SAT Sentence Completion Practice Question 239: Answer and Explanation

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Question: 239

5. Johnson's writing is considered ------ and ------ because it is filled with obscure references and baffling digressions.

A. deceiving… ingenuous
B. arcane… abstruse
C. spare… didactic
D. lucid… definitive
E. concise… esoteric

Correct Answer: B

Explanation:

Explanation for Correct Answer B :

Choice (B) is correct. "Arcane" means known only to those who have special, secret knowledge, and "abstruse" means difficult to understand. If one were to insert these terms into the text, the sentence would read "Johnson’s writing is considered arcane and abstruse because it is filled with obscure references and baffling digressions." The second clause of the sentence explains the reason for the assertion made by the missing terms in the main clause. Inserting "arcane" and "abstruse" completes the sentence perfectly. Obscure references would be known only to a few people, and baffling digressions would be difficult for people to understand.

Explanation for Incorrect Answer A :

Choice (A) is incorrect. "Deceiving" means having a tendency to mislead, and "ingenuous" means frank and honest. If one were to insert these terms into the text, the sentence would read "Johnson’s writing is considered deceiving and ingenuous because it is filled with obscure references and baffling digressions." Stating that a person's writing is filled with references and digressions that are difficult to understand would not be a good reason to justify the assertion that the writing is honest and misleads people. In addition, it makes no sense to say that a person's writing is both honest and misleading.

Explanation for Incorrect Answer C :

Choice (C) is incorrect. "Spare" in this context means economical in the use of words, and "didactic" means overly inclined to teach. If one were to insert these terms into the text, the sentence would read "Johnson’s writing is considered spare and didactic because it is filled with obscure references and baffling digressions." The second clause of the sentence explains the reason for the assertion made by the missing terms in the main clause. Inserting "spare" and "didactic" into the sentence would not make sense. Writing that "is filled with obscure references and baffling digressions" would be the opposite of economical. Moreover, baffling writing would not be didactic, or meant to teach.

Explanation for Incorrect Answer D :

Choice (D) is incorrect. "Lucid" means crystal clear, and "definitive" means authoritative. If one were to insert these terms into the text, the sentence would read "Johnson’s writing is considered lucid and definitive because it is filled with obscure references and baffling digressions." The second clause of the sentence explains the reason for the assertion made by the missing terms in the main clause. Inserting "lucid" and "definitive" into the sentence would not make sense. Writing that is difficult to understand cannot be reasonably considered crystal clear. Lucid writing is very easy to understand—the opposite of obscure writing.

Explanation for Incorrect Answer E :

Choice (E) is incorrect. "Concise" means using no more words than are necessary, and "esoteric" means known only to a few specialists. If one were to insert these terms into the text, the sentence would read "Johnson’s writing is considered concise and esoteric because it is filled with obscure references and baffling digressions." Although writing that is filled with obscure references and baffling digressions might be considered in some ways esoteric, there is no justification for considering such writing concise. Digressions are trains of thought that needlessly stray from the main point of a piece of writing, and writing with baffling digressions could hardly be considered concise.

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