Explanations November

11/30/20

 

As I looked down on the sleepy Bavarian town from the top of the tower, it was hard to picture the area as being anything other than tranquil. It was, however, a violent and otherworldly event, an asteroid strike occurring approximately 15 million years ago – that led to the strange reality of Nördlingen becoming Germany’s diamond-clad town.

 

A. NO CHANGE
B. event, an asteroid strike,
C. event – an asteroid strike
D. event: an asteroid strike

 

The key to answering this question is to read ahead and notice the dash after ago. In most instances, one dash must be accompanied by another dash to form a non-essential clause, and that is the case here. If the information between the dashes is crossed out, the sentence still makes grammatical sense: It was, however, a violent and otherworldly event…that led to the strange reality of Nördlingen becoming Germany’s diamond-clad town. A dash is therefore necessary, making the answer (C).

 


 

11/29/20

 

About 10,000 years ago, members of the pumpkin and squash family have came dangerously close to extinction. Only our ancient ancestors’ drive to domesticate valuable crops and animals saved these gourds.

 

A. NO CHANGE
B. have come
C. had came
D. came

 

The date 10,000 years ago is a tip-off that the sentence is describing a finished action in the past. As a result, the present perfect (have + verb) is incorrect — that tense is used to refer to actions that are continuing into the present. (A) and (B) can thus be eliminated. (A) is also incorrect because any form of the verb have must be followed by the past participle (come) rather than the simple past (came). (C) is incorrect for that reason as well. That leaves (D), which correctly provides the simple past, came, to refer to a situation that ended a very long time ago.

 


 

11/28/20

 

Like today’s astronauts, future space colonists are likely to be selected on the basis of their suitability for long-duration spaceflight. They might have good natural resistance to radiation, high bone density, or they possess strong immune systems.

 

A. NO CHANGE
B. possessing strong immune systems.
C. strong immune systems.
D. possess strong immune systems.

 

This question is testing parallel structure with lists. The previous two items in the list consist of nouns (natural resistance, high bone density), so the third item must consist of a noun as well. (A), (B), and (D) all contain verbs (possess) and can be eliminated on that basis. (C) is correct because it contains a noun alone.

Don’t get thrown off by the fact that the verb have appears before the first item (have good natural resistance to radiation) — no verb appears before the second item, and have can “apply” to all three items (have high resistance to radiation, have high bone density, have strong immune systems. As a result, it is unnecessary to include a verb before the other two items.

 


 

11/27/20

 

Far from being glorified pricelists, restaurant menus are sophisticated marketing tools that can nudge customers towards certain choices. Restaurant menus can even tell us what to think.

“Even the binding around the menu is passing us important messages about the kind of experience we are about to have,” explains Charles Spence, a professor in experimental psychology and multisensory perception at the University of Oxford. “There are a lot of elements on a menu that can be changed to nudge the customer in one way or another.”

 

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

 

A. transmitting
B. denying
C. permitting
D. granting

 

The underlined word is essentially defined in the previous sentence: Restaurant menus can even tell us what to think. In that context, the word must mean something like “tell” or “inform.” Although neither of those words appears as an answer, the closest option is (A), transmitting — the menus are providing diners with important information about the meal they are about to experience. Alternately, you can play process of elimination. First, the word must be positive, so (B) can be eliminated because denying is negative. (C) and (D) do not have quite the right connotation: a menu cannot really permit diners to do something, and granting describes the act of making a wish a reality. Here, the focus is simply on the fact that the menu is conveying useful information to diners. (A) is again the best answer.

 


 

11/26/20

 

Over the past several decades, long-distance running has rushed in popularity. The number of finishers in all US marathons has grown from fewer than 300,000 in 1995 to more than 500,000 in 2016. This year, the entry quota for the largest half-marathon in the US was filled in a record 26 minutes.

 

A. NO CHANGE
B. flooded
C. gushed
D. surged

 

The second and third sentences indicate that the number of runners finishing US marathons has increased enormously, so the underlined word must mean something like “increased.” While all of the options literally refer to a rush of liquid, only surged can also be used to describe a rapid increase in something (e.g., popularity). That makes the answer (D).

