Good point made by education aisle on the pronoun ambiguity. Always be careful of ambiguity in general, because there are some cheap ways for GMAC to get around it. I would add that it's a bit odd to describe "so as" as a parallelism trigger, considering that it's more of a modifier:
"I hurried so as to be on time."
That is not parallelism. If it were "hurried" and "to be" would not be allowed to be parallel (You cant say "I hurried and to eat.") It is a verbal modifier, answering the question "Why did he hurry?" Either way, the point stands that if you have a modifier, a pronoun within that modifier must refer to the main subject of the main clause. So let's go through the question, ignoring any pronoun issues.
Factory outlet stores, operated by manufacturers, are usually located miles from downtown and regional shopping centers so as not directly to be competitive against department stores in the same trading area.
(A) so as not directly to be competitive against
PROBLEM: The ordering of the words here is illogical: "so as not directly to be competitive". They are located where they are "so as not to compete directly against...". The adverb directly should be modifying "compete". Here, it modifies...nothing.
(B) in order for them not to have direct competition with
PROBLEM: IDIOMATIC. You can't say "in order for", only "in order to".
(C) so that they do not compete directly with
ANSWER: Here, compete is modified by directly in the correct way.
(D) in order that they are not directly competitive against
PROBLEM: Again, directly is now modifying "competitive", which is odd. You can "compete directly" but what does it mean to be "directly competitive"? Also, IDIOMATICALLY, you can't be "competitive against" something, only competitive "with".
(E) for the purpose of not competing directly with
PROBLEM: This is a subtle meaning issue. They don't locate their stores there for the purpose of not competing directly, but so that they don't compete directly.
Hope that helps!
Tommy Wallach | Manhattan GMAT Instructor | San Francisco
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