In test-prep speak, wrong answers are known as distracters. In Sentence Equivalence questions and Text Completions, we want to be aware of a certain type of distracter. Often, one of the answer choices fits the overall context of the sentence. It does not, however, fit the blank. Other times, a distracter will actually modify a different noun, rather than the one the blank is modifying. To avoid being distracted by these distracters (that’s where they get there name), always remember to plug in your own word.
Let’s try the following Sentence Equivalence question. See if you can get the right answer, as well as identify the tempting distracters.
1. For years the satellite had sent back a steady stream of clear images of distant planets, until only recently, when such transmissions became far more —-.
Imperceptible is a very tempting answer. After all, the images were once clear, now they are not clear. But is that really what the sentence is asking for? Notice that the blank is modifying transmissions. The transmissions did not become less clear—they became less frequent.
Therefore, we want a word that is in contrast to a steady stream of images. The transmissions are no longer steady, so they have become what? Well, an easy way to come up with the opposite is to add un-. Therefore, the transmissions have become unsteady. Not the most stylistically sound, so we could also just use not constant.
Now, we can easily match that up with (B) sporadic and (E) inconsistent. And just like that we have our two answer choices.