One of the cardinal rules of SAT sentence completions is that the closer you get to the end of the section, the less you can take for granted. On number one or two, or even three, you can be pretty sure that if a word doesn’t initially appear to fit the sentence, it’s not going to be the answer. The same does not hold true at the end of the section, however. Mindlessly eliminating words that seem obviously — perhaps too obviously — wrong can get you in a whole lot of trouble.
Sometimes the word that you want to show up just won’t be among the answer choices, and sometimes the right answer is something that never would have occurred to you, even if you’d spent ten minutes staring at the question. That’s why #8 is #8 and not #2. And that’s also why, as you get close to the end of a section, you need to be particularly on the lookout for words that are being used in their second or third meaning. Why? Because the people at ETS know that those are exactly the last words that it would occur to most test-takers to pick. Which is precisely why they’re likely to be correct.
The following question is a classic example of this kind of question. It’s also a question that lots of my students tend to get wrong.
The judges for the chili competition were ——-, noting subtle differences between dishes that most people would not detect.
So remember: if you’re on sentence completion #8 and you think that a word sounds funny, it’s probably because someone at ETS wants you to think just that.