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8 Tips to Tackle GMAT Sentence Correction

Posted on September 11, 2013

“I am able to eliminate 3 options in GMAT Sentence Correction very easily, but when I choose between the last 2 options, I always pick the wrong one!”

 

You will not believe the number of times I’ve heard students complain about this. 🙂 My answer is always the same,

 

“If you are stuck between A and B, and you think B is correct, but you have a history of picking the wrong option always – go ahead, pick A! That will solve your problem.”

 

I usually get an injured ‘how-can-you-make-fun-of-my-predicament?’ look.

 

The truth is – if you are stuck between 2 answer choices and get it wrong all the time, what it really means is that you are simply unable to identify what is wrong with the choice you picked. This is the underlying problem, and this is what you need to address.

 

Yes, SC can be really tricky – but this is also an area that can help you save time on the GMAT. Whereas many Critical Reasoning questions take up to 2.5 minutes to solve, many SC questions can be cracked in under a minute!

 

Here are some tips that will help you tackle this section better:

 

Identify what SC concept is being tested.

 
Every GMAT SC question will test at least 2 concepts: and you must be able to identify what these are. If you have no clue what concept is being tested, it means that you need to revisit your SC fundamentals! 🙂
 
For example, if the concept tested is parallelism, try to figure out what items should be in parallel. If it is modifiers, identify the referent of each clause and their correct placement.
 
 

Look for subject verb mismatches.

 

Subject Verb Agreement is one of the easiest errors to identify and in many GMAT SC questions, at least 1 option can be eliminated in this way. So look for these first.

 
 

Don’t get confused by pronoun ambiguity.

 

Don’t use pronoun ambiguity to eliminate answer options in the first go. Many official answers on the GMAT have pronoun ambiguity. Ambiguous pronouns are a problem only if the meaning of the sentence is affected because of the pronoun. Use this concept only if all else fails.

 
 

Don’t eliminate answer choices based on idioms right in the beginning.

 

This is because idioms can be confusing – especially when you are under pressure on the test. Secondly, the GMAT is itself ambiguous about the correctness of some idioms.
 
For example, ‘estimated at’ versus ‘estimated to be’. However, there are a few straightforward idioms, errors in whose usage are easy to identify. For e.g. whether versus if; such as versus like etc. You can eliminate choices on the basis of these without much trouble.

 
 

Don’t get misled by red herrings.

 

Just because 2 answer options begin with ‘not only’, doesn’t mean that the ‘not only but also’ construct is required in the sentence. The right answer may not use this idiom at all – so don’t jump to any conclusions.

 
 

Treat options A,B,C,D,E equally.

 

Even if you feel sure that a particular answer choice is right, don’t make up your mind till you have really looked at the other options.

 
 

Pick up clues from the non-underlined part of the sentence.

 

Often, the non-underlined part of the sentence can give you vital clues about tenses, lists, modifiers and meaning that will help you eliminate 1-2 answer choices. So never ignore this part.

 

meaning image

 
 

Answer choice A may not always get the meaning right.

 

Never ever assume that the sentence given in answer choice A has the intended meaning of the sentence. Read all the answer choices and make up your own mind about what the intended meaning is. This meaning trap can be seen especially at 700+ level questions.

 
 

Always substitute the choice in the original sentence.

 

Substitute the answer choice you picked back into the original sentence and see whether it makes sense.

 
 

Don’t go in with any blanket rules.

 

Every rule has exceptions! 🙂 Therefore, keep an open mind and do not eliminate any answer choice outright just because it contains ‘being’ or an ambiguous pronoun.

 
 

However, it is good to have thumb rules.

 
This means that there are some things that are usually wrong on the GMAT, and which would do you good to remember. For example, the GMAT prefers active voice over passive. It also prefers a concise statement over a wordy one. Use these to identify which answer choices you need to be wary about.
 
And of course, if you are stuck between the last 2 answer options and have already spent 90 seconds on the question, use one of these thumb rules to take your pick and move on! 🙂
 
 
Hope these techniques make a positive difference to your GMAT prep! If you’d like to share what works for you and what doesn’t, please leave a comment in the comment section below.
 
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