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Lucas Fink

How to Answer the SAT’s Two-Blank Sentence Completions

1) Although many students ________________ that they’re more difficult, two-blank sentence completions on the SAT are in fact ___________________ than their one-blank counterparts.

  1. trust . . less weighty
  2. deny . . simpler
  3. suppose . . more complex
  4. assume . . less problematic
  5. contend . . hastier

The example above has a message, clearly. If you’re not sure what it is now (i.e. you can’t get to the answer), you’ll know by the time you finish reading this post. But even if you do know, keep reading—the strategy I’m about to explain will save you time on the day of your SAT.


Find the easier blank first

You should always guess what word (or words) might go in a blank before you look at your answer choices. If you have to cover the answers with your hand, so be it—that’s a good strategy for staying focused, anyway.

But which blank should you guess first? Or should you guess for both of them at the same time?

Most of the time, one of the blanks will be pretty clearly defined by the sentence it’s in (or it will be contrasted with another word), so your first goal is to find which blank is more obvious. Then, guess that one.

In our example, the second blank is more clearly defined, since it should probably contrast with “more difficult” (thanks to the word “although”). What’s the opposite of “more difficult,” then? We’ll guess “easier.”


Eliminate answers based on one blank

Without even bothering with the other blank, let’s cross off some answer choices based on our guess for the second blank. (A) seems pretty strange—we can probably cross it off—but it has the right positive connotation. Keep it if you want, for now. (B) definitely fits our prediction, as does (D). On the other hand, (C) is the opposite of what we want, and (E) looks totally irrelevant.

So we’re left with (B) or (D), and possibly (A).


Plug in the other blank

If we plug in (B), then we end up with a problem. If students deny the questions’ difficulty, and the reality is opposite of what the students think, then the second blank would have to be something like “more difficult.” So that’s a no-go.

Meanwhile, (D) gives a more logical relationship. Student’s assume the problems are difficult, but in reality they are less problematic. Answer (A) isn’t nearly so neat.

And we’re done.


How are two-blank sentence completions simpler than one-blank questions?

You have twice as many opportunities to eliminate answers. So if you know just one of the two words given in each answer choice, you still might be able to get to the correct answer by elimination.

In contrast, if you don’t know a few of the words in the answer choices of a one-blank sentence, it’s a lot harder to decide what to cross off.


How two-blank sentences can be difficult

There’s a catch. In the example above, we could’ve easily made a mistake. As it is, we used positive words for both blanks (assume = believe is true; less problematic = easier to do), but if the answer could have been two negatives, and it still would have had the right relationship.

That is, if answer choices (B) and (D) looked like this

(B) deny . . trickier

(D) assume . . more problematic

Our original prediction would have been wrong, and (B) would have been the answer. That doesn’t mean our prediction was bad, though. Always guess what you’ll see! Instead, it means we have to look at the question one more time. Can we fit in a word with the opposite meaning of our original guess? If we can, then try it and just repeat the process.

That doesn’t happen very often, though; in most sentence completions on the SAT, one of the blanks will be clearly defined by the sentence. So find that definition and use it!


P.S. Ready to get your highest SAT score? Start here.
About Lucas Fink

Lucas is the teacher behind Magoosh TOEFL. He’s been teaching TOEFL preparation and more general English since 2009, and the SAT since 2008. Between his time at Bard College and teaching abroad, he has studied Japanese, Czech, and Korean. None of them come in handy, nowadays.

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