I'm just going to give my personal answer as US native speaker. When I feel sympathy, I am still viewing the situation from the outside. When I feel empathy, I actually am role-playing the other person in my mind.
For example: I'm a man. When my wife tells me about the labor pains she experienced giving birth, I can feel sympathy, but I can't experience empathy because I've never experienced labor pains.
However, when she tells me about the pain she had from a kidney stone, I've had a kidney stone myself and I can experience empathy! (Ow!)
I'm glad Mikkel found the original context, and I agree with him that it is a terrible question. It is as if the test writer looked for a passage containing the word "sympathy" and didn't actually understand the way the word was being used themselves. However, as a fairly good "test-taker" I think I would have chosen "sympathy" as the correct answer because it is a possible fit and I don't think empathy is.