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The following text has been taken from the Chinese college entrance exam:

Two weeks earlier, my son, Ben, had got in touch. He'd moved to England with his mum when he was three and it had been 13 years since I'd last seen him. So imagine my [blank] when he emailed me saying he wanted to come visit me. I was [blank]!

The options for the first blank were:

A) Delight

B) Relief

C) Anger

D) Worry

The options for the second blank were:

A) Scared

B) Shocked

C) Thrilled

D) Ashamed

The correct answer for the first blank is A) Delight and the second blank is C) Thrilled.

I also agree with both, but on the first blank I believe that B) Relief should also be possible, if the second blank was C) thrilled, because (I assume) a father will probably worry, feel some pain, feel a bit distressed or of course miss his son, if he hasn't seen him in 13 years.

I mean, you could also choose D) Worry and A) Scared, since that also pairs with each other, correct? (Just like how you pair A) Delight and C) Thrilled with each other)

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  • You only feel relief because the thing that you are consciously aware/scared/afraid of, disappears/fades/ceases. With delight typically comes surprise; he wasn't expecting to receive a message from his son saying that he is coming back (He could of during the 13 years but there was no guarantee) and so when his son finally emailed him it was with surprise and delight. They typically go together e.g. what a delightful surprise.
    – aesking
    Jun 9, 2018 at 20:16
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because the way a candidate is expected to rule out the incorrect answers is partly opinion based. Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will be based on the opinions of the people setting the exam rather than general language requirements. / Though (A) is undoubtedly the answer they want, (B) is not unreasonable given extra context (which 'Two weeks earlier' demands there is). Jun 9, 2018 at 21:17
  • @Edwin if only I could say that to the exam board / moderators who marks my English essays/work: "answers to this question will be based on the opinions of the people setting the exam rather than general language requirements". I couldn't, no matter how right you are :P
    – aesking
    Jun 9, 2018 at 21:35
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    I would definitely also go for delight and thrilled, but I just looked at the questions more critically and saw that it might be interpreted in a different way which would leave room for different answers, which, as a result, might cause confusion. Additionally, students who interpreted it in the way the exam makers had not intended it to be might be disadvantaged because of it. Jun 9, 2018 at 22:46
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    Oh I see, thanks for pointing that out, get to learn something new everyday. Jun 9, 2018 at 23:07

1 Answer 1

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In English exams, you must take everything in the text literally. If it is not explicitly mentioned in the text, the answer is usually wrong.

The word "thrilled" means that the narrator is happy, eliminating options C) Anger and D) Worry. The reason why option B) Relief is wrong is because nowhere in the text is it mentioned that the father is worried. An explanation for answer A) Delight is directly in the text: "I was thrilled!"

Whilst you can be correct that the father is worried, because there is no textual evidence to back up that claim, the answer has to be wrong.


EDIT: Thanks to aesking for pointing this out, "thrilled" has both a positive and a negative connotation. The positive connotation was the one I was familiar with, and the one I believe the question meant.

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  • Gave it a +1. But, actually thrilled is a double-edged sword. It can also mean (of an emotion or sensation) pass with a nervous tremor. E.g. the shock of alarm thrilled through her". I think this was the original meaning until it started to become idiomatic to use it to refer to happiness; so there is nothing explicit imo.
    – aesking
    Jun 9, 2018 at 20:46
  • It's called amelioration (similar: english.stackexchange.com/questions/38606/…)
    – aesking
    Jun 9, 2018 at 20:49
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    Ah, I've never heard of the word being used in such a sense before, and only knew of the positive connotation.
    – Klyzx
    Jun 9, 2018 at 21:21
  • May I add that the word 'thrilled' was originally a blank, with the options 'Scared', 'Shocked', 'Thrilled' and 'Ashamed'. I added thrilled there because it's obviously the one pairing with A) Delight. This means that there's no direct explanation for answer A) Delight, unless you also choose 'Thrilled' to be in that gap. I mean, you could also choose D) Worry and 'Scared', since that also pairs with each other, correct? (I will add this info to the original question). Jun 9, 2018 at 22:15
  • @JacobdeNeur Ah, that certainly makes the case more difficult, and that means it would be possible to argue for multiple combinations of words to be correct.
    – Klyzx
    Jun 9, 2018 at 22:20

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