SAT Resources

SAT Sentence Completion: Parts of Speech & Misleading Answer Choices

SAT Sentence Completion: Parts of Speech & Misleading Answer Choices

Sentence Completion will always use the same part of speech in all five answer choices. For instance, the options for a problem could be all nouns or all adjectives. Sometimes, however, the answer choices will include a word that can play different parts of speech and, as a result, take on different meanings that you may not know.

Here’s a Sentence Completion example where the first four choices are clearly adjectives. The last option, although also an adjective, appears to be noun.

Although the commencement speaker had lived an interesting life, her speech was ——-, boring the audience and graduates alike.

  1. compelling
  2. joyous
  3. disagreeable
  4. pleasant
  5. pedestrian

Think about the meaning of what goes in the blank. You’ll probably come up with something like “dull.” The correct answer, choice E, does indeed mean “dull.” Yet you may hesitate to pick E given that you know pedestrian is a noun that means “a person who is walking.” In fact, you may end up picking C, disagreeable, thinking that E must be an error in the construction of the question.

Could the question have mistakenly put a noun where an adjective should’ve been? Possibly. But what’s much more likely—and what you should’ve been thinking when you saw E—is that “pedestrian” is an adjective with an unfamiliar definition.

If the part of speech in one answer choice seems to differ from the others, don’t suspect it’s an error. Suspect it’s the correct answer and try eliminating the other four choices to confirm.

Also, as part of your SAT prep, you should learn some uncommon definitions for common words. Here are several examples:

Word Common Usage Uncommon Usage
appropriate (adj) suitable (v) to take
champion (n) winner (v) to support or defend
concert (n) a musical show (v) to plan together
discriminate (v) to favor based on traits (adj) choosy or picky
fawn (n) a young deer (v) to seek favor by falttery
incense (n) product burnt for aroma (v) to make angry
supply (v) to provide (adv) in a supple way; easily

Now, try a couple of Sentence Completion practice questions that include some  words from the table. You’ll find the correct answers in the comments.

  1. The restaurant manager warned his waitstaff that he would ——- money from their paychecks to pay for any broken dishes.
    1. revert
    2. recycle
    3. diffuse
    4. squander
    5. appropriate
  2. Pundits were doubtful that the two parties would be able to set aside their differences in order to ——- a feasible plan to stop government overspending.
    1. refuse
    2. belie
    3. defer
    4. highlight
    5. concert

Sign up for our newsletter!

Get expert tips, exam updates and news articles to help improve your test score


Free Prep Classes

Take online classes to learn from the subject experts