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GMAT: Sentence Correction Twisters: Not Such a Deal Really!!!

The GMAT test has surely made grammar a surreal experience. From the point of view of a trainer who enjoys every class no matter how repetitive it may get, I must salute the test for what it has been able to concoct of the many grammar rules. Very basic stuff, stuff one grew up knowing and mastering, is now laced with the unknown, the not so obvious and sometimes even the impossible. As a result, a Sentence Correction class often ends up much like an odyssey, with participants struggling to find a purpose.

Let me use this platform to share some of the SC questions that required more than my fair share of effort to explain and justify. Below is the first of these and I invite readers to share other SC questions that we can discuss and understand here.

1. Australian embryologists have found evidence that suggests that the elephant is descended from an aquatic animal, and its trunk originally evolving as a kind of snorkel.

(A) that suggests that the elephant is descended from an aquatic animal, and its trunk originally evolving
(B) that has suggested the elephant descended from an aquatic animal, its trunk originally
evolving
(C) suggesting that the elephant had descended from an aquatic animal with its trunk originally evolved
(D) to suggest that the elephant had descended from an aquatic animal and its trunk originally evolved
(E) to suggest that the elephant is descended from an aquatic animal and that its trunk originally evolved

The most important thing to watch out for here are the two “thats”. The first, evidence that, is a relative pronoun simply sitting after evidence and referring to it while the second that, suggests that, is a reporting conjunction that reports information. This latter is crucial. Since the embryologists are reporting 2 details – one about the elephant and the other about its trunk – it is very clear that the reporting conjunction will need to be used twice. So all we need to do is look for an answer or answers that have – suggests that the elephant…………………………., and that its trunk…………………………………..

Based on this understanding, we are able to locate just one answer….E.

Following the same rule, we can identify the need to observe a parallel of that in the example below:

Sartre believed each individual is responsible to choose one course of action over another one, that it is the choice that gives value to the act, and that nothing that is not acted upon has value.

(A) each individual is responsible to choose one course of action over another one
(B) that each individual is responsible for choosing one course of action over another
(C) that each individual is responsible, choosing one course of action over another
(D) that each individual is responsible to choose one course of action over the other
(E) each individual is responsible for choosing one course of action over other ones

Here we can spot and that; this hints at the need for an earlier use of that – as a reporting conjunction. So, trace the sentence back to the first verb – believed – and make sure to identify answers that use that to report each detail being reported. So we pick the three answers – B,C,D – using that to report the first clause and then identify the right answer relying on the idiom responsible for in B.

I will end this demonstration by reminding GMAT test takers to be vigilant about the non- underlined part of the SC question….there will always be something there to guide you through the seeming maze of words and structures.