SAT Sentence Completion Practice Question 278: Answer and Explanation

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Question: 278

14. Because postmodernist critics often rely on ------ language, their prose seems -------- to nonspecialists who fail to comprehend its meaning.

A. accessible… abstruse
B. arcane… unequivocal
C. esoteric… impenetrable
D. (D)hackneyed… exotic
E. (E)lucid… grating

Correct Answer: C

Explanation:

Explanation for Correct Answer C :

Choice (C) is correct. "Esoteric" means known only to people in a special group. "Impenetrable" means extremely difficult to understand. If one were to insert these terms into the text, the sentence would read "Because postmodernist critics often rely on esoteric language, their prose frequently seems impenetrable to nonspecialists who fail to comprehend its meaning." The term "because" and the phrase "nonspecialists who fail to comprehend its meaning" indicate that both missing terms will relate to difficulty in comprehension. By definition, "esoteric" language is only understood by specialists, so it makes sense that "nonspecialists" would find postmodernist criticism to be "inpenetrable," or extremely difficult to comprehend.

Explanation for Incorrect Answer A :

Choice (A) is incorrect. "Accessible" in this context means understandable, and "abstruse" means abstract or not easily understood. If one were to insert these terms into the text, the sentence would read "Because postmodernist critics often rely on accessible language, their prose frequently seems abstruse to nonspecialists who fail to comprehend its meaning." It is illogical to claim that nonspecialists would find "accessible" language "abstruse," or incomprehensible.

Explanation for Incorrect Answer B :

Choice (B) is incorrect. "Arcane" means mysterious or known to only a few; "unequivocal" means straightforward. If one were to insert these terms into the text, the sentence would read "Because postmodernist critics often rely on arcane language, their prose frequently seems unequivocal to nonspecialists who fail to comprehend its meaning." The two missing terms should have similar meanings, but "unequivocal," or straightforward, contradicts the definition of "arcane," which means impenetrable.

Explanation for Incorrect Answer D :

Choice (D) is incorrect. "Hackneyed" means overused, and "exotic" means appealingly unusual. If one were to insert these terms into the text, the sentence would read "Because postmodernist critics often rely on hackneyed language, their prose frequently seems exotic to nonspecialists who fail to comprehend its meaning." If these writers rely on language that is predictable enough to be called "hackneyed," nonspecialists should find their work neither unusual nor difficult to understand.

Explanation for Incorrect Answer E :

Choice (E) is incorrect. "Lucid" means perfectly clear, and "grating" means annoying. If one were to insert these terms into the text, the sentence would read "Because postmodernist critics often rely on lucid language, their prose frequently seems grating to nonspecialists who fail to comprehend its meaning." "Lucid" writing should neither confuse nor annoy people unfamiliar with postmodernist criticism.

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