Sentence Completions
Anatomy of a Sentence Completion
In this section, we provide you with an X-ray of Sentence Completions. By looking at these questions inside and out, you’ll know more about how The College Board tests your skills and how to approach each and every Sentence Completion you’ll encounter on the SAT.
Here is a typical Sentence Completion and the terms we’ll use to refer to its various parts:
1. In the Middle Ages, when few women held true political power, the irrepressible Eleanor of Aquitaine ------- England while her son, Richard the Lionhearted, tramped through Europe and the Middle East on the First Crusade.
(A) domesticated
(B) ruled
(C) destroyed
(D) betrayed
(E) repressed
The sentence containing the blank is the stem. The lettered options below the stem are called the answer choices. One of these—choice B—is correct; the other four answer choices are called distractors because that’s exactly what they’re designed to do: distract attention from the correct answer. The stem and answer choices grouped together are called an item.
Sentence Completions test sentence-level reading skills, as well as vocabulary. As you’ll learn, context clues are at least as important as vocabulary knowledge. There are many such clues in this example:
  1. The phrase when few women held true political power tells you what the general rule was for medieval women.
  2. The word irrepressible, meaning “impossible to repress or hold back,” sets up Eleanor of Aquitaine as an exception to the general rule. At this point in your reading, you have at least a vague idea that Eleanor actually managed to gain some real power.
  3. As you continue reading, you see that Eleanor’s son, the King of England, spent his reign mostly out of the country. Who was minding the store, then? Eleanor. So, the correct answer is B, ruled.
We simplified the vocabulary in this item so that you would pay attention to the anatomy of Sentence Completion items. Our goal is that you start to understand how the steps listed above are typical of the kind of automatic process you already use to figure out words in sentences, a process called “reading.”
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