Explanation

 

1/18/19

 

The opening of the Empire State building coincided with the start of the Great Depression. As a result, much of the new skyscrapers’ office space remained empty for months.

 

A. NO CHANGE
B. skyscraper’s
C. skyscrapers
D. skyscrapers’s

 

The sentence makes it clear that the underlined noun is referring to the Empire State Building — that’s one skyscraper, singular. (A) can be eliminated because -s + apostrophe is used to make a plural noun possessive, and (C) can be eliminated because an -s without an apostrophe makes a noun plural. (D) can be eliminated because the construction -s + apostrophes + -s is used only to form the possessive of singular nouns that already end in -s  (e.g., the dress’s buttons). Skyscrapers’s does not exist.  That leaves (B), which correctly forms the singular possessive by adding apostrophe + -s. (Skyscraper’s office space = office space in the skyscraper) .

 


 

1/17/19

 

The koala, which is found in coastal areas of the Australian mainland’s eastern and southern regions, can be easily recognized by its stout, tail-less body; large head, and spoon-shaped nose.

 

A. NO CHANGE
B. stout, tail-less, body, large head, and spoon-shaped nose.
C. stout, tail-less body, large head, and spoon-shaped nose.
D. stout, tail-less body, large head, and, spoon-shaped nose.

 

When it comes to separating items in a list, commas are almost always the correct option on the SAT and ACT. Nevertheless, either commas or semicolons are grammatically acceptable (semicolons are typically used for clarity when items are long). The only rule is that all the items must separated by the same type of punctuation — commas and semicolons cannot be mixed and matched. In this case, (A) contains a mix of commas and semicolons, and so it can be eliminated. (D) is incorrect because no comma should be placed after and; a comma can only be placed before this word. Be careful with (B): this answer uses commas to separate all of the items, but it also adds an extra, incorrect comma between the adjective tail-less and the noun body — and as a rule, no comma should ever be placed between an adjective and the noun it modifies. Note that this answer is tricky because the first item consists of two adjectives (stout and tail-less) modifying a noun, whereas the other items consist of one adjective (large, spoon-shaped). As a result, it’s easy to lose track of all the commas. (C) is correct because it places a comma alone between each item in the list and does not place a comma between any adjective and noun.

 


 

1/16/19

 

In ancient Mesopotamia, myths were recorded on clay tablets that writers ascribed with cuneiform derived from Sumerian pictographs. The decision to use clay for a writing surface was ingenious: other writing surfaces people have used in the past deteriorate easily, but not clay, which has proven to be the most durable writing surface ever used.

 

A. NO CHANGE
B. inscribed
C. subscribed
D. prescribed

 

Consider the context of the underlined word: the sentence is talking about ancient writing, specifically about recording myths on clay tablets. Logically, the word in question must mean something like “engraved” or “marked.” The only word to fit that definition is inscribed, making (B) the answer. Ascribed means “attributed,” subscribed means “signed up,” and “prescribed” means “authorize a course of action or treatment.”

 


 

1/15/19

 

Not only have amateur astronomers contributed to many important discoveries, but astronomy also remains one of the few sciences in which non-professionals can still play an active role for.

 

A. NO CHANGE
B. in which non-professionals can still play an active role.
C. where non-professionals can still play an active role.
D. that non-professionals can still play an active role.

 

The phrase play an active role is followed by the preposition in, so that preposition — and that preposition only — must appear in the sentence. (A) correctly includes in but then adds a second, unnecessary, preposition (for) at the end of the sentence. (C) is incorrect because where is not an acceptable alternative to in which here: it should only be used to refer to places (physical locations), and astronomy is scientific field rather than a literal place. (D) is incorrect because the preposition in is omitted: in everyday English, it would be acceptable to say …one of the few sciences that non-professionals can still play an active role in, but the preposition is absolutely required. (B) correctly uses in which to refer a field of study: non-professionals can still play an active role in astronomy = astronomy is a field in which non-scientists can still play an active role.

