List of Official Guide Problems that Deal With Meaning

Stacey Koprince —  September 26, 2011 — 15 Comments

In this table, we discuss a number of Sentence Correction problems from the OG12. Certain answer choices have “meaning” issues; we list the answer choice letters and provide a brief discussion of the issues involved. Note that this list is not comprehensive and is still in fairly raw form; there are additional problems and answer choices that could also contain meaning issues, and it’s possible that reasonable people will disagree with some of the things on this list (though we tried to include only the ones that we thought were most straightforward).

Also note that there are certain types of grammar errors that could always be described as “meaning” issues – for example, pronouns or modifiers that refer to the wrong noun, illogical comparisons, many verb tenses, and so on. We did not make an exhaustive list of these grammar+meaning issues, but we did include some as examples.

OE = Official Explanation
All quotes are from the problem cited

OG12 OG13 Answers That Deal with Meaning Summary
2 3 E OE: this answer “does not make sense”; intended meaning = we hope that a recovery has begun; meaning in E = we hope for the existence of a recovery (not quite the same thing)
3 - A, E OE: “Until almost 1900 is confusing. Does it refer back to the first verb or forward to the next verb?” In answer choice A, we’re not sure which action took place “until almost 1900.” None of the answer choices pairs that time marker with the first action (had professed / had pretended). Some of the answers do place that time marker unambiguously with the second action (began studying), including the correct answer.
5 6 all The modifier only moves around; according to the original (and correct) answer, we want to use only to limit “by heart disease and cancer” – that is, only heart disease and cancer surpass diabetes. In choices B, C, and E, “only” appears before “surpassed” – that is, heart disease and cancer only surpass diabetes. This would mean that there are no other actions, or verbs, by which we can relate heart disease and cancer to diabetes – only the verb “surpass.” It does not, however, maintain the original meaning: that there are only two things that surpass diabetes as a cause of death.
6 8 A, B Original meaning is absurd – the repairs themselves were due to moisture exhaled by tourists?No, there was damage due to the moisture, and that damage necessitated repairs. B repeats that error.
8 10 C, D Original says two things about the theory: it “began in an instant” and “has been expanding ever since.” C changes that meaning – in C, the “instant” has expanded. D similarly says that the “beginning is expanding, not the universe.”
12 14 A The original sentence places “correspondingly” next to “unaccompanied,” which doesn’t really mean anything. What is “corresponding” to something else? The increases in sales. Interestingly, the other 4 answers all place “correspondingly” correctly with the info about sales (though not always in the correct form).
14 17 B Original sentence says that sunspots have been sighted on the surface, but never on the poles or equator. Answer B says that the sunspots have never been sighted on the surface – a direct contradiction of the original meaning.
16 20 D OE: “Although this option is not technically wrong, it is less clear and graceful than B.” That appears to mean there must be a meaning issue, but Ron and I disagree; we think this construction is actually wrong. You can see Ron’s discussion of another problem with the same issue here.
18 22 A, B, E Original meaning is unclear – what is in the form of carbon dioxide? B and E repeat this ambiguity.
19 23 all OE: “the logic of this sentence demands a contrast, not an extension” so the construction of the original is illogical. B and C use “and,” which also does not provide the necessary contrast. E is similar to choice A.
33 33 C, D OE: “This sentence describes a causal sequence of events” – that is, first there’s an oversupply and that results in plunging prices, which results in factory closings. The OE describes the order of events in both C and D as “confusing.”
36 37 B, E Answer B says that Deborah Sampson was injured “while being discharged” – that is, that these things happened at the same time.  Answer E indicates that the three injuries all occurred in 1783. The original sentence indicates that she was injured after joining but before being discharged.
37 39 B, D, E These three answers change the word economic to economical. Economical means to be thrifty or not to be wasteful. Economic has to do with economics – the distribution and consumption of resources, for example.
39 - A, B OE: original sentence is incorrect because “it does not identify who will marry.” Answer B is “illogical” because it implies that simply seeking to have his marriage annulled then allowed the King to marry Anne Boleyn.
40 - C, D Two wrong answers switch the word each to all. OE: “the use of all does not make sense” because we’re really trying to say that each antibody specifically targets its own “invading microbe or foreign substance.”