 


 

11/25/20

 

In addition to the Macy’s Day Parade in New York City, Macy’s also sponsored Pittsburgh’s Celebrate the Season Parade. Which was held two days after the main event between 2006 and 2013.

 

A. NO CHANGE
B. Parade; it was held
C. Parade, it was held
D. Parade, being held

 

(A) is incorrect because a sentence that is not a question should not begin with which. (C) is incorrect because this answer contains a comma splice — two complete sentences separated by a comma (tip-off: comma + it). (D) is incorrect because the gerund being creates an awkward construction. (Remember that answers with being are almost always incorrect). That leaves (B), which correctly uses a semicolon to separate two complete sentences.

 


 

11/24/20

 

Biofuels and lighter engines are an innovation, that could boost fuel efficiency, reducing pollutants and making airplane travel less harmful to the environment.

 

A. NO CHANGE
B. an innovation that could boost
C. innovations, that could boost
D. innovations that could boost

 

Biofuels and lighter engines are two separate things, so they are innovations, plural, rather than a single innovation. That eliminates (A) and (B). (C) is also incorrect because it is virtually never correct to place a comma before that. (D) correctly provides the plural noun innovations and omits the unnecessary comma before that.

 


 

11/23/20

 

Gravity forces Earth-bound bodies to work a surprising amount, even when they are at rest. However, such forces no longer apply in space. Muscles quickly grow weaker, and bones become more prone to breakage. Astronauts can lose roughly one to two percent of their bone mass each month, the greatest losses occur in their lower backs and legs.

 

A. NO CHANGE
B. month; and the greatest losses occur
C. month, with the greatest losses occurring
D. month, but the greatest losses occur

 

The original version contains a comma splice: two complete sentences separated by a comma. (B) incorrectly places a FANBOYS conjunction (and) after a semicolon, a construction that always signals a wrong answer. In (D), the contradictor but incorrectly implies a contrasting relationship between the two halves of the sentence: the fact that astronauts experience the greatest bone loss in their back and legs is a logical continuation of the fact that they experience one to two percent loss of bone mass each month. (C) is correct because the construction with … -ING is an acceptable alternative to comma + and and indicates that the second idea is continuing the first.

 


 

11/22/20

 

As the crops grown around the world have shrunk to just a handful of foods, regional and local crops have become scarce or disappeared altogether. Wheat, rice and corn, plus palm oil and soybeans, are what we all eat now—the same type and the same amount.

 

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

 

A. decreased
B. dwindled
C. compressed
D. declined

 

All of the options are general synonyms indicating a reduction in number or size, but compress means “condense,” or “shorten to fit into a smaller space.” That connotation does not make sense in the context of a diminishing number of crop types. (C) is thus the answer that is NOT an acceptable alternative to the underlined word, making it correct. Note that it does not matter whether you know the definition of dwindled as long as you can recognize that compressed does not fit.

 


 

11/21/20

 

Circadian rhythms dictate many of the body’s most fundamental processes, including eating, sleeping and hormone secretion. Every organism previously studied—from humans to hamsters to fruit flies to bacteria—more or less follows the 24-hour day/night cycle. When the scientists measured the internal clocks of trashline orb weavers, however, they saw something extraordinary: The spiders ran on an 18.5-hour day, the shortest natural circadian cycle ever observed.

 

The discovery of trashline orb weavers’ 18.5-hour circadian cycle can best be described as

 

A. unprecedented
B. controversial
C. inexplicable
D. tentative

 

The passage states that every organism previously studied—from humans to hamsters to fruit flies to bacteria—more or less follows the 24-hour day/night cycle, indicating that trashline orb weavers were the first species discovered to have a different cycle. In other words, the discovery was “unprecedented” (literally, with nothing to precede it). That makes the answer (A). There is nothing in the passage to suggest that the discovery was controversial or tentative — that is, that scientists were uncertain about it. Be careful with (C): the fact that trashline orb weavers’ circadian cycles are unique does not necessarily mean that they cannot be explained. That could be true, but the passage does not provide any information to support this answer.