 


 

1/14/19

 

Since the early twentieth century, the advertising industry has been a major cultural and economic force, involving almost every form of popular media. The most common goal of advertising is to drive consumer behavior toward a commercial offering, however, political advertising, which aims to convince voters to favor a particular candidate, occurs frequently as well.

 

A. NO CHANGE
B. offering, however
C. offering however,
D. offering; however,

 

This question plays on the fact that however has two different grammatical uses that are punctuated two different ways. It can be used non-essentially, in which case it is surrounded by commas, or it can be used to begin a clause, in which case it is placed after a semicolon or period. Note that there is no “one comma” option, either before or after. (B) and (C) are purely “placeholder” answers that stand no chance of being correct. If you’re not sure how however is being used in this sentence, try treating it like a non-essential word and cross it out: The most common goal of advertising is to drive consumer behavior toward a commercial offering…political advertising, which aims to convince voters to favor a particular candidate, occurs frequently as well. No, that’s clearly a run-on. It makes much more sense if the semicolon is used to establish two separate sentences: The most common goal of advertising is to drive consumer behavior toward a commercial offering; however, political advertising, which aims to convince voters to favor a particular candidate, occurs frequently as well. That makes (D) the answer.

 


 

1/13/19

 

Best known as an artist and photographer, Carrie Mae Weems’s first camera was used for political purposes, taking advantage of her position as a union organizer to document the 1960s labor movement.

 

A. NO CHANGE
B. Best known as an artist and photographer, Carrie Mae Weems used her first camera for political purposes and
C. Carrie Mae Weems, who was best known as an artist and photographer, used her first camera for political purposes,
D. First used for political purposes, Carrie Mae Weems was best known as an artist and photographer,

 

Who was best known as an artist and photographer? Carrie Mae Weems, not Carrie Mae Weems’s camera, as (A) states. Because Carrie Mae Weems, the subject, does not immediately follow the description that precedes it, this answer contains a dangling modifier. (D) contains the same error in reverse: the introductory phrase Used for political purposes clearly describes Weeems’s camera rather than Weems herself. Be careful with (B): this answer does not contain any dangling modification, but when it is plugged in, it creates a different problem: in order for the sentence to be grammatically acceptable, and must be followed by a conjugated verb (Carrie Mae Weems used her first camera for political purposes and took advantage of her position) rather than an -ING word, as is the case here. Although it has a slightly more complex structure than the other answers, (B) is correct. You can test out this answer by removing the non-essential clause to simplify it: Carrie Mae Weems…used her first camera for political purposes, taking advantage of her position as a union organizer to document the 1960s labor movement. Because the sentence makes sense without the clause, it is acceptable. In addition, the -ING word (participle) taking is correctly used to join the underlined portion of the sentence to the last, non-underlined phrase.

 


 

1/12/19

 

When Frank Gehry and his wife bought an existing home in 1977 in Santa Monica, California, the neighbors did not have the slightest idea that the corner residence would soon become an architectural landmark. Gehry, however, wanted to transform the house. His solution was daring for the 1970: he cut walls, dropped ceilings, and wove the remains with a new architectural framework. From the moment the house was built, Gehry’s neighbors were furious, and controversy ensued.

 

The writer is considering adding the following phrase to the end of the underlined sentence (placing a period after mesh).

 

made of industrial shell plywood, glass wire, galvanized metal and metal mesh.

 

Should the writer make this addition there?

 

A. Yes, because it provides specific details that help the reader picture the house.
B. Yes, because it explains why Gehry chose such unconventional materials for the renovation.
C. No, because it fails to describe the house’s appearance before Gehry transformed it.
D. No, because it blurs the paragraph’s focus on the reaction of Gehry’s neighbors to the house.

