Inside the Sausage Factory: Sentence Correction (4 of 6)

Last time we talked about one way to make derivative questions from published sources harder through the addition of length (the answer was E, by the way).  This time, I want to address two more specific options.

2.  Vary your answers more.  The more the answers vary, the more time and thought have to go into their evaluation.  In addition to varying how similar your answers are, also vary exactly how similar answers appear in the wrong answer choices: if all the answers that make the same mistake (or have the same part correct) are adjacent, it’s easier to do a vertical scan and just ignore a section of the answer choices.

Very cold temperatures are measured in degrees Kelvin; if they give it a low number, the closer the temperature is to absolute zero.
A.  if they give it a low number, the closer the temperature is to absolute zero
B.  in terms of number and temperature, lower and closeness to zero are correlated
C.  we assign the lowest numbers to the temperature closest to zero
D.  the lower the number, the closer the temperature is to absolute zero
E.  to give it a low number is the same as making the temperature closer to absolute zero

Note that some of these answer choices come dangerously close to being correct!  Choice A has an ambiguous “they” and “it” problem — to what do these pronouns refer?  The “they” is troubling because you’d think it’s “people” or “scientists”, but the only plural noun in the sentence is “temperatures”.  Context still tells us that “they” can’t be temperatures — if nothing else in that case, “it” should have been the reflexive “themselves” — but the GMAT doesn’t like pronouns that are at all unclear.  Choice B has the right idea — the number and temperature are correlated, that’s the whole point of measurement systems —  but it is definitely wordy and awkward.  Choice C drops a first-person pronoun in, and while I won’t say with certainty that you could never see a GMAT question with one, it’s just not likely at all; aside from that, it says we assign numbers (plural) to a single temperature.  D is the winner, of course, and it might have still felt somewhat obvious due to the number of times you’ve answered these “the X-er, the Y-er” questions.  E lacks parallelism (to X is to Y would have been preferred), and unfortunately implies that assigning the temperature a number literally makes the temperature closer to absolute zero.  Were that true, I’d hope GMAC would remove the Quantitative portion of the exam in the interest of public safety — careless math could lead to another global economic crisis.

Next time, more subtle ways to make your friends’ GMAT studies harder.

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