SAT Critical Reading : Two Adjectives or Adverbs in Two-Blank Sentences

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for SAT Critical Reading

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Example Questions

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Example Question #2583 : Sat Critical Reading

Alice felt __________ after she was fired from her job as a college professor for her __________ behavior.

Possible Answers:

cerebral  . . . mandatory

reinforced . . . histrionic

despondent . . . debauched

ludicrous . . . comely

jubilant . . . merciless

Correct answer:

despondent . . . debauched

Explanation:

In sentences with two blanks it is important to ensure that the meaning of the two blanks work with one another, as well as with the sentence as a whole. From the context of the sentence it is clear that the second blank must be a form of behavior that would get Alice fired. Comely means cute and mandatory required so those two answer choices could be ruled out. Histrionic means dramatic, but being fired from her job would be unlikely to make Alice feel reinforced so we can rule out that option. Merciless means cruel and without mercy, but again being fired is not going to make Alice feel jubilant. That leaves us with only despondent and debauched. Despondent means upset or disappointed, which is a normal reaction to being fired and debauched means wicked or lurid. This answer choice fits.

Example Question #2584 : Sat Critical Reading

During his reign, many noblemen found Julius Caesar’s self-promotion __________, others took a much stronger opinion and declared his behavior unredeemable and __________.

Possible Answers:

petulant . . . worthy

insufferable . . . reprehensible

erratic . . . regressive

informal . . . cursory

prosaic  . . . disparaging

Correct answer:

insufferable . . . reprehensible

Explanation:

This sentence explains the relationship between the two blanks by saying that the second opinion is much stronger than the first opinion. This means that the two blanks both have to focus on the same general principle and that the second is an exaggeration of the first. The correct answer is insufferable . . . reprehensible. Insufferable means annoying and unbearable,and reprehensible means very bad and immoral;both are negative implications and the second is stronger opinion than the first. Petulant usually refers to someone ill-tempered, but worthy means someone deserving of praise so that does not fit. Erratic means difficult to predict, which does not match with regressive. Cursory which means done superficially does not fit comfortably into the sentence. Prosaic means ordinary,which also does not fit comfortably.

Example Question #1 : Two Adjectives Or Adverbs In Two Blank Sentences

Many young computer programmers are so accustomed to rigid logic that they often are __________ when they must develop a merely __________ technique to solve a problem.

Possible Answers:

enlightened . . . uncertain

provoked . . . redundant

perplexed . . . heuristic

annoyed . . . probable

angered . . . humanistic

Correct answer:

perplexed . . . heuristic

Explanation:

The contrast in this sentence is between “rigid logic” and the second blank. The word “heuristic” (particularly in computer science) means a loose rule—often explained as being a “rule of thumb.” Such devices help to simulate some scenario but not with the certainty of mathematical logic. For those who are used to such rigid logic, the development of such “heuristics” can be very difficult and perplexing—hence the choice word for the first blank.

Example Question #2586 : Sat Critical Reading

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

Although one can learn to read the most __________ written works in another language, many forms of __________ discourse can still be difficult to read.

Possible Answers:

poetic . . . linguistic

mundane . . . scientific

mistaken . . . edited

erudite . . . idiotic

sophisticated . . . colloquial

Correct answer:

sophisticated . . . colloquial

Explanation:

A "sophisticated" work is one that is very complex, requiring much experience and knowledge to navigate. Although the word is distantly related to the Greek root “sophia,” meaning wisdom (and found in words like “philosophy”), “sophisticated” had a long development through more negative connotations (partially related to usages like “sophistical”). These are not reflected in our usage here. 

“Colloquial” means related to ordinary speech. Its root is derived from the Latin for “to speak or talk,” which has many derivatives in English, not only including those with the “c” that we see in “interlocutors” (e.g. "locution," "allocution"), but also the more common (and phonetically related) “q” (e.g. "eloquence," "loquacious," "colloquium"). The prefix “col-” really is derived from the Latin “cum,” meaning with. Colloquial language is the language one uses to “speak with” others of similar backgrounds and upbringings.

Example Question #2 : Two Adjectives Or Adverbs In Two Blank Sentences

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

For many, Robert’s world is __________ commonplace; they cannot understand why he only cares about the __________.

Possible Answers:

inconceivably . . . mundane

incomprehensibly . . . exhilarating

licentiously . . . esoteric

understandably . . . paltry

frivolously . . . exceptional

Correct answer:

inconceivably . . . mundane

Explanation:

"Inconceivable" means impossible to comprehend or grasp fully, while "mundane" means concerned with the world rather than with spiritual things or commonplace.  Evidently, for many, Robert's concern with the world makes his life incomprehensibly commonplace, so "inconceivably . . . mundane" is the correct answer.

