Heavy commitment by an executive to a course of action

Question

Heavy commitment by an executive to a course of action, especially if it has worked well in the past, makes it likely to miss signs of incipient trouble or misinterpret them when they do appear.

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

Let’s understand the structure of the argument:

  • Heavy commitment (Main Subject)
    • by an executive (Modifies ‘commitment’)
    • to a course of action, (Modifies ‘commitment’)
    • especially if it has worked well in the past, (This is a ‘if’ clause and seems to modify the entire clause. When does heavy commitment make it likely to miss signs? The answer is: especially if the course of action has worked well in the past. Thus, this “if clause” provides additional information about the entire clause. Please note that the antecedent of ‘it’ is not very clear; ‘it’ can also refer to Heavy Commitment. Therefore, there is pronoun ambiguity here.)
  • makes it likely to (‘makes’ – main verb. The question here is ‘makes what likely?’ – the antecedent of ‘it’ is not clear. Rather, since logically we know that the executive is likely to miss signs, instead of ‘it’, there should have been ‘him’.)
    • miss signs of incipient trouble (What is likely to happen? This is the first part. All fine here)
    • or misinterpret them when they do appear. (This is the second part and perfectly parallel to the first part. ‘them’ and ‘they’ refer to ‘signs’. All fine here)

The sentence essentially says that heavy commitment by an executive to a course of action makes him likely to miss signs of trouble or misinterpret them

From our structure analysis, we find two problems with the sentence:

  1. The antecedent for the first ‘it’ is not clear.
  2. The second ‘it’ should be replaced by ‘him’. As is, the sentence is not clear as to who is likely to miss the signs.

Option Analysis

(A) Incorrect. For the reasons mentioned above.

(B) Incorrect. The structure of this option is:

  • An executive
    • who is heavily committed to a course of action,
      • especially one that worked well in the past,
  • makes
    • missing signs of incipient trouble
    • or misinterpreting ones likely when they do appear.

The sentence essentially says that a kind of executive (what kind of? – one who is heavily commitment to a course of action. What kind of course of action? Especially one that worked well in the past) makes missing signs or makes misinterpreting ones likely. The executive makes missing signs!! Clearly, the sentence is illogical. Also, the reference of “ones” is not clear, and thus, it is not clear what is modified by ‘when they do appear’.

(C) Incorrect. Everything is fine with the sentence till “especially if …”. As discussed in the original sentence, ‘especially’ is followed by an ‘if’ clause. It modifies the entire main clause. However, the reference for ‘it’ is not clear. ‘it’ can refer to either ‘a course of action’ or ‘incipient trouble’. Besides, both of these references are structurally difficult i.e. ‘it’ is the subject of the ‘if’ clause and is referring to nouns deeply embedded inside another clause. So, this option has pronoun reference error.

(D) Incorrect. For the following reasons:

  1. Parallelism error: ‘or’ is a parallelism marker. However, “miss signs” and “misinterpreting them” are not parallel.
  2. The first ‘them’ refers to ‘executives’. However, ‘executives’ is not acting as a noun in the sentence; it is acting as an adjective to ‘being’. Preferably, a pronoun shouldn’t refer to a noun in the possessive form i.e. a noun which is acting as an adjective.
  3. “Executive’s being heavily committed” is awkward and overly wordy.

(E) Correct. This option communicates the intended meaning clearly and does away with the two “it”s used in the original sentence creating pronoun errors.
One point worth noting here is that ‘especially’ is followed by a noun (‘one’) in this option whereas in the original sentence, ‘especially’ was followed by an ‘if’ clause. So, in this option, the ‘especially’ part clearly modifies a noun ‘a course of action’ whereas in the original sentence, this part seemed to modify the entire clause. Now, in hindsight, we can see that this ‘especially’ part seems much more logical in modifying ‘a course of action’ than in modifying the entire clause.

About Chiranjeev Singh

An Alumnus of IIM Ahmedabad and with a score 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 +91 9971 0010 67 or CJ@GMATwithCJ.com. He conducts online sessions for students across the world.

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