Objective Decisions: Your SC Objective

by on September 9th, 2010

If you’re struggling with Sentence Correction, there’s a good chance that you’re either relying a bit too much on your ear (“what sounds right?”) or on the descriptions from the Official Guide (which seldom sound right).  To be successful on Sentence Correction, it’s helpful to know that SC questions are as mechanical and logical as any other question type, and that they allow you to showcase your problem solving and analytical skills.

While Official Guide solutions tend to feature descriptions such as “awkward” or “unidiomatic” quite frequently, for your own purposes you should try to make your decisions based on concrete reasons, such as:

  • The subject does not numerically agree with the verb
  • The pronoun does not numerically agree with its antecedent
  • The verb tenses do not provide a logical timeline of events
  • The modifier does not logically describe what it modifies
  • The items in a comparison are not in parallel form

If you’ll note, these rules are binary – one part of the sentence either does or does not agree with the other, be it numerically or logically.  Elements of style (title of the definitive grammar book notwithstanding) are not “standardized” enough to make them fodder for a standardized test, and don’t lend themselves to test the types of skills – logic, problem solving, efficiency, etc. – that business schools want to ensure that you have.  As such, you’ll find it much more efficient to study by focusing on the major, logical error categories than to try to crack style and idiomatic expressions (and you won’t need to know many of the latter at all).  Accordingly, as you practice with Sentence Correction questions you should hold yourself accountable for those high-level errors.  This drill can help:

  • Take a set of 20 SC questions and write down a 1-3 word description for why you eliminate each answer choice as you progress.
  • Whenever you use a term like “awkward”, “idiom”, or “sounded wrong”, go back to that question to determine a more concrete reason that the choice was incorrect.  Write that word down in another color or type.
  • Go back to the set again to track those errors that you didn’t see the first time, and note any repeats.  Those are error categories that you need to study more thoroughly and for which you need to train yourself to look so that you don’t fall into a trap of relying too heavily on subjective reasons.

Train yourself to see Sentence Correction questions mechanically and logically and you’ll not only improve your accuracy but also leave plenty of time to read Reading Comprehension and Critical Reasoning prompts.  Sentence Correction is as objective a question type as any other; learn to see it that way and you’re that much closer to achieving your overall GMAT objective.

3 comments

  • Hi Brian what did you mean by "Sentence Correction questions mechanically" . Does it eman analysing every bit of the sentence and grouping it under a figure of speech . For example categorize adjectives,modifiers and participles

  • Hey Gurvinder,

    Good question - and I think you have it...the idea is to learn and really emphasize those categories so that you're making the same 7-8 decisions every time, and not looking at questions as unique. I wouldn't say, though "analyzing every bit of the sentence" - just focus on your decision points. It's that mechanical "verbs are different ---> need singular verb ---> eliminate B and D" thought process that saves you from having to analyze every part of every sentence. Most of the time you'll find that if you make 2 decisions that are among those you commonly make, you're done with the sentence before you've even read every word.

    • Thanks Brian for the help . this is very useful

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