Critical Reading Extravaganza (Part 1 of 2)

Critical Reading

Today we will eruditely assimilate a veritable bonanza of vocabulary words while explaining how you may use key words and phrases in a Sentence Completion question to identify the correct answer. Examine each question carefully before moving on to the explanation.


  1. Certain clear patterns in the metamorphosis of a butterfly indicate that the process is —–.
    1. systematic
    2. voluntary
    3. spontaneous
    4. experimental
    5. clinical

Explanation: The key phrase in this sentence completion question is “certain clear patterns.” This indicates the metamorphosis undergoes change according to a particular pattern. Of the available answer choices, only (a) refers to something that is carried on using step-by-step procedures. Thus the answer is (a).


Systematic – having, showing, or involving a system or plan.

Voluntary – done, made, brought about, undertaken, etc. of one’s own accord or free choice.

Spontaneous – coming or resulting from a natural impulse or tendency; without effort or premeditation; natural and unrestrained; unplanned.

Experimental – pertaining to, derived from, or founded on experiment.

Clinical – concerned with or based on actual observation and treatment of disease in patients.

2. The book’s final chapter on Mildred Imach Cleghorn suffers from an obvious —–: it fails to cover Cleghorn’s years as an Apache tribal leader.

    1. omission
    2. inconsistency
    3. extravagance
    4. misconception
    5. assumption

Explanation: The key phrase in this sentence is “fails to cover.” This indicates the correct answer is the word which best describes a failure to mention. Of the available answer choices, only (a) refers to complete exclusion of information. Thus the answer is (a).


Omission – something left out, not done, or neglected.

Inconsistency – the quality or state of being inconsistent (for those of you who do not like recursive definitions, inconsistent means lacking in harmony between the different parts or elements; self-contradictory).

Extravagance – excessive or unnecessary expenditure or outlay of money; unrestrained or fantastic excess, as of actions or opinions).

Misconception – an erroneous conception; mistaken notion.

Assumption – something taken for granted; a supposition.

Though rote memorization is an effective means of memorizing obscure or antiquated vocabulary words, it is often more useful when you can couple that information with an understanding of how phrases and words interact with one another in a sentence. Keep in mind that the SAT Critical Reading section does not require you to be imaginative or creative in your interpretations, one word should necessarily follow the other and it should (hopefully) be clear why. So, if you are having a lot of trouble with Sentence Completion questions you either have not spent enough time memorizing your Test Masters SAT Vocabulary or you are thinking too hard!

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