 


 

11/20/20

 

Recognized today as one of the world’s leading authorities on the Sphinx, archaeologist, Mark Lehner, has conducted field research on the pyramids at Giza during most of the 37 years since his first visit to Egypt.

 

A. NO CHANGE
B. Sphinx; archaeologist, Mark Lehner
C. Sphinx, archaeologist Mark Lehner
D. Sphinx archaeologist Mark Lehner,

 

Although the question appears to be testing the punctuation after the word Sphinx and around Mark Lehner’s name, in reality, the various combinations of commas around Mark Lehner indicate that this question is really testing names with commas — in fact, it is unnecessary to consider the punctuation after Sphinx at all.

When commas are tested with names, there are really only two options: two commas (non-essential) or no commas (essential). The other options are just distractors. When the name is crossed out, the sentence does not make sense: Recognized today as one of the world’s leading authorities on the Sphinx, archaeologist…has conducted field research on the pyramids at Giza during most of the 37 years since his first visit to Egypt. The name is clearly essential to the meaning of the sentence, so no commas are required. That makes the answer (C).

 


 

11/19/20

 

Coffee rust has plagued farmers for more than a century. When a tree gets infected by it, its leaves produce a brown, thin powder when scratched, pretty much like iron rust. The disease, caused by the fungus Hemileia vastatrix, also de-colors the bush’s leaves from a bright green to a brownish yellow. In the end, the tree loses all its leaves, as well as its ability to produce beans.
Coffee plants flourish in soil that is low in acid but high in nitrogen. In the late 19th century, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, and other countries in Southeast Asia were the world’s major exporters of coffee, but in a matter of decades, their coffee industries were nearly destroyed.

 

Which of the following provides the best transition to the information that follows?

 

A. NO CHANGE
B. If allowed to spread, the disease can have dramatic consequences.
C. Temperatures in countries outside the tropics are too variable for coffee trees to thrive.
D. Coffee rust typically infects plants grown at elevations below 5,000 feet.

 

Although the question asks you to identify the best “transition,” in reality you need to focus on the information that comes after because it must logically follow from the underlined statement. What is the focus of that information? That the coffee industries were nearly destroyed in several countries — since the passage is about coffee rust, it can be assumed that coffee rust was the culprit. (B) sets up that information most effectively: the statement that “the disease (i.e., coffee rust) can have dramatic consequences” is directly consistent with the idea of an entire industry being destroyed. (D) mentions coffee rust but does not focus on its destructive abilities. (A) and (C) are simply off-topic.

 


 

11/18/20

 

Native to South America, the cashew plant was brought by the Portuguese to India around 1560 and had spread east into Asia and south into Africa during the seventeenth century.

 

A. NO CHANGE
B. has spread
C. spread
D. will spread

 

(A) is incorrect because it contains the past perfect: had + verb. When a sentence refers to two finished actions, the past perfect can be used for the action that came first. In this case, however, the underlined verb refers to the action that came second. Action 1: the cashew plant was brought to India around 1560. Action 2: it spread into Asia and Africa during the seventeenth century.

(B) is incorrect because it contains the present perfect (has + verb). This tense is used only to refer to actions that are continuing into the present, but the dates 1560 and seventeenth century indicate that both actions in the sentence occurred in the past.

(D) is incorrect because will + verb is used to refer to future actions, and again, both actions are in the past.

(C) is correct because spread is in the simple past tense and is parallel to the other simple past tense verb in the sentence, was.

 


 

11/17/20

 

According to marine biologist Gil Rosenthal, distance and motion often makes it difficult for certain predators to perceive fine details on the bodies of their prey.

 

A. NO CHANGE
B. often make
C. has often made
D. often making

 

The sentence contains a compound subject (distance AND motion), which is plural, so a plural verb is required. (A) and (C) are incorrect because makes and has are singular — remember that plural verbs do NOT end in -s. (D) is also incorrect because the gerund making creates a fragment. That leaves (B), which correctly supplies the plural verb make. Note that the tense switch in (C) is a distraction — the question is testing subject-verb agreement only.

