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GMAT Tips – Sample Problem: Sentence Correction, Verb Tenses

Today’s GMAT Tip comes to us from Kaplan. In this article, Kaplan GMAT instructor Bret Ruber explains how to answer Sentence Correction questions involving verb tense errors:

The majority of grammatical errors that appear in the sentence correction questions on the GMAT fall into six categories. Today’s question focuses on verb errors; when a verb appears in a sentence correction problem, make sure it is correct in both tense and number.

Problem:

Wolfgang von Kempelen, an 18th-century Hungarian baron, claimed to have invented a chess-playing automation he called “The Turk”; this mechanical illusion, which was actually operated by a hidden chess master who defeated Napoleon Bonaparte and Benjamin Franklin as well as many other well-known challengers, were destroyed in an 1854 fire.

(A)       which was actually operated by a hidden chess master who defeated Napoleon Bonaparte and Benjamin Franklin as well as many other well-known challengers, were

(B)       which a hidden chess-master actually operated, defeating Napoleon Bonaparte and Benjamin Franklin as well as many other well-known challengers, were

(C)       which was actually operated by a hidden chess master who defeated Napoleon Bonaparte and Benjamin Franklin as well as many other well-known challengers, was

(D)       with a hidden chess master operating it who defeated Napoleon Bonaparte and Benjamin Franklin as well as many other well-know challengers, were

(E)       which defeated Napoleon Bonaparte and Benjamin Franklin, as well as many other well-known challengers, by hiding a chess master inside who actually operated it, was

Solution:

When faced with a lengthy underlined portion, do not try to assess every part of it at once.  Instead, look for one specific error at a time.  The problem above uses a common GMAT tactic to hide the verb error it contains.  After the semicolon, the subject of the sentence is “this mechanical illusion,” which is singular.  This is followed by a modifying phrase that describes the subject.  It is only after this modifying phrase that the verb “were” appears.  However, “were” is plural, which does not match our singular subject.  Thus, any answer choice that maintains the verb “were” is incorrect.  Therefore, we can eliminate choices (A), (B) and (D).

Now that we are down to just choices (C) and (E), we want to look for an error in one of these that allows us to eliminate it.  When we examine choice (E), we find that it introduces an error into the modifying phrase.  In both choices (C) and (E) the word “which” refers to the illusion, but (E) implies that the illusion defeated players. Because the chess master, and not the illusion, defeated Napoleon Bonaparte and Benjamin Franklin, (E) is incorrect and can be eliminated.

This leaves answer (C) as the only choice remaining, which is the correct answer. 

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Posted in: GMAT - Verbal, GMAT Tips

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