SAT Sentence Completion Practice Question 283: Answer and Explanation

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Question: 283

4. The colors and patterns on butterflies' wings may seem merely ------, but they are actually ------- the survival of these insects, enabling them to attract mates and to hide from predators.

A. Artificial… dependent on
B. Unique… unnecessary to
C. Decorative… instrumental in
D. Beautiful... results of
E. Unrelated… precursors of

Correct Answer: C

Explanation:

Explanation for Correct Answer C :

Choice (C) is correct. "Decorative" means ornamental, and "instrumental in" means significantly helpful in. If one were to insert these terms into the text, the sentence would read "The colors and patterns on butterflies' wings may seem merely decorative, but they are actually instrumental in the survival of these insects, enabling them to attract mates and to hide from predators." The structure "may seem merely . . . but they are actually" identifies one quality that, while present, is not as important as another quality. The decorative aspect of the patterns on butterflies' wings, though undeniable, is not nearly as significant as their function in helping these insects to survive.

Explanation for Incorrect Answer A :

Choice (A) is incorrect. "Artificial" means made by humans rather than by natural processes, and "dependent on" means reliant on. If one were to insert these terms into the text, the sentence would read "The colors and patterns on butterflies' wings may seem merely artificial, but they are actually dependent on the survival of these insects, enabling them to attract mates and to hide from predators." The contrast between "artificial" and "dependent on survival" is not as strong as "merely" and "actually" imply. A contrast for artificiality would be naturalness, not dependency on survival.

Explanation for Incorrect Answer B :

Choice (B) is incorrect. "Unique" means the only one of its kind, and "unnecessary to" means not needed for. If one were to insert these terms into the text, the sentence would read "The colors and patterns on butterflies' wings may seem merely unique, but they are actually unnecessary to the survival of these insects, enabling them to attract mates and to hide from predators." A feature that is unnecessary to the survival of a species of insects would not enable the insects to attract mates and hide from predators, traits that are significant for the survival of a species.

Explanation for Incorrect Answer D :

Choice (D) is incorrect. "Beautiful" means pretty, and "results of" means consequences of. If one were to insert these terms into the text, the sentence would read "The colors and patterns on butterflies' wings may seem merely beautiful, but they are actually results of the survival of these insects, enabling them to attract mates and to hide from predators." Features of an insect species that enable the insects to attract mates and to hide from predators are not results of the survival of that species, but rather reasons contributing to its survival.

Explanation for Incorrect Answer E :

Choice (E) is incorrect. "Unrelated" means not connected, and "precursors of" means forerunners of. If one were to insert these terms into the text, the sentence would read "The colors and patterns on butterflies' wings may seem merely unrelated, but they are actually precursors of the survival of these insects, enabling them to attract mates and to hide from predators." Traits that enable a species to attract mates and avoid predators are not precursors of the survival of that species but, rather, factors that have contributed to its survival.

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