 


 

11/16/20

 

The architect Renzo Piano earned a reputation as an innovator for his design of Paris’s Pompidou Center. The Center’s exterior consisted of brightly colored tubes and marked a radical break with tradition.

 

What is the best way to join the sentence at the underlined portion?

 

A. Center, whose exterior consisted of brightly colored tubes that marked
B. Center, so its exterior consisting of brightly colored tubes marking
C. Center, its exterior consisted of brightly colored tubes that would mark
D. Center; and whose exterior consisted of brightly colored tubes that marked

 

Although each answer choice contains a fair amount of information, in reality each of the incorrect answers can be eliminated on straightforward grammatical grounds.

(B) is incorrect because the gerund marking turns the second clause into a fragment. A clause begun by a conjunction (so) must contain a conjugated main verb rather than an -ING word.

(C) is incorrect because it contains a comma splice — two complete sentences separated by only a comma (tip-off: comma + it).

(D) can be eliminated easily because a semicolon should not be placed before the coordinating conjunction and. Any answer that contains this construction is incorrect.

(A) is correct because it appropriately uses the pronoun whose to refer back to the Pompidou Center (note that whose, unlike who, can refer to both people and things) and contains a main verb (consisted).

 


 

11/15/20

 

In a recent Job Outlook survey, employers rated the “ability to verbally communicate with persons inside and outside the organization” as the most important quality in perspective workers.

 

A. NO CHANGE
B. for perspective
C. in prospective
D. to prospective

 

Based on the context, the underlined section is referring to potential, i.e., prospective, workers. Perspective means “point of view,” and does not make sense in context. It also cannot be used as an adjective, as is the case here. That eliminates (A) and (B). (D) is incorrect as well because employers are looking for a quality that prospective workers possess — not a quality to them, but a quality in them. (C) is thus correct.

 


 

11/14/20

 

Reading fiction allows people to understand other people’s actions by entering into characters’ minds and seeing situations from their interior points of view. In fact, recent studies suggest that people, who read novels regularly, tend to have higher levels of empathy.

 

A. NO CHANGE
B. people who read novels regularly,
C. people, who read novels regularly
D. people who read novels regularly

 

The original version is both grammatically acceptable and incorrect. The problem is that the commas surrounding the clause who read novels regularly indicates that the clause is non-essential: that is, it can be removed from the sentence without altering the passage’s meaning. When the clause is removed from the sentence, however, we get this: In fact, recent studies suggest that people…tend to have higher levels of empathy. The sentence no longer specifies which people tend to have higher levels of empathy — and the sentence is not talking about people in general but rather one specific group of people (those who read novels regularly). The clause is therefore essential to the meaning of the sentence, so no commas should be used. That makes the answer (D). Note that in a question testing non-essential clauses, there are really only two options: two commas or no commas. It is never correct to place a comma only at the beginning or end of a non-essential clause, so (B) and (C) can be eliminated.

 


 

11/13/20

 

Dinoflagellates emit blue light when disturbed, which is why they can be seen sparkling over wave crests, around boats or when a hand or paddle runs through them. These tiny creatures are the most common source of bioluminescence at the ocean’s surface. So-called bioluminescent bays such as in Puerto Rico and Jamaica are among the best-known places to witness the glow. However, the ephemeral phenomenon can be found throughout the ocean where there are dense gatherings of dinoflagellates. Sometimes dinoflagellates’ population increases rapidly, causing blooms, which by day are coloured a less attractive red-brown, sometimes known as red tides. And some, but not all, of these red tides are poisonous.

 

The passage implies that a rapid increase in dinoflagellates

 

A. can be harmful to other creatures.
B. improves dinoflagellates’ ability to produce light.
C. occurs primarily in warm waters.
D. is associated with the emission of blue light.

