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As you tackle the verbal section of your GMAT exams, you’ll come across several questions on Sentence Corrections. They’re the least frequent question types you’re likely to find in your GMAT exam’s verbal reasoning section. Generally, the total number of sentence questions in this category tend to be equal to those in the reading comprehension section. That means they range from 12 to 15 per verbal section. Usually, you’ll find two to three more sentence correction questions than critical reasoning questions, which makes critical reasoning questions the least common of the verbal questions in the GMAT.
Owing to their number, sentence correction questions will impact your overall score in the verbal section more than anything in most cases. If you can improve your sentence correction, especially your pace, then you can allocate more time to your reading comprehension and critical reasoning questions, which frequently require more attention to detail.
Let’s see how you can handle questions in this category, thus, consequently maximizing your scores.
Strategically you will need to allocate an average of 1 minute 30 seconds per sentence correction question. This is approximately 20 seconds less than the average time you’ll spend on every question in the verbal section as assumed by the exam, given that there are 36 questions to be answered in 65 minutes.
For every sentence correction question, you’ll have a maximum of two minutes because you will often be able to identify an issue to evaluate. It’s worth noting that even if you cannot identify which option is correct, it rarely gets any better whether you spend 30 seconds or three minutes evaluating the question. So it’s best to avoid all that and use strictly not more than two minutes for a sentence correction. Minimize yourself to a single reread before moving to eliminate and guess your sentence correction.
Consider proactively skipping if you realize you’ve not understood the sentence fully as written upon first reading. In that case, it’s advisable to move on to the next question briskly to save time. Since the sentence corrections are all independent, one question at a time format, with some level of discretion, you can decide quickly to skip over a question if you do not understand the sentence or cannot determine the difference between the choices.
The quick brown fox jump over the lazy dogs
You will have a single sentence with an underlined portion to evaluate, in this case, “fox jump over the.
You will also have a non-underlined portion that is assumed to be correct as written.
Choice A is always the same as the underlined section as presented in the original. It is going to be right as frequently as any other choice. So just assume from the start that A could be the right answer. This is often a bit of a problem for GMAT test-takers because most people just assume that the sentence is incorrectly written, when, approximately twenty percent of the time, choice A is going to be correct. Choice B through E presents varying alternatives for the underlined portion of the sentence. So your job is to figure out what makes these answers incorrect.
Subject-Verb agreement is important because it is literally what makes a sentence what it is. Every sentence, to be complete, must contain both a subject and a verb. The first way that a subject and a verb can be misaligned in a sentence is a difference in number. For example, “dogs run while a dog runs“. In the sample sentence correction above, if you choose to go with “fox” then a part of the sentence will read “fox jumps“.
Another way that a subject and verb in a sentence may be in disagreement is by the creation of fragments or run-ons. A fragment does not have a full subject and verb predicate pair, whereas a run-on will have two or more predicate pairs slammed together in a sentence without proper punctuation. On very rare occasions will you find run-ons as the error in most sentence corrections because the fix to a run-on would be to create multiple sentences, but they can show up. You are more likely to find something like we did in the previous example where a fragment is created because you only have descriptions of the main subject but the main subject never conducts a primary action for the verb in the sentence.
The first way we can have verb tenses change is in terms of timing. You can have past, present, and future tenses. There are more complex verb tenses like past perfect, present perfect, and future perfect, all of these can be tested but not frequently. What you should note is that some of these perfect tenses are red herrings obscuring an easier issue to evaluate within the sentence.
Conditionals, on the other hand, are an important meaning issue to differentiate because you can’t suddenly have an answer choice change from “I will do my homework..” to “I would do my homework..”. Because “I will do my homework” indicates a certainty, whereas “I would do my homework” is conditional, changing the meaning. So you can’t have an answer choice that changes meaning from the original unless the original had an error in its initial meaning.
Pronouns and articles are terms that refer back to a subject or an object, usually a noun. There are differences in numbers, for example, “it” vs “they”. There is also the idea of ambiguity, for example, “Bill, Bob, and Brent is at the store and he(?) bought gum.” That won’t work because we don’t know who bought gum. It could be any one of the three.
We can also have an issue with the article “a” vs “the”. For example, if Bob was to ask Brent for a banana, then he is asking for any banana. If Bob is asking Brent for the banana, then he is asking for a specific banana, probably one that Brent is holding and wants for himself. These articles are usually a good opportunity to clinically eliminate choices if you just work through them specifically and look at whatever their reference term is.
Aggressively seek these three errors in every sentence and every choice because they are certain. There is no ambiguity, if these are wrong, the sentence is wrong.
So aggressively seek these errors and focus on verbs, pronouns, subjects, and articles in every sentence correction to identify reasons to eliminate them.
