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GMAT Tip: The Top 5 Strategies for GMAT Sentence Correction

Today’s GMAT tip comes from Professor Joern Meissner, PhD, founder and chairman of Manhattan Review GMAT Prep. In this article, he provides Manhattan Review’s five best strategies for GMAT Sentence Correction questions. Read on to see what he has to say!

Here are Manhattan Review’s five top strategies for attacking Sentence Correction questions:

  1. Don’t expect the right answer to read like a sentence crafted by Henry James or Gustave Flaubert. The best sentence is often the best of a bad bunch—it’s the one with the least number of egregious errors. Therefore, don’t be put off if the sentence you choose sounds awkward. If the worst thing about it is that it sounds like something your boss might dash off in an office memo, don’t worry.
  2. More than half of the Sentence Correction exercises will involve at least one Subject-Verb agreement issue. Therefore, always make sure you’ve got all of your ducks in a row and that all of the subjects are properly aligned with their verbs. Remember, a subject has to agree with a verb, as a matter of number and as a matter of logic.
  3. Make sure your pronouns are lined up properly with their antecedents. If the antecedent is plural, the pronoun replacing it must be plural. This is a particularly important issue in long, convoluted sentences in which it is easy to forget a pronoun’s antecedent.
  4. Get your comparatives sorted out. “As” goes with “as”; “more,” “less” and “fewer” go with “than.” Never combine the two. Sentences such as “The girls fared as well or better than the boys.” It has to be one or the other: “The girls fared as well as the boys.” Or “The girls fared better than the boys.”
  5. Make life easy for yourself and narrow your choices down as quickly as possible. Spot the critical issue and eliminate the answer choices that obviously come down on the wrong side of it.

Take a look at the following sentence from Manhattan Review’s course material as an example:

Many companies pay almost twice as much to men, if the effect of faster promotions, more bonuses, and better benefits are regarded as salary, than to women, who earn 77 cents for every dollar their male counterparts earn in base salary.

(A)               are regarded as salary, than

(B)                are regarded as salary, as

(C)                is regarded as salary, than it pays

(D)                is regarded as salary, as is paid

(E)                is regarded as salary, as they pay

Well, as you will agree, the sentence sounds awkward. So the first point is satisfied. The non-underlined or supposedly OK part of the sentence includes the words “if the effect of.” They introduce a lengthy intervening phrase. Coming just after the words “as much to men,” this phrase adds confusion. The word “if” is being used to condition a statement—a statement that has not yet been made. We don’t yet know what exactly companies are doing to men but already we are told about the “effect” that something or other will have.

The second point is also in play here. Underlined is the verb “are.” The word is just dangling there and we have to figure out the subject that goes with it.  Since the words “faster promotions, more bonuses, and better benefits” lie next to it, it seems at first glance as if they constitute the verb’s subject. However, on closer examination, it is apparent that “faster promotions and so on” can’t be regarded as salary. That makes no sense. No, it is the “effect of” faster promotions and the rest that is the subject of the verb.

That makes life nice for us. The words “effect of” are not underlined. That means it is a singular subject. And a singular subject must go together with a singular form of the verb. Therefore, the word “are” cannot be correct here. That means we can eliminate answer choices (A) and (B). Point No. 5 has come into play.

Answer choice (C) can also be eliminated. The pronoun “it” clearly has as its antecedent the noun “many companies.” A plural subject can only be replaced by a plural pronoun. That’s the issue Point 3 was addressing. As if that were not bad enough (C) has the comparative “as” going together with “than.” That’s unacceptable. You can have “Companies can pay men twice as much as they pay women” or  “Companies pay men more than they pay women” or “Companies pay men more than twice as much as they pay women.” But you can’t have “Companies pay men twice as much than women.” That’s Point 4.

(D) is also out. “As” requires parallelism. It is a comparative. We are comparing what companies pay men with what companies pay women. But (D) is comparing what companies pay men with what women are paid. What companies do is being compared to what women make. The parallelism is faulty.

By a process of elimination, we are left with (E). Subject and verb are aligned, the pronoun refers to the right antecedent and our comparatives are parallel and in synch. So this is the best answer.

Best of luck on your GMAT test day! Please be sure to check out the opportunity to take a free GMAT practice test with Manhattan Review.

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