PSAT/NMSQT Sentence Completions: Applying Real-World Experience

By Geraldine Woods

Every sentence-completion question on the PSAT/NMSQT can be answered with the information that’s right there, in the sentence. Nevertheless, sometimes your experience in the real world gives you a little extra help.

Suppose you see this sentence:

Relying on _____ answers, Molly truthfully answered her mother’s questions about the broken window and yet escaped without punishment.

You may not know Molly, but you probably know what happens when a child tries to avoid being grounded while submitting to her mom’s interrogation (questioning). Apart from lying, the most effective method is to give answers that may be interpreted more than one way.

For example, Molly’s mom may have asked, “Did you see who broke the window?” Molly can truthfully say no, unless she was looking in a mirror when she practiced her curve ball. So if one of the answer choices is vague or evasive (intentionally unclear), your life experience takes you to the correct response.

The real world takes you only so far on the PSAT/NMSQT. No matter what your experience, look at each sentence very carefully. The clues are there. Your job is to find the answer choice that best matches them.

Try your hand at applying real-life experience as you answer Questions 1 and 2:

  1. _____ the atmosphere of the library, Oliver’s voice was _____ in the farthest corner of the room.

        (A)    Enhancing . . . distinguishable

        (B)    Compounding . . . faint

        (C)    Complementing . . . undefined

        (D)    Disturbing . . . audible

        (E)    Irritating . . . unnecessary

  2. Because neither Jean nor her opponents were willing to _____ that point, the discussion continued for several more hours.

        (A)    recede

        (B)    concede

        (C)    combat

        (D)    convey

        (E)    communicate

Now check your answers:

  1. D. Disturbing . . . audible

    Libraries are usually quiet, so start with that assumption. The first blank probably refers to something that either keeps the atmosphere the same or ruins it. Now look at the pairs. If Oliver’s voice was audible, everyone could hear him, so he was disturbing the atmosphere.

  2. B. concede

    Have you ever attended a meeting or family gathering with opposing sides? You know, then, that one way to end the discussion is compromise (each side giving in a little until the middle ground is reached). Another way to get out of the meeting before everyone’s hair turns gray is for one of the sides to give in.

    The answer choices don’t provide a synonym for compromise, but you do see concede (reluctantly accept an idea or proposal). Vocab time: recede means to move backward physically, so that answer doesn’t work in this sentence. Convey, in this context, is a synonym for Choice (E), communicate.