GMAT Sentence Correction: All-in-One Practice Question

GMAT Sentence Correction: All-in-One Practice Question

This Sentence Correction exercise is much harder than anything you will see on test day. It relies on the following principle: namely, if a question testing some of the Sentence Correction issues listed in the Official Guide is a good addition to your practice arsenal, then a question testing all of them could be welcome variation and challenge. As a reminder, the stylistic, grammatical, and syntactical issue in question are:

  • Agreement
  • Diction
  • Grammatical construction
  • Idiom
  • Logical Predication
  • Parallelism
  • Rhetorical construction
  • Verb form

This Sentence Correction exercise has been made more challenging by making the wrong answers appear less obviously wrong, and the right answers appear less obviously right. Yes, you read that correctly — right answers (plural). In an effort to illustrate the variability and flexibility of sentences with heavy modification, there are two correct answers among the choices.

 

Practice Question

The storming of the Bastille, a medieval fortress turned from a prison, by angry protesters on July 14, 1789 was the first violent event of the opening stage of the French Revolution, following the dramatic formation of the National Assembly and beginning a long period of turmoil within France and throughout Europe.

A. The storming of the Bastille, a medieval fortress turned from a prison, by angry protesters on July 14, 1789 was the first violent event of the opening stage of the French Revolution, following the dramatic formation of the National Assembly and the inception of a long period of much turmoil within France and throughout Europe.

B. After the revolutionary formation of the National Assembly by angry protesters, then a long period of much turmoil within France and throughout Europe were begun by the storming of the Bastille, a medieval fortress turned into a prison, on July 14, 1789, the first violent event of the opening stage of the French Revolution.

C. Angry protesters stormed the Bastille, a medieval fortress turned into a prison, the first violent event of the opening stage of the French Revolution, the dramatic formation of the National Assembly, and the beginning of a long period of much turmoil with France and throughout Europe on July 14, 1789.

D. A long period of much turmoil within France and throughout Europe began on July 14th, 1789 along with the first violent event of the opening stage of the French Revolution, when angry protesters stormed the Bastille, a medieval fortress turned into a prison following the dramatic formation of the National Assembly.

E. After the revolutionary formation of the National Assembly, a long period of many turmoil within France and throughout Europe were begun by the storming of the Bastille, a medieval fortress turned into a prison by angry protesters on July 14, 1789, the first violent event of the opening stage of the French Revolution.

F. A long period of much turmoil within France and throughout Europe had been begun July 14th, 1789 with the first violent event of the opening stage of the French Revolution, when angry protesters stormed the Bastille, a medieval fortress turned into a prison, an event after the dramatic formation of the National Assembly.

G. The storming of the Bastille, a medieval fortress turned into a prison by angry protesters on July 14, 1789, was the first violent event of the opening stage of the French Revolution, following the dramatic formation of the National Assembly and likewise beginning a long period of much turmoil not only within France and throughout Europe.

H. The first violent event of the opening stage of the French Revolution was the storming of the Bastille, a medieval fortress turned into a prison, by angry protesters on July14, 1789, following the dramatic formation of the National Assembly and beginning a long period of much turmoil within France and throughout Europe.

I. A long period of much turmoil within France and throughout Europe began July 14th, 1789 with the first violent event of the opening stage of the French Revolution when, following the dramatic formation of the National Assembly, angry protesters stormed the Bastille, a medieval fortress turned into a prison.

J. The first violent event of the opening stage of the French Revolution was the storming of the Bastille, a medieval fortress turned into a prison, by angry protesters on July14, 1789, following the dramatic formation of the National Assembly, also a beginning of a long period of many turmoil within France and throughout Europe.

Explanations

A.  The storming of the Bastille, a medieval fortress turned from a prison, by angry protesters on July 14, 1789 was the first violent event of the opening stage of the French Revolution, following the dramatic formation of the National Assembly and the inception of a long period of much turmoil within France and throughout Europe.

The Bastille was a fortress first and a prison more recently; “from” reverses this order. The modifying phrase beginning with “following” is setting up events that took place prior to the attack, but “the inception of a long period . . .” is meant to describe the attack, not an event before it.

B.  After the revolutionary formation of the National Assembly by angry protesters, then a long period of much turmoil within France and throughout Europe were begun by the storming of the Bastille, a medieval fortress turned into a prison, on July 14, 1789, the first violent event of the opening stage of the French Revolution.

