GMAT Sentence Correction
Updated 13 August 2020
GMAT Test Practice
A core component of the GMAT is the Verbal Reasoning section, which tests your grammar, reading, evaluation and comprehension skills.
Within the Verbal section, you will be allocated 65 minutes to answer 36 multiple-choice questions from three subsections:
40% of the questions you will answer in the Verbal section will be sentence correction questions.
In this article, we'll cover how these questions work, give you some examples, and show you tips on how to improve your performance at them.
The Sentence Correction section of the GMAT tests your language proficiency. You will need to ensure that sentences are structurally correct and make sense, clearly expressing the intended message.
You will be provided with a sentence with an element underlined. The underlined part is the focus of your question.
From a range of multiple-choice answers, you'll need to find the answer that improves the clarity of the statement as well as remaining grammatically correct.
The Importance of Clarity
When it comes to the English language, there are a variety of grammatical ‘rules’ that must be followed to ensure true comprehension. When a rule is broken – such as a comma incorrectly positioned, errors with singular/plural verbs or incorrect pronouns – the clarity of the message can be lost.
This is where sentence correction questions come into effect. Rather than expecting you to know the precise details of each grammar rule, you will just need to know enough to allow you to make a sentence correct and effective.
1. Know Your Error Types
During the Sentence Correction element of the GMAT, you will be tested on a variety of common errors that may occur within sentences. As you go through your test preparation, you will notice that these error types are repeated regularly.
It will help you greatly to be aware of the range of errors that could appear within the examination. Here are some of the most common:
- Subject verbs. Verb agreement is commonly tested on the GMAT. You need to be able to identify the verb and the subject and make sure that they match (e.g. a singular subject should have a singular verb).
- Compound subjects. Sentences that have multiple subjects have certain rules. If the two subjects are joined with ‘and’, the verb is always plural. If the subjects are joined by ‘or’, the verb must agree with the subject that is closest to it.
- Pronouns. Are you confident when recognizing pronoun errors? These may be singular or plural errors (‘it’ vs ‘they’) or errors relating to clarity regarding what the pronoun refers to. This is a common question on the GMAT exam.
- Modifiers. These are phrases that describe nouns or verbs to add color to a sentence. You will need to be able to understand the grammatical rules surrounding adjectives/adverbs – as they relate both to nouns and verbs – and be able to spot those that have been used incorrectly.
- Collective nouns. These are nouns that refer to a group of objects but are always treated singularly. Words such as ‘company’, ‘group’ and ‘team’ are good examples of collective nouns. You will need to be able to demonstrate your knowledge of when to use collective nouns correctly.
- Idioms. Idioms are phrases or constructions that are commonly used within the English language, for example, ‘distinguish x from y’ or ‘either/or’. It’s hugely beneficial to spend time revising your knowledge of idioms as part of your pre-exam study.
- Parallels. Whilst you’re studying for your GMAT, you may come across the term ‘parallelism’. When a sentence has good parallelism, all elements of the sentence take the same form (grammatically speaking). For example, the sentence ‘Over the holidays I am going to do some cycling, swimming and draw a picture’ does not have good parallelism because each activity should end in ‘-ing’. Parallelism can take many forms and does not always relate to the ending of the words; you should spend time ensuring that you’re confident in your ability to spot a question testing parallelism.
Once you know what error type you are expected to spot, you will feel more confident in choosing the right response.
2. Use a Process of Elimination
Sentence Correction questions are multiple-choice. To answer these questions quickly and accurately, use a process of elimination to identify the most likely answer.
Read through each Sentence Correction answer option thoroughly and determine how each answer differs from the rest. To eliminate the four wrong answers, you will only need to find one grammatical or structural reason as to why that particular sentence is wrong.
When you have done this four times, you will be left with the right answer.
A tip is to always eliminate the glaringly wrong answer(s) before searching for the right answer.