 

Although the passage contains a fair amount of information, in reality you only need the last two sentences to answer the question. But because this is an inference question, the answer is not stated word-for-word. The phrase Sometimes dinoflagellates’ population increases rapidly indicates that the necessary information will follow. The passage then goes on to state that the rapid increase in dinoflagellates’ population causes red tides, and that some, but not all, of these red tides are poisonous — by definition, something poisonous “can be harmful to other creatures.” That makes the answer (A).

Be careful with (B): the passage states only that [dinoflagellates] are the most common source of bioluminescence. It does not at all indicate that a rise in their population is in any way connected to their light-production ability. In (C), don’t get thrown off by the reference to Puerto Rico and Jamaica. It is reasonable to assume that these islands are surrounded by warm waters, but this discussion is located in the wrong part of the passage and is completely off-topic. (D) is off-topic as well.

 


 

11/12/20

 

Ammonia is a waste product that can be toxic to animals, however, plants, including phytoplankton, prize ammonia as the most energy-efficient way to build new cells.

 

A. NO CHANGE
B. animals however
C. animals however,
D. animals, but

 

When however is used to begin a clause, as is the case here, it must follow a semicolon. There is no option here that includes that construction, making (A), (B), and (C) incorrect. (D) solves the problem by using but, which can acceptably follow a comma.

 


 

11/11/20

 

Hanging low on the horizon, ancient Polynesian mariners were helped by bright stars to navigate between the many islands of the Pacific Ocean.

 

A. NO CHANGE
B. Bright stars, which acted as compasses that helped ancient Polynesian mariners navigate between the many islands of the Pacific Ocean.
C. Bright stars acting as compasses helped ancient Polynesian mariners navigate the many islands of the Pacific Ocean.
D. Bright stars acted as compasses, they helped ancient Polynesian mariners navigate between the many islands of the Pacific Ocean.

 

The original version contains a dangling modifier: the introductory phrase hanging low on the horizon modifies bright stars, not ancient Polynesian mariners (sailors) — logically, people cannot hang low on the horizon, as this answer implies.

(B) contains a fragment that lacks a main verb: acted “belongs” to which, rather to its subject, Bright stars.

(D) contains a comma splice: two complete sentences separated by only a comma.

(C) is correct because it eliminates the dangling modification and provides a main verb (helped) that accurately corresponds to its subject (Bright stars).

 


 

11/10/20

 

In 1977, the MIT professor Thomas J. Allen examined communication patterns among scientists and engineers and found that the farther apart their desks were, the less likely they were to communicate. At the 30-meter mark, the likelihood of regular communication approached zero. The expectation was that information technology would change that. Recently, therefore, researcher Ben Waber discovered that communication tools intended to erase distance are used largely among people who see one another face-to-face.

 

A. NO CHANGE
B. however,
C. moreover,
D. indeed,

 

The fact that the underlined transition is placed between two commas indicates that it serves to indicate the relationship between the sentence in which it appears and the previous sentence. In order to answer the question, you must consider the information in both sentences, and even before as well.

Sentence 1: people expected that information technology would change “that” (“that” = the fact that workers sitting far apart communicate infrequently).

Sentence 2: Ben Waber discovered that information technology is primarily used by workers sitting close to one another.

In other words, information technology did NOT actually change things: workers sitting far from each other still did not communicate. The sentences express contrasting ideas, so a contradictor is required. “However” is the only option that conveys a contrasting relationship, so (B) is correct. “Therefore,” “moreover,” and “indeed” are all used to convey similar ideas. (Note that however appears more frequently as an SAT answer choice than any other transition and that it is correct around 50% of the time.)

 


 

11/9/20

 

The planet Venus is believed to have contained Earth-like oceans at some point in they’re history, but these bodies of water evaporated as temperatures rose.

 

A. NO CHANGE
B. their
C. it’s
D. its

 

Logically, the pronoun in the blank should refer to the singular noun Venus — the sentence is discussing the history of that planet, not the history of oceans. A singular pronoun is thus required. (A) and (B) include forms of the plural pronoun they and can be eliminated.

