Explanations July

 

 

7/31/20

 

For years, Stefan Strumbel, a street artist born and raised in the small city of Offenburg, Germany, has wrestled with the idea of “heimat”—a German word that translates loosely as “homeland”—and how his art should reflect it. That’s one reason, he says that he decided to stop painting graffiti and focus on cuckoo clocks instead.

 

A. NO CHANGE
B. reason he says, that
C. reason, he says, that
D. reason he says that,

 

As a general rule, a comma should not be placed before the word that; however, this question involves an exception. The most logical grammatical “interpretation” of the sentence is that he says is used as a non-essential clause because when that phrase is crossed out, the sentence still makes sense: That’s one reason…that he decided to stop painting graffiti.... As a result, a comma is required both before and after he says, making the answer (C). Otherwise, all of the other options create illogical breaks in the sentence.

 


 

7/30/20

 

Before publishing Silent Spring, the book that flung the modern environmental movement, Rachel Carson was a well-known author of beautifully descriptive books about marine life, including The Sea Around Us, which became a surprise hit after it was published in 1951.

 

A. NO CHANGE
B. hurled
C. launched
D. tossed

 

Saying that a movement was launched is another way of saying that it began. The other options are idiomatically unacceptable in this context. (C) is thus correct.

 


 

7/29/20

 

Because the Hollywood sign is so famous today, it may be surprising to learn that it wasn’t until fairly recently that it achieved its iconic status. In the 1930s and 1940s, however, the sign made an appearance in only a few of the movies that were about Hollywood or the movie industry. Other Hollywood institutions, like the Brown Derby restaurant, tended to represent the film world.

 

A. NO CHANGE
B. for example,
C. therefore,
D. likewise,

 

The underlined transition is placed between two commas in the middle of a sentence, so it serves to indicate the relationship between the sentence in which it appears and a previous statement — NOT two parts of the same sentence. With that information in mind, start by ignoring the original transition so that you don’t get distracted by it, and focus on the relationship between the information that comes before. The beginning of the passage states that the Hollywood sign didn’t become famous until fairly recently. The sentence that follows indicates that the Hollywood sign made an appearance in only a few films about the movie industry. Those are similar ideas, so (A) can be eliminated. (C) does not fit because the sign’s appearance in only a few films in the 1930s and ’40s is not a result of the fact that it didn’t become “iconic” until recently. (D) can also be eliminated because the sentence with the transition is not presenting a second example or situation that is similar to a first. Rather, the Hollywood sign’s infrequent appearance in old movies is cited as a single example of its relative obscurity. That makes (B) correct.

 


 

7/28/20

 

It turns out that water worlds may be some of the worst places to look for living things. One recent study shows how a planet covered in oceans could be starved of phosphorus, a nutrient without which earthly life cannot thrive. Other work concludes that a planet swamped in even deeper water would be geologically dead, lacking any of the planetary processes that nurture life on Earth.

 

A. NO CHANGE
B. it
C. this
D. DELETE the underlined word.

 

(A) is correct because which is the only option that creates a sentence that is both grammatical and logical. Replacing which with it creates a jumbled, nonsense clause (a nutrient without it earthly life cannot thrive), eliminating (B). (C) does not work grammatically or logically. The sentence consists of an independent clause (One recent study shows how a planet covered in oceans could be starved of phosphorus) followed by a comma; in order to avoid a comma splice, the following clause must be dependent. Replacing which with this creates an independent clause (a nutrient without this earthly life cannot thrive) and thus a comma splice. In addition, this construction implies that phosphorous is this earthly life, a meaning that is somewhat bizarre. (D) is incorrect because the phrase after the comma no longer refers back to phosphorous if the underlined pronoun is removed (a nutrient without earthly life cannot thrive) — a pronoun is required to “tie” the two parts of the sentence together. (A) correctly provides that pronoun, making it the answer.

