seemed unable to put together a coherent sentence.
1. Spot the Switch
This sentence contains no switch and isn’t about a change over time, so it must be one-way.
2. Go with the Flow
Since the sentence is one way, the blank must agree with the rest of the sentence. What’s the blank about? It describes the CEO’s speeches. The rest of the sentence also describes the speeches by saying that the CEO “seemed unable to put together a coherent sentence.”
What’s the switch? none
Which way does the flow go? one way
What idea does the blank support or contrast? supports “the CEO can’t put together a coherent sentence”
3. Fill in the Blank
Since the sentence is one way, you know that the blank describing the CEO’s speeches must support the idea that she can’t put together a coherent sentence. In other words, the CEO’s speeches must be bad.
Employees were constantly amazed by the CEO’s bad speeches: She seemed unable to put together a coherent sentence.
4. Compare Your Answer to the Answer Choices
Now go to the answer choices and find the one that matches up with the answer you created just from looking at the sentence.
(A) excellent
(B) voluminous
(C) inarticulate
(D) timid
(E) efficient
So, the CEO’s speeches are bad. Which words in the answer choices fit the idea of a bad speech? A and E don’t. They’re positive words. Voluminous means big (based on the root “volume”). Cut voluminous. That leaves timid and inarticulate. Both of those words are negative, but inarticulate is specifically used for describing a bad speaker. So, inarticulate seems like the best answer.
Even if you didn’t know the vocab, you still should have been able to use Word Charge to eliminate one, two, or even three of the answer choices.
5. Plug It In
The last step. Plug the choice you think is the answer back into the sentence.
Employees were constantly amazed by the CEO’s inarticulate speeches: She seemed unable to put together a coherent sentence.
Example: Compound Sentence with a Comma
Many people consider the team ----, unmatched in skill or determination by any other team in the league.
1. Spot the Switch
This sentence contains no switch and isn’t about a change over time, so it must be one-way.
2. Go with the Flow
Since the sentence is one-way, the blank must agree with the rest of the sentence. What’s the blank about? How the team is perceived. The rest of the sentence also describes how the team is perceived—as “unmatched in skill or determination.”
What’s the switch? none
Which way does the flow go? one way
Which idea does the blank support or contrast? supports “unmatched in skill or determination”
3. Fill in the Blank
Since the sentence is one-way, you know that the blank describing the team must fit with the fact that many people believe that the team is “unmatched in skill or determination.” In other words, Hector must be extremely good.
Many people consider the team extremely good, unmatched in skill or determination by any other team in the league.
4. Compare Your Answer to the Answer Choices
Now go to the answer choices and find the one that matches up with the answer you created just from looking at the sentence.
(A) middling
(B) destructive
(C) artistic
(D) quiescent
(E) invincible
You’re looking for an answer choice that fits with the phrase extremely good, a very positive word. You should be able to eliminate middling, since it contains the root middle, which is the embodiment of average. You should also be able to eliminate destructive, since it’s a negative term. That leaves artistic, quiescent, and invincible. Artistic is a positive term but has little to do with team sports, the subject of the sentence. Quiescent means “quiet and calm,” which also does not fit with the sports theme of the sentence. That leaves invincible, which means “cannot be defeated,” a perfect fit for the idea of an extremely good team.
Once again, even if you didn’t know all the vocab words, you could have cut several answers using Word Charge, putting you in a stronger position to guess.
5. Plug It In
Plug the choice you think is the answer back into the sentence.
Many people consider the team invincible, unmatched in skill or determination by any other team in the league.
This five-step method is quickly making you invincible.
SC Type 2: One-Blank/Two-Way
On these SCs, the blank contrasts with the main idea of another clause in the sentence. Most one-blank/two-way sentences contain a switch that signals the contrast in the sentence. A few examples that convey a change over time will not contain a switch. We provide examples of both.
One-Blank/Two-Way with Switch
Christina considered her pranks ----, but her former friends found her actions annoying and juvenile.
1. Spot the Switch
This sentence contains the two-way switch but. That means it must be two-way.
2. Go with the Flow
Since the sentence is two-way, the blank must contrast with the main ideas expressed in the rest of the sentence. The rest of the sentence describes how other people found Christina’s pranks “annoying and juvenile.” That means Christina’s view of her pranks must contrast or oppose that perspective.
What’s the switch? but
Which way does the flow go? two ways
What idea does the blank support or contrast? contrasts “her pranks were annoying and juvenile”
3. Fill in the Blank
Since the sentence is two-way, you know that the blank describing Christina’s view of her pranks must contrast with the common view of her actions, which is that they were “annoying and juvenile.” So, to contrast “annoying and juvenile,” maybe Christina thinks that her pranks are funny and playful.
