Laos has a land area about the same as Great Britain

Question

Laos has a land area about the same as Great Britain but only four million in population, where many are members of hill tribes ensconced in the virtually inaccessible mountain valleys of the north.

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 sentence:

  • Laos has (Main clause. “Laos” – subject; “has” – verb)
    • a land area (First element of the list “what Laos has”)
      • about the same as Great Britain (modifier for “land area”)
    • but only four million in population, (Second element of the list “what Laos has”. Laos has only four million in population)
      • where many are members of hill tribes (where” seems to refer to population. Out of the population, many are members of hill tribes)
        • ensconced in the virtually inaccessible mountain valleys of the north. (verb-ed modifier modifying “hill tribes”)

The sentence says that Laos has a land area that is as large as the land area of Great Britain. However, Laos has a population of just 4 million. Out of this population, many people are members of the hill tribes. What kind of hill tribes? The hill tribes that are ensconced in the hard-to-each mountain valleys of the north.

The sentence has the following problems:

  1. The sentence compares land area of Laos with Great Britain. The logical comparison should be with the land area of Great Britain.
  2. “four million in population” is a non-standard (non-idiomatic) way of saying “a population of four million”. Also, the correct version will be more parallel to “a land area”.
  3. “where” on GMAT must refer to a physical place. Here, “where” refers to “population”.

Option Analysis

(A) Incorrect. For the reasons mentioned above.

(B) Incorrect. For the following reasons:

  1. Land area compared with Great Britain.
  2. In this option, since “many are members…” is presented as an independent clause, it is not clear “many who?”
  3. The use of an independent clause “but in Laos there is…” to present an information that could be simply presented in parallel to the information in the first independent clause is overly redundant.

(C) Incorrect. The structure of this sentence is “Laos has a land area of xyz size but in Laos, many people are members of hill tribes”. We can see that the contrast presented in this option (contrast between Laos having land area and people being members of hill tribes) is illogical and unintended. Also, the reference of “them” is not structurally clear. The use of “whom” in place of “them” will make it clear that we are referring back to the people.

(D) Incorrect. For the following reasons:

  1. The land area is compared with the size of Great Britain. Now, size is a very broad term used to refer to the population size, land size, or economic size. The comparison is thus not clear.
  2. Error no. 2 of the original sentence
  3. Error no. 2 of option B

(E) Correct. The comparison is logical; it compares the land area of Laos with land area (“that”) of Great Britain. “a population of only four million” is idiomatically correct and parallel to “a land area”. Also, the use of “many of whom” makes it clear that this information is about the four million people.

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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