Sentence Completion – Using Root Words

Sentence completion questions are a big part of the critical reading portion of the SAT and you can do much better on this section by using root words correctly. Yesterday’s post used the root word “phil” but do you know these words?


Even without knowing the exact meaning of the words, if you get the basic meaning behind the words by knowing the root word “phil.” If nothing else, you can guess the words are positive and that can be a big help on the critical reading sentence completion section. Look at the following sentence completion question:

The philologist helped the college student as she worked her way through her thesis; she had  ________________________ for every word of the ancient texts they used.

(A)  discord
(B)  reverence
(C)  joy
(D)  trepidation
(E)  solitude

In this case, because the first part of the sentence is positive, and there are no opposite direction trigger words, the second sentence (or the second part of the sentence since it was joined by the semi-colon, a same direction trigger) is also positive.

Just from knowing this we can eliminate choices (A) and (D) and probably (E) as well. From there (C) just doesn’t make as much sense, but even if we did not know the meaning of philologist or reverence, we have a 50-50 chance of getting the correct answer. We should guess quickly and move on.

You can answer many sentence completion questions simply by knowing root words and other word parts and using smart elimination strategies.

Contact The Right Path for more smart test taking techniques.

Test Prep Vocabulary – tumult

Silhouette of an unknown speaker in front of unknown crowd

The speaker stood confidently before of the audience; she showed no sign of the tumultuous feelings in the pit of her stomach.

Today’s Test Prep Vocabulary:  tumult

tumult – disorderly agitation, turbulent uprising

Word Building:

tumere – to be excited or to swell (Latin)

Sample Sentence:

The Middle East is in a state of almost constant tumult.

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Thanks to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary for some interesting trivia concerning the word tumult.

Test Prep Vocabulary – asylum

A globe with the Sudan shown.

For many years, Christians of the Sudan have been terrorized by Muslim extremists. Discover Lopez Lomong, one inspirational young man, who was given asylum in the United States and now runs to save lives.

Today’s Test Prep Vocabulary:  asylum

a shelter from harm, a sanctuary, a refuge

Word Building:

asylum – sanctuary (Latin)

asylon – a – without; syle – seizure (Greek)

Sample Sentence:

Almost a week after Hurricane Sandy, many people still find themselves seeking asylum.

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To find out more about the Sudanese Lost Boys or to help begin by reading here.

Vocabulary Building – Good Word vs. Bad Word

Vocabulary building is an important skill for college testing. There are often words on the SAT, and even in the critical reading section of the ACT although the ACT does not have a vocabulary section per se, that students have never heard of. How you hear these unknown words can improve your score.

Simply ask yourself if the words is a good word or a bad word. Can you tell the meaning of a word simply by listening to the way it sounds? This method is not 100% foolproof, but it often helps decode the meaning of the word at least enough to allow test takers to eliminate certain answer choices and guess from there.

Words often sound positive or sound negative. Say the following words aloud and see if you can discover whether they are positive or negative. Good Luck!

  • callous
  • sportive
  • paltry
  • vitriolic
  • reticent
  • ebullient
  • valorous
  • contentious
  • oppugn
  • acclaim

Leave other positive or negative word suggestions in the comments section for others to try!

Vocabulary Building – Learning Latin

A penny - E Pluribus Unum (Latin)One of the questions I am asked most often is how to improve vocabulary. Having worked in local high schools for many years, I am familiar with many of the vocabulary lists well-meaning high school English teachers give their students. List after list of unconnected words or perhaps, to state it more accurately, words connected only by the fact that they appear in the same difficult to master novel.

While American schools are facing extreme budget shortfalls and program cuts, classes such as Latin are being placed on the chopping block. Who speaks Latin anymore anyway? What’s the point in learning it?

I have to admit, I was not a big fan of Latin when I took it in college, but I was able to recognize the benefit of studying it. Many of our modern words come from Latin therefore keeping this dead language alive. The ability to break down unknown vocabulary into recognizable parts is essential in doing well, not only on standardized tests, but in life as well and learning Latin can help do this.

Whether your school offers a Latin class or not, it may be a wise idea to invest a little time long before your SAT or ACT test date to review some Latin. Vocabulary building is indeed a skill which will show itself useful in many aspects of life.

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