(C) can be eliminated as well because you would not say …Venus is believed to have contained Earth-like oceans at some point in it is history… That leaves (D), which correctly supplies the singular possessive, its.

 


 

11/8/20

 

It isn’t yet clear how much plastic is consumed by corals in the wild, or what harm it might do to these important marine organisms, which are already threatened by environmental dangers like warming seas and pollution. But understanding why plastic might appeal to them is important, especially because some particles appear to get stuck in the corals, potentially disrupting their digestive process.

Hundreds of chemicals are mixed into plastics to achieve certain textures or other characteristics. Because the corals sense the presence of food with receptors, it would not be all that surprising if some chemical additives mimicked substances that set off the corals’ appetites, suggested Alexander Seymour and Austin Allen, who were both graduate students at Duke University when they led this study.

 

In the last sentence, “set off” most nearly means

A. revealed
B. stimulated
C. responded
D. compensated for

 

The passage is discussing corals that consume plastics. Given that context, the “chemical additives” referred to in the last sentence must make the coral hungry, i.e., they must “stimulate” the corals’ appetites. “Compensated (paid) for” and “responded” do not make sense at all, and “revealed” does not quite fit: the passage indicates that additives cause corals to become hungry when they were not hungry before, whereas “revealed” would imply that the corals were already hungry.

 


 

11/7/20

 

Chunks of ice and dust, which make their home in corners of the galaxy far beyond Pluto, and sometimes become dislodged and enter the solar system as streaky comets.

 

A. NO CHANGE
B. Pluto, they
C. Pluto and
D. Pluto,

 

The key to answering this question is to recognize that the sentence contains a non-essential clause (which make their home in corners of the galaxy far beyond Pluto) that can be removed from the sentence. When the clause is removed the error becomes apparent: Chunks of ice and dust…and sometimes become dislodged and enter the solar system as streaky comets. When the word and is removed, a logical sentence is created. That makes (D) correct.

 


 

11/6/20

 

Thousands of years ago, two microscopic spores spawned and created a monster. It grew — up to three feet a year — sending out dark, gnarly, threadlike organs called rhizomorphs that explored the subterranean darkness, foraging for food. Now it’s a nebulous body, a tangled mat beneath the Oregon soil that occupies an area the size of three Central Parks and may weigh as much as 5,000 African elephants.

Its scientific name is Armillaria ostoyae, but you can call it The Humongous Fungus. It’s the largest known terrestrial organism on the planet, according to the United States Forest Service. It’s also a deadly forest pathogen.

Although none (that we know of) are as big, there are many others in the Armillaria genus. These fungi cause root rot disease in plants in forests, parks, orchards and vineyards across North America, Europe and Asia. What sets them apart from other fungi is those stringy rhizomorphs that find weak trees, colonize their roots, kill and eat them.

 

The passage indicates that “stringy rhizomorphs” are

 

A. beneficial to trees and other plants.
B. unique to members of the Armilliaria genus.
C. a common characteristic of fungi.
D. destroyed by exposure to light.

 

The answer is located in the last sentence. The key is to recognize that the word them in the phrase What sets them apart from other fungi is those stringy rizomorphs… refers to fungi in the Armillaria genus. By definition, something that sets Armillaria fungi “apart” is unique to those fungi. That makes the answer (B).

(A) in incorrect because the passage indicates that Armillaria fungi are highly destructive to plants. (C) states exactly the opposite of what the passage indicates: string rhizomorphs are found only in the Armillaria genus; they are not a “common” characteristic of fungi. Be careful with (D): the passage only states that Armillaria ostoyae spreads in the dark — you cannot make a leap to infer that rhizomorphs are destroyed by light.

 


 

11/5/20

 

For years, seismologists have been trying to identify microquakes. Earthquakes so tiny they don’t even register on traditional measurement tools. Identifying microquakes can help scientists understand earthquake behavior and help them predict dangerous seismic events.