3. The First Answer Choice Is Always the Same as the Question
In Sentence Correction, the first answer choice is always the same as the question. This is because, sometimes, the examiners may like to throw you a curveball and provide you with a sentence that is grammatically and coherently correct.
Knowing this will help you to save valuable time when reading through your answer options. Don’t be afraid to choose the first answer as your final choice.
4. Practice Good Attention to Detail
The secret to success in Sentence Correction is spotting small errors quickly and accurately. You may be able to entirely change the clarity of a sentence by changing a comma or preposition, and you will need to quickly spot these small changes within the answer options.
The key to this is practicing close and careful reading, which can be tricky under time pressure. Make sure you practice working quickly and accurately.
5. Practice Your Timekeeping
Sentence Correction questions need to be answered quickly – we recommend spending around one minute on each question.
Answering fast will leave you enough time for the other two sections within Verbal, since these require a greater time allocation.
It’s beneficial to conduct a series of practice exams (many of which can be found online) under timed conditions to allow you to examine your strengths and weaknesses.
Once you know which areas you struggle with, you can incorporate strategies to improve your timeliness and effectiveness.
Now you know what to expect from Sentence Correction questions, here are some examples to help you practice:
Question 1 – Understanding Active Verbs
The manager’s endorsement of his assistant as a highly skilled member of the team seemed to be an implication that his assistant would win a promotion.
(A) to be an implication that
(B) to make the implication
(C) to imply that
(D) as if implying that
(E) to make implicit
First, the question is asking us to identify the noun/adjective/verb split of the word ‘implication’.
Answers A and B use the noun form of the word which makes the sentence longer and harder to read. Answer D changes the word to ‘implying’ which is a different form of the verb, whilst answer E uses a different word entirely (‘implication’ is changed to ‘implicit’) which could alter the comprehension and clarity of the sentence.
Second, we need to understand that the GMAT is looking for formal use of language. When we talk with our peers, we may remove the word ‘that’ from our syntax; yet in its written form, the word ‘that’ is important when it comes to grammatical coherence.
We can, therefore, eliminate answers A, B, D and E.
By process of elimination, we can deduce that the correct answer is: C
Question 2 – Idioms
As a planet travels through its orbit, it changes its speed in correlation with its distance from the Sun. In particular, the closer the planet is to the Sun, then it is moving its orbit that much faster.
(A) the closer the planet is to the Sun, then it is moving its orbit that much faster
(B) the closer the planet is to the Sun, the faster it moves in its orbit
(C) when the planet is closer to the Sun, the faster it moves in its orbit
(D) when the planet is closer to the Sun, moving faster in its orbit as well
(E) by being closer to the Sun, also moving faster in its orbit
This is a common idiom that relates to how one thing might change as a result of another. The word ‘the’ after the comma is a crucial part of the sentence as it is the link between the two items – a clue is to determine whether the first part of the sentence can function as a complete sentence by itself.
In this instance, we can see that the word ‘the’ is used in answers A and B, allowing us to eliminate answers C, D and E.
Further reasoning indicates that, while the first parts of the sentences in answers A and B both function independently, coherence and understanding would indicate that answer B is grammatically correct.
Therefore, the correct answer is: B
Question 3 – Pronouns
Although the term ‘introvert’ is sometimes thought to mean a shy person, psychologists argue it is someone who is often drained of energy in social situations and re-energized by spending time alone.
(A) it is someone who is
(B) it is in reference to people
(C) it refers to someone who is
(D) they are people who are
(E) it is a person
The passage is discussing the term ‘introvert’, which is singular. We can therefore immediately eliminate any answer choice that is plural; in this case, answers D and B. Answer B is also unnecessarily wordy.
Although an introvert can be a person, here we are only talking about the term itself. Answers A and E can be eliminated as they are talking about people. These are also incorrect in themselves as they use the pronoun ‘it’ to refer to ‘someone’ or ‘a person’.
The correct answer is: C
Hopefully, you will now feel more confident knowing what to expect from your Sentence Correction questions.
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