Christina thought her pranks were funny and playful, but her former friends found her actions annoying and juvenile.
4. Compare Your Answer to the Answer Choices
Now go to the answer choices and find which one of them matches up with the answer you created just from looking at the sentence.
(A) hilarious
(B) angry
(C) colossal
(D) trite
(E) new
You’re looking for an answer choice that fits with the phrase funny and playful, which is positive. You should be able to eliminate angry and trite (“corny”), since those are both negative. That leaves hilarious, colossal, and new. Hilarious is positive and means “extremely funny,” so it’s a very strong choice. Colossal has the same root as colossus and means “very big.” It doesn’t make much sense in a sentence that’s about pranks or as a contrast to “annoying and juvenile.” New is a positive word, but it also doesn’t make sense as a contrast to “annoying and juvenile.” Hilarious is the best choice.
Even if you didn’t know all the vocab words, you should at least have been able to eliminate angry through Word Charge and new through the context of the sentence.
5. Plug It In
Plug the choice you think is the answer back into the sentence.
Christina thought her pranks were hilarious, but her former friends found her actions annoying and juvenile.
One-Blank/Two-Way with No Switch
Once a(n) ---- theory, the notion that the earth revolves around the sun is now accepted by virtually everyone.
1. Spot the Switch
This sentence contains no switch. However, the sentence does describe a change over time. Remember: Change-over-time sentences flow two ways even though they contain no switch.
2. Go with the Flow
Since the sentence is two-way, the blank must contrast with the ideas expressed in the rest of the sentence. The rest of the sentence describes how the idea of the earth revolving around the sun is accepted now “by virtually everyone.” That means the blank must contrast with, or oppose, the idea that the earth revolving around the sun is widely accepted.
What’s the switch? none (change over time)
Which way does the flow go? two ways
What idea does the blank support or contrast? contrasts “accepted by virtually everyone”
3. Fill in the blank
Since the sentence is two-way, you know that the blank describing the old view of the theory must contrast with the current widespread acceptance of it. Previously, the theory must have been not believed.
Once a(n) not believed theory, the notion that the earth revolves around the sun is now accepted by virtually everyone.
4. Compare Your Answer to the Answer Choices
Now go to the answer choices and find the one that matches up with the answer you created just from looking at the sentence.
(A) terrific
(B) pleasant
(C) esteemed
(D) beloved
(E) controversial
You’re looking for an answer choice that fits with the phrase not believed, which is negative. Go down the list. Terrific is positive. So is pleasant, esteemed, and beloved. So controversial must be the answer. And it is.
You should note, though, that not believed and controversial really don’t mean the same thing. Something that is controversial is believed by some people and not by others. That’s the definition of a controversy: It’s an argument between two passionate sides. Here’s the lesson to learn from this example: When you make up your own answer, you should be flexible with it. If you find an answer choice that matches it exactly, awesome. If you don’t, look for an answer choice that matches your answer’s Word Charge and fits the context of the sentence.
5. Plug It In
Plug the choice you think is the answer back into the sentence.
Once a(n) controversial theory, the notion that the earth revolves around the sun is now accepted by virtually everyone.
SC Type 3: Two-Blank/One-Way
Two-blank/one-way sentences sometimes contain switches like and, because, since, so, and therefore. Many two-blank/one-way sentences don’t contain any switch at all.
Two-blank/one-way sentences come in two basic forms: blanks close together and blanks far apart. With blanks close together, you need to look at the half of the sentence that does not contain the blanks; with blanks far apart, you need to use clues from both halves of the sentence. That’s the key difference between the two kinds of two-blank/one-way SCs.
Also note that with two-blank sentences, you have to take into account how both blanks function in the sentence when you’re working on step 2.
Blanks Close Together
The ---- conditions ---- even the intrepid explorer, who never again ventured out into the tundra.
1. Spot the Switch
This sentence contains no switch word and doesn’t describe a change over time. That means it’s one-way.
2. Go with the Flow
Since the sentence is one-way, both blanks must support the ideas expressed in the rest of the sentence. The rest of the sentence describes the explorer as intrepid and then says that even the explorer never again ventured into the tundra. That means the first blank must describe conditions that would convince even a bold explorer never to venture out again.
What’s the switch? none
Which way does the flow go? one way
What idea does the blank support or contrast? supports “even the intrepid explorer never went into the tundra again”
The second blank describes what the conditions did to the explorer to convince him never to venture out into the tundra again.
