Overview

Time for good ol’ grammar. You’ll be given a sentence, all or part of which has been underlined, with five subsequent answer choices. The task is to choose the best version of the underlined portion, ensuring that the answer fits in with the rest of the original sentence. You’ll have to evaluate the grammar, logic, and effectiveness of the sentence and choose a response that clears up any errors and ambiguity without introducing more information. The first choice always repeats the original verbatim; the other four choices alter the sentence in one or more ways.

Test-takers must choose which of the five choices best expresses an idea or relationship. The questions will require test-takers to be familiar with the stylistic conventions and grammatical rules of standard written English and demonstrate their ability to improve incorrect or ineffective expressions.

This section tests two broad aspects of language proficiency:

  • Correct expression. A correct sentence is grammatically and structurally sound. It conforms to all the rules of standard written English; e.g., noun-verb agreement, pronoun consistency, pronoun case, and verb tense sequence. A correct sentence will not have dangling, misplaced, or improperly formed modifiers; unidiomatic or inconsistent expressions; or faults in parallel construction.
  • Effective expression. An effective sentence expresses an idea or relationship clearly and concisely, as well as grammatically. The best answer choice should contain no superfluous words or needlessly complicated expressions. An effective sentence also uses the standard dictionary meanings of words, in the appropriate context.

Question 1

Democritus’s theory of there being a set of indivisible particles making up all matter bears a striking resemblance to modern atomic theory.

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Answer & Explanation

This sentence doesn’t contain any notable violations of strict grammatical rules. However, the presence of the word being in this sentence is a clue that it may contain an undesirable wordy construction. Furthermore, in place of the participial phrase making up all matter modifying particles, we’d prefer a more active and direct construction using the verb make.

Choices B and C each eliminate being and transform making into makes, so both B and C are immediately appealing. As always, however, there must be a concrete reason that one of these answer choices is better than the other.

The difference is quite subtle: choice B describes a theory of a set of indivisible particles, while choice C describes a theory that a set of individual particles make up all matter. Choice C more directly introduces the substance of the theory – this set of particles makes up all matter – while B relegates this critical information to a subsequent relative clause, that make up all matter. Choice C thus more effectively conveys the meaning of this sentence.

Choices D and E each fail to change the participle making into the verb make, and each also adds an unnecessary and wordy relative clause beginning with which.

Choice C is correct.

Question 2

Although the term “low-fat” is used by nutritionists and dieticians to describe a food item that meets any of a wide variety of criteria, legally it is a product that is scientifically verified to contain less than three grams of fat per serving.

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Answer & Explanation

In the context of this sentence, the only logical antecedent for the underlined pronoun it is the term "low-fat." However, the underlined portion of this sentence also states that it is a product. This is a logical error in pronoun reference; it cannot be both a term applied to products and an actual product.

Choices D and E retain this error; in choice E, the pronoun they also disagrees in number with the antecedent the term "low-fat." They can be eliminated.

Choices B and C fix this error by noting that it – the term – refers to a product rather than is itself a product. Choice C uses the unnecessarily wordy construction it is in reference to, while choice B uses the simple and direct subject-verb construction it refers to; therefore, B is a better answer than C.

Choice B is the correct answer.

Question 3

The tallest structure in Paris, the designer and engineer of the Eiffel Tower were two brilliant architects, Maurice Koechlin and Gustave Eiffel, whose innovative safety precautions would earn him credit for saving many lives.

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Answer & Explanation

The appositive that begins this sentence, the tallest structure in Paris, describes the Eiffel Tower. However, this introductory phrase is followed not by Eiffel Tower but by the designer and engineer. This is a classic misplaced modifier; the sentence must be rearranged so that the tallest is next to Eiffel Tower, the noun that it modifies.

Furthermore, the antecedent of the relative pronoun whose is ambiguous. The use of the singular pronoun him in this relative clause suggests that whose must refer either to Koechlin or to Eiffel (not to both men); however, it’s not clear to which of these men whose refers.

Choice B fails to correct the incorrect placement of the modifier the tallest, so it can be eliminated immediately.

Choice C both corrects this error and inserts the whose… clause immediately after Gustave Eiffel, making it clear that Eiffel, not Koechlin, is the antecedent of whose. Choice C looks good.

Choice D restructures the sentence to eliminate the misplaced modifier. However, it does not correct the ambiguity in the reference of whose, and it creates an undesirable gap between the subject Eiffel Tower and the second main verb in this sentence, is.

Choice E fails to correct the ambiguous reference of whose and introduces a construction involving the word being; as is often the case, the presence of being is a clue that the construction is wordy and awkward.

Choice C is correct.