To the untutored eye the tightly forested Ardennes hills around

To the untutored eye the tightly forested Ardennes hills around Sedan look quite (i)______ , (ii)_____ place through which to advance a modern army; even with today’s more numerous and better roads and bridges, the woods and the river Meuse form a significant (iii)_____.

Blank (i)

  1. impenetrable
  2. inconsiderable
  3. uncultivated

Blank (ii)

  1. a makeshift
  2. an unpropitious
  3. an unremarkable

Blank (iii)

  1. resource
  2. impediment
  3. passage

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 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!

Wow! We have a lot of blanks without too much text, but we should let that stop us. We have to remember that the test makers MUST give us enough information to justify one unequivocally correct solution. We should start by scanning the sentence for clues as to how our blanks relate to the information in the rest of the sentence.

We should always take note of sentence structure and punctuation that might help us out. Here, we have a semicolon separating two independent clauses, or complete ideas. The semicolon indicates that the two ideas should complement one another in a way. We should also note the phrase “even with” after our semicolon. This is a clue that circumstances may have changed, but something form the first part of the sentence is still true.

The other clue is the change in circumstances itself: today we have “numerous and better roads and bridges,” and considering that the first part of our sentence had something to do with “advancing an army” through “forested hills,” this could actually be an important clue. Roads and bridges might make advancing an army easier, so we might expect that the first part of our sentence is meant to describe a difficult place to advance an army, while the second clause adds on that even with improvements this is a hard place to get through.

Now that we have a big picture idea of our sentence, let’s try to look at these individual blanks. We should note that our first and second blanks share an interesting relationship. They are separated by only a comma, and if we steal a quick look at our answers for the second blank, we’ll notice that they are just adjectives that describe “place.” The second blank, therefore, needs to complete a phrase that merely comments on the ideas offered in the first part of the sentence, so these two blanks should be somewhat similar, both need to describe a difficult place through which to advance an army.

Let’s take the first blank. This blank should describe how the forested hills would look “to the untutored eye.” In other words, we want to describe the hills as clearly ______—somehow difficult to get an army through. We might predict then that the hills are “impassable” or even just “dense.” Let’s see what answers may line up.

impenetrable

“Impenetrable” means impossible to penetrate, which matches our prediction and does describe something that would be difficult to pass an army through.

inconsiderable

We should note that this word is different than “inconsiderate,” which means rude. “Inconsiderable” means not worth consideration or insignificant, which does not fit the context of our sentence. Eliminate B.

uncultivated

Land that is “uncultivated” is specifically not used for growing crops. While this is likely true of the hills based on their description, this doesn’t fit the context of our sentence since it doesn’t really tell us why this would be a difficult place through which to advance an army. We can eliminate C.

Alright, one answer down, two to go. Our second blank should be similar, so we might predict that it would be “a difficult place” to move an army through. Let’s see if we have an answer that matches this idea.

a makeshift

“Makeshift” describes something that is a temporary substitute, which doesn’t make sense in the context of our sentence. We can eliminate D.

an unpropitious

A what? Even if we’ve done some studying, we may not know this word, so let’s skip B and take a look at F.

an unremarkable

“Unremarkable” describes something uninteresting or unimpressive, which would not indicate that this is a difficult place through which to advance an army. We can eliminate F.

Alright, E is the only answer we have left, so we should probably pick that answer even if we aren’t sure what it means. In fact, “unpropitious” means unfavorable, which is not exactly like our prediction, but is pretty close. B seems like a good answer.

Finally, our last blank should convey that although advancements have been made, the woods and river still make the forest “an unpropitious place” for an army to have to move through. We might predict that the woods and river, therefore, form an “obstacle.” Let’s see if there are any answers that match.

resource

A “resource” is generally something that can be used in a helpful way, but we want to convey that the woods and river form something “unfavorable.” G does not match our prediction, so we can eliminate G.

impediment

An “impediment” is something that would “impede,” or stop, progress—like an “obstacle.” THis answer matches our prediction. We should keep H.

passage

A “passage” would provide access, not an obstacle. So we can eliminate I.

Alright, let’s plug in all of these answers to make sure that the sentence works.

To the untutored eye the tightly forested Ardennes hills around Sedan look quite (i) impenetrable, (ii) an unpropitious place through which to advance a modern army; even with today’s more numerous and better roads and bridges, the woods and the river Meuse form a significant (iii) impediment.

Yes, now the sentence is a little more clear. The dense forest would clearly be a difficult place to move an army, and even with modern improvements, things wouldn’t be much easier. A, E, and H are good answers.

 

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