41 42 B, C These two answers change the word economic to economical. Economical means to be thrifty or not to be wasteful. Economic has to do with economics – the distribution and consumption of resources, for example.
44 44 E OE: answer E “This sentence does not make it clear that Olive is a party to the rivalry.” E says the plot “centers on Olive and the rivalry” – two separate things.
46 46 E The original sentence states that the artisans’ creative energy was expended on the creation, construction, and decoration of various things. Answer E says that the creation of Buddha images accounted for much of [one thing] as well as construction and decoration of the temples. The “creation of images” (the subject) was responsible for the construction and decoration of the temples? Doesn’t make sense.
47 - E Five eagles “left their nests,” and that action brought to 34 the number of eagles who successfully left their nests – cause and effect. Answer E says “five eagles left their nests and brought to 34″ Now, we’re separating the two actions: (1) “five eagles left their nests;” (2) “five eagles brought to 34…” But it wasn’t the case that the existence of the 5 eagles brought to 34 etc. It was the action taken by the 5 eagles that brought to 34 etc.
48 47 D, E An example of a misplaced modifier that messes up the meaning. The original sentence tells us that the translation of the Iliad took 7 years. Answers D and E say that the Iliad itself took 7 years to complete.
51 51 D Choice D says that “the conversational pace of everyday life may be so brisk that it [hampers one thing], and results in [another thing].” Take just the second thing: “the conversational pace of everyday life may be so brisk that it results in not making sense of speech.” Who’s not making sense of speech? Everyday life? The pace? Where are the children? OE: choice D “nonsensically suggests” something that “remov[es] the children from the picture.”
53 53 E According to the OE, answer E appears to suggest that chemist Davy critiqued his own vision of a new chemistry: “critiquing A (all the chemistry done since Robert Boyle) as well as B (his own envisioning of new chemistry that Davy hoped to found).
56 57 A, B, C Another misplaced modifier! In the original sentence, the “placement of the modifier fashioned suggests” an illogical meaning, namely that “the Empire was fashioned out of these materials.” B and C repeat this illogical meaning.
57 58 B, C, E The original sentence indicates that the educators are not at fault; answer E implies that the educators are at fault (or at least makes this ambiguous). The OE says that answer C “distorts meaning,” probably because it is unclear what is not the fault of the educators.
62 63 B, D The original sentence discusses what “farmers are to be allowed” to do. Answer B talks about what is “able to be grown by farmers” – what they are capable of growing and what they are legally allowed to grow are two different things. Answer D makes a similar meaning change.
64 64 all The OE states that, in all 4 incorrect answers, “aggravating suggests a different meaning than does aggravate.” I’m not 100% sure I buy that – not in all 4 answers. The “are aggravating to” construction in B and D does, I agree, convey a different meaning. I think C and E are fuzzier – and arguably okay from a meaning perspective.
72 75 B, D Another problem that tries to use “economically” in place of “economic!” These two answers change the word economic to economical. Economical means to be thrifty or not to be wasteful. Economic has to do with economics – the distribution and consumption of resources, for example.
73 76 A, C, D The OE doesn’t mention a meaning issue here, but I would argue that the construction “appear as equipped” is ambiguous. Read one way, it could imply a comparison: You appear as equipped to climb the mountain as he does. You only realize as you continue to read that there’s no later item for comparison. Alternatively, the construction could be read: You appear as though you are equipped to succeed. Or (the officially intended meaning): You appear to be equipped to succeed. The ambiguity in the number of ways that this could be read is, to me, a meaning problem in the original sentence. C and D also repeat this problem.
74 77 A, B The use of the past perfect “had been allowed” creates an illogical meaning – you can’t reduce something that already took place in the past. From the point in time at which the agreement was made, future dumping was reduced; you can’t reduce the amount that was already dumped before the agreement was made. B repeats this illogical meaning.
75 78 A, B In the original problem, the pronoun their could technically refer to either tourists or rhinoceroses. In this case, we can use common sense “ clearly, we should be talking about the horns of the animals, not of the tourists! Answers A and B can both be eliminated for this reason. The correct answer substitutes the animals’ horns for their horns, making it very clear which mammal has the horns.