 


 

7/27/20

 

In 1934, Babe Ruth and his American teammates embarked on an 18-game tour of Japan. Swatting 13 home runs, waving American and Japanese flags, clowning with kids, and he even donned a kimono, the Babe won the hearts and minds of the Japanese people.

 

A. NO CHANGE
B. even donning
C. even to don
D. even don

 

The underlined section is part of the fourth item in a list. The previous items begin with -ING words (swatting, waving, clowning), so the final item must begin that way as well. Only (B) contains this construction, so it is correct.

 


 

7/26/20

 

Our relationship with horses is distinct from our relationships with cats and dogs; horses sit at the intersection of being wild and domesticated and don’t fit easily into the category of pet. Perhaps this difference also has to do with its large size, which creates an element of danger.

 

A. NO CHANGE
B. it’s
C. their
D. they’re

 

To identify the noun to which the underlined pronoun refers (i.e., the antecedent), you must back up to the previous sentence. The only noun that fits is horses, plural — it would not make sense for its to refer to the singular noun difference. As a result, a plural pronoun is required, eliminating (A) and (B). (D) is incorrect as well because you would not say, Perhaps this difference also has to do with they are large size. That leaves (C), which correctly provides the plural possessive, their. Their large size = the large size of horses.

 


 

7/25/20

 

Recently, I did something that many people would consider unthinkable, or at least very strange. Before going to see a movie, I deliberately read a review that revealed all of the major plot points, from start to finish.

 

A. NO CHANGE
B. movie, I deliberately: read a review that
C. movie I deliberately read a review, that
D. movie, I deliberately read a review

 

(B) is incorrect because a complete, standalone sentence must be placed before a colon, and Before going to see a movie, I deliberately is clearly not a complete sentence. (C) is incorrect because as a general rule, no comma should be placed before the word that. (D) makes sense on its own, but the removal of that creates a nonsense construction when this answer is plugged into the passage: Before going to see a movie, I deliberately read a review revealed all the major plot points... (A) is correct because it places a comma between a dependent clause (Before going to see a movie) and an independent clause (I deliberately read a review that revealed all the major plot points, from start to finish), without adding any unnecessary punctuation.

 


 

7/24/20

 

For centuries people set their clocks and watches by looking up at the sun and estimating, a tradition that led to wildly dissimilar results between (and often within) cities and towns. To railroad companies around the world, that wasn’t acceptable. They needed synchronized, predictable station times for arrivals and departures, so they proposed splitting up the globe into 24 time zones.

 

Which of the following would NOT be an acceptable alternative to the underlined word?

 

A. produced
B. created
C. resulted
D. yielded

 

Be careful when plugging in the options: produced, created, and yielded all fit, as does resulted in; however, (C) only includes the verb, and it is idiomatically incorrect to say a tradition that resulted wildly dissimilar results. Because the question asks you to identify the answer that is NOT acceptable, (C) is correct.

 


 

7/23/20

 

When the radio became prevalent in the 1930s, Orson Welles perpetrated a famous hoax about extraterrestrials with his infamous “War of the Worlds” program. This broadcast didn’t actually cause widespread fear of an alien invasion among listeners, as some have claimed; however, they did spark a national conversation about mass media and audience gullibility.

 

A. NO CHANGE
B. it
C. these
D. DELETE the underlined word.

 

The answer choices contain both singular and plural pronouns, indicating that the question is testing pronoun agreement. As a result, you must start by identifying the underlined pronoun’s antecedent — that is, the noun to which it refers. Although the first half of the sentence does contain a plural noun (listeners), this does not make sense as the antecedent of the underlined word — listeners did not spark a national conversation. Both they and these are plural, so (A) and (C) can be eliminated. (D) does not work because the underlined pronoun cannot be deleted without creating a nonsense construction: a semicolon must be followed by a complete sentence, and removing the pronoun means removing the subject. (B) is correct because the logical antecedent of the underlined pronoun is the singular noun broadcast. (What sparked a national conversation about media and mass gullibility? This broadcast.)

