Text of an SAT question:

1) Shoppers in the United States beware—there's a new way to buy groceries, and it's coming to a store near you. (2) As recently as 1999, only 6% of U.S. supermarkets had self-checkout lines. (3) By 2003 the number had risen to 38%. (4) And half of those supermarkets in the survey without self-checkout said that they planned to add the service. (5) Hardware giant Home Depot was among the first major retailers to use these machines.

(6) I remember when I first took the self-checkout plunge. (7) It was a large chain supermarket near my office. (8) One day I noticed four large electronic units taking up prime space in a prominent corner of the store, beckoning shoppers with the promise of shorter lines. (9) I was attracted, not fearful. (10) It's so easy to let the cashier scan the groceries, check the coupons, take the money—was I up to the challenge of do-it-yourself? (11) I saw myself all elbows and thumbs, fumbling with my groceries and wallet as I battled the flashing computer screen. (12) Circumstances were driving me to face my fears. (13) When I at last approached the head of my line, the cashier announced it was time for her break.

In context, which of the following is the best phrase to insert at the beginning of sentence 12?

(A) But as it turned out,
(B) In addition,
(C) The result was that
(D) In most cases,
(E) I remembered that

I think the best answer is choice E. "I remembered that" would be a good phrase to insert at the beginning of sentence 12 as this is an event that he recalls. If A. is the correct answer, the narrator intends to say the contrary. But "face my fears" contradicts nothing, correct?

I was told that the correct answer is A. Why is A correct?

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    Hi Ben, right now this just looks like a homework question that you just want us to answer for you. Can you provide some information about what you think the correct answer is and why? – Hellion Aug 1 '14 at 22:10
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    Its a pretty bad question. I don't get why sentence 12 is talking about "facing fears" when sentence 9 says that the author was not fearful! I know it is multiple choice, but I would remove sentence 12 and add choice A onto the start of 13. – Phil Aug 1 '14 at 22:53
  • @Hellion I think choice E. "I remember that" would be a good phrase to insert at the beginning of sentence 12 as this is an event that he recalls. If A. is the correct answer, the narrator intends to say the contrary. "face my fears" contradicts nothing, correct? – user8959 Aug 2 '14 at 0:18
  • Thanks Ben, that's good extra info. I've edited your comment into the question proper so that people don't need to read down into the comments section to get the complete question. If you'd like to make further changes, feel free to click on the 'edit' link. :-) – Hellion Aug 2 '14 at 0:30

I agree with @Phil's comment: as transcribed, the story contradicts itself. If sentence 9 were intended as "I was attracted, but fearful" it would make more sense.

If we ignore sentence 9's conflicting information, though, the narrator is recalling a sequence of events:

  • he sees some self-checkout machines (8)
  • he thinks of how the normal checkout process goes (10, "it's so easy")
  • he envisions himself trying to use the machines (11)
  • he thinks he would be clumsy, slow and confused (11, "all elbows and thumbs... fumbling .. as I battled")
  • he gets into a normal line (inferred from 13)
  • the cashier leaves without serving him (13).

So (ignoring sentence 9), sentence 11 establishes that he fears dealing with the self-checkout machines. But, at the end of sentence 13, he has no other option but to go try them anyway. Speaking to us now about what happened in the past ("as it turned out"), he can see that there was a 'contradictory' event: he didn't want to use them but he ended up having to use them. So option A does fit there.

Option E, on the other hand, does not fit because the use of the past tense "I remembered that" implies that the narrator knew at that time (that is, while he was standing in line waiting for the cashier to get to him) that he would be forced to use the self-checkout machines, which clearly should not be the case, because he was in a line with a cashier and expected to have that cashier handle his checkout process.

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  • does "I remember that" always imply that the narrator knew at that time about what would happen? – user8959 Aug 2 '14 at 1:11
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    It's "I remembered that" (past tense), but yes; if he's narrating a sequence of events, then him saying "I remembered that" is including the act of remembering as an event in the story. (If he says "I remember that", it's kind of pointless, because he's telling you the story already so it's pretty clear already that he's remembering it in order to tell it to you.) – Hellion Aug 2 '14 at 1:24
  • This is a very well-thought-out answer. :) – BobRodes Aug 2 '14 at 5:16