79 82 A, C, E The first (non-underlined) portion of the sentence indicates that attorneys sometimes try to blame their clients’ misconduct on something ingested. That part is fine; the problem starts with the underlined portion. What’s wrong with that? It says that the perpetrators (the criminals, or the attorneys’ clients) are the ones who are attributing their behavior to an allergy. But the first half of the sentence didn’t say that “ it said the attorneys were the ones arguing this! The first half of the sentence and the second half are saying different things. C and E repeat this messed-up meaning.
81 84 D, E The original sentence tells us that ulcers are not caused by stress, alcohol, or rich foods Answers D and E both change the word or to the word and “ that is, ulcers aren’t caused by stress, alcohol, and rich foods. What’s the difference? Or means that any one of the three does not by itself cause an ulcer. And is a very different construction “ now, the physicians are claiming that the combination of all three together does not cause ulcers. There’s nothing wrong with or illogical about the original meaning, so we don’t have an acceptable reason to change it by changing or to and.
84 88 C OE: “and when distorts the meaning, suggesting that ozone is formed in two ways.” That is, the sentence says that (1) “ozone is formed in the atmosphere,” and separately (2) “ozone is formed when hydrocarbons and” etc. Is B happening in the atmosphere? Who knows – this answer choice has lost that meaning.
87 91 A, E There are two ways to read the original sentence and both are wrong (1) “wines have been priced to sell and they are [sell] (this is grammatically incorrect); or (2) “wines have been priced to sell and they are [priced to sell]” (why are we repeating that they are priced to sell? redundant). In answer E, the use of past perfect also messes up the meaning. E indicates that, first, the “wines had been priced to sell” and then the “vintners have cut prices.” That sequence of events is backwards.
89 - >A, C I’m including this one to make the point that any “apples to oranges” comparison (comparing two things that it doesn’t make sense to compare) can be considered a meaning problem (though I haven’t included all of those on this list). In this one, the original sentence compares “dirt roads” (things) to “maintaining paved roads” (an action). C repeats this type of error.
90 - C, D, E The original sentence tells us that a certain type of program was first played on the radio in the 1920s – not the 1910s or the 1930s. Answers C, D, and E move the word “first” and change the meaning: now, these two choices are saying that this type of program was the first thing to air in the evening (say, at 6pm). Answers C and E could arguably go either way – but ambiguity is still cause for rejecting these answers.
94 - B The original, logical meaning is that an increase in the number of flights has led to an increase in the number of delays. To the extent that the awkward “more delay” in answer B could be considered grammatically acceptable, “more delay” implies that we are talking about the length of the delay, not the number of (different) flight delays.
97 - E What was “dominating the music of the postwar period?” In the original sentence, the system was. Answer choice E says that both Schoenberg and the system were.
98 96 B, E The OE says that choice B “makes no sense”; I think the problem is more about ambiguity than a downright illogical meaning, but either explanation is sufficient to dismiss this choice. In choice E, “while” introduces the wrong contrast point – the contrast is between the two geographical locations, not how the spear points were made and where they were found
105 104 B, D OE: in answer B “Phrase carefully coordinating illogically modifies the noun that immediately precedes it.” Another example of a misplaced modifier messing up the meaning. OE: in answer D “carefully coordinated absurdly modifies Beatrix Potter rather than her illustrations.” And yet another example – two for one!
106 105 D In D, the “which has become” modifier is referring to the telephone rather than the radio. The original sentence indicates that we’re talking about the radio – it was originally conceived for one purpose but now is used for the opposite purpose.
107 106 all Many misplaced modifiers here. In B, the sentence says the air pollutants “hav[e] the ability to analyze the chemical elements” – that makes no sense! In C and D, the sentence says that the air pollutants are “called proton-induced X-ray emission” and E says that the substance is “called proton-induced X-ray emission.
108 108 C, E This is another one of those “apples to oranges” comparison mistakes. C  and E both compare children to permissive parents, rather than the children of one type of parent to the children of another type of parent.
109 109 B, C When studying this one, I think its simplest for us just to remember that the standard expression is “either X or Y” (and not “either X and Y”) but I wanted to point out that the OE says that “and is incorrect following either, and its use changes the meaning of the sentence.” Yes, that’s true – but it changes the meaning specifically because it’s (always!) the wrong construction, so let’s make our lives easy and just remember what the right construction is. :)
