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The famous team of molecular biologists, James Watson and Francis Crick, were not the first scientists who attempted to decipher the structure of DNA, but it was their collaboration in the early 1950s that showed how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together.
This answer choice is grammatically incorrect. The singular subject of this sentence The famous team of molecular biologists does not agree with the plural verb were.[[snippet]]
Although this answer choice corrects the original Subject Verb Agreement mistake, by correctly matching the singular verb was to the singular subject team, the word collaborating in the middle part of the sentence does not fit into the sentence, because it turns the second part of the sentence into a fragment.
Reading until the end of the corrected sentence will help you identify the fragment:
...but collaborating in the early 1950s that showed how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together...what?
In a grammatical sentence a conjugated verb would explain to us what the subject collaborating did. Here, this sentence is just left dangling, and is therefore ungrammatical.
Although this answer choice corrects the original Subject Verb Agreement mistake by correctly matching the singular verb was to the singular subject team, it introduces a new logical error.
The corrected sentence is illogical because a team is not an attempt. It would be logical, however, if the sentence described what the team did, e.g. was the first to attempt...
This answer choice repeats the Subject Verb Agreement mistake in the original sentence. The singular subject The famous team of molecular biologists does not agree with the plural verb were.[[snippet]]
In addition the phrase collaborative work makes this answer choice less concise.
You correctly saw that the subject of the sentence is team, a collective noun requiring a singular verb: was.
Correcting the Subject Verb Agreement mistake in answer choice E involves another change: the words first scientists who attempted are replaced by to attempt to. While answer choice B makes the same correction to the plural verb were, it makes another change at the end of the sentence that turns it into a fragment. Answer choice C also corrects the Subject Verb Agreement mistake, but introduces a logical error. Therefore, answer choice E is the only answer choice that is both grammatically correct and logical, although it is less concise than some of the other answer choices.