By: Apex GMAT
Contributor: Andrej Ivanovski
Date: 17th June 2021
The GMAT Sentence Correction questions are one of the three question formats that comprise the Verbal section, with the other two being Reading Comprehension and Critical Reasoning. Test takers should expect to come across anything between 11 and 16 sentence correction questions on the exam. Each GMAT Sentence Correction question contains a part that is underlined, and you will be prompted to identify the mistake in the sentence and replace it with one of the five options provided.
Even though this might sound like a piece of cake at first glance, there is a catch. The reason that most GMAT test takers find the Sentence Correction questions challenging is the fact that the sentences provided are usually several lines long and the grammatical mistakes are not very apparent. If you follow these 4 GMAT Sentence Correction techniques you will find it a lot easier to spot the mistakes and ace the GMAT Sentence Correction questions.
Get rid of the extra information
The GMAC intentionally makes the GMAT Sentence Correction problems long by including a lot of fluff and descriptive information which very often covers up the error and makes it very difficult to spot. Therefore, getting rid of that extra information would not only make the sentence shorter and simpler, but it would also make it easier for you to uncover the mistake. But, how do you know which part of the sentence to get rid of?
- Look for parts of the sentence set off by commas. Oftentimes, the part that is set off the comma only serves to better explain or give more details about the subject, and when removed it would not affect the meaning of the sentence. Here’s what extra information looks like in a sentence (note that there are no mistakes in the given example):
Maria, Stephen’s youngest and most talented daughter, moved to Sweden.
Maria, Stephen’s youngest and most talented daughter, moved to Sweden.
In the sentence above, the part set off by commas is not necessary to convey the meaning of the sentence. So, even if you get rid of that part, you would still be left with a complete sentence. However, one caveat to keep in mind is that the extra information does not necessarily have to be separated by two commas, as it can come at the beginning or the end of the sentence (a modifier), in which case it would only be set off with a single comma.
- Look for adjectives and adverbial phrases. These could be a little more challenging to find, as they are not set off by commas and one needs to understand the meaning of the sentence in order to identify them.
A group of young men coming from Dubai held a conference in New York.
The sentence above can exist without the two underlined parts: of young men and coming from Dubai. Even though they make the sentence more descriptive, they do not convey the main meaning of the sentence, and can therefore be taken out of the sentence for the sake of simplicity and spotting the mistake more easily.
Pay attention to the meaning
We have already established that grammar is vital if you want to do well on the GMAT Sentence Correction problems. Is grammar necessary? Absolutely! Is grammar everything that you need? Definitely not! No matter how good you are at grammar, solely relying on it is guaranteed to get you stuck at one point or another.
It is often the case that GMAT Sentence Correction problems are free of grammatical errors, but contain logical ones. GMAT test-makers are actually hoping that test-takers will only rely upon grammar and would not pay attention to less formal errors, so if you want to do well on this type of question you absolutely need to pay attention to the meaning of the sentence.
In order to do so, you first need to read the sentence carefully and try to understand the meaning behind it. Oftentimes, it might seem that the sentence is perfectly correct and free of grammar mistakes, and you would not be able to find a logical gap or an inconsistency. In that case, you will want to look through the answers provided and try to assess the message that they are trying to convey. When doing that, you might get an idea of what could be wrong with the original sentence and that way find the correct one.
Another strategy which includes using the answer choices in order to successfully answer the GMAT Sentence Correction problems is the so-called “splits” strategy. This strategy involves trying to find similarities and dissimilarities, or any kind of patterns in the answer choices. In order to explain this strategy, we will use a GMAT Sentence Correction problem from the GMAT Official Guide.
The overall slackening of growth in productivity is influenced less by government regulation, although that is significant for specific industries like mining, than the coming to an end of a period of rapid growth in agricultural productivity.
- the coming to an end of
- the ending of
- by the coming to an end of
- by ending
- by the end of
In a question like this, the mistake might not be apparent at first. Therefore, in order to get an idea of what the mistake could be, we will have a look at the answer choices. In there, we can see two patterns: C, D and E all contain “by”, whereas A and B do not. If we look at the sentence, we can see that the first part of it says “is influenced less by”, which implies that the second part of the questions has to begin with “…than by”. Therefore, the split AB, and we continue looking for the answer in the CDE split. If we try to plug each of these three answers into the sentence, we can see that E is the only one that is grammatically correct and therefore we get E as an answer.
The “splits” technique is especially useful in helping you narrow down the choices and find the right answer more easily.
Learn the most common GMAT idioms
In order to do well on the Sentence Correction GMAT questions, you need to have a good command of idioms. If you have already started preparing you might have come across a GMAT idiom list in the prep materials. So, you might be wondering why it is important to learn them and how they will be tested on the GMAT.
First, let us begin by explaining what an idiom is. Chances are, if you are not a “grammar freak” you might not be sure what the exact meaning of an idiom is. An idiom is a common expression or a grammatical structure in a given language, in this case – English. Oftentimes, the term idiom is used to describe a saying such as “let the cat out of the bag” or “a piece of cake”. Even though these are important to know if you want to sound more fluent and natural in English, they are not tested on the GMAT. In the context of the GMAT, an idiom is a formation of two or more words that are often used together, such as “invest in” or “indicate that”.
So, now that we have gotten the definition out of the way, you might be wondering why it is important to learn some of the most common GMAT idioms, and how they will be tested. In the GMAT Sentence Correction problems, oftentimes you will come across an incorrectly used idiom. The mistake can take several different forms.
Take, for instance, the expression invest on. Here, the preposition used is on when in fact it should be in. Even though it could be apparent in this case, on the GMAT the mistake can often be subtle and a little more difficult to spot.
This is also a common mistake, especially when it comes to words that are close in meaning. Examples of such words are among/between, fewer/less, whether/if, like/as, and so on.
Correlatives are words that are used together to serve a single function in a sentence. Some examples include both/and, either/or and neither/nor. A mistake in correlative pairs is also common, especially when it comes to longer and more complex sentences, as these mistakes could be more difficult to spot in those cases.
Here’s a summary of all of the techniques that we discussed here:
- Get rid of extra information
- Pay attention to the meaning
- Use “splits”
- Get familiar with the most common GMAT idioms
These techniques are not mutually exclusive and they can be used in combination with one another. Applying them and putting them into practice can save you a whole lot of work and help you do better on the GMAT Sentence Correction problems. And if you feel like you could use some more guidance, please make sure to check out our highly personalized one-on-one GMAT tutoring. Our tutoring sessions are delivered by 770+ scoring tutors and are available both online and in-person, no matter where in the world you are.