10-second review: Some tips on solving sentence completion vocabulary tests successfully
Title: “Building Word Knowledge.” Raymond Stopper. Teaching English, How To…. Xlibris. 2004.
SAT’s present use of vocabulary tests: sentence completions.
The Sentence Completion Test is the only vocabulary test left on the SAT, after elimination of the antonyms and the analogies.
Here is an example of a sentence completion item from 10 Real SAT’s, p 289, Second Edition:
Trinkets intended to have only … appeal can exist virtually forever in landfills because of the … of some plastics. A. arbitrary … scarcity; B. theoretical … resilience; C. ephemeral … durability; D. obsessive … fragility; E. impetuous … cheapness.
The technique recommended by the College Board is for students mentally to fill in the blanks with words from their own vocabulary that make sense in the context of the sentence.
Then, they should read the answers looking for the first word that approximates the first word they used from their own vocabulary. Next, they should check the second word. Sometimes one of the words will be correct and the other will not. They will need to keep going until they find the answer that matches both of their words from their own vocabulary.
In the preceding example, I substituted from my vocabulary the words, “temporary” and “longevity.” The answer to this problem is “C. ephemeral … durability.” My word, “temporary,” was similar to the first word in the correct answer, C. “ephemeral”; “durability” was similar to my word, “longevity.”
Not knowing the meaning of the word “ephemeral,” of course, could make selecting the correct answer very difficult. Build your vocabulary by collecting unfamiliar words from your reading on 3” x 5” index cards, using as few words as possible as definitions for each word. Will help you remember the meaning.
Remember that the purpose for this technique for solving sentence completion items is to eliminate at lest three items, leaving the choice between two. Guessing wrong costs only ¼ point in the SAT. Guessing right gains one whole point.
Whether the test is “antonyms,” “analogies,” or “sentence completions,” these techniques will not help if students are unfamiliar with the words in the test. My three steps to vocabulary development—pre-teaching difficult words before reading assignments, studying Norman Lewis’s Word Power Made Easy, and using index cards to record unfamiliar words encountered in reading, with key words from the dictionary as definitions—practiced over several years, will go a long way toward building large, useful vocabularies for writing, speaking and reading successfully. RayS.