SAT Writing : Increasing Contextual Relevance in a Sentence Fragment

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for SAT Writing

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Increasing Contextual Relevance In A Sentence Fragment

The Moluccas is a chain, or archetype, of islands belonging to Indonesia. Historically, these islands were known as the Spice Islands for their abundance of nutmeg, cloves, mace, and pepper, this profundity of spices eventually drew colonial attention. Spices such as cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, anise, and pepper were particularly popular during the medieval times. In the 1600s, the Spice Wars arose as a result of competing Portuguese and Dutch interest’s in the Spice Islands. The bloody conflict ended in the deaths of many native Moluccans as well as European traders, wherefore both Portugal and the Netherlands gained and lost territories ranging from Africa and South America. For this day, strife occasionally breaks out on the islands although it is now motivated by religious and not colonial disagreements. It is located just west of New Guinea in the Pacific Ocean, and its more than 1,000 islands are home to more than 2 million people today.

Which of the following provides the most relevant detail to the underlined section?

Possible Answers:

during medieval times, which are defined by historians as running from approximately the 5th to the 15th centuries CE.


during medieval times, when horses were most people's primary form of transportation

during medieval times, which were generally very physically uncomfortable, and therefore needed to be "spiced up."

during medieval times, during which time scientific developments were extremely limited

Correct answer:

during medieval times, which are defined by historians as running from approximately the 5th to the 15th centuries CE.


In order to answer this question, the first step is to identify the purpose of the sentence, which in this case is to provide the contextually relevant details of trade in the islands during a specific time period. The best answer, thus provides specific, accurate details about the dates of the time period in question. The sentence was not concerned with neither (highly unspecific) "scientific developments" nor "modes of transportation" so these answers can be immediately eliminated. One might be temped by the answer that mentions "spice" but note that this sentence does not actually provide relevant content, and by using a colloquial phrase ("spiced up") to make a lame pun, really does not match the matter-of-fact tone of the sentence preceding it.

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