Top 10 Tips for the Sentence Correction Section

by Knewton, Sep 8, 2010

paper-editsThe Sentence Correction section of the GMAT can be intimidating, especially for test-takers who grew up speaking a language other than English.Luckily for all you Quant whizzes, the Sentence Correction portion is actually quite math-like. There are specific words and phrases that you can use to eliminate options, and you can learn how different constructions must fit together in order to form a correct sentence.

To ace the SC section, start by learning to identify the most commonly tested errors on the GMAT. Here are 10 concrete tips to get you on track:

1.Watch the prepositions.

Do answer choices use different prepositions? If so, check foridiomatic errors. Sometimes the difference between a correct idiom and an incorrect one comes down to which preposition is used (i.e., a consequence of vs.a consequence from).

2.Check for parallelism.

The word and should send you looking forparallelism errors. If the word and connects items on a list, the items connected must be parallel. If you see a comma plus and (or another conjunction likefor,and,nor,but,or, etc.) connecting two clauses, make sure that each of the clauses is independent; if not, youve found asentence structure error.

3.Know the time.

Use time cues (ex.before,during,as,in 1960) to eliminate options that containverb tense errors. Remember, events that occur during the same time period must be in the same tense!

4.Lookfor agreement.

See a collective noun, likecommittee,company orteam? Check forsubject-verb andpronoun-antecedent agreement. Even better, check to see that EVERY underlined pronoun agrees with its antecedent (the word to which the pronoun is referring).

5.Skip the filler.

When sentences are injected with modifiers, like prepositional phrases, ignore the filler words between the subject and the verb to make sure that you havesubject-verb agreement. If you have a hard time spotting the subject-verb pair amidst all the clutter in the sentence, find the verb and think, "What subject logically corresponds to this action?" Remember: The subject of a sentence will never be inside of a prepositional phrase.

6. Watch thewhich.

See the wordwhich in an answer choice? Whenwhich introduces a clause (called anadjective clause), make sure that the clause introduced IMMEDIATELY follows the noun or idea it modifies. Just as an adjective must describe a noun, so an adjective clause must describe a noun. If the clause introduced by which describes an abstract idea and not a specific noun, youve found amodifier error.

7.Run the numbers.

If a sentence is about some sort of numerical quantity (ex. the percentage of homeowners in Minneapolis orthe number of women studying French) check foridiomatic errors. Remember: fewer describes a countable quantity, like people; less describes an uncountable quantity, like sugar. Also check forredundancy (ex. went up by a 20% increase").

8.Comparison shop.

The words as, than, and like should send you looking forcomparison errors. Make sure that the items compared make sense; if a sentence saysmore X than Y, X and Y have to be items of the same type.

9.Well, this is awkward.

If an option is wordy or awkward, do not immediately eliminate it unless you find a concrete error. Hold on to the choice unless you find another choice that also contains no errors. Compare the two constructions, and if you still cannot find an error in either construction, choose the less wordy, less awkward, and/or more active construction.

10.Keep things logical.

Don't forget about the logic of the sentence. When down to those last two options, plug each one back into the sentence and see which one makes more sense intuitively. You can always use your ear to check for clear and logical modification.

These tips were written by Joanna Bersin, a Content Developer in Knewton's GMAT course.