 


 

7/22/20

 

Based in Mexico City, the artist known only as Curiot is famous for his colorful paintings featuring mythical half-animal, half-human figures. Most of which are rooted in Mexican tradition and depicted with meticulous detail, geometrical patterns, and vibrant hues.

 

A. NO CHANGE
B. figures. Most of these creatures
C. figures, with most of these creatures
D. figures, most of them

 

(A) is incorrect because pronoun + of which (most of which) signals a dependent clause and cannot be used to begin a sentence. (C) is incorrect because the idiomatic structure is with…-ING (e.g., with most of these figures being rooted); a conjugated verb (are) cannot be used instead. (D) is incorrect because pronoun + of them signals an independent clause and thus cannot be placed after a comma without creating a comma splice. (B) corrects all of these errors by placing a period between two complete sentences.

 


 

7/21/20

 

I don’t know why that particular photo of a half-finished sweater caught my attention, but as soon as I saw it, I wanted to learn to knit. At first, I wasn’t sure I needed another hobby, but after I read an essay by Ann Hood, “Ten Things I Learned From Knitting,” the decision was made by me.

 

A. NO CHANGE
B. my decision was made by me.
C. my decision had been made.
D. I made my decision.

 

(A), (B), and (C) are all incorrect because they use the passive voice (x is done by y) to create unnecessarily wordy and awkward constructions. (C) is also wrong because the past perfect (had been + verb) is used to indicate a completed action that came before a second action, but the passage clearly indicates that the narrator made the decision after reading Ann Hood’s essay. (D) is correct because it uses the active voice and is cleaner and more concise than the other options. In addition, an active construction is used earlier in the sentence (after I read an essay...), and this answer maintains that syntax.

 


 

7/20/20

 

Located in Abu Dhabi, the new branch of the Louvre Museum is intended to look like a floating dome: the glimmering structure appears to hover over the sparkling water that surrounds it, and its webbed pattern allows the sky to filter through. The overall effect is meant to evoke rays of sunlight passing through palm leaves in a desert oasis.

 

If the writer were to delete the words glimmering and sparkling from the underlined portion, the sentence would most nearly lose details that:

 

A. emphasize the effects of light on the museum building.
B. highlight the contrast in appearance between the museum building and its surroundings.
C. provide an overview of the main sections of the museum.
D. make clear that water is the primary influence on the museum’s design.

 

To answer this question, you must take the end of the passage into account. The last sentence states that the museum’s design is intended to evoke rays of sunlight passing through palm leaves in a desert oasis—in that context, the use of words like glimmering and sparkling is intended to emphasize the importance of light, a fact that directly corresponds to (A). (B) is incorrect because the passage says/implies nothing about a contrast between the museum building and its surroundings, and (C) is incorrect because the passage also says nothing about the sections of the building. If you read only the underlined portion, (D) might seem plausible, but the last sentence directly contradicts the idea that water is the primary influence on the design of the building.

 


 

7/19/20

 

Unlike the Venus flytrap, the lobes or leaves of the waterwheel do not change shape when they snap shut; rather, closing like two halves of a mussel shell. In contrast, the Venus flytrap flexes its leaves from flat to curved when enclosing its prey.

 

A. NO CHANGE
B. shut, but rather closing
C. shut but rather close
D. shut but rather closes

 

(A) is incorrect because a complete sentence must follow a semicolon, but rather, closing like two halves of a mussel shell is not a sentence. (B) is incorrect because a conjugated verb rather than an -ING word (gerund) must be used in order to maintain parallel structure with change. (D) is incorrect because the subject of the underlined verb is leaves (plural), whereas closes is singular. (C) is correct because it provides a conjugated plural verb (close).

