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:
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
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:
The phrase when few women held true political
power tells you what the general rule was for medieval
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.
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.”