SAT Sentence Completion Practice Question 231: Answer and Explanation

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Question: 231

12. Brachiopods, clamlike bivalves of prehistoric times, were one of the most ------ forms of life on the Earth: more than 30,000 species have been ------- from the fossil records.

A. plentiful… subtracted
B. ornate…retrieved
C. multifarious… catalogued
D. scarce… extracted
E. anachronistic… extrapolated

Correct Answer: C

Explanation:

Explanation for Correct Answer C :

Choice (C) is correct. "Multifarious" means having many kinds of parts or representatives, and "catalogued" means listed in an orderly way. If one were to insert these terms into the text, the sentence would read "Brachiopods, clamlike bivalves of prehistoric times, were one of the most multifarious forms of life on the Earth: more than 30,000 species have been catalogued from fossil records." The portion of a sentence that comes after a colon typically provides a list or some other specific explanation of the statement given before the colon. In this sentence, that expectation is satisfied. A type of life that is said to have many different forms is explained as having over 30,000 different representatives that have been carefully identified and written about.

Explanation for Incorrect Answer A :

Choice (A) is incorrect. "Plentiful" means existing in great numbers, and "subtracted" in this context means removed from consideration. If one were to insert these terms into the text, the sentence would read "Brachiopods, clamlike bivalves of prehistoric times, were one of the most plentiful forms of life on the Earth: more than 30,000 species have been subtracted from fossil records." The statement appearing after the colon in this sentence seems to contradict or severely restrict the statement before the colon. If the brachiopods were really so plentiful, it is confusing to be told that over 30,000 species of them are being taken out of the fossil records, as if they no longer count as brachiopods. Statements that appear after a colon in a sentence should help explain, not contradict, a more general statement appearing before the colon.

Explanation for Incorrect Answer B :

Choice (B) is incorrect. "Ornate" means heavily decorated, and "retrieved" means regained or brought back. If one were to insert these terms into the text, the sentence would read "Brachiopods, clamlike bivalves of prehistoric times, were one of the most ornate forms of life on the Earth: more than 30,000 species have been retrieved from fossil records." A comment appearing after the colon in a sentence should help to explain the more general statement before the colon. In this case, the reader does not learn more about how brachiopods were so ornate; rather, the reader is told that a large number of brachiopod species have been brought back.

Explanation for Incorrect Answer D :

Choice (D) is incorrect. "Scarce" means very rare, and "extracted" means pulled out. If one were to insert these terms into the text, the sentence would read "Brachiopods, clamlike bivalves of prehistoric times, were one of the most scarce forms of life on the Earth: more than 30,000 species have been extracted from fossil records." Clauses that are joined by a colon should not have meanings that contrast in this way. Instead, the meaning in the second clause should be an explanation of the general statement made in the first clause. After being told how scarce the brachiopods were, the reader expects to be told in the second clause just how rare, not how plentiful, they were.

Explanation for Incorrect Answer E :

Choice (E) is incorrect. "Anachronistic" means presented outside of its proper historical time, and "extrapolated" means estimated by extending from known information. If one were to insert these terms into the text, the sentence would read "Brachiopods, clamlike bivalves of prehistoric times, were one of the most anachronistic forms of life on the Earth: more than 30,000 species have been extrapolated from fossil records." Since the first clause of the sentence says that the brachiopods somehow managed to exist outside of their proper historical time, the colon in the sentence leads the reader to expect that the second clause will help to explain just how the brachiopods accomplished this. That expectation is not satisfied, however, because the second clause is not about anything the brachiopods did, but rather about the evidence we have for their existence.

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