 


 

7/18/20

 

There are almost 90 million cats in the United States, or one for every three households. That makes cats more popular, petwise, than dogs. The majority of them—about two-thirds to three-fourths, surveys say—are sweet, harmless, cuddly housecats, which seldom set foot outside. The other one-quarter to one-third aren’t so harmless. Equipped with laser-quick paws and razor-tipped claws, they are the stuff of every bird and small mammal’s nightmares.

 

A. NO CHANGE
B. three-fourths, surveys say, are sweet
C. three-fourths, surveys say, are sweet—
D. three-fourths—surveys say are sweet,

 

Between all of the dashes and internal hyphens, this question is somewhat confusing visually, but the presence of a dash before the underlined section, coupled with the fact that three of the answers contain dashes, is a big clue that a non-essential clause is involved here. As a result, it is easiest to start by identifying that clause. One helpful shortcut is to know that non-essential clauses typically end before verbs, and here there is only one option that places the second dash before a verb: (A). To confirm that answer, try crossing out the information between the dashes: The majority of them…are sweet, harmless, cuddly housecats, which seldom set foot outside. Yes, that makes sense, so (A) is correct.

 


 

7/17/20

 

Announced in 2013, the BRAIN Initiative is a massive project undertaken by a group of agencies and individuals, including universities, technology companies, and neuroscientists. The Initiative includes a variety of programs designed to lower the barriers between the human brain and the digital world, with the goal being to understand how the brain processes information.

 

A. NO CHANGE
B. to be
C. has been
D. is

 

The idiomatic construction is with…-ING, which can be used as an alternative to and (with the goal being to understand = and the goal is to understand). As a result, being, which normally signals a wrong answer, must be used. That makes (A) correct.

 


 

7/16/20

 

Training to go to Mars requires a substantial suspension of disbelief. But that has not stopped scores of people from participating in simulations that re-create Mars on Earth in order to better understand and prepare for the challenges of one day sending humans to the red planet. Often set in dusty, remote locations, these so-called Mars analogs often feature lifestyle choices meant to approximate humanity’s journey to the next planet over. There’s a 20-minute communications delay (no phone calls); freeze-dried meals; and limited water supplies. Moreover, participants can never leave the habitat without a spacesuit on.

 

The writer is considering deleting the underlined portion of the sentence. Should the writer do this?

 

A. Yes, because it provides background information that is irrelevant to the main focus of the paragraph.
B. Yes, because it suggests that people will travel to Mars in the near future.
C. No, because it provides an explanation for why people choose to participate in simulations of life on Mars.
D. No, because it describes some of the challenges involved in traveling to Mars.

 

When a question asks whether a given portion of a sentence should be deleted, it’s really asking whether the information in that section is on- or off-topic. What is the passage about? Simulations of life on Mars. What is the focus of the underlined portion? Why people participate in these “Mars analogs,” or the purpose behind Mars analogs. Is that information relevant to the passage? Yes, so (A) and (B) can be eliminated. (D) does not fit because the underlined portion has nothing to do with the challenges involved in traveling to Mars. That leaves (C), which correctly indicates that the purpose of the underlined portion is to explain why people spend months pretending to live on Mars.

 


 

7/15/20

 

Because laws prohibiting excess noise failed to satisfy people’s desire for quiet products and technologies emerged to meet the demand of increasingly sensitive consumers. In the early twentieth century, sound-muffling curtains, softer floor materials, room dividers, and ventilators kept the noise from the outside from coming in, while preventing sounds from bothering neighbors.

