GMAT Sentence Correction Gone Wrong

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There are three types of wrong answers when it comes to Sentence Correction:

1. Well, I figured I got that one wrong.  That was tricky.

2. Oh, is that so?  I’ve got to study that concept, there.

3. What?!? That’s impossible!  I’m calling GMAC to tell them they’ve made an error!

This post is in honor of the third type of wrong answer to Sentence Correction questions.

Let’s go through one that fits that category (it did for me, anyway!):

Among the objects found in the excavated temple were small terra-cotta effigies left by supplicants who were either asking the goddess Bona Dea’s aid in healing physical and mental ills or thanking her for such help.

(A) in healing physical and mental ills or thanking her for such help

(B) in healing physical and mental ills and to thank her for helping

(C) in healing physical and mental ills, and thanking her for helping

(D) to heal physical and mental ills or to thank her for such help

(E) to heal physical and mental ills or thanking her for such help

(This is from the GMAT Official Guide, p. 654)

Now, at first glance, I knew there was something wrong – I needed to find an answer choice with better parallelism! I chose D — perfectly parallel, and it made beautiful sense to me.

UNTIL I discovered that the answer was A!

I could not describe my bafflement…until I thought it over and worked the question out again.  So, here is the fruit of my labor for your benefit:

What I failed to do is test the parallelism of my answer choice in the CONTEXT of the original sentence.  If you look carefully, you’ll see that the initial verb is NOT “healing” but “asking”!  This is a traditional either/or structure, and all verbs must be in gerund form. With this in mind, when you look at choices B, C, D, and E, it’s easy to see where they fall short:

B makes the phrase “either/and” instead of “either/or.”

C mixes gerund with infinitive.

D, my original choice, is actually the worst of them all!  Not only does the infinitive break the parallel structure initiated by “asking,” but also it’s inappropriate to follow the word “aid” with an infinitive.

E mixes gerund with infinitive.

Just because the answer choice seems to have good parallel structure, that doesn’t mean that it will remain neatly parallel in the context of the original sentence.  Good luck everybody! If you need extra help with sentence correction and identifying correct parallel structure, click here to get in touch with one of the tutors at Manhattan Elite Prep.

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