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GMAT Tip: Sentence Correction

Sentence Correction

Most folks know the story of the Titanic, the British passenger liner that was considered unsinkable until it met an iceberg leading to its untimely demise in the North Atlantic Ocean. Sentence correction is one of the deceptively difficult question types on the GMAT. It looks easy enough on the surface (after all, the test is delivered in English so in order to perform well, one should have decent command over the English language), but beneath the surface lurk complexities with regards to structure, agreement and scope… just like that iceberg that doomed Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet’s love affair. Let’s take a look at some ways to help make sentence correction less of an aquatic minefield.

  • Read the entire sentence. Before you do anything else, read the sentence in its entirety. Be mindful of clauses and other extraneous words that distract from the base structure and framework. And read every word, at least on your initial pass. Figure out what your subject is (and if it’s singular or plural) and use that to potentially eliminate some answer choices. If you see “and,” be ready to look for parallelism and potential errors.
  • Eliminate fluff and distracters. Commas will be one red flag to signal clauses or phrases. Look for misplaced modifiers, and take note of pronouns. Once you strip away what’s not essential to the sentence framework and structure, you might be surprised by how much more easily the sentence reads. As you’re practicing, feel free to physically cross out what isn’t relevant or use parentheses or brackets to set the words apart.
  • Use Process of Elimination. Because we don’t write like we speak, often the correct answer is going to be one that doesn’t necessarily roll off your tongue. Or in even more cases, it’s going to be the answer choice that is the “’least bad” of a relatively convoluted bunch. Remember that the first answer choice will always be a direct repeat of the original sentence, so skip ahead to the remaining choices. Look for easy eliminators like subject-verb agreement, which should trim down at least one more answer choice.
  • Read (other stuff)! Learning rules of grammar and sentence structure will only get you so far. Like anything else in life, you need to apply it in real-life context. So pick up a copy of the Economist or Wall Street Journal . Unlike Reading Comp where you’re looking for scope, tone and purpose and often speed reading, pay attention to complex sentence structure and focus less on the topic. There are only so many ways one can arrange words from various parts of speech so seeing multiple practical examples will get you primed to see them out of context on test day.

Sentence correction is just one question type on the verbal section, but it has the potential to derail your exam if you’re not well prepared. As you can see, it’s possible to double down with supplemental reading that will pay dividends on sentence correction as well as reading comp. Just remember to be smart about your prep and not misjudge the size of the iceberg lurking beneath the surface. Sentence correction pitfalls are absolutely avoidable with proper preparation.

The above GMAT Tip comes from Veritas Prep. Since its founding in 2002, Veritas Prep has helped more than 100,000 students prepare for the GMAT and offers the most highly rated GMAT Prep course in the industry.

Special Offer: enroll in a Veritas GMAT prep course via the Clear Admit website and save $100!

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Posted in: Admissions Tips, GMAT, GMAT - Verbal

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