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# According to public health officials, in 1998 Massachusetts

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Re: QOTD: According to public health officials [#permalink]

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21 Nov 2017, 04:16
GMATNinja wrote:
This is one of those classic comparison questions that can be really, really annoying if you’re not systematic and strict and literal with the meaning of the sentence. In my opinion, two of the WRONG answers sound better than the right answer. But my opinion doesn’t matter, and neither does “sound.” (Plus, who the heck starts having babies when they’re over the age of thirty? That’s really, really old. Oh, wait… crap. I’m over 30, huh?)

We also covered this one in a recent YouTube webinar on comparisons, so feel free to click here if you prefer your explanations in video form.

Before we look at the individual answer choices, hopefully the word “it” jumps out at you. It’s a singular pronoun, and… well, I guess it has to refer to “the age of thirty.” It’s really the only plausible singular referent, since “women” and “babies” are plural. And that’s one of the big keys to making sense of the question.

Quote:
A. than

So now we have: “…more babies were born to women over the age of thirty than under the age of thirty.”

I’ll be honest: I don’t love this answer choice. It sounds a little bit weird to me, but it’s also perfectly logical: the heart of the comparison revolves around the ages of the women. So I guess we have to keep (A), and see if there’s anything better down there somewhere.

Quote:
B. than born

(B) gives us: “…more babies were born to women over the age of thirty than born under the age of thirty.” Wait, that arguably sounds OK, but it’s nonsense: literally, (B) is telling us that the BABIES were born under the age of thirty. I mean, sure: babies are definitely under thirty, but that’s not the point that the sentence is trying to make.

So (B) is out.

Quote:
C. than they were

In (C), we have: “…more babies were born to women over the age of thirty than they were under the age of thirty.”

First of all, what does “they” refer to? You could argue for either “women” or “babies”, but neither makes much sense:

• “…more babies were born to women over the age of thirty than babies were under the age of thirty.” → nope, that’s complete garbage
• “…more babies were born to women over the age of thirty than women were under the age of thirty.” → also very confusing nonsense

So (C) is out, too.

Quote:

(D) gives us: “…more babies were born to women over the age of thirty than there had been under the age of thirty.”

Why would we use the past perfect tense “had been” here? When you think about the timeline, that doesn’t make any sense: the action in past perfect tense has to occur before another action in simple past. So this is literally saying that “there had been” babies born to women under the age of thirty BEFORE “babies were born to women over the age of thirty.” That makes no sense at all.

(D) is gone.

Quote:

I actually think that (E) sounds pretty good, but it’s wrong for exactly the same reason as (D): the past perfect tense is illogical in this situation.

Plus, we still have a pesky comparison issue, even if you ignore the verb tense problem: “…more babies were born to women over the age of thirty than had been born under the age of thirty.” This is similar to the logical problem in (B): it sounds like we’re saying that BABIES were born under the age of thirty, and that’s clearly not what we’re trying to say.

So (E) is gone, and we’re left with (A). Whether you like the way it sounds or not.

Very well explained. I used to get confused with similar comparison type questions which looks pretty easy but in reality these questions are the one where i often get wrong.

Can you suggest some key rules or hint to overcome this problem?

Thanks.

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Re: QOTD: According to public health officials [#permalink]

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21 Nov 2017, 16:04
anirbandatta27 wrote:
Very well explained. I used to get confused with similar comparison type questions which looks pretty easy but in reality these questions are the one where i often get wrong.

Can you suggest some key rules or hint to overcome this problem?

Like most things on the GMAT, there aren't a whole lot of clear-cut rules that will ALWAYS apply to comparison questions. Just some general principles, especially the idea that you always want to think strictly and literally about what, EXACTLY, is being compared in each sentence.

If you haven't already, you might want to take a look at our YouTube webinars on comparisons -- basically, we cover a few of the key tools and principles, and then illustrate how to use them with a half-dozen examples. Here's comparisions part I, and here's part II.

I hope this helps!
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QOTD: According to public health officials [#permalink]

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04 Dec 2017, 20:34
souvik101990 wrote:
According to public health officials, in 1998 Massachusetts became the first state in which more babies were born to women over the age of thirty than under it.

A. than
B. than born
C. than they were

mikemcgarry ,sayantanc2k , RonPurewal , daagh ,GMATNinja ,egmat ,AjiteshArun -- In the given question, how do we determine what does the pronoun it stands for?
Do we find the antecedent of it using parallelism? -- since in the part preceding than , preposition 'over' is followed by the phrase "the age of thirty" and thus preposition 'under' is followed by it , which stands for the noun phrase "the age of thirty".

According to public health officials, in 1998 Massachusetts became the first state in which more babies were born to women over the age of thirty than under it.

In general, a pronoun can stand any of the following - noun , object of preposition or the entire noun phrase?
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Re: QOTD: According to public health officials [#permalink]

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04 Dec 2017, 23:06
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Skywalker18 wrote:
mikemcgarry ,sayantanc2k , RonPurewal , daagh ,GMATNinja ,egmat ,AjiteshArun -- In the given question, how do we determine what does the pronoun it stands for?
Do we find the antecedent of it using parallelism? -- since in the part preceding than , preposition 'over' is followed by the phrase "the age of thirty" and thus preposition 'under' is followed by it , which stands for the noun phrase "the age of thirty".

According to public health officials, in 1998 Massachusetts became the first state in which more babies were born to women over the age of thirty than under it.

In general, a pronoun can stand any of the following - noun , object of preposition or the entire noun phrase?
1. I'd like to see what the others think about this, but (and I'm not sure whether I'm remembering this correctly) there is no rule for how a reader should identify the antecedent in this situation. Parallelism is a technique that can be used (for example) to lead the reader to associate the pronoun with the correct noun, but it is not a rule. For example (ignore the scientific details):

Even the scientists who study the surface of Europa feel that life is more likely to be found above the galactic plane than under it.

In this sentence, the parallelism strongly suggests that the author is trying to say
(a) Even the scientists who study the surface of Europa feel that life is more likely to be found above the galactic plane than under the galactic plane.

and not
(b) Even the scientists who study the surface of Europa feel that life is more likely to be found above the galactic plane than under the surface of Europa.

If the reference is reasonably clear (the logical noun exists), we should just ignore the pronoun altogether and focus on the more important concepts. Use pronoun ambiguity only if you have to decide between (let's say) a couple of options and don't see a more reliable way to break that tie.

2. Yes, a pronoun can refer to any of those things.

a. Europa's surface is made of ice.
An it here would most likely refer to the noun phrase Europa's surface (and not Europa). However, this is not an absolute rule.

b. The presence of water will be confirmed.
An it here would most likely refer to the noun phrase the presence of water. However, that it could also refer to water.

c. Liquid water is essential.
An it here would refer to the noun phrase liquid water. Keep in mind that the it would not refer to just water.
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Re: QOTD: According to public health officials [#permalink]

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05 Dec 2017, 01:21
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Quote:
In the given question, how do we determine what does the pronoun it stands for?

the INTENDED antecedent of a pronoun (= what the pronoun "should" stand for) is just a function of CONTEXT + COMMON SENSE.

like other "shoulds" in sentence correction, this is not a grammar issue at all.
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Re: QOTD: According to public health officials   [#permalink] 05 Dec 2017, 01:21

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