 

A. NO CHANGE
B. quiet, products and technologies
C. quiet products, and technologies
D. quiet products and technologies,

 

(A) is incorrect because the lack of a comma after quiet results in this word modifying products and technologies and creates one very long clause that begins with a conjunction (because) and thus cannot stand on its own as a sentence. (C) is incorrect because no comma should be placed between compound nouns (two nouns joined by and). To test this answer out, you can also think of the rule this way: comma + and = period, but a period cannot be plugged in after products because the preceding clause is not a complete sentence (Because laws prohibiting excess noise failed to satisfy people’s demand for quiet products.) (D) is incorrect because this answer places a comma between a subject (products and technologies) and the verb that follows (emerged). (B) is correct because the comma after quiet serves to break the sentence into two clauses: a dependent clause (Because laws prohibiting excess noise failed to satisfy people’s demand for quiet) and an independent clause (products and technologies emerged to meet the demand of increasingly sensitive consumers) that together form a complete sentence.

 


 

7/14/20

 

There are over 50,000 therapy dogs in the United States, and they’re becoming more popular in countries from Norway to Brazil. Trained and certified by a variety of organizations, hospitals and other facilities welcome these dogs and their handlers, who interact with patients.

 

A. NO CHANGE
B. Trained and certified by a variety of organizations, these dogs and their handlers interact with patients and are welcomed by hospitals and other facilities.
C. These dogs and their handlers, welcomed by hospitals and other facilities and trained and certified by a variety of organizations.
D. Welcomed by hospitals and other facilities, these dogs and their handlers being trained and certified by a variety of organizations.

 

(A) is incorrect because it contains a dangling modifier: the phrase Trained and certified by a variety of organizations must logically describe these dogs and their handlers, but the latter phrase does not appear immediately after the former. (C) is incorrect because it is a fragment: this answer does not contain a main clause that can stand on its own as a sentence. (D) is also a fragment because it contains a gerund (being) rather than a main verb. (B) corrects the dangling modification by placing these dogs and their handlers after the introductory phrase and does not introduce any new errors.

 


 

7/13/20

 

Like many successful authors of the nineteenth century, Washington Irving struggled against literary bootleggers. In England, some of his sketches were reprinted in periodicals without his permission, a legal practice since there was no international copyright law at the time. To prevent further piracy in Britain, Irving paid to have the first four American installments published as a single volume by John Miller in London.

 

Which of the following would NOT be an acceptable alternative to the underlined portion?

 

A. permission—a legal practice
B. permission; that practice was legal
C. permission, and a legal practice
D. permission, a practice that was legal

 

To answer this question, focus on whether information after the punctuation in each answer choice (dash, semicolon, comma) is a complete sentence because that factor determines what type of punctuation can and cannot be used. (A) is acceptable because a legal practice since there was no international copyright law at the time is a fragment, and a dash can correctly come before a fragment. (B) is acceptable because that practice was legal since there was no international copyright law at the time is a complete sentence, and a complete sentence must follow a semicolon. (D) is acceptable because a practice that was legal since there was no international copyright law at the time is a fragment, which can correctly follow a comma. Although (C) contains a comma as well, that comma is followed by and — and comma + and = period. If you plug in a period, you get A legal practice since there was no international copyright law at the time, a statement that is clearly not a sentence. Because the question asks you to identify the option that is NOT acceptable, (C) is correct.

 


 

7/12/20

 

The older you get, the more difficult it is to learn to speak French like a Parisian. However, no one knows exactly what the cutoff point is—at what age it becomes harder, nevertheless, to pick up noun-verb agreements in a new language.

 

A. NO CHANGE
B. for instance,
C. moreover,
D. likewise,

 

To simplify the sentence and avoid getting distracted by the transition already in the passage, ignore the transition and re-read the passage without it. The passage is discussing the age at which it becomes more difficult for people to learn a new language. In that context, [picking] up noun-verb agreements is an example of a skill that becomes more difficult as people get older. The only option to convey that relationship is for instance, which indicates that an example is being presented. (B) is thus correct.

 


 

7/11/20

 

They call it “the Never-Ending Storm of Catatumbo” or “The Lighthouse of Maracaibo”: something so familiar that people in the state of Zulia in Venezuela even put it on their flag. Less than half an hour after the first cloud forms, it starts to flash. It does this faster and faster — 200 times a minute is not uncommon. Afterward, the cloud becomes a giant bulb that lights up the night.

