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Chris Lele

SAT Sentence Completions – Dual Blanks

Now let’s try an actual two-blank SAT question so you can apply some of tricks above.

The mayor’s self-serving excuses proved to have a(n) ________ effect on her career—she even ________ some of her staunchest advocates

  1. restorative . . heartened
  2. negative . . misaligned
  3. palliative . . sidelined
  4. deleterious . . alienated
  5. far-reaching . . silenced

As you can see we have two blanks that, on the surface, seem like they could either be positive or negative—but not a mixture of both. Notice, that there are no words that “pivot” the sentence so that the one part is the opposite of the other (these familiar words include despite, although, however, even (though), nonetheless, etc.)

One way of going about solving this one is to eliminate those answer choices in which the words are not both positive or both negative. Starting with (A), you can probably infer that both words are positive (you don’t have to know the exact definition of heartened, just that it is positive). (B) also has words that are the same (in this case they are both negative). (C), however, has a positive word (palliate) and a negative word (sidelined), so we can get rid of it.

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(D) has a tough SAT word (deleterious) and a not so tough word (alienated). Based on the way it looks, and sounds, deleterious comes across as a pretty negative word (notice “delete”). So keep (D).

Finally, (E) has a positive word (“far-reaching”) and a negative word (“silenced”), so it doesn’t work.

That leaves us with (A), (B), and (D). Notice, that (A) has two positive words and (B) and (D) each have two negative words. If we look at the sentence a little more closely, we see the word “self-serving”, which is a negative word, meaning that both blanks are actually negative. If you caught on to “self serving” at the very beginning, good for you, because it is a very subtle clue. So let’s eliminate (A).

That leaves us with (B) and (D). This is a pretty tough question (probably a level 4 on the SAT scale). So even if you can’t get the question from here, don’t worry. What’s important is you can reason/strategize your way to making a tough dual-blank Sentence Completion a 50-50 proposition. Not bad odds.

But let’s take this one to completion: negative is a pretty easy word, one that baits you into choosing (B). Almost always, an easy word that nicely fits the first blank is a trap, as I’ll talk about in advanced strategies. What makes (B) wrong, however, is the second word. What does it mean to misalign? It means to set up or put in the wrong position. That is an odd word to use on people whom no longer like you and have distanced themselves from you. A much better word is alienated. And, there we have it: (D).


About Chris Lele

Chris Lele is the GRE and SAT Curriculum Manager (and vocabulary wizard) at Magoosh Online Test Prep. In his time at Magoosh, he has inspired countless students across the globe, turning what is otherwise a daunting experience into an opportunity for learning, growth, and fun. Some of his students have even gone on to get near perfect scores. Chris is also very popular on the internet. His GRE channel on YouTube has over 10 million views. You can read Chris's awesome blog posts on the Magoosh GRE blog and High School blog! You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook!

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