The Plain-old sentence
You know more than you think you do. This section will
prove that. A large part of preparing for Sentence Completions is
unearthing the methods you already use to comprehend language and
one of its most basic elements: the sentence.
On the SAT, most Sentence Completion stems are one of
three basic types. Other types occur, including items that are “definitional,”
but if you learn to recognize and handle the three basic stem types,
you’ll have acquired the tools you will need to tackle any potential
Sentence Completion item.
Consider the following sentence:
The drummer’s playing was so loud that
the other instruments couldn’t be heard above the din.
What’s going on here? It’s a simple cause-and-effect relationship:
loud drumming drowns out other musicians. The effect, drowning out
other musicians, follows directly from the cause, loud drumming.
Next, consider this sentence:
Although the drummer played loudly,
the other instruments were clearly audible.
This sentence has a twist. Something exceptional is implied:
drummer plays loudly, but other instruments can still be heard.
Finally, look at the following sentence:
At first merely loud, the drummer’s
playing rose to deafening levels as the concert progressed, drowning
out all other instruments.
In this sentence, what was loud at first soon becomes
deafening. The sentence, as well as the drumming it describes, has
These three sentences represent the three major types
of Sentence Completion stems:
There are typical context clues associated with each type,
which we’ll point out in a later section. At this point, we just
want you to appreciate how knowing about these three typical stem
types already gives your test performance a boost. Much as a shark
will attack anything it perceives as “fish-like,” you now have a
“search image” that can help focus your attack by helping you predict
and recognize correct answers.