If medical researchers are correct, then the human microbiome, made up of the microorganisms in our body, may hold the cure to diseases that have long plagued humanity, amounting to a major oversight in Western medicine that has, until recently, all but ignored any such role of the microbiome.
The Human Microbiome
A very subtle point that will come up on the harder GMAT SC questions is the idea of a summative modifier: a word that “encapsulates” the action of the preceding clause.
To illustrate: the original sentence states that “microbiome…diseases…humanity, amounting…”. In this case, what does “amounting” refer to? Whichever of the three you argue for—assuming you argue for any—none amount to a major oversight in Western medicine. “The microbiome amounts to a major oversight” is odd, though the least odd of the three.
In order to clearly state what is doing the “amounting”, we use a word that “encapsulates” or captures the preceding phrase. This word is known as a summative modifier. In other words, it sums up what is being said. The good news here is you do not need to come up with the summative modifier itself, but you will have to find an answer choice that uses one.
Side note: the GMAT will never have multiple possible summative modifiers, asking you to pick the word that best encapsulates the preceding clause.
In this question, “a discovery” is a perfect summative modifier since it captures the idea of the preceding clause: the microbiome may hold cures to disease, a discovery…”
Just like that we can eliminate (A), (D) and (E).
The difference between (B) and (C) is somewhat similar. But instead of using another summative modifier, which is stylistically off, the correct answer, (C), uses a colon.
As for (B), the “which” refers to the phrase “a major oversight”, since whenever “which” is used, we must make sure that it correctly modifies the subject of the noun phrase that directly precedes it. In this case, the subject of the phrase “a major oversight in Western medicine” is “major oversight”. However, it is not the “major oversight” that is ignoring the role of the microbiome but Western medicine. (C) cleans up this error by clearly stating who has been doing the ignoring: Western medicine.
(B) also uses “a discovery that is amounting to” instead of the more concise “a discovery amounting to” or “a discovery that amounts to”. On the GMAT, the more concise way of phrasing something, as long as there is no change in meaning, will always end up in the correct answer.
Finally, the “until recently + verb tense” is one of those faux errors that test takers can get hung up. There is no hard and fast rule here. Either works.
What the GMAT does want you to know is how to correctly modify clauses. And knowing how a summative modifier works will go a long way.
FAQ: Isn't it unclear what "it" refers to in (C)?
Let's think about what the logical antecedents of "it" can be. It must have a singular antecedent. It can't be microbiome, since it would definitely be illogical to say "the microbiome all but ignored any such role of the microbiome." That leaves us with the antecedent of "it" as either "body", "humanity", or "medicine". "Body" doesn't make sense (your body itself can't ignore the microbiome). So between "humanity" and "medicine", we go back to the sentence: we know that it was a "major oversight by Western medicine", and that "it all but ignored". Because of the similar logic between these two parts, we know that "it" must refer back to "Western medicine".
This matches with the general grammatical rule for pronouns: they should refer to the nearest preceding noun that logically fits the pronoun.
If it's logically clear what the pronoun refers to and the grammatical relationship is correct in terms of singular/plural, then there probably isn't an error.
Watch the lessons below for more detailed explanations of the concepts tested in this question. And don't worry, you'll be able to return to this answer from the lesson page.