Textual Cues and Clues

As you will notice as you read Chapter 5, the SAT expects you to be able to identify difficult words and apply them to complex sentences. These can be a bit discouraging, but you should look in the sentences for cue and clues as to what the test wants from you.

The sentences will often use specific words to indicate that the first word will be contrasted with, or even opposite to, the second word in the set.

For example, “Despite their _______________ proportions, the murals of Diego Rivera give his Mexican compatriots the sense that their history is ___________________ and human in scale, not remote and larger than life.”

You have to choose words to fill in those blanks, which sounds difficult, but the sentence is helping you. Look at the words in bold type:

Despite — Means, “even though their proportions are __________”
And — indicates that the word in the blank will be similar to “human in scale,”
Not — means that the word in the blank will NOT BE similar to “remote and larger than life

So let’s look at AND — it means that the second word is similar to “human in scale.” This means, “normal size.” A MURAL is a large painting, so the sentence is saying that even though the MURAL is large…so that first blank SHOULD BE a word that means “large.” MURALS are large. The second blank should be a word that means “human in size” and the OPPOSITE of “remote (distant) and larger than life.”

Your choices are:

(a) monumental (a vocabulary word from list 1!)…….accessible
(b) focused………prolonged
(c) vast……..ancient
(d) realistic…..extraneous
(e) narrow…….overwhelming.

So we know that the first blank means something like “large,” and the second blank is a word that means something “normal-sized,” because the sentence tell us it is “human in size” and NOT “remote and larger than life.”

Let’s look at the first choice in a, b, c, d, and e.
(a) is “monumental,” which means “very large.” Since we need a word that means “large,” (a) is a good answer SO FAR. (b) is “focused,” which means “very specific,” and also “narrow,” neither of which means “large.” So you can cross out answer (b) since the first choice does not fit.

(c) is “vast,” which means “very large,” so option (c) is also a possible choice. Option (d) is “realistic,” which means “normal size” and thus “not large,” so we can eliminate answer (c) since we need an answer for the first blank that DOES mean “large.” Option (e) is “narrow,” which also does NOT mean “large,” so we can eliminate option (e).

Now we have TWO possible correct answers JUST BY LOOKING AT THE WORDS FOR THE FIRST BLANK. We can eliminate the wrong answer by looking at the word that goes in the SECOND blank.

Options (a) and (c) are both correct for the first blank. The second blank needs to have a word that means “normal size” and not “remote or larger than life.” The second word in answer (a) is “accessible,” which means “something that normal people can understand or reach.” So there is the word “normal,” so maybe this one is correct. Answer (c) has the second word “ancient,” which means “very old.” Remember that the word “not” in the original sentence means, “opposite of,” so is “ancient,” or very old, the opposite of “remote and larger than life”? Does “ancient” mean “normal size”?

It does not. So we managed to cross out 3 answers because the first word in (b), (d), and (e) did not mean “large,” and now we can cross out (c) because its second word does not mean “normal size.” That leaves us with (a), which is the correct answer.

As can you see, knowing what the words mean is VITAL to being able to do well on the SAT. If you cannot understand what the sentence means, or if you do not know what the answer words mean, you will be seriously confused on the test. That can be discouraging, so you should be studying our vocabulary words daily as well as looking at practice questions and looking up any words you don’t understand. 

You should also be reading the articles that I link to this website — read to understand, and if there are words you don’t recognize, WRITE THEM DOWN and LOOK THEM UP. Add them to your vocabulary list — treat the vocab list like a life-list for words. Whenever you see a word you don’t recognize, learn it. 

Further reading…


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