How to Analyze a GMATPrep SC Question

by , Mar 21, 2010

Close Up of Pen on Paper excerptThis is the latest in a series of How To Analyze articles that began with the general How To Analyze A Practice Problem article (click on the link to read the original article). This week, were going to analyze a specific Sentence Correction question. The GMATPrep problem were using this week is one that weve already discussed how to solve in a previous article; click here to read that article and try the problem first.

Heres the GMATPrep problem again; if you didnt read the first article and try the problem already, then try this problem now (1 minute, 15 seconds):

Research has shown that when speaking, individuals who have been blind from birth and have thus never seen anyone gesture nonetheless make hand motions just as frequently and in the same way as sighted people do, and that they will gesture even when conversing with another blind person.

A) have thus never seen anyone gesture nonetheless make hand motions just as frequently and in the same way as sighted people do, and that

B) have thus never seen anyone gesture but nonetheless make hand motions just as frequently and in the same way that sighted people do, and

C) have thus never seen anyone gesture, that they nonetheless make hand motions just as frequently and in the same way as sighted people do, and

D) thus they have never seen anyone gesture, but nonetheless they make hand motions just as frequently and in the same way that sighted people do, and that

E) thus they have never seen anyone gesture nonetheless make hand motions just as frequently and in the same way that sighted people do, and

After trying the problem, checking the answer, and reading and understanding the solution (if available), I try to answer these questions:

1. Did I know WHAT they were trying to test?

Was I able to CATEGORIZE this question by topic and subtopic? By process / technique? If I had to look something up in my books, would I know exactly where to go?

  • The question is an SC question thats testing parallelism, modifiers, and idioms. If I dont remember how to deal with any of those grammar issues, Id go look in the appropriate chapter in my book right now.

Did I COMPREHEND the symbols, text, questions, statements, and answer choices? Can I comprehend it all now, when I have lots of time to think about it? What do I need to do to make sure that I do comprehend everything here? How am I going to remember whatever I've just learned for future?

[Note: Im going to pretend I got this one wrong when I first did it.]

  • When I first read the sentence, I didnt understand the full structure. The full structure consists of the core of the sentence (subject, verb, possibly an object, and possibly some other necessary extensions) and the modifiers (the additional information that hangs onto the core at various spots). I knew that I wasnt quite getting it, but I was also feeling pressed for time, so I thought I could get away with not figuring out what the basic structure was. That was a mistake. In future, I have to make sure that I take the time to understand the basic structure on sentences such as this one, even if it takes me another 20 to 30 seconds to answer the problem. I should also practice breaking down the structure so that I get more efficient.

Did I understand the actual CONTENT (facts, knowledge) being tested?

  • I do know parallelism, though I messed up with parallelism on this one because I didnt understand the overall structure. Once I took the time to break down the structure, I had no problem with the parallelism. In terms of the idiom, in the same way as sounded better to me than in the same way that but I didnt know for sure that I was right until I checked the answer. I still dont know why Im right, though, so I have to go check my book and dig into this a little more.

2. How well did I HANDLE what they were trying to test?

Did I choose the best APPROACH? Or is there a better way to do the problem? (There's almost always a better way!) What is that better way? How am I going to remember this better approach the next time I see a similar problem?

  • No, I definitely didnt choose the best approach, and that cost me the question. I knew there was parallelism, but I interpreted it as Research has shown that X, that Y, and that Z so I chose answer C. I should have tried to figure out the structure first, and I didnt do that, as noted above. Heres how I should have figured out the structure: (see original article, linked at the top of this article, to learn how to split out the core from the modifiers; this is where you would want to write all of that out.)

Did I have the SKILLS to follow through? Or did I fall short on anything?

  • I did have the skills to find the core but I didnt have the test-taking skills to know that I should have done it then. Basically, I have to make a choice: either Im just going to give up on this one as too hard for the time I have (and therefore Im going to answer more quickly than usual), or Im going to invest the extra 20 to 30 seconds to figure out the core because I know that I can do it. (And I dont think it will take more than 20 to 30 extra seconds thats critically important.)

Did I make any careless mistakes? If so, WHY did I make each mistake? What habits could I make or break to minimize the chances of repeating that careless mistake in future?

  • I didnt read the full sentence using my chosen answer, C. If I had, I might have realized something wasnt right. Research has shown that individuals who <A and B modifier>, that they make, and that they will gesture Wheres the verb for the first one, the verb that goes with individuals? There isnt one. Oops. Also, I did finally figure out why in the same way as was right (it was due to parallelism again! see the original article for details), and I consider missing the parallelism signal a careless mistake, because I absolutely know that and is a parallelism signal.

For verbal, the following two questions can be combined:

Am I comfortable with OTHER STRATEGIES that would have worked, at least partially? How should I have made an educated guess?

Do I understand every TRAP & TRICK that the writer built into the question, including wrong answers?

  • I already know why answer C is tempting, because I chose it! And now I also know why its wrong.
  • I wasnt personally tempted by B, D, or E because of the in the same way that issue, but it would be easy to miss that we need as there. The just as frequently and in the same way structure is really confusing theyre trying to get me to miss the just as frequently as idiom.

3. How well did I or could I RECOGNIZE what was going on?

Did I make a CONNECTION to previous experience? If so, what problem(s) did this remind me of and what, precisely, was similar? Or did I have to do it all from scratch? If so, see the next bullet.

  • Not well enough, no. Ive seen these super-convoluted sentences before and I really should have known that I needed to break the sentence down first but I let the time pressure get to me. Im going to go back and look at some similar ones that Ive done in the past.

Can I make any CONNECTIONS now, while I'm analyzing the problem? What have I done in the past that is similar to this one? How are they similar? How could that recognition have helped me to do this problem more efficiently or effectively? (This may involve looking up some past problem and making comparisons between the two!)

  • Basically, this problem was all about convoluted parallelism: a long core, lots of modifiers, and various levels of parallelism. Ive definitely seen problems like this before just in the past week, in fact and Im going to go back over some of them right now.

HOW will I recognize similar problems in the future? What can I do now to maximize the chances that I will remember and be able to use lessons learned from this problem the next time I see a new problem that tests something similar?

  • I need to do everything I already described in my notes above. When I go back to look at some of the recent problems Ive done, Im going to repeat this full analysis for several of those, just to hammer home that I need to break these sentences down better and more efficiently. (And Ill also look for new things, of course.)

And thats it! Note that, of course, the details above are specific to each individual person such a write-up would be different for every single one of you, depending upon your particular strengths, weaknesses, and mistakes. Hopefully, though, this gives you a better idea of the way to analyze a problem. This framework also gives you a valuable way to discuss problems with fellow online students or in study groups this is the kind of discussion that really helps to maximize scores.

* GMATPrep question courtesy of the Graduate Management Admissions Council. Usage of this question does not imply endorsement by GMAC.