 

Start by focusing on the information the phrase provides: it’s a list of the unconventional materials Gehry used to create his new architectural framework. In other words, it adds specific and relevant detail, which is almost a sign that a statement should be added. And indeed, neither of the “No” options fits: the underlined sentence focuses on the house’s new appearance, so its old appearance isn’t relevant in this particular spot. That eliminates (C). (D) can be eliminated because the fact that Gehyr’s neighbors were angry is just dropped in at the end of the paragraph — it’s not the main focus. (B) is incorrect as well: the phrase to be added only indicates the materials that Gehry used to renovate the house — it says nothing about why he chose them. (A) is correct because the list of materials provides readers with a more specific sense of the house’s unusual appearance and thus helps them to picture it.

 


 

1/11/19

 

Although it was not the first satellite to be launched, Vanguard 1 was still a remarkable achievement. In addition to demonstrating the technology of a new launcher system, the ground station network, and solar cells, the satellite showed how our planet bulges out around the equator. Equipped with an instrument to measure atmospheric density, it provided the first-ever measurements of the Earth’s tenuous outer atmosphere and an estimate of the number of micrometeorites surrounding the planet – all vital information for future spacecraft.

 

Based on information in the passage, Vanguard 1 was a “remarkable achievement” because it

 

A. demonstrated the tenuousness of the Earth’s atmosphere.
B. revealed a lack of uniformity in the earth’s shape.
C. provided an estimate of the number of micrometeorites in space.
D. measured the power generated by solar cells on Earth.

 

Be very careful with (A): the passage only states that Vanguard I provided the first-ever measurements of the Earth’s tenuous (fragile) outer atmosphere — the achievement was that it measured the atmosphere, not that it demonstrated that the atmosphere was tenuous. (Even if you do not know the definition of tenuous, you can avoid this trap.) (C) is far, far too broad: the passage does state that Vanguard 1 provided…an estimate of the number of micrometeorites, but only those surrounding Earth (the planet), not those in space as a whole. (D) does not fit either because the passage only mentions that Vanguard 1 demonstrated…the technology of solar cells — it says nothing about measuring the power of the energy generated by those cells. (B) is correct because it is directly supported by the statement that the satellite showed how our planet bulges out around the equator. Something that is uniform is consistent or the same, and by definition a planet that “bulges out” lacks a uniform shape.

 


 

1/10/19

 

Scientists have known for many years that caffeine stimulates the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which produces the euphoria and pleasant feelings that people often associate to their first cup of coffee in the morning.

 

A. NO CHANGE
B. with
C. on
D. DELETE the underlined word.

 

The correct idiom is associate with; any preposition other than with is incorrect, , and removing the preposition entirely creates an ungrammatical construction. That makes (B) correct.

 


 

1/9/19

 

The ninebanded armadillo has two methods of walking through water for short distances, it can walk underwater holding its breath for as long as six minutes, and for long distances, it can increase its buoyancy by swallowing air to inflate its stomach.

 

A. NO CHANGE
B. water, for short distances,
C. water. For short distances,
D. water for short distances

 

The key to answering this question is to recognize that this “sentence” is actually two sentences. The construction comma + it, which appears at the end of the underlined portion, signals a comma splice — two complete sentences separated by only a comma. As a result, (A) is incorrect. (B) creates a comma splice as well; it merely moves the comma. This answer can also be eliminated based on the “no comma before a preposition (for) rule.” (D) is incorrect because it fails to place any punctuation at all between the two sentences. (C) moves the phrase for short distances from the end of the first sentence to the beginning of the second in order to create a parallel structure in the second sentence (for short distances…for long distances) and correctly uses a period to separate the two sentences.

 


 

1/8/19

 

Problems with food safety can dissuade people from buying and weaken consumer trust in a particular type of food; however, manufacturers and distributors stand to gain from ensuring that the food system is safe.