Placement of modifiers matters, because your modifying phrase/your descriptor, has to describe the closest possible subject. For example, if I wanted to introduce, “The greatest painting, Pablo Picasso’s Guernica,” that works but if I said, “The greatest painting Pablo Picasso painted Guernica” then that’s not right because Pablo Picasso is not a painting but a painter. So always interpret the sentences literally, without allowing your brain to fix absurd errors.
Be careful also with adjectives and adverbs. It is a less tested issue but you can have the difference between ” I run slow” and “I run slowly”tested. Remember that adverbs describe verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs, whereas adjectives can only describe nouns. So while “I run slow” may sound okay to most ears, it is technically incorrect because you have to describe the act of running, “I run” with the “slowly”
These are dealing with lists and literal comparisons. Make sure that if you have a list, every part of the list is parallel. For example, you will say “I ate, I ran and I slept.” All past tenses.
You also have to make sure that your parallelism in a list or comparison is consistent. So you can’t say “My favorite teams are the A’s, Raiders, and I like Man U.” Because you are listing teams, you have to list the actual team of the A’s, the Raiders, and then you can say “Man U” but you can’t say “I like Man U” because then you will have broken the parallelism of that list.
This is probably the most difficult to deal with of the common errors. Idiomatic rules are your memorized English rules. For many GMAT test-takers, they tend to be the first steps toward memorizing your way to success. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work with great success because there are so many of these rules. For example, “fewer” counts numbers, and “less” counts amounts. For example, I may have fewer dollars than my neighbor, but I’d have less money. Because money is just an amount, fewer would be the actual number of dollars. These are just some rules that you either know or you don’t know. For that reason, for idioms, you want to use these rules as the final issues to evaluate unless you are certain of what the error is that you have identified and the proper fix. So do not allow yourself to pick an answer that you are only half sure about when there may have been other issues to evaluate. Probably from prior error, maybe a misplaced pronoun or something simpler.
Ensure certainty with all these common errors in meaning to properly evaluate every choice because you have to be certain of these.
It is a little easier to convince yourself that if something doesn’t sound right, then maybe it’s a bad modifier, parallelism, or idiom, when in fact, if you use an official GMAT explanation, frequently they will use these terms completely arbitrarily, and you just read things like illogical parallelism or idioms without being able to distinguish what the actual error is.
Let us use this simple sentence correction to illustrate how these errors may manifest themselves within the Exam.
Though the growth rate has subdued some, this was remarkable because it had nevertheless extended the current growth streak to five years or one year longer than that of the next most recent conservative cargo growth streak.
1. First, you have to set up your scratchpad by listing A through E so that you can eliminate it as you go through your answer choices.
2. Then we will draw a line on top of the list for placing the common error/s that you identify as the issue in either the sentence as originally written or by evaluating the choices against each other.
b ~ changes meaning
e ~ × (s-v)
3. Read the whole sentence once. Remembering our first three common errors, we look at the verb tense, “Though the growth rate has subsided some, this was remarkable…“
” has” is present tense
“was” is past tense.
So we have identified a verb-tense issue and we write that down at the top of our list.
4. Eliminate choice A, it represents the sentence as written.
5. We then look at our answer choices to see if any other choices repeat that category of error. In choice B we have “was” and “was”, the correct parallelism, so we will keep it for now.
-In choice C the same error is repeated, “has” and “was”, so we can eliminate it as well.
-Both choices D and E have “was” and “was”, so we will keep them for now.
6. We have to think again of the common errors we talked about, especially the first three of subject-verb agreement, tenses, and pronouns. With that in mind, let us look at the changes between B, D, and E. Look for potential verb tenses or pronouns that we might be able to eliminate.
When we look at choice E, the sentence only describes the growth rate to the end. There is no main verb. So the word “which”, underlined in the choice, indicates that we have a subject-verb issue (a fragment). Based on this, we eliminate choice E.
We are left with choices B and D. We look at the differences between the two. Choice B starts with “rate of growth” instead of “growth rate”, but that is just a semantics issue and not reason enough to eliminate. The word “somewhat” has also been used in place of “some”. There is a preference to not include the “what”, but again that is not a good enough reason to eliminate it.
The word “recent” at the end of choice A has moved in choice B, but it is still at the end of choice D. In choice D it talks about the next most recent cargo growth streak. That makes sense from a comparative perspective. Choice B changes the meaning. Take note that you cannot change the meaning of the sentence in sentence correction.
7. We only have choice D left. We read it back into the original sentence to make sure that it has a coherent meaning and articulates what the original sentence intended.
So, “Though the growth rate subdued some, it was nevertheless remarkable because it extended the current streak of growth to five years or one year longer than that of the next most recent conservative cargo growth streak.” Makes perfect sense, so we pick choice B.
Go ahead and practice more on how to eliminate these common errors in your sentence correction practice, and achieving your target score in your GMAT exam will only have become that much easier. Remember that you need to practice using real GMAT exam questions to prepare adequately. For this reason, it’s advisable to take advantage of our GMAT study plan which provides all the resources you need to get the best scores.
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