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Part or all of the following sentence is underlined; beneath the sentence are five ways of phrasing the underlined material. Select the option that produces the best sentence. If you think the original phrasing produces a better sentence than any of the alternatives, select choice A.  

Read the original sentence to yourself, listening for errors.  Then evaluate the underlined portion of the sentence using the Big 8 Grammar Rules.  Focus on the first error that you find to eliminate wrong answer choices.

It is thought that a dog’s sense of smell is generally 10,000 to 100,000 times better than humans.

If this sentence did not make you laugh, read it again.  What are the two things that are being compared in this sentence?  A dog’s sense of smell is being compared to humans.  This sentence is telling you that a dog’s sense of smell is 10,000 to 100,000 times better than anything about humans or anything a human could do.  It just does not make sense to compare an ability to multiple people.  The underlined portion of the sentence is “humans,” so change that to “a human’s sense of smell” for a parallel comparison to “a dog’s sense of smell,” and then look down at the answer choices.

(A) humans
(B) humans’ are
(C) humans have
(D) a human’s
(E) a human has

(A) can be eliminated because it matches the original sentence.  (B) can be eliminated because it is plural.  You are not going to compare “a dog’s sense of smell” (singular) with “humans’ are” (plural).  (C) can be eliminated because it is plural, ambiguous, and does not match the possessive form of “a dog’s sense of smell.” (D) this answer is more concise than your prediction, but it matches your prediction.  It uses the same “–‘s” to show that the sense of smell belongs to “a human” (singular) and can easily be compared to “a dog’s sense of smell.”  Think of the last part of your prediction “sense of smell” as implied.  This is an elliptical sentence: something has been left out to avoid repetition, but you can tell what it would be from reading the sentence. (E) can be eliminated because two things that are being compared must have the same form.  If you want to talk about the sense of smell that “a human has,” you would have to compare it to the sense of smell that “a dog has.”  Remember that you cannot change any portion of the sentence that is not underlined.

The correct answer is (D).


On sat.collegeboard.org, 69% of the responses were correct.

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