PSAT Critical Reading : Two Nouns in Two-Blank Sentences

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for PSAT Critical Reading

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Example Questions

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Example Question #39 : Two Blank Sentences

Choose the word or set of words that best completes the following sentence.

At the time of any election, most candidates know that they will survive a passing __________ by the voters. What is less certain is whether their backgrounds will appear pristine after a much closer __________.

Possible Answers:

commentary . . . instigation

registration . . . recall

investigation . . . overview

judgment . . . review

evaluation . . . scrutiny

Correct answer:

evaluation . . . scrutiny

Explanation:

The sentence implies a strengthening of meaning from the first blank to the second. This is indicated by the use of “passing” for the first and “much closer” for the second. An “evaluation” can merely mean a general judgment regarding the worth (or value) of someone or something. A “scrutiny,” on the other hand, is an in-depth examination of something. This fits well with the needed strengthened sense in the second blank.

Example Question #1 : Two Nouns In Two Blank Sentences

Many Americans choose not to go shopping on Black Friday, the business shopping day of the year, because they know that every store will be in __________ trying to deal with a(n) __________ of impatient, demanding customers.

Possible Answers:

turmoil . . . individual

an uproar . . . horde

boredom . . . friend

tranquility . . . mob

quantities . . . protection

Correct answer:

an uproar . . . horde

Explanation:

We can infer that because Black Friday is "the busiest shopping day of the year," that every store will be in chaos trying to deal with customers. So, we need to pick out an answer choice that means something like "chaos" for the first blank. Either "an uproar" ("a loud and impassioned noise or disturbance)" or "turmoil" ("a state of great disturbance, confusion, or uncertainty") could be potentially correct. For the second blank, we need to pick out a noun that means something like "group" and can refer to a group of "impatient, demanding customers." Either "horde" ("chiefly derogatory: a large group of people") or "mob" ("a large crowd of people, especially one that is disorderly and intent on causing trouble or violence") could be potentially correct. Of the possible words that we've identified as potentially correct for each blank, only "an uproar" and "horde" appear in the same answer choice, so the correct answer is "an uproar . . . horde."

Example Question #2 : Two Nouns In Two Blank Sentences

After many years of living as a __________, Henry decided to find a fixed _________ and cease his years of wandering. 

Possible Answers:

contractor . . . gradation

vagabond . . . habitation

tourist . . . apartment

carnie . . . location

raconteur . . . citizenship

Correct answer:

vagabond . . . habitation

Explanation:

From the context of the sentence, we can tell that Harry was living as a wandering person. While tourisim could (in a broad sense) be considered "wandering about" to see things, this is really a far stretch. The word "vagabond," however, literally does mean "a person who wanders around," often having no means of employment. This would well describe Harry's state. After these years of wandering, he wants to find somewhere to "settle down." That is, he wants to find a "homeplace" (of sorts, at least). The word "habitation" means a living place, often implying fixity or stability.

Example Question #3 : Two Nouns In Two Blank Sentences

Choose the word or set of words that best completes the following sentence.

The key to overcoming __________ is keeping your __________ in the face of painful and difficult situations.

Possible Answers:

ardor . . . virtue

circumlocution . . . candor

trouble . . . vulnerability

adversity . . . composure

discrepancy . . . frivolity

Correct answer:

adversity . . . composure

Explanation:

The first blank is the easiest to fill in because it is something difficult that you will have to overcome. Adversity and trouble could both fit here, so we look at the second blank, which requires a positive quality that will help you though tough times. Vulnerability does not fit here, so "adversity . . . composure" is the correct answer. 

Example Question #43 : Two Blank Sentences

Choose the word or set of words that best completes the following sentence.

Whether alone in their houses or gathered in a great __________, the citizens of the state had very little knowledge about the details pertaining to the overwhelming __________ of global politics, with its many actors and numerous concerns.

Possible Answers:

vanguard . . . meetings

multitude . . . complexity

legislature . . . corruption

quorum . . . dealings

polity . . . discussions

Correct answer:

multitude . . . complexity

Explanation:

The first blank is best known by the implied contrast with "alone." In contrast to being alone, one can be gathered in a group. A "multitude" is a large number of people or things together. It is clearly related to "multiply" and "multiple." All of these words come from the Latin meaning "many." The answer for the second blank is best figured out by looking to the subordinate clause beginning "with its many." This clause describes global politics as having many actors (that is, people doing things) and numerous concerns. The implication is that it is "complex."

Example Question #4 : Two Nouns In Two Blank Sentences

Choose the word or set of words that best completes the following sentence.