 

Which choice provides new information that is relevant to the rest of the paragraph?

 

A. NO CHANGE
B. lightning
C. a storm
D. a natural force

 

The key phrase in the question is “relevant to the rest of the paragraph.” As a result, it is necessary to consider the information in the rest of the passage when determining the answer. What is the focus of the rest of the passage? Something that starts to flash, and that is a giant bulb that lights up the night. The only option that corresponds to that description is “lightning,” so the answer is (B).

 


 

7/10/20

 

Crossword puzzles are said to be the most popular and widespread word game in the world, yet they have a relatively short history. The first crosswords appeared in British children’s books during the nineteenth century, they were simple games, apparently derived from the word square: a group of words arranged so that the letters read alike vertically and horizontally. In the United States, however, the puzzle developed into a serious adult pastime.

 

A. NO CHANGE
B. Although the first crosswords
C. Until the first crosswords
D. When the first crosswords

 

To answer this question, you must consider the sentence as a whole; the underlined section alone does not give you enough information to determine the correct option. When considered independently, the underlined portion makes sense; however, the construction comma + they later in the sentence (nineteenth century, they were simple games) signals a comma splice — two complete sentences separated by a comma. Because comma + they cannot be changed, a conjunction must be added to the beginning of the sentence to make the first clause dependent. Although does not make sense: the first crosswords were not simple games despite the fact that they appeared in children’s books. Those are similar ideas, not different ones. Until also does not make sense: this answer would imply that crosswords were simple games before they appeared in children’s books (at which point they became more complex). Only when fits: it indicates that crossword puzzles were simple at the time they appeared in children’s books. That makes (D) correct.

 


 

7/9/20

 

When German immigrants first started coming to the United States in the 1700s, they brought the pretzel with them. Bavarians and other southern Germans had been enjoying pretzels for hundreds of years. Sometimes they ate pretzels as a side to a main dinner course; other times, they chowed down on sweet pretzels for dessert. In Swabia, a region in southwestern Germany, signs for bakeries still include gilded pretzels hanging over the door.

 

A. NO CHANGE
B. chomped on
C. consumed
D. chugged

 

Chowed down on, chomped on, and chugged are all excessively slangy and casual when compared to the types of words used in the rest of the passage. In addition, chugged can only describe something done to a liquid, not a solid food. Only consumed is consistent with the moderately serious tone of the passage, making the answer (C).

 


 

7/8/20

 

While most paintings produced by members of the Hudson River School were rendered realistically, many of the scenes they depicted were synthesized from a variety of natural images observed by the artists. In gathering the visual data for their paintings, the artists would travel to environments with extraordinary and extreme conditions that did not permit extended painting in these environments. During the expeditions, the artists recorded sketches and memories, returning to their studios to paint the finished works later.

 

A. NO CHANGE
B. in such environments
C. in such places
D. DELETE the underlined portion.

 

To answer this question, you must take the entire sentence into account — the underlined portion does not provide enough information to answer the question. Before the underlined section, the writer already makes clear that artists would travel to environments with extraordinary and extreme conditions that did not permit extended painting. As a result, it is redundant to restate this information. (Although (C) replaces environments with places, the result is still the same.) The information should therefore be deleted, making (D) correct.

 


 

7/7/20

 

Key-Sook Geum is an artist, fashion designer, and scholar from the Republic of Korea. Having taught and worked in fashion design, Geum combines art with fashion through her exquisite wire sculptures in the shape of women’s clothing.
She is inspired by the shapes and styles of clothing from Korea’s Joseon Dynasty (1392–1910). The items tell stories about the people who wore them: their lives, values, and beliefs.