110 110 A, B There are multiple misplaced modifiers in this one that make the meaning ambiguous or illogical. Who or what was “published in Harlem?” Did they both own and edit, or was one the owner and one the editor? Who later made his reputation as a labor leader?
114 116 E OE: “construction is illogical” and “makes no sense.” What did they draw? Pictures? What did they take turns doing with the funds?
115 117 B, E The OE states that both B and E have a “distort[ed] meaning.” I think this is more clear in E, which says that “Gall’s hypothesis which is widely accepted today is that” This implies that, of all of Gall’s hypothesis, there is only one which is widely accepted today; that may be true, but the original sentence never conveyed that info. In B, we have “Gall’s hypothesis of different mental functions that are (description)” The choice seems to limit Galls’ hypothesis to “different mental functions” themselves, as opposed to something about the locations of different mental functions. I think B is a bit fuzzier / harder to argue, but E definitely changes the meaning.
117 119 D In E, “as if they were” means that they actually aren’t. “I looked at her as if she were an alien” – but she’s not really an alien, right? (And, technically, I should also say “as though she were an alien.”) That changes the original meaning because George Sand did in fact consider the rural poor legitimate subjects for literature.
119 121 D, E These choices say that the “asteroids and comets may have caused… continents” (to exist). That doesn’t make sense and also isn’t consistent with the rest of the list – the asteroids and comets caused certain actions to happen.
120 122 A, B, C OE: “the meaning of this sentence becomes lost” because of the placement of the prepositional phrase “from a one-page writing sample.” Logically, the company can use a one-page writing sample to analyze someone’s handwriting. Answers A, B, and C, however, imply that the company is claiming in a one-page writing sample to be able to analyze handwriting. Perhaps it would be okay to say that they’re making this claim in a one-page press release… but not in a writing sample.
121 123 all B and D both imply that red wine is a type of consumption; rather it is a type of product that can be consumed. C and E both imply that wine was consumed in the report; this is nonsensical.
125 125 A, C OE: “has confounds the sequence of events and makes the comparison illogical.” The original sentence includes the time marker 1910; the action associated with 1910, then, must take place in the past. This is an example of an instance in which a certain tense is demanded by logic. You could argue that most if not all sentences demand a certain tense based upon the logic of the sentence, but we’ll limit ourselves here to very precise clues such as time markers.
131 130 A OE: “the referent of it is ambiguous, raising questions about just what two things are being compared.” This is a good example of how pronoun errors can introduce an ambiguous or incorrect meaning. In the original sentence, the pronoun “it” could refer to “the energy” or possibly “the energy produced in France.” We want “it” to mean “the energy produced in Germany” so even if we go with the simple “it = the energy” interpretation, we still have a problem. “in Germany the energy is just over 33 percent?” The energy of what? The sentence doesn’t provide the concept of “energy produced in Germany.”
132 131 A, B, C OE: “the pronoun it seems illogically to refer forward to someone.” We can’t refer to someone as an “it” (unless we’re trying to be rude!). Another example of a pronoun error introducing an illogical meaning. B repeats the error. Answer C uses the pronoun “they,” which is a fine match for “people” but we can’t refer to “the term psychopath” as “they.”
134 134 A, B OE: “The omission of and before fatigue creates an unclear sentence.” Three things are being reduced, but the fourth is being raised. We need to separate out the first three with their own parallel list structure, and then introduce the 4th separately. How do we know this? Only from our understanding of the initial meaning: that 3 things are being reduced and the fourth is being raised.
137 137 A OE: Answer A “Illogically suggests [that] the composer goes into decline after death.” We don’t necessarily know until we read the other answers that we want to talk about the fact that the composers’ reputations decline after death, but certainly it’s illogical (and kind of creepy!) to say that the composer himself is “declining” after death.

Stacey Koprince


Stacey Koprince is an Instructor and Trainer as well as the Director of Online Community for Manhattan Prep. She's also a management consultant who specializes in corporate strategy. She has been teaching various standardized tests for more than fifteen years and her entire teaching philosophy can be summed up in five words: teaching students how to think.

15 responses to List of Official Guide Problems that Deal With Meaning

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