Here angry protesters are the ones who formed the National Assembly, “then” subordinates what ought to be the main clause of a sentence, and the plural verb “were begun” does not agree with the singular “period.”

C.  Angry protesters stormed the Bastille, a medieval fortress turned into a prison, the first violent event of the opening stage of the French Revolution, the dramatic formation of the National Assembly, and the beginning of a long period of much turmoil with France and throughout Europe on July 14, 1789.

This is a hard (wrong) answer choice because while it’s clearly wrong, it’s challenging to articulate why. Modifying phrases by default modify the thing they are closest to, but there are still rules. You can add apposition — a parenthetical restatement of a word you just said — set off only by commas and without any additional marking words; you can even put several in a row (“George’s faithful dog Spot, terror of the postal service, stealer of bacon, and pursuer of squirrels, loved riding in the car more than anything”) modifying something prior. Without additional participles, verbs, adverbs, or relative pronouns in front of each phrase after “prison” to suggest a structure, though, the phrases default to modifying “the Bastille.”

D.  A long period of much turmoil within France and throughout Europe began on July 14th, 1789 along with the first violent event of the opening stage of the French Revolution, when angry protesters stormed the Bastille, a medieval fortress turned into a prison following the dramatic formation of the National Assembly.

“Along with” suggests that there were two parallel events, when in fact they are the same event. The lack of a comma in D is undesirable because it suggests that the conversion from fortress to prison followed the formation of the National Assembly, when in fact that happened years before. Commas are the difference between “I’m hungry! Let’s eat, Grandma!” and “I’m hungry! Let’s eat Grandma!”

E.  After the revolutionary formation of the National Assembly, a long period of many turmoil within France and throughout Europe were begun by the storming of the Bastille, a medieval fortress turned into a prison by angry protesters on July 14, 1789, the first violent event of the opening stage of the French Revolution.

“Turmoil” is a non-count noun, and so should be modified with “much.” “Were begun” is plural where “period” is singular. Lack of an important comma strikes again, as this sentence indicates that the angry protesters are the ones who converted the fortress to a prison (not true).

F.  A long period of much turmoil within France and throughout Europe had been begun July 14th, 1789 with the first violent event of the opening stage of the French Revolution, when angry protesters stormed the Bastille, a medieval fortress turned into a prison, an event after the dramatic formation of the National Assembly.

Past perfect tenses (“had been begun”) are used to indicate time prior to a past tense elsewhere in the sentence, but here the period of turmoil begins at the same time as the storming of the Bastille. “An event after” is simply a wordier (and therefore GMAT-incorrect) version of “after.”

G.  The storming of the Bastille, a medieval fortress turned into a prison by angry protesters on July 14, 1789, was the first violent event of the opening stage of the French Revolution, following the dramatic formation of the National Assembly and likewise beginning a long period of much turmoil not only within France and throughout Europe.

Angry protesters are industriously engaged in remodeling once more in choice G, and doing so right at the beginning of the French Revolution. “And likewise” is wordy and unnecessary.

H.  The first violent event of the opening stage of the French Revolution was the storming of the Bastille, a medieval fortress turned into a prison, by angry protesters on July14, 1789, following the dramatic formation of the National Assembly and beginning a long period of much turmoil within France and throughout Europe.

In “real English” there’s no good reason to have a sentence this long and heavily modified, but this is correct. You may also notice that it is mostly the same as choice I, but the ideas come in the opposite order.

I.  A long period of much turmoil within France and throughout Europe began July 14th, 1789 with the first violent event of the opening stage of the French Revolution when, following the dramatic formation of the National Assembly, angry protesters stormed the Bastille, a medieval fortress turned into a prison.

If you felt that “following the dramatic  formation of the National Assembly” is oddly placed — you are right, it’s a more complex sentence arrangement, but a correct one. It looks less unusual in a shorter sentence: “A bad time period started with a violent event when, following a political event, people did stuff to a building, a fortress made into a prison.” As before, don’t write like this on the AWA.

J.  The first violent event of the opening stage of the French Revolution was the storming of the Bastille, a medieval fortress turned into a prison, by angry protesters on July14, 1789, following the dramatic formation of the National Assembly, also a beginning of a long period of many turmoil within France and throughout Europe.

If “also a beginning” is parallel to anything, it’s parallel to “the National Assembly”, which wouldn’t make sense anyway. “Many” makes another appearance in place of “much”.