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[GMAT OG Solution] Although when a hagfish is threatened…

In this article, we’ll look at the solution to this GMAT Official guide 2022 sentence correction question – Although when a hagfish is threatened, it will secrete slime that is small in quantity, it expands several hundred times as it absorbs seawater, forming a slime ball that can coat the gills of predatory fish and either suffocate them or distress them enough to make them flee.

We have analyzed the 5 answer choices and arrived at the correct choice through 3 steps:

  1. Meaning analysis
  2. Error analysis
  3. Answer choice analysis

General information on this GMAT OG SC question

  • Difficulty level – Hard
  • 59% of people got this question correct.
  • The average time taken to correctly answer this question – 1:29
  • Sessions – 4761
  • Source – Official Guide 2021 and OG 2022

1.1 Question – Although when a hagfish is threatened…

Although when a hagfish is threatened, it will secrete slime that is small in quantity, it expands several hundred times as it absorbs seawater, forming a slime ball that can coat the gills of predatory fish and either suffocate them or distress them enough to make them flee.

[Refer to the GMAT Official Guide for options]

1.2 Meaning Analysis

1.2.1 Sentence Structure

1.2.2 Meaning

The sentence starts by presenting information about what a hagfish does when threatened; it will secrete slime in a small amount.  The sentence continues to explain that something expands several hundred times. However, the first use of the pronoun “it” clearly refers to the “hagfish,” but the second two uses of “it” in the non-underlined portion of the sentence forces us to question whether it is the “hagfish” or the “slime” that expands and absorbs seawater. The logical inference here is that the slime would expand several hundred times as it absorbs seawater and form a slime ball. Finally, we are presented with information about what this slime ball does. The slime ball is used as a defense mechanism against predatory fish, coating their gills, suffocating them, or distressing them enough that they will flee.

1.3 Error Analysis

Pronoun Error leading to Meaning Error: The two uses of the pronoun “it” create ambiguity and confuse the meaning of the sentence.  The first use of the pronoun “it” clearly refers to the subject “hagfish” and is logically and grammatically correct. However, the second and third uses of the pronoun “it” create confusion. As discussed in the Meaning Analysis. It is unclear if these pronouns refer to the “hagfish” expanding several hundred times and absorbing seawater or the “slime.”  Now, subject pronouns tend to refer to the subject of the sentence, so grammatically, “it” should refer to the subject “hagfish.”  This pronoun-antecedent relationship creates illogical meaning, as discussed above in the Meaning Analysis.

1.4 Answer Choice Analysis  

Choice A: Although when a hagfish is threatened, it will secrete slime that is small in quantity,

Incorrect

This choice has a Pronoun Error discussed in the Error Analysis.

Choice B: Although a small quantity of slime is secreted by the hagfish, when threatened

Incorrect

Modifier Error leading to Meaning Error: The modifier “when threatened” modifies the action of expanding several hundred times. So, this modifier associates with the subject pronoun “it” that grammatically refers to the subject noun “a small quantity of slime.” But this modification is illogical as it suggests that a small quantity of slime expands when threatened. Logically, the hagfish is threatened, not a small amount of slime.

Choice C: Although, when threatened, a hagfish will secrete slime that is small in quantity,

Incorrect

Pronoun Error leading to Meaning Error: Again, in this option, the antecedent of the pronoun “it” appears to be the “hagfish” and not the “slime.” This option creates the same meaning confusion identified in the original sentence.  

Choice D: Although the slime secreted by a threatened hagfish is small in quantity,

Correct: This choice has moved “slime” to the subject position in the sentence making “slime” the clear antecedent of the pronoun “it.” This option is logically and grammatically correct.

Choice E: Although the hagfish secretes a small quantity of slime when threatened,

Incorrect

Pronoun Error leading to Meaning Error: Once again, the antecedent of the pronoun “it” appears to be the “hagfish,” which creates an illogical meaning.

1.5 Takeaways

  1. Always remember to ask the question, “Does this make sense?” to decipher the logical intended meaning of the author.
  2. Using the intended logical meaning, you can better understand the author’s intent and identify the errors that impede that communication.
  3. Always consider how the non-underlined portion of the sentence interacts with the underlined portion and how structural changes made in the underlined portion influence the non-underlined portion.
  4. A pronoun in the subject place generally refers to a noun in the subject place.

2. “Threatened Hagfish” OG 2022 Solution – Full-length Video Solution

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