In the previous Sentence Correction post, we saw how it is important to listen for structure in order to get SC questions on the GMAT right. We took one type of structure, which involves making the right comparison, and saw how it is tested on the GMAT. Let us look at a few more questions of the same type but varying difficulty levels.
Unlike Schoenberg’s 12-tone system that dominated the music of the postwar period, Bartok founded no school and left behind only a handful of disciples.
(A) Schoenberg’s 12-tone system that dominated
(B) Schoenberg and his 12-tone system which dominated
(C) Schoenberg, whose 12-tone system dominated
(D) the 12-tone system of Schoenberg that has dominated
(E) Schoenberg and the 12-tone system, dominating
In this question, the original sentence sentence incorrectly compares Schoenberg’s 12-tone system with Bartok; the correct option has to compare Schoenberg to Bartok, which only option (C) does. The sentence is relatively short and the comparison is easy to identify so this is an easy question that can be solved in around 45 seconds.
Unlike the conviction held by many of her colleagues that genes were relatively simple and static, Barbara McClintock adhered to her own more complicated ideas about how genes might operate, and in 1983, at the age of 81, was awarded a Nobel Prize for her discovery that the genes in corn are capable of moving from one chromosomal site to another.
(A) Unlike the conviction held by many of her colleagues that genes were
(B) Although many of her colleagues were of the conviction of genes being
(C) Contrary to many of her colleagues being convinced that genes were
(D) Even though many of her colleagues were convinced that genes were
(E) Even with many of her colleagues convinced of genes being
This sentence is longer but the part that needs to be corrected is relatively short. Here, the original sentence makes the mistake of comparing the ‘conviction’ to a person, Barbara McClintock. So the subject of the underlined part has to be her ‘colleagues’ and not their ‘conviction’. All options correct that error. B and E incorrectly use ‘of’ with conviction; it has to be ‘that’. C is incorrect since the ‘being convinced that…’ is incorrect; it should have been ‘who were convinced that’. Hence, (E) is the right option.
By quickly identifying this as a comparison question, test-takers could have avoided reading the part of the sentence after Barbara McClintock and crashed the solving time to under a minute.
Unlike most warbler species, the male and female blue-winged warbler are very difficult to tell apart.
(A) Unlike most warbler species, the male and female blue-winged warbler are very difficult to tell apart.
(B) Unlike most warbler species, the gender of the blue-winged warbler is very difficult to distinguish.
(C) Unlike those in most warbler species, the male and female blue-winged warblers are very difficult to distinguish.
(D) It is very difficult, unlike in most warbler species, to tell the male and female blue-winged warbler apart.
(E) Blue-winged warblers are unlike most species of warbler in that it is very difficult to tell the male and female apart.
This is a question that most test-takers get wrong even after knowing the rule. It requires test-takers to apply the rule of comparison as precisely as possible.
In (A) the species as a whole is compared to the male and and female. In (B) the species is compared to the gender.
(C) is the option most test-takers choose since it sounds flawless. The correct sentence should have read, “unlike those in most warbler species, the male and female in the blue-winged warbler…”, unlike those in X, those in Y (not Y). (D) also makes the same mistake.
Since none of the first four options is making the right comparison, (E) has to be the answer. On the GMAT, if you can eliminate four options with precision then even if you are not sure about the last option you should still go ahead and mark it — this applies to not just SC but also to Critical Reasoning and Reading Comprehension.
But option (E) is a bit non-standard in that it uses a less used phrase in that. The moment test-takers read option (E), they reject it straightaway by applying various labels to it like wordy or sounds awkward, while in fact it does not break any rule and makes the right comparison.
The real reason test-takers reject it is because it is unfamiliar but unfamiliar does not mean incorrect. This is a big lesson on the GMAT SC, if you know for a fact that an option is breaking a rule then do not go ahead and still choose it just because the correct option sounds unfamiliar.
The last question is an example of how our ears, used to spoken English, can lead us to the wrong option when it comes to higher-level GMAT questions. This is also precisely the reason why even test-takers who feel they are good at English can end up with a score below their expectations.