 

A. NO CHANGE
B. sculpture’s in the shape of womens
C. sculptures in the shape of womens’
D. sculptures’ in the shape of women’s

 

As a rule, a noun can only be possessive when it is followed by another noun, so start by looking at the words after sculptures and women’s. Sculptures is followed by in, which is a preposition rather than a noun, so this word cannot be possessive (no apostrophe). That eliminates (B) and (D). The word clothing, which follows women’s, is a noun (you can say the clothing) so an apostrophe is necessary — the question is whether it belongs before or after the -s. Although the plural possessive (women’s clothing = clothing belonging to women) is normally formed by adding -s + apostrophe to a noun, women is irregular: that is, its plural is not formed by adding -s to its singular form (woman). To form the possessive of an irregular plural noun, add apostrophe + -s (women’s). (A) is thus correct.

 


 

7/6/20

 

Located in London’s Kew Gardens, the greenhouse known as the Temperate House is home to a geographically arranged collection of 10,000 plants from temperate climates around the world. These areas are sometimes described as “the Goldilocks zone” of the planet. Plants are safe from frost there.

 

Which of the following choices most effectively combines the underlined sentences?

 

A. These areas are sometimes described as the “Goldilocks zone” of the planet, being that plants are safe from frost there.
B. These areas are sometimes described as the planet’s “Goldilocks zone,” where plants are safe from frost.
C. These areas are sometimes described as the “Goldilocks zone” of the planet, and that is an area where plants are safe from frost.
D. Described sometimes as the “Goldilocks zone” of the planet, plants are safe from frost there.

 

Shortcut: shorter is better. When you are asked to combine sentences, the shortest answer will frequently be correct, and you should start by looking at it. That is the case here: (B), the shortest answer, is also the cleanest and least awkward, and it does not contain any grammatical errors. Otherwise, (A) is incorrect because the phrase being that is wordy and awkward (note that answers with being are almost always wrong). (C) is incorrect because the phrase and that is an area where is unnecessarily wordy and repetitive. (D) is incorrect because it contains a dangling modifier: the phrase Described sometimes as “the Goldilocks zone” of the planet refers to areas, so that word, not plants, must follow the comma. (B) is correct because it joins the sentences cleanly, using only one word (where).

 


 

7/5/20

 

It’s difficult to describe how excited I was when two veteran mountain climbers asked me to join them for a winter attempt on Gasherbrum II, one of the tallest peaks in the Himalayas. Like any adventurous activity, mountaineering has hazards. They must find someone who can tolerate extremely challenging conditions—frostbite burns, intense hunger, the loss of feeling in fingers and toes, overwhelming weariness—all while maintaining the will to push forward.

 

Which of the following true statements provides the most appropriate transition between the previous sentence and the information that follows?

 

A. NO CHANGE
B. Mountaineers must choose their climbing partners with extreme care.
C. Personal preparedness and skill development are very important.
D. Instructors teach many skills, including the fundamentals of survival in a cold environment.

 

Although this question is phrased in terms of transitions, the easiest way to answer it is to focus on the information that follows the underlined statement. That statement must logically set up the information that follows. In this case, the following sentence refers to the fact that [climbers] must find someone who can tolerate some very challenging conditions. Logically, the underlined sentence must indicate who that “someone” who must be found is — otherwise, the following sentence does not make sense. The choices that refer to specific people are (B) (mountaineers) and (D) (instructors). (B) is correct because mountaineers must logically choose partners who can withstand such difficult conditions. Given that the narrator states that s/he was invited to join two veteran mountain climbers, the reference to instructors does not make sense — the narrator is describing a partnership, not a student/teacher scenario.

 


 

7/4/20

 

Many marine animals are large, rare, elusive, and highly mobile. Sharks are an obvious example: in the oceans they make up a small proportion of the biomass, are difficult to catch, and they have been in conflict with humans for thousands of years.