 

A. NO CHANGE
B. therefore,
C. nevertheless,
D. moreover,

 

Don’t get distracted by the transition in the original version — ignore it and focus on the relationship between the statements before and after the transition. The sentence is essentially saying that 1) problems with food safety cause consumers to stop buying a given food; and 2) manufacturers and distributors stand to gain from ensuring that the food system is safe. Logically, the second idea is the result of the first: food-safety problems lead to decreased sales, SO manufacturers and distributors would want to prevent those problems (i.e., ensure food safety). The only transition to indicate a cause-and-effect relationship is therefore, making the answer (B). However and nevertheless are used to signal contrasting ideas, and moreover is used to connect two similar ideas only — there is no cause-and-effect implication.

 


 

1/7/19

 

Swimming with wildlife can be a life-changing experience. Tiny seahorses delight travelers with their strangely curled tails and bright camouflage while dolphins, which mesmerize onlookers with their acrobatic tricks, keen intelligence, and shiny coats.

 

A. NO CHANGE
B. dolphins they mesmerize onlookers with their acrobatic tricks,
C. dolphins that mesmerize onlookers, with their acrobatic tricks
D. dolphins mesmerize onlookers with their acrobatic tricks,

 

The commas surrounding which mesmerize onlookers with their acrobatic tricks suggest that this statement is functioning as a non-essential clause, but when it is crossed out, the sentence that remains does not make any sense: while dolphins…keen intelligence, and shiny coats. That eliminates (A). (B) can be crossed out because the construction dolphins they mesmerize is not acceptable in standard English — it is incorrect for a noun to be immediately followed by a pronoun referring to it. (C) also creates an ungrammatical construction: the verb mesmerize “belongs” to the subject that rather than to its intended subject, dolphins. In addition, the placement of a comma before a preposition (with) is wrong, as is the missing comma after tricks (necessary to separate acrobatic tricks from the other items in the list). (D) correctly pairs mesmerize with its subject, dolphins and places the required comma after tricks, making it the answer.

 


 

1/6/19

 

The current world record for pumpkin growing is held by Beni Meier, a Swiss accountant who grew a pumpkin that weighs in at 2,323.7 pounds – roughly the same as a small car.

 

A. NO CHANGE
B. pounds. Roughly
C. pounds, this is roughly
D. pounds; roughly

 

This is the rare sentence in which one dash does not signal the need for a second dash. Rather, the single dash after pounds is acceptable because it is used to create a dramatic pause between the  the pumpkin’s weight and the fact that it is comparable to a small car. Even if you’re not sure about that usage, (B) and (D) can be eliminated automatically because a period and a semicolon are interchangeable, and no question can have more than one right answer. (Grammatically, answers are also wrong because a period and a semicolon can only be used to divide two sentences, and roughly the same size as a small car is not a sentence.) (C) can be eliminated because it creates a comma splice — two complete sentences separated by only a comma. In addition, it fails to place a noun after this, a construction that virtually always signals an incorrect answer.

 


 

1/5/19

 

For decades, imaginative engineers and policymakers have dreamt of ways to send human beings to Mars. Some proposals were designed only to inspire. Others truly aimed to put boots on the Martian surface. But they all have one thing in common: they’ve never left the drawing board.

 

As it is used in the passage, “aimed” most nearly means

 

A. directed
B. struggled
C. propelled
D. attempted

 

Given the passage’s focus on people’s desire to go to Mars, aimed must mean something like “had the goal of,” or “were intended to.” If it seems like too much of a leap from that definition to “attempted,” the correct answer, you can play process of elimination. Based on the context of the passage, the correct answer must be positive, so (B), “struggled,” can be eliminated. Next, plug in:  it  does not make any sense to say Others truly directed to put boots on the Martian surface, so (A) can be crossed out as well. “Propelled” means “launched through the air,” and while it might be logical to describe the movement of an actual spaceship that way, it does not make any sense to refer to the goal of a proposal that way. That again leaves (D), which is correct.

