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Yes, this is not a hard and fast rule....
I have seen many examples where "which" does not refer to the noun close to it but refer to one little far away.
I will send you few examples if I encounter any going forward.
In almost all of the instances (say like 99%) which will refer to the noun preceeds it but I have seen few instances where this is not going to be the case and the question here is one of those few exceptions.
i think we need further elaboration... here are a few questions..
678. Television programs developed in conjunction with the marketing of toys, which was once prohibited by federal regulations, are thriving in the free market conditions permitted by the current Federal Communications Commission.
(A) Television programs developed in conjunction with the marketing of toys, which was once prohibited by federal regulations, are
(B) Television programs developed in conjunction with the marketing of toys, a practice that federal regulations once prohibited, is
(C) Developing television programs in conjunction with the marketing of toys, as once prohibited by federal regulations, is
(D) Federal regulations once prohibited developing television programs in conjunction with the marketing of toys, but they are
(E) Federal regulations once prohibited developing television programs in conjunction with the marketing of toys, but such programs are
734. The domesticated camel, which some scholars date around the twelfth century B.C., was the key to the development of the spice trade in the ancient world.
(A) The domesticated camel, which some scholars date
(B) The domesticated camel, which some scholars having thought to occur
(C) Domesticating the camel, dated by some scholars at
(D) The domestication of the camel, thought by some scholars to have occurred
(E) The camel’s domestication, dated by some scholars to have been
827. The science of economics, which for four decades was dominated by Keynesians, who at first stressed the government’s role in stimulating the economy, but who were ultimately led away from solutions based on government intervention.
(A) economics, which for four decades was
(B) economics that was to be
(C) economics, one which has, for four decades, been
(D) economics is one that for four decades has been
(E) economics, for four decades, is one that was
I was thinking C and E.
Elliminated A because ‘which’ is working on ‘toys’. It was the action or the practice which was prohibited not the toys.
B needed ‘are’. I found D weird.
I believe C changes the meaning. E is crisp and clean.
(A practice/phenomenon/action) was the key to the development of the spice trade in the ancient world.
We need ‘domestication’ as that clearly describes the phenomenon/idea.
Left with D and E. In GMAT D form, in my experience, is always preferred rather than use of possessive.
School integration plans have contributed to (significant increases in housing integration), which, in turn, reduces any future need for busing.
Which modifies the object of the preposition.
This explanation is reason enough for staying away from generalizations as pointed out by IOIIO. The fact that it doesn't help matters is a different thing.
Prepositional phrases are adjectival in nature; they can be eliminated when deciding SV agreements. In all other cases (such as when deciding noun pronoun agreements etc) we must not blindly remove them. As in BMW's example here - which is pointing to the object of the preposition
I am actually quite upset with MGMAT's SC study material. They have blatantly used the OG and Verbal guide - such heavy reliance on verbal guide is totally not warranted.
1. Get me the box of chocolates, which are creme filled.
which refers to chocolates.
2. Executives and federal officials say that the use of crack and cocaine is growing rapidly among workers, significantly compounding the effects of drug and alcohol abuse, which already cost business more than $100 billion a year.
which refers to "effects" ==> effects (of X&Y) ...cost business
so, i guess the rule of thumb is to first assume which refers to the closest noun (object of the preposition), make sure the context agrees, and if it doesnt, it refers to the noun instead of the object of the preposition.