Conspiracy theorists still question the __________ of anyone landing on the moon, saying that the landing by Neil Armstrong was a __________.

Possible Answers:

plausibility . . . hoax

utopia . . . trick

authenticity . . . fact

reputation . . . toxin

reality . . . modicum

Correct answer:

plausibility . . . hoax

Explanation:

Conspiracy theorists generally question the truth behind certain events. So in this case, they would think that the moon landing was fake. We can easily fill in the second blank first by picking a word that would mean the landing was fake. This could be trick or hoax. Looking at the first blank, we can say that they questioned the truth or possibility of the moon landing, and the word that fits here would be plausibility. 

Example Question #45 : Two Blank Sentences

Choose the word or set of words that best completes the following sentence.

Unfortunately, most people judge others based on __________; few look beyond external __________ when choosing friends.

Possible Answers:

opinions . . . facts

feelings . . . emotions

qualities . . . abilities

appearances . . . features

integrity . . . character

Correct answer:

appearances . . . features

Explanation:

Your clue words here are "unfortunately" and "external." "External" means located or seen on the outside or surface of something. You are looking for two synonyms which primarily have to do with externality. So, the answer choice that makes the most sense in the sentence's context is "appearances . . . features." The other words all deal with more internal traits.

Example Question #3 : Two Nouns In Two Blank Sentences

Choose the word or set of words that best completes the following sentence.

For twenty years, nobody could smoke in the small town, as there was a __________ against any use of tobacco within the city’s _________.

Possible Answers:

ban . . . streets

disdain . . . restaurants

prohibition . . . limits

law . . . hovels

taboo . . . buildings

Correct answer:

prohibition . . . limits

Explanation:

Although it is difficult to find the best meaning for this sentence, it is relatively easy to ascertain the “least bad” one. Since nothing is said about the specific places in which people could not smoke, the safest answer will be the one that merely implies that one cannot smoke at all within the town (as is stated in the independent clause starting with “nobody”). The word “limits” functions best here, merely indicating that one cannot smoke within the city’s borders. The word “prohibition” does not merely mean the banning of alcohol, as many might think. It first means “to forbid something.” It is from this first meaning that the later laws were named. It is clearly related to “prohibit” but likewise has related English words like “rehabilitate” and “inhibition.”

Example Question #4 : Two Nouns In Two Blank Sentences

Choose the word or set of words that best completes the following sentence.

Timothy found the whole ceremony to be nothing but a case of overblown __________ spewed from the mouth of a __________ who merely wanted to curry favor with the crowd.

Possible Answers:

rhetoric . . . demagogue

verbiage . . . raconteur

linguistics . . . naysayer

oratory . . . narrator

ingratiation . . . politician

Correct answer:

rhetoric . . . demagogue

Explanation:

The key words here are “wanted to curry favor with the crowd.” A “demagogue” is someone who argues to a crowd by appealing to their wishes and prejudices and not to logic. This negative sense is clearly communicated by the key expression. The word is derived from Greek roots meaning to lead the people. The “dem-” portion means people (taken as a whole, as the “crowds,” so to speak) and is found in English in words like “democracy.” The “-agogue” portion is found in many words that denote action. (The “g” sound often can harden into a “c,” and the Latinization of the Greek root here ultimately will give us many words that have not merely the “c” but a “-ct-” and hence “-act-”).

Rhetoric is the art of being convincing in speech or writing. While we often give it a negative connotation, it is really a neutral term. Here, it works well because of the good match made by “demagogue” in the second half of the sentence. 

Example Question #23 : Two Blank Sentences

Choose the word or set of words that best completes the following sentence.

Although John hated answering his __________, he looked them in the eyes and responded directly without any __________.

Possible Answers:

inquiries . . . alacrity

interrogators . . . obfuscation

servants . . . anger

progenitors . . . hesitancy

bosses . . . duplicity

Correct answer:

interrogators . . . obfuscation

Explanation:

All that we know is that someone is asking John things. No other details are given regarding those speaking to him; therefore, all we can say is that they are “interrogators”—people asking questions.

The word comes from Latin roots that ultimately mean to ask (or, more directly, to ask questions between persons—the “inter-” alters the meaning). The “-rog-“ portion comes from “rogare,” meaning to ask. There are many related words like “derogatory,” “rogation,” and “abrogate.”

The word “obfuscation” comes from the Latin “fuscus,” meaning “dark.”  Related words are rather obscure – “fuscine” and “fuscous.”  However, one can see how “obfuscation” (rendering something unclear or obscure) is related to being dark.

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