A powerful approach to GMAT sentence correction

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A powerful approach to GMAT sentence correction

Acing GMAT sentence correction questions takes more than knowledge of the rules of English grammar; it also requires an ability to effectively apply these rules to the confusing sentences that populate the exam’s verbal section.

In the last post, we outlined a 3-step guide that showed you how to systematically work through a sentence correction question and uncover errors. In this post, we’ll demonstrate this method on an actual GMAT sample question.

The approach

First, let’s begin with a quick recap of the steps. The key to our approach is to identify the concepts being tested in each question, and the best way to do this quickly is to first scan the answer choices and note their differences. What words, phrases or clauses change from one answer choice to the next? These differences are clear-cut signs of the concepts being tested by the question.

Once you have these concepts and the rules associated with them in mind, read the original sentence for further clues and to establish the question sentence’s original meaning. Return to the answer choices and look for errors according to the concepts and rules you identified in the first two steps and then eliminate answer choices. You can then select the best remaining choice.

Here’s an example of this approach in action on a sample question.

After winning the World Cup this year, the Spanish team were touted as the world’s best soccer team; no coach or critic had anything but praise for the young sportsmen.

A) the Spanish team were touted as the world’s

B) the Spanish team was touted as the world’s
C) the world touted the Spanish team like the
D) touting the Spanish team as the world’s
E) they were touting the Spanish team as the world’s

Step 1: Scan the answer choices for differences

Rather than become bogged down by comparing the answer choices with the original sentence, look first for what changes in the answers. In choices A and B, the number of the verb changes from the plural were to the singular was, and in choices C, D and E, the tense of the verb changes from touted totouting to were touting. Also, in option E, the plural pronoun they is introduced.

The other major difference in the answer choices appears in choice C. Unlike the other options, choice C uses like instead of as to compare the Spanish team. At this point you may recall from your studying that like means “similar to,” so in step two, you’ll have to check whether this meaning makes sense in context with the non-underlined parts of the sentence.

Just from briefly looking at the answer choices, you already know that the concepts being tested in this question include verb tense and number, comparisons – specifically like vs as – and pronouns.

Step 2: Read the original sentence for context and meaning

By reading the original sentence, you see that there’s a time indication after that begins the sentence and that the other verb in the sentence had is in the past tense. Since you noticed that the plural pronoun they was introduced in option E, you should check to make sure it has a plural antecedent somewhere in the non-underlined part of the sentence, which it doesn’t, so you can automatically mark E as incorrect.

Given the context of the sentence, the use of like instead of as is illogical in option C. It doesn’t make sense to say the world touted the team similar to the world’s best. Instead, the World Cup winners are equivalent to the world’s best, so as should be used instead of like. You can eliminate option C.

Step 3: Eliminate incorrect answers and choose the best remaining answer

We’ve already eliminated two options, so that leaves us with A, B or D as possible correct answers. The differences among these options lie in the verbs they use. Touting in option D is a participle, so the clause it begins (touting the Spanish team as the world’s soccer team) has no true verb, which makes this option grammatically incorrect.

This leaves us with option A and B whose verbs differ in number. If you remember that subject-verb agreement dictates that a verb and subject must agree in number, then you see that option A is incorrect. Team is the subject, and it is a collective singular noun, so it requires a singular verb, was.This leaves you with the correct answer B.

While you still need to study grammar, this method does make you more efficient at applying your knowledge when it matters. It also provides a strategy for tackling confusing sentences by helping you focus on the essential concepts you identified in step one. Rather than strenuously comparing each answer choice to the original sentence, you can zero-in on errors and eliminate incorrect options.

Try this method out yourself and see if it works for you. The Prep4GMAT app has hundreds of sentence correction sample questions to practice as well as a patented x-ray tool that highlights the keywords in each question. Try it out for free today, and turn sentence correction into your strength.

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