 

A. NO CHANGE
B. have been
C. having been
D. being

 

The underlined portion involves the third item in a list, so the format of this item must match the format of the previous two. (C) and (D) do not match either of the first two items at all and can be eliminated right away. Be careful with (A): although the construction pronoun + verb (they have been) is the same as in the first item (they make up), this answer does not match the second item, which begins with a verb alone (are). As a result, this answer is incorrect. Although (B) may appear to contain the same problem, in fact it is acceptable. The pronoun they before the first item can in fact “apply” to the verbs in the following items, making it unnecessary to repeat the pronoun. (B) is thus correct.

 


 

7/3/20

 

We know a lot about carbon, the element that forms the chemical backbone of life, in our crust and oceans. We know far less about it in Earth’s core and mantle. So far, it’s proved challenging to sample the mantle, which extends up to 1,800 miles below the surface and plays a huge yet mysterious role in the global carbon cycle.

 

A. NO CHANGE
B. surface, and plays a huge yet mysterious,
C. surface and plays a huge, yet mysterious
D. surface, and plays a huge yet mysterious,

 

Comma + and = period, so plug in a period in place of and: So far, it’s proved challenging to sample the mantle, which extends up to 1,800 miles below the surface. Plays a huge yet mysterious role in the global carbon cycle. Clearly, the second statement is not a sentence, so the comma before and is incorrect. That eliminates (B) and (D). (C) is also incorrect because when two adjectives are separated by but or yet, no comma should be used between them. (A) is correct because no punctuation is necessary in the underlined section.

 


 

7/2/20

 

If you’ve heard the term “grazer” before, it may bring to mind familiar farm animals, such as cows or sheep munching on pastureland. But the ocean has its own suite of grazers, one with very different — even bizarre — body forms and feeding techniques.

 

A. NO CHANGE
B. animals such as cows or sheep,
C. animals such as cows or sheep
D. animals such as: cows or sheep

 

(A) is incorrect because the comma before such would logically seem to begin a non-essential phrase (such as cows or sheep), but there is no second comma to end the phrase. (B) contains the opposite error: a comma is placed at the end of the non-essential phrase, but there is no comma at the beginning. (D) is incorrect because a colon must be placed after a complete, standalone thought, and If you’ve heard the term “grazer” before, it may bring to mind familiar farm animals, such as clearly cannot stand on its own as a sentence. Although the phrase such as cows and sheep can be treated non-essentially, it does not need to be. As a result, the commas are optional; it is also acceptable not to use any punctuation. (C) is thus correct.

 


 

7/1/20

 

Five decades into his life, Phineas Taylor Barnum from Bethel, Connecticut, had risen above his humble beginnings as an impoverished country boy and become a showman—indeed, the “greatest showman” (as he would claim) of his generation. Thanks to a combination of brilliant marketing tactics and less-than-upstanding business practices, Barnum had truly arrived, and with his book Humbugs of the World, published in 1865, he wanted to inform you, his audience, that he hadn’t achieved his rags-to-riches success story by scamming the public.

 

The use of parentheses in the underlined portion is most likely intended to

 

A. distinguish Barnum’s exact words from the surrounding description of his life.
B. emphasize the obstacles that Barnum overcame to achieve success.
C. illustrate the pride that Barnum took in his career.
D. suggest that Barnum may have exaggerated his accomplishments.

 

To answer this question, you must focus on the wording of the information in the parentheses. In context of the fact that Barnum was a showman given to less-than-upstanding business practices, the phrase as he would claim serves to emphasize the idea that Barnum was given to making over-the-top statements about his achievements, i.e., that he “may have exaggerated his accomplishments.” That makes the answer (D). (A) is incorrect because the information in the parentheses is not a direct quote. (B) is off-topic because the information in the parentheses has nothing to do with Barnum’s rags-to-riches story. Be careful with (C), though: it is obvious from the passage that Barnum took pride in his career, but the focus of the parenthetical information is on Barnum’s outsized claim about his accomplishments.

 


 

 

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