What’s the switch? none
Which way does the flow go? one way
What idea does the blank support or contrast? supports “even the intrepid explorer never went into the tundra again”
3. Fill in the Blank
Since the sentence is two-way, you know that the blanks describing the conditions and what happened to the intrepid explorer must agree with the fact that he never again went out into the tundra. Would the explorer have refused to go back into the tundra if the conditions were nice? That wouldn’t make sense. The conditions must have been terrible. And what would terrible conditions have done to the explorer? Scared him, or perhaps even injured him.
The terrible conditions scared even the intrepid explorer, and he never again ventured out into the tundra.
4. Compare Your Answer to the Answer Choices
Now go to the answer choices and find the one that matches up with the answer you created just from looking at the sentence.
(A) destructive..angered
(B) gorgeous..moved
(C) harsh..terrified
(D) appalling..enveloped
(E) serene..pleased
You’re looking for two answer choices that fit with the words terrible and scared, both of which are negative. By Word Charge, you should be able to eliminate B, D, and E, since each of those pairs of words contains at least one word that’s positive. Between A, destructive..angered, and C, harsh..terrified, answer C seems much stronger, since terrified is such a close fit with scared.
5. Plug It In
Plug the choice you think is the answer back into the sentence.
The harsh conditions terrified even the intrepid explorer, and he never again ventured out into the tundra.
Blanks Far Apart
Clarence Eichen was a ---- musician from a very young age, and he became the most ---- tuba performer in the world during the 1980s.
1. Spot the Switch
This sentence contains the one-way switch and. It must be one-way.
2. Go with the Flow
Since the sentence is one-way, both blanks must agree with the rest of the sentence. The rest of the sentence describes what sort of musician Eichen became. The first blank is about Eichen being a musician at a very young age.
What’s the switch? and
Which way does the flow go? one way
What idea does the blank support or contrast? supports “became the most ---- in the world”
The second blank describes what sort of performer Eichen became as an adult. The rest of the sentence describes what sort of musician he was as a child.
What’s the switch? and
Which way does the flow go? one way
What idea does the blank support or contrast? supports “was a ---- musician from a young age”
3. Fill in the Blank
The interesting thing about this sentence is that the two blanks refer to each other. That may make the sentence seem difficult to solve, since each blank stops you from guessing whether the other should be positive or negative. But since the sentence is one-way, you already do know something about the two blanks. Either they’re both positive, or they’re both negative. Either he was great as a boy and great as a man, or he was bad as a boy and bad as a man.
Clarence Eichen was a great musician from a very young age, and he became the most wonderful tuba performer in the world during the 1980s.
or
Clarence Eichen was a bad musician from a very young age, and he became the most awful tuba performer in the world during the 1980s.
4. Compare Your Answer to the Answer Choices
Now go to the answer choices and find the one that matches up with the answer you created just from looking at the sentence.
(A) composed..tremulous
(B) famous..accomplished
(C) rigid..bellicose
(D) calm..unstoppable
(E) grave..humorous
None of the answer choices have two negatively charged pairs, so you don’t have to worry about that. What you’re looking for then, is a match for great..wonderful. You can eliminate A, C, and E, since tremulous, rigid, and grave all have negative charge. Now, does it make logical sense to call someone a calm musician? In most situations, it doesn’t. So the best match for great..wonderful is famous..accomplished.
5. Plug It In
Plug the choice you think is the answer back into the sentence.
Clarence Eichen was a famous musician from a very young age, and he became the most accomplished tuba performer in the world during the 1980s.
SC Type 4: Two-Blank/Two-Way
In two-blank/two-way SCs, one-half of the sentence flows against the other half. This two-way contrast is usually, but not always, marked by the presence of a two-way switch. Below are examples of two-blank/two-way SCs, with and without switches.
Two-Blank/Two-Way with Switch
Faulkner’s use of adjective-filled language in his novels is now admired as an inimitable aspect of his unique style and a product of his literary ----; when his fiction was first published, however, many critics often ---- his style as needlessly ornate.
1. Spot the Switch
This sentence contains the two-way switch however. That means it’s two-way.
2. Go with the Flow
The sentence is two-way, and the blanks each appear in different halves of the sentence. Since it’s a two-way sentence, the two blanks (and the parts of the sentence before and after the semicolon) must contrast each other.
The first blank relates to the source of Faulkner’s “unique style” that is “now admired.” The second blank describes the reaction of early critics of Faulkner who considered his style “needlessly ornate.”
