Higher energy prices would have many (i) ______ effects on society

Higher energy prices would have many (i) ______ effects on society as a whole. Besides encouraging consumers to be more (ii) _____ in their use of gasoline, they would encourage the development of renewable alternative energy sources that are not (iii) _____ at current prices.

Blank (i)

  1. pernicious
  2. counterintuitive
  3. salubrious

Blank (ii)

  1. aggressive
  2. predictable
  3. sparing

Blank (iii)

  1. unstable
  2. adaptable
  3. viable

So, you were trying to be a good test taker and practice for the GRE with PowerPrep online. Buuuut then you had some questions about the verbal section—specifically question 5 of the second Verbal section on Practice Test 1. Those three-blank text completion questions are the WORST—but never fear, PrepScholar has got your back!

This question has three blanks divided into two sentences. We should note that the first sentence seems to be a general idea—describing the effects of higher energy prices—while the second actually seems to elaborate on what some of these effects are. Understanding the relationship between sentences in these two- and three-blank text completion questions can sometimes be very important. For example, here, without the first sentence, we wouldn’t know that “they” in the second sentence refers to “higher energy prices,” which could be a big clue; similarly, without the second sentence that explains a couple of effects, we wouldn’t know how to describe these effects in our first blank.

Since the information in our first blank actually relies on the second sentence and we aren’t sure what all that sentence says yet, let’s go ahead and start from the last blank and move backwards. The second sentence contains an introductory phrase that begins with “besides” and an independent clause (a complete idea). The word “besides” tells us that these two parts of the sentence each recognize one effect of higher gas prices, but doesn’t necessarily tell us a relationship between these effects—in other words, each effect could very well be independent of the other. So, since it doesn’t seem like the blanks are important clues for one another, let’s see if we can make things easier for ourselves by treating the independent clause (after the comma) and our third blank as if it were just a one-blank question:

“[Higher energy prices] would encourage the development of renewable alternative energy sources that are not (iii) _____ at current prices.”

Ok, so it seems there is a sort of subtle comparison between higher prices and current prices. If higher prices would encourage something, then we can infer that this something is not “encouraged” at current prices.

Our sentence already has the word “not” in front of our blank, so let’s look for something that could be similar to “encouraged.”


Nope. This doesn’t match our prediction—in fact, it doesn’t even really seem like it could describe “renewable alternative energy sources,” which, we should remember, is ultimately what we want to describe. We can eliminate G.


Hmm. This is a bit trickier. “Adapt” and “develop” could be similar in some contexts. BUT this doesn’t match our prediction. This answer would almost seem to imply that these alternatives couldn’t even be developed at current prices, but our sentence suggests that the difference between higher and current prices is merely that these alternatives would be encouraged at high prices, not that higher prices actually makes their development possible. H doesn’t seem likely.


Ahh. Not necessarily a synonym of our prediction, but if we think about it, “viable” means practicable or workable, something that can more easily be done. If developing these alternatives is not practical or easily done at current prices, then it’s understandable why it would not be encouraged either. Conversely, if higher prices make developing alternatives viable, then we can understand how that would encourage their development. This works better than H, which seemed to imply that they couldn’t be developed at current prices, so I is a good answer.

Moving along backwards through our sentence, we come to our second blank. We’ll find that one thing that makes this question tricky is that it requires a little more logical reasoning than some other text completion questions: nowhere else in our sentence are we told specifically how people might use gasoline, so we have to think logically about how high prices would affect people’s use of gasoline rather than finding a clue in the sentence to match. Still, this can be done without us making assumptions. We have two important clues: that energy prices (presumably including gas prices) would be higher and that this would encourage the development of alternatives to things like gasoline (indeed, it turns out that the second half of this sentence does yield a clue in this case). With this information, we can infer that people would be less likely to use gas. The only problem is “less likely” won’t fit into our blank—we need something that describes people’s use of gas—but since we know the general intent, we can go ahead and start testing answers even if we don’t have an exact prediction for the blank.


“Aggressive” implies people would use more gas, which doesn’t make sense if prices are higher and people are trying to find alternatives. We can eliminate D.


Hmm. There’s no information in our sentence that suggests that people’s use of gas would start to fit a pattern that can be more easily predicted. Just that there will be a general trend of people using less gas. In other words, we don’t know that people’s use of gas isn’t predictable at current prices. This answer is a bit off, so E is out.


Ahh. To be “sparing” is to use a resource frugally or judiciously. This answer matches the idea that people would be using less gas. F is a good answer.

Alright, like blank (ii), this blank involves us making a bit of an inference based on the effects described. If people use less gasoline and look for renewable alternatives instead, we would probably consider that to be a positive effect. Let’s see if any of these answers describe a positive effect.


Even if we aren’t sure what “pernicious” means, it doesn’t sound cute, so maybe not a positive thing? Of course, that’s just a wild guess, but we might be surprised how often we’re right about that kind of thing. “Pernicious” describes something harmful usually in a subtle or gradual way. This is the opposite of what we want, so we can eliminate A.


“Counterintuitive” describes something not intuitive, or something where our expectations would be contrary to reality. We actually used intuition to fill in our second blank by logically reasoning that high prices would prompt people to use less gas, so that was not “counterintuitive.” We can eliminate B.


Maybe we aren’t sure about this word, but perhaps we know its cousin “salutary,” or maybe we took Spanish in high school (or better yet actually SPEAK spanish) and know that “salud” means “health.” Indeed, this comes from the same Latin word; “salubrious” means moderately healthy or beneficial, which is a positive effect that would work in this blank. C is correct. Let’s plug in these answers just in case.

“Higher energy prices would have many (i) salubrious effects on society as a whole. Besides encouraging consumers to be more (ii) sparing in their use of gasoline, they would encourage the development of renewable alternative energy sources that are not (iii) viable at current prices.”

Yes, these sentences fit together now. The first tells us that high gas prices could have effects that actually benefit society, such as people will use less gas and look for renewable alternatives, which would both be good things. C, F, and I are correct.


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