Structural contrast

Unlike Structural Agreement, structural contrasts indicate that there’s a shift in the sentence. These are usually indicated by contrast words such as

although, despite, in contrast, instead, however, but, on the other hand, rather, yet, nevertheless, nor, in spite of

If you see any of these words upon scanning the sentence, you should realize that the word you are looking for in a one-blank sentence completion (SC) is probably opposite in meaning to the rest of the sentence. In a two-blank SC, the two blanks are likely opposite in meaning.

Let’s try a one-blank SC example first. As always, scan the sentence for any structural clues and then guess what word could fit in the blank before looking at your options.

Her flamboyant acting during the school play was a distinct contrast to her usual ——– demeanor.
A. uninhibited
B. theatrical
C. communicative
D. taciturn
E. polite

The structural clue here is a distinct contrast to. This tells you that her —– demeanor is opposite to her flamboyant acting. This means you’re looking for a word that’s the opposite of flamboyant. I would guess “reserved” and see which option is most like that word. It turns out that there is only one choice, choice D.

Let’s try another one-blank SC.
Although Mr. Winthrop has always been a leading advocate for educational reform, he did not ——– this recent campaign to raise teachers’ salaries.
A. breed
B. repent
C. diminish
D. spearhead
E. legislate

The keyword here is although: this tells you that even though he is a leading advocate, he was NOT involved in this campaign. My guess for the blank would be “he did not lead the campaign”. Looking at the options, I would narrow my choices down to choice D and E.

Moving on to two-blank SC.
The songwriter was —— about the prospects for success in Nashville, even though she had already faced —— from several talent agencies.
A. miserable… insults
B. irritated… encouragement
C. hopeful… support
D. optimistic… rejection
E. humble… derogation

Did you find the structural keyword in the above example? I found “even though”. So I know that the songwriter was either optimistic about Nashville even though she had faced rejection or that the songwriter was pessimistic about Nashville even though she had gotten several offers. Notice that in both instances, the blanks are opposite. Ultimately, I would settle for pessimistic … rejection because one does not usually “face encouragement” or “face support”.

The contrast in the following example is even easier to spot. His usually churlish brother-in-law behaved — (opposite of churlish) —, rather than —(same as churlish)—. Recognizing this narrows it down to the options that are a positive word…negative word: choices A and B.

Fred was pleased to find that his usually churlish brother-in-law behaved ——–, rather than ——–, at the party.
A. courteously…impolitely
B. gracefully…awkwardly
C. jocularly…timidly
D. lewdly…respectfully
E. repentently…arrogantly