Example Question #3 : Two Adjectives Or Adverbs In Two Blank Sentences

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

Throughout the early middle ages, what we call “canon law” was far from being the organized, __________ system of law that the Catholic Church now follows. It took the work of many jurists to collect and systematize what had been an extremely __________ system of jurisprudence.

Possible Answers:

ecclesiastical . . . civic

pious . . . corrupt

religious . . . secular

juridical . . . lackadaisical 

codified . . . ad hoc

Correct answer:

codified . . . ad hoc

Explanation:

The key is to realize that Catholic law was not organized, which could be described as “ad hoc”—i.e. not collected and pulled together only from case to case as needed. (The expression “ad hoc” literally means for this in Latin, indicating that something applies only “for this or that”—but not according to a universal, organized rationality); therefore, it was not gathered together into a single “code” in which all the statutes were organized. Thus, the word “codified” fits well for the first blank.

Example Question #2274 : Psat Critical Reading

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

Maggie had never been afraid of heights, but the rope bridge was so __________ that she only took one __________ step before changing her mind.

Possible Answers:

pliable . . . nervewracking

morose . . . resonant

dilapidated . . . tentative

rotund . . . smug

ramshackle . . . cryptic

Correct answer:

dilapidated . . . tentative

Explanation:

The first part of the sentence says that Maggie is not usually afraid, but the "but" is the key word that lets us know that the blanks describe her being afraid in the second half of the sentence. Starting with the second blank, "tentative" makes the most sense because it means hesitant or uncertain. This is confirmed as the correct choice by the first blank, "dilapidated," which means in bad condition because of lack of care. While "ramshackle" and "nervewracking" also would work, their partner words do not fit the context as well.

Example Question #4 : Two Adjectives Or Adverbs In Two Blank Sentences

Select the word or word pair that best completes the sentence.

Though all through childhood the siblings shared a __________ relationship, in adulthood they were now quite __________.

Possible Answers:

tempestuous . . . amicable

docile . . . agreeable

strained . . . turbulent

volatile . . . bellicose

Correct answer:

tempestuous . . . amicable

Explanation:

The opening word "though" tells us to expect a change in the relationship between these two siblings—either they were close as children and no longer are, or they didn't get along when they were young and do now; we are looking for antonyms. Three of the answer choices offer two words with very similar meanings: "docile" and "agreeable" (both depicting a fairly-pleasant relationship), "volatile" and "bellicose" (both describing a combustible or even warlike relation), and "strained" and "turbulent" (both telling of a relationship marked by tensions and fighting). Only the pairing of "tempestuous" (stormy) and "amicable" (friendly) provides the antonym pair we are looking for.

Example Question #2276 : Psat Critical Reading

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

The __________ filmmaker just came out with his fourth short film of the summer, and claims that if he continues to work __________, he should be able to finish a fifth by the end of August.

Possible Answers:

hardworking . . . ludicrously

feeble . . . jovially

intrepid . . . flexibly

contrite . . . prosperously

prolific . . . diligently

Correct answer:

prolific . . . diligently

Explanation:

For the first blank, we need an adjective that describes how many films the filmmaker is able to create in a short amount of time. Both "hardworking" or "prolific" emphasize how many films the filmmaker is producing, so either word could work in the first blank. For the second blank, we're looking for an adverb that conveys how consistently the filmmaker is working; in choosing between the remaining answer choices "diligently" (industriously) and "ludicrously" (ridiculously), "diligently" is the better option, making the correct answer "prolific . . . diligently."

Example Question #5 : Two Adjectives Or Adverbs In Two Blank Sentences

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

The teacher found Billy's excuse that a dog ate his homework __________, as he had stated just the day before that his family didn't have any pets; however, she had to reconsider when he produced the chewed-up remains of his math assignment as __________ evidence.

Possible Answers:

unbelievable . . . imitative

sedulous . . . transigent

intuitive . . . onerous

implausible . . . palpable

narcissistic . . . tangible

Correct answer:

implausible . . . palpable

Explanation:

For the first blank, we're looking for a word that means "not likely," as the teacher knows that Billy's family doesn't have pets, but he is claiming that a dog ate his homework. Either "implausible" or "unbelievable" could work. For the second blank, we need an adjective that means something like able to be seen, or obvious. Either "palpable" (easy to perceive) or "tangible" (able to be physically touched) could work. Looking to see which of the possible answers we've identified match up, we can pick out "implausible . . . palpable" as the correct answer.

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