 


 

1/4/19

 

Merlin Tuttle, one of the world’s most respected experts on bats and the author of The Secret Lives Of Bats: My Adventures With The Most Misunderstood Mammals, aims to demand popular misconceptions about these often-feared denizens of the night. His work focuses on helping people understand that bats are highly beneficial creatures that make safe neighbors for anyone who leaves them alone.

 

A. NO CHANGE
B. challenge
C. surpass
D. beat

 

The information provided by the two sentences indicates that Tuttle has a positive view of bats (His work focuses on helping people understand that bats highly beneficial creatures). Given that context, Tuttle would logically be opposed to the popular misconception of bats as feared creatures. The only option that conveys that meaning in an idiomatically acceptable manner is (B): to “challenge” a misconception” is to question or refute it. The other options have literal meanings that are generally related to challenging but are not idiomatically correct.

 


 

1/3/19

 

In the 1950s, television was the hot technology of the day. While just 9 percent of homes in the United States boasted a TV set in 1950, 56 percent had owned one by 1954, and sales continued to boom for the following decade.

 

A. NO CHANGE
B. have owned
C. owned
D. own

 

The presence of dates in the past (1950, 1954), as well as the fact that the surrounding verbs are in the past tense (was, boasted, continued), indicate that the underlined verb should be in the past as well. Although the original version uses the past tense, it is the wrong kind of past tense. When a sentence refers to two finished actions in the past, the past perfect (had owned) should only be used to refer to the action that came first. In this case, that tense is incorrectly used to refer to the action that came second: 1954 happened after 1950 . (B) is incorrect because the present perfect (have + verb) is used to describe an action that began in the past but is continuing into the present, but the date 1954 clearly indicates that this action ended in the past. Own is in the present, so (D) can be eliminated as well. (C) is correct because owned is in the simple past, which is consistent with the other verbs in the sentence.

 


 

1/2/19

 

Astronomers hunting for planets outside our solar system keep finding them in the most unexpected places. There are boiling hot Jupiters that hug their stars, rocky worlds like Earth that spin around multiple suns and even rogue planets that sail unbounded through the galaxy. Now, astronomers using a gravitational magnifying glass have found a Venus-like planet orbiting a “failed star”—a massive but incredibly dim brown dwarf. This rarely seen pairing offers clues to the way planets and moons form, which may in turn help in the quest to find habitable worlds, whether they are Earth-like planets or life-friendly moons.

 

The passage suggests that the discovery of a Venus-like planet orbiting a “failed star”

 

A. is a highly infrequent occurrence.
B. definitively accounts for how planets and moons form.
C. could happen again in the near future.
D. might explain why moons can resemble planets.

 

The phrase this rarely seen pairing refers to the Venus-like planet and the failed star. It indicates that these types of bodies are not normally found next to one another – by definition, then, they would be discovered “infrequently. That makes the answer (A). B is incorrect because it’s too strong; the passage only states that the discovery may offer clues to how planets form. (C) is exactly the opposite of what the passage states: if Venus-like planets and failed stars don’t normally appear next to one another, scientists probably won’t find another example anytime soon. (D) is incorrect because the passage only states that moons can be habitable. It says nothing about moons resembling planets.

 


 

1/1/19

 

Increasingly, we are learning that humans and animals are not the only organisms that use sound to communicate. Plants and forests use them as well. Plants detect vibrations in a frequency-selective manner, using this “hearing” sense to find water by sending out acoustic emissions and to communicate threats.

 

A. NO CHANGE
B. it
C. some
D. these

 

What do plants and forests use as well? The answer is in the previous sentence: sound, singular. As a result, a singular pronoun (it) must be used. Them, some, and these are all plural, eliminating (A), (C) and (D). Only (B) correctly provides a singular pronoun.

 

 


 

 

 

Looking for more practice? Check out the Quizzes and the Question of the Day Archives:

 

January
February
March
April
May
June
July
August
September
October
November
December

 

 

And for additional practice, Critical Reader Books include hundreds of practice questions and explanations.