 

A. NO CHANGE
B. microquakes; earthquakes
C. microquakes, earthquakes
D. microquakes, and earthquakes

 

Shortcut: period = semicolon = comma + and. Since (A), (B), and (D) are grammatically identical, none of them can be correct. That leaves (C), which correctly uses a colon to introduce the definition of microquakes. Note that while a colon must be preceded by a complete, standalone sentence (For years, seismologists have been trying to identify microquakes), it can be followed by a fragment (Earthquakes so tiny they don’t even register on traditional measurement tools). In contrast, a period, semicolon, and comma + and can only be used to separate two complete sentences.

 


 

11/4/20

 

Self-portraiture isn’t just a byproduct of the smart phone. Since as early as the fifteenth century, artists across different mediums use self-portraits as a way to meditate on the world around them and their places within it. More than just capturing physical features, these images allow artists to channel their beliefs into their work in ways that are both revealing and revolutionary.

 

A. NO CHANGE
B. used
C. have used
D. had used

 

The word since, which appears at the beginning of the sentence, is a tip-off that the present perfect (have used) is required. This tense indicates that an action began in the past (fifteenth century) and is continuing into the present. Only (C) provides this tense, so it is correct.

 


 

11/3/20

 

The strings of letters that make up genes are largely useless on their own; instead, like blueprints for the many proteins in the body. To actually build something, or be expressed, certain genes must be switched on. Spaceflight seems to affect the level of this expression for some genes—especially those that play a role in the immune system, DNA repair, and bone growth.

 

A. NO CHANGE
B. own, instead like blueprints,
C. own. Instead, they are like blueprints
D. own instead being like blueprints

 

(A) is incorrect because a semicolon can only separate two sentences, and instead, like blueprints for the many proteins in the body is not a sentence. (B) is incorrect because the two commas signal a non-essential phrase; however, the sentence no longer makes sense when the information is removed (The strings of letters that make up genes are largely useless on their own…for the many proteins in the body). (D) is incorrect because some form of punctuation is required before instead to signal the start of a new clause. In addition, the word being reliably signals a wrong answer. (C) is correct because it adds a subject and verb (they are) to the second clause and uses a period to separate the resulting two sentences.

 


 

11/2/20

 

In some form or another, doughnuts have existed for so long that archaeologists keep turning up what look like fossilized bits of them in the middle of prehistoric settlements. But the doughnut proper, (if that’s the right word), supposedly came to Manhattan, then still New Amsterdam, under the unappetizing Dutch name of olykoeks—“oily cakes.”

 

A. NO CHANGE
B. proper, (if that’s the right word)
C. proper (if that’s the right word),
D. proper (if that’s the right word)

 

As a general rule, a non-essential clause can be set off by either commas or parentheses but not both. In rare cases, when a comma is necessary for other reasons, one may be placed after a close-parenthesis, but a comma before an open-parenthesis, or before and after a set of parentheses, is always incorrect. That automatically eliminates (A) and (B). Because there is no grammatical reason to place a comma after the close-parenthesis here, no commas are necessary, making the answer (D).

 


 

11/1/20

 

For cost-conscious clothing shoppers in 1920, it must have seemed like a miracle: men’s suits in a choice of 50 different styles for a mere 60 cents each (about $7.66 today). What’s more, when a suit got dirty, you could easily clean it—with an eraser. The first rubber erasers had been produced in England more than a century earlier. Paper clothing had arrived, largely imported from Germany and Austria, where World War I shortages of wool and other materials had spurred its development.

 

The writer is considering deleting the underlined information. Should the writer do this?

 

A. Yes, because the passage does not state that rubber erasers could be used to clean the suits.
B. Yes, because the passage focuses primarily on paper clothing.
C. No, because the passage indicates that paper clothing was erasable.
D. No, because the passage states that the suits seemed like a miracle.

 

“Delete” questions are essentially asking you one thing: whether the information in question is on- or off-topic. As a result, you must start by identifying the topic of the passage. What is the topic? Paper clothing (suits). What is the sentence in question about? The first rubber erasers? Is that the same thing as paper clothing? No, so the sentence should be deleted. Why? Because it’s off-topic (i.e., not about paper clothing). That makes the answer (B).

 


 

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

 

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