SAT Sentence Completion Practice Question 70: Answer and Explanation

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Question: 70

10. The economic position of the Victorian working poor was so ------- that even a brief spell of unemployment was likely to plunge them into -------.

A. comfortable . . despair
B. sanguine . . helplessness
C. perilous . . excess
D. dire . . prosperity
E. tenuous . . destitution

Correct Answer: E

Explanation:

Skill: Understanding the content, form, and function of sentences

Explanation for Correct Answer E :

Choice (E) is correct. "Tenuous" means weak or unstable; "destitution" means poverty. If one were to insert these terms into the text, the sentence would read "The economic position of the Victorian working poor was so tenuous that even a brief spell of unemployment was likely to plunge them into destitution." The term "plunge" indicates that the economic position of the Victorian working class was in danger of worsening, so it makes sense to say that poor people were in a "tenuous," or weakened, state. The logical effects of such a plunge would be "destitution," or poverty.

Explanation for Incorrect Answer A :

Choice (A) is incorrect. "Comfortable" means content or secure; "despair" means without hope. If one were to insert these terms into the text, the sentence would read "The economic position of the Victorian working poor was so comfortable that even a brief spell of unemployment was likely to plunge them into despair." It is unlikely that a secure position would easily become one of "despair."

Explanation for Incorrect Answer B :

Choice (B) is incorrect. "Sanguine" means confident or optimistic; "helplessness" means without defense. If one were to insert these terms into the text, the sentence would read "The economic position of the Victorian working poor was so sanguine that even a brief spell of unemployment was likely to plunge them into helplessness." It is unlikely that an optimistic position would easily become one of "helplessness."

Explanation for Incorrect Answer C :

Choice (C) is incorrect. "Perilous" means dangerous; "excess" means an overindulgence. If one were to insert these terms into the text, the sentence would read "The economic position of the Victorian working poor was so perilous that even a brief spell of unemployment was likely to plunge them into excess." Although a "perilous" condition might easily change, it is unlikely that unemployment would lead to abundance. Furthermore, the term "plunge" suggests that any unemployment would have negative consequences for the working class.

Explanation for Incorrect Answer D :

Choice (D) is incorrect. "Dire" means dismal; "prosperity" refers to the condition of being successful, especially economically. If one were to insert these terms into the text, the sentence would read "The economic position of the Victorian working poor was so dire that even a brief spell of unemployment was likely to plunge them into prosperity." It is illogical to claim that an economic downturn would lead poor people into "prosperity," or economic well-being.

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