Standardized Test Preparation: Tackling SAT Verbal Reasoning

Posted by Michelle Chiu on 4/18/13 9:04 AM


The very first questions you will encounter on the SAT verbal section are the “fill-in-the-blanks.” In these questions, you are presented with a sentence that contains one or two blanks, which indicate that something has been omitted. The exam presents you with five choices, from which you are asked to choose the most appropriate set of words that fit the answer.

In order to tackle these types of questions, it is helpful to have a strategy you can turn to in order to select the best answer. With your SAT tutor, you can review these strategies and practice applying them.

1. First, identify “indicators” and “keywords.” These are words or phrases that will serve as markers to help you identify the answer.

2. “Indicators” will tell us the relationship either a) between Blank 1 and Blank 2 or b) The relationship of the blank to the corresponding "keywords." For example, I would identify "but" as an indicator word between Blank 1 and Blank 2 that tells me they are opposing/conflicting ideas. Or, in the case of a single blank, I could identify "because of" as an indicator to tell me that my Blank is the result of a keyword in the rest of the sentence.

3. Using these markers, eliminate any choices that do not make sense. The answer you are left with will be your answer.

Let’s run through two examples from the SAT Official guide:

1. The prose of Richard Wright’s autobiographical Black Boy (1945) is --------, free of stylistic tricks or evasiveness.
A. Imprecise
B. Straightforward
C. Deficient
D. Obtrusive
E. Elliptical

The indicator word here is “is” and the keywords phrase is: “free of stylistic tricks or evasiveness.” We can eliminate all choices but B because A and C are reflect evasiveness and D and E are stylistic tricks.

2. It seemed from the size of the crowd, which was --------, and the resonance of its cheers, which were --------, that the team was expecting a resurgence of popularity.
A. Vast…hollow
B. Spares…thunderous
C. Enormous…deafening
D. Unimpressive…muted
E. Negligible…rousing

The indicator word for Blank 1 is “was” and the keyword for Blank 1 is “size of the crowd.” The indicator word for Blank 2 is “were” and the keyword for Blank 2 is “resonance of its cheers.” We can infer that Blank 1 describes a large crowd, and Blank 2 describes loud cheers. The only choice that fits both these parameters is C.

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Keep practicing these are you sharpen your standardized test taking skills and you’ll be good to go on test day!

Tags: SAT