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How do I master GMAT Sentence Correction

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How do I master GMAT Sentence Correction

First off, a blanket thanks to every contributor on this website. In my most recent GMAT sitting, my quant went from a 36 to a 45.

Now onto business - I need to get my verbal score up a little higher. I've come to the conclusion that Sentence Correction is my weakest subject. How do I A) master doing these types of problems and B) become faster at answering them (this may be answered by A.


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For anyone who is proficient in English, GMAT sentence correction is mostly a reasoning game the winning of which takes vision and hacking skills. Do not approach GMAT sentence correction as a grammar test, as that is not what it is, and, in fact, many of the wrong answer choices are basically grammatically correct.

While there may seem to be many rules, concepts and idioms that one needs to know for GMAT sentence correction, if you can speak English fluently and generally correctly, you already know most of what you need to know to ace GMAT sentence correction. Still there are some key things you need to be aware of, and they include the following.

You need to be good at noticing whether subjects and verbs match. The GMAT makes this challenging by doing thing to obscure the subjects and verbs in sentences.

You need to understand how modifiers work and to notice how modifier placement can be effective or not effective. One way to do this is by getting clear regarding misplaced, dangling and squinting modifiers. You also need to know the difference between restrictive and non restrictive modifiers.

You need to know about quantity words and certain idioms, not many though. Even when idioms show up, often there are other decision points you can use to hack your way to answers without knowing the correct form of an idiomatic construction. Basically, you can figure out which idioms you don't know and need to learn about by seeing which ones smoke you consistently in practice questions.

You need to be good at seeing how word placement affects meaning.

You need to know how to work with pronouns and the nouns that they refer to.

You need to be very clear about how lists work and about parallelism.

That is not a long list.

Other than that you need to develop an eye for sentence structure and its effectiveness, and that means do not do the following.

Do not merely look at little bits of sentence versions for little bitty errors or rule infractions. I have seen someone who can speak and write English extremely well get absolutely smoked by sentence correction questions, because he thought that the way to get right answers is to look at parts of the sentences for broken rules.

How did he drive his verbal score up 16 points? Partly by learning to look at entire sentence versions and assess their effectiveness. You need to get good at looking at sentence versions from end to end and seeing how well the entire things work. Does that verb at the end match the subject at the beginning? Does the way that modifier is placed work to convey meaning effectively? What does this sentence logically convey?

Logic and meaning are key. Often a sentence correction version will sound ok, but if you look carefully at what the words are actually logically conveying, what you see will be complete nonsense. So you need to go beyond going with what sounds right and really get good at seeing what the structures logically convey.

Beyond that, you need to get good at eliminating answer choices and hacking your way to the right one. In other words, in the heat of the moment when you are looking at a sentence correction question under time pressure, you may not see the right answer quickly and you need to get good at not getting smoked by trick answers, noticing what you need to notice to eliminate wrong answers, and truly seeing what is going on in order to get right answers.

So getting right answers is not just a sentence correction thing, or a grammar thing; it's a solid process thing. You need to be careful about what you are doing and to not jump to conclusions. You need to not use illogical or flawed ways of eliminating choices.

For instance, I have seen people notice an issue in one choice, an issue involving a certain word, and then eliminate every answer choice that includes that word, without noticing that the word somehow works in another answer choice. What they were doing was not solid and left them open to getting smoked.

So ultimately, while you need to know some rules and concepts, sentence correction is about vision, logic, assessment of situations, use of effective processes and decision making skills. So practice doing questions slowly at first, noticing EXACTLY why wrong versions are wrong and right versions are right, and as you develop the vision and the processes necessary for accomplishing this, you will naturally speed up. Also, whenever you don't get one right, go back and ask this key question. "How could I have gotten the right answer to this one." More often than not, the answer will not involve learning some new rule or concept. It will be about seeing something that you didn't or about using a better process than the one you used.

So get good at carefully hacking your way to a decision about which is the best answer choice, and you will rock GMAT SC.

Marty Murray
GMAT Coach
In Person in the New York Area and Online Worldwide

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