Most of the country’s biggest daily newspapers had lower circulation

Question

Most of the country’s biggest daily newspapers had lower circulation in the six months from October 1995 through March 1996 than a similar period a year earlier.

Option A
Option B
Option C
Option D
Option E

(This question is from Official Guide. Therefore, because of copyrights, the complete question cannot be copied here. The question can be accessed at GMAT Club)

Solution

Sentence Analysis

Here’s the sentence structure:

  • Most of the country’s biggest daily newspapers (Main Subject)
  • had lower circulation (Main Verb: had)
    • in the six months (Prepositional phrase modifying the verb ‘had’)
      • from October 1995 through March 1996 (prepositional phrase modifying ‘six months’)
    • than a similar period a year earlier. (Second part of the comparison)

We can see that the sentence talks about ‘country’s biggest daily newspapers’ and ‘six months from October 1995 through March 1996’. When I’m dealing with long modifiers, I compress them to gain a better understanding of the whole sentence. For example: I’d read the above sentence as

  • Most of these newspapers had lower circulation in these six months than a similar period.

Isn’t the above sentence easier to understand than the given sentence?

The reason this sentence is easier to understand is that I’ve reduced the number of words by compressing the modifiers. Doing so doesn’t mean that the modifiers are not important. However, reading all the modifiers every time will make it very hard for us to get the gist of the entire sentence. Thus, when we are trying to understand the sentence as a whole, it makes sense to compress the modifiers as I did above.

Here, ‘most of these newspapers’, ‘these six months’, and ‘a similar period’ are nouns. Replacing them with X, Y, and Z, we get

X had lower circulation in Y than Z.

In this sentence, the comparison is between X and Z i.e. the sentence seems to say that X had lower circulation in Y than Z had in Y.

However, clearly, the intended meaning of the sentence is that X had lower circulation in Y than X had in Z.

Thus, we need to write the sentence as:

X had lower circulation in Y than X had in Z.

OR

X had lower circulation in Y than in Z.

Thus, the original sentence has an error that it incorrectly compares newspapers with ‘a similar period’.

Option Analysis

(A) Incorrect. For the reason explained above.

(B) Incorrect. For the following reasons:

  1. It incorrectly compares newspapers with ‘a similar period’s circulation’. The explanation for this error remains same as that for the error in option A.
  2. Since ‘a similar period’ is just an adjective for ‘circulation’, ‘a year ago’ cannot modify ‘a similar period’.
  3. ‘a similar period’s circulation’ is much less preferred to writing ‘circulation for a similar period’.

(C) Correct

(D) Incorrect. Here ‘that’ stands for ‘circulation’. Thus, this option has the 1st error of option B.

(E) Incorrect. Here ‘that’ stands for ‘circulation’. Thus, this option has the 1st error of option B. Besides, the use of the preposition ‘of’ is incorrect since we need to have ‘circulation in a period’, not ‘circulation of a period’.

About Chiranjeev Singh

An Alumnus of IIM Ahmedabad and with scores of 780 (2017) and 770 (2013) on GMAT and 99.98%ile on CAT, Chiranjeev is one of the most qualified GMAT tutors in India. Chiranjeev has earlier served as Director of Curriculum at e-GMAT. Chiranjeev has been helping students ace GMAT since 2012. He follows a concept-based methodology to teaching GMAT and is very committed to student success. You may contact him for any private GMAT tutoring needs at CJ@GMATwithCJ.com. He conducts online sessions for students across the world.

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