The PSAT/NMSQT is the academic equivalent of war. When you see a sentence completion, the last thing you want to do is blank out. Here’s your overall battle plan for approaching a sentence-completion problem:

  • First, glance at the answer choices. If you don’t know any of the answer words, the question probably isn’t worth your time. Move on to the next sentence. When you reach the end of the section, you can go back if you have time. If you’re familiar with one or two answer choices, stick around.

    Remember the guessing rule: If you can eliminate one or more answer choices because you’re sure they’re wrong, go for it.

  • Read the entire sentence. I can hear you saying, “Duh! What else would I do?” But a surprising number of test-takers begin the sentence, assume they know where it’s going, and zip to an answer choice. Naturally, the test-writers have placed a trap for the unwary (not cautious) students who behave this way.

    Especially in two-blank questions, expect at least one answer to fit the first blank perfectly and bomb on the second blank. Read the whole thing!

  • If you can, fill in the blank(s) with your own words. Not every sentence reveals its meaning without the missing words. But if you do know what the sentence is expressing, finish it yourself, using your own words in place of the blanks, without worrying about the answer choices. Once you’ve come up with your own words, check the answer words for synonyms (words with the same meaning).

  • Check the answer choices again. Cross off any that don’t do the job and examine what’s left. Mentally insert them into the blank(s). In the question booklet, put a check mark next to any answer choice that may work.

    In two-blank questions, sometimes the second blank is easier to fill than the first. Work backwards if you spot an answer choice that fits!

  • Choose the best answer. Sometimes more than one answer makes sense. In this situation, though, one choice probably matches the sentence more closely than the others. That’s the one you want.

On PSAT/NMSQT critical reading questions, you’re looking for the best answer, not just a workable solution.