I was practicing IELTS tests and got this one:

The accident has a ... effect on her.

  1. Effective
  2. Focusing
  3. Total
  4. Wide

I was thinking "wide" is the correct choice here, but it was "total" instead.

I can't understand why. I searched Google for "have a total effect on somebody" and found nothing.

The test question is from the "adjectives" section of the Android app called IELTS Test Pro 2018 that has the text IELTS and a green arrow pointing upward on its icon.

  • 4
    Bad test question. I think focusing is the best answer. And has is not the right tense. I mean, like, it's totally wrong. Totally. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Aug 30 '18 at 12:54
  • @Tᴚoɯɐuo It comes from the android application called IELTS. Why "focusing"? I thought "wide". – SovereignSun Aug 30 '18 at 13:07
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    I agree with @Tᴚoɯɐuo. Focusing is the one I would have chosen, and the present tense clanked in my ear. – Robusto Aug 30 '18 at 13:22
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    Also agree with @Tᴚoɯɐuo. Wrong tense with has and in this construction only focusing or wide could be considered possible valid answers. There are many apps called "IELTS < something >" for Android but I don't see anything just called "IELTS". Unfortunately there are many low-quality apps out there. – Mick Aug 30 '18 at 13:46
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    I am voting to leave this question open, because the poor quality of the text question notwithstanding the OP's question is a legit one for English learners. And the question deserves examination and answering. – Eddie Kal Aug 30 '18 at 14:29

That's a terrible test question!

It can't be (1) because the article is wrong. You would have to use "an" with "effective". Saying an "effective effect" is rather clunky writing, but not inherently wrong.

But the other 3 are all possible.

I'd say (2) is the best choice, because it is both grammatically valid and makes the most logical sense.

A "focusing effect" makes sense. The accident caused her to become more focused in her thinking.

A "total effect" doesn't make sense in this context. Total of what? You could say, "The total effect of the accident was that it made her more cautious" or some such. But to say it had a "total effect", what does that mean?

A "wide effect" is possible but awkward. It could mean that if affected many things. But a fluent speaker would be more likely to say, "a broad effect".

So I'd say (2) is the best choice and (4) is possible. (1) is wrong and (3) is unlikely.

How anyone could say that (3) is correct and (2) and (4) are wrong is just ... baffling.

  • I think the tense chosen does not make sense either; besides, I'd rather use profound, important, powerful, or strong to collocate them, in this case, with effect. – Alejandro Aug 30 '18 at 13:51
  • @Ustanak Oh, I agree about the verb tense. Others mentioned it in the comments so I didn't see a need to bring it up myself. And yes, there are certainly many other words that could fit in the sentence, many words that would be better than "total" or "wide". – Jay Aug 30 '18 at 16:28
  • or a far-reaching effect. wide doesn't cut it for me. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Aug 30 '18 at 17:06
  • @Jay: Generally anything worth explaining about the English in play should make it into an answer, even if the comments already skimmed it, since we shouldn't rely on comments to carry the explanations. – Nathan Tuggy Aug 30 '18 at 17:28

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