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GMAT Tip: Don’t Let Misplaced Modifiers Derail Your Score

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It’s getting to be that time of the year. For the sake of being somewhat politically correct, it’s the slightly-chillier-time-of-the-year-that’s-directly-proportional-to-increased-gift-giving. If you work most 9-to-5 jobs, there’s likely some type of end-of-calendar-year celebration planned which can be make or break time in office social circles. You want to sit next to Brad from Marketing who is super dreamy and knows more about The Walking Dead and Shark Tank than the producers while avoiding Mark from Finance who can be heard a mile away because he jingles orange Tic-Tacs in his shirt pocket. Wait, is it Marketing who is dreamy or is it Brad? Since when did Finance grow legs?

Before you go running to the party planning committee, let’s take a look at misplaced modifiers and how they can derail not only your holiday party, but your sentence correction experience on the GMAT. Modifiers diversify sentence structure and allow the writer to do more within a simple sentence. However, modifier errors create problems in meaning and are commonly tested on the GMAT.

The most common modifiers on the GMAT are prepositional phrases, participial phrases, appositive phrases and relative clauses. Prepositional phrases start with – you guessed it – a preposition such as from or on. Common errors involved location in a sentence so instead of:

Jane usually leaves packages she has brought home on the coffee table.


Upon coming home from work, Jane usually drops any packages on the coffee table.

Participial phrases are –ing/-ed modifiers that need to be beside the noun they’re modifying (unless they’re attached with a comma to the end of a clause or sentence). Appositive phrases are noun modifying phrases and treated nearly the same as participial phrases. Instead of:

Published since 1896, decreased circulation and sales led to the shutting down of the local newspaper.


Published since 1896, the local newspaper shut down due to decreased circulation and sales.

Relative clauses modify nouns only and typically must be beside the noun they’re modifying. Instead of:

It snowed yesterday, which forced schools to close.


It snowed yesterday, and as a result schools were forced to close.

In an era that’s dominated by 140 character expressions and declarations, it’s easy to take grammatical shortcuts to make your message fit. Just remember, the folks writing the GMAT (and grading your papers in business school) don’t follow the same rules of social media grammar. And while your party planning committee might not be sticklers for all of the above rules, it can’t hurt to make sure they know you like Brad, but not the entire Marketing department.

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.

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