What’s the switch? however
Which way does the flow go? two ways
What idea does the blank support or contrast? contrasts “when his fiction was first published, critics ---- his style as needlessly ornate.”
The second blank describes how the critics reacted to Faulkner’s style. This is in contrast to modern critics who “admire” it.
What’s the switch? however
Which way does the flow go? two ways
What idea does the blank support or contrast? contrasts “Faulkner’s style is now admired.”
3. Fill in the Blank
Since the sentence is two-way, you know that the two blanks must contrast, or oppose, each other. The first half of the sentence tells us that critics now admire Faulkner’s style, which means the word you need to fill the blank will likely have a positive Word Charge. If the critics admired Faulkner’s style, what might they have identified as its source? His literary what? How about talent?
The second half of the sentence tells us that critics at first considered his literary style “needlessly ornate.” This indicates that the blank should be filled with a word that has negative Word Charge. How about criticized?
Faulkner’s use of intense, adjective-filled language in his novels is now admired as an inimitable aspect of his unique style and a product of his literary talent; but when his fiction was first published, many critics often criticized his style as needlessly ornate.
4. Compare Your Answer to the Answer Choices
Now go to the answer choices and find the one that matches up with the answer you created just from looking at the sentence.
(A) proclivities..extolled
(B) discrimination..praised
(C) abilities..examined
(D) genius..decried
(E) bombast..enlightened
You’re looking for one answer choice that fits with the words talent and criticized. The first word is positive, the second negative. You should be able to eliminate B, C, and E, because praised, examined, and enlightened are all relatively common vocab words that are positive, and you want the second word to be negative.
That leaves A and D. Deciding between these two is hard, particularly because three of the four words are very difficult vocab words. At worst, you should plug both choices back into the sentence and then guess which one sounds best. At best, you’d sense either that genius is more positive than proclivities or that extolled has a positive charge, either of which would mark D as the correct answer.
5. Plug It In
Plug the choice you think is the answer back into the sentence.
Faulkner’s use of intense, adjective-filled language in his novels is now admired as an inimitable aspect of his unique style and a product of his literary genius; but when his fiction was first published, many critics often decried his style as needlessly ornate.
Two-Blank/Two-Way with No Switch
Two-way sentences that do not contain a switch word will compare a change over time.
Once considered bad for your ----, bathing is now thought to be a crucial way of maintaining the ---- conditions that prevent plagues and epidemics.
1. Spot the Switch
This sentence contains no switch, but it does compare a change over time. That means it’s two-way.
2. Go with the Flow
The sentence is two-way, and the blanks are each in different halves of the sentence. That means that the two blanks must contrast with each other.
What’s the first blank about? It states that people once considered bathing harmful. This contrasts with the second half of the sentence, which says that bathing is now thought to “prevent plagues and epidemics.”
What’s the switch? none
Which way does the flow go? two ways
What idea does the blank support or contrast? contrasts with “prevent plagues and epidemics”
The second blank describes the “conditions” that “prevent plagues and epidemics.” It contrasts with the first half of the sentence, which says that people once thought that bathing was “bad for your ----.”
What’s the switch? none
Which way does the flow go? two ways
What idea does the blank support or contrast? contrasts with “bad for your ----”
3. Fill in the Blank
Since the sentence is two-way, you know that the two blanks must contrast each other. The blank in the first half of the sentence explains in what way people thought bathing could harm them. This blank is contrasted with the modern thought that bathing “prevents plagues and epidemics.” In other words, modern people think bathing “protects health,” while in earlier times, people thought bathing was bad for your health.
As for the second blank, it describes the conditions that “prevent plagues and epidemics” and contrasts with the idea that bathing harms health. How about bathing creates healthy conditions?
Once considered bad for your health, bathing is now thought to be a crucial way of maintaining the healthy conditions that prevent plagues and epidemics.
4. Compare Your Answer to the Answer Choices
Now go to the answer choices and find the one that matches up with the answer you created just from looking at the sentence.
(A) behavior..superb
(B) relations..helpful
(C) development..ideal
(D) ethics..unfortunate
(E) well-being..sanitary
You’re looking for two answer choices that fit with the words health and healthy. A quick look through the answer choices shows one answer that stands out from the rest: E. Well-being and sanitary both fit with the idea of health and the need for positive words.
5. Plug It In
Plug the choice you think is the answer back into the sentence.
Once considered bad for your well-being, bathing is now thought to be a crucial way of maintaining the sanitary conditions that prevent plagues and epidemics.
And that’s it! You’re now ready for any Sentence Completion that the new SAT might send your way .
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