The Managerial Approach to Sentence Correction

by on June 24th, 2017

sentence_verbalFor most examinees, GMAT Sentence Correction can look a lot like a typical workday: you face a series of tasks and decisions that seem a bit daunting and quite a bit out of your control or expertise. But remember: the whole reason you’re taking the GMAT is to eventually become a high-level manager, and what effective managers do is determine where they’re best able to add value and then focus on that. The same ideology should be true of your Sentence Correction approach! Elon Musk is able to spearhead initiatives in space travel, electric cars, and (perhaps soon) revolutionary public transportation not because he’s involved in every detail of each engineering phase, but because he’s put himself in a position to expertly perform his core competencies for SpaceX, Tesla, and other pursuits.

What does that look like on Sentence Correction?

It means that you’re not simply reading the original sentence scanning for the first error you see, and that you’re not reacting to each difference between answer choices—particularly not “in the order that they come.” Instead, you should approach each problem with your strengths, your core competencies, in mind and look to attack those first. By test day, you should be an expert on a handful of frequently-occurring error types:

  • Modifiers
  • Verb Tense
  • Subject-Verb Agreement
  • Pronouns
  • Parallel Structure (in comparisons and lists)

The problem you will face, however, is that often problems are designed to present you with other structural or colloquial elements that strike the ear awkwardly or that seem to require attention. That is particularly problematic when those instances occur in the first few answer choices and/or in the first few words of each answer choice. Consider the following example, which appears courtesy the Official Guide for GMAT Review:

Out of America’s fascination with all things antique have grown a market for bygone styles of furniture and fixtures that are bringing back the chaise lounge, the overstuffed sofa, and the claw-footed bathtub.

(A) things antique have grown a market for bygone styles of furniture and fixtures that are bringing

(B) things antique has grown a market for bygone styles of furniture and fixtures that is bringing

(C) things that are antiques has grown a market for bygone styles of furniture and fixtures that bring

(D) antique things have grown a market for bygone styles of furniture and fixtures that are bringing

(E) antique things has grown a market for bygone styles of furniture and fixtures that bring

With this problem, it is quite common for people to want to immediately address the “first” major difference between answer choices, deciding whether “all things antique,” “all things that are antique,” or “all antique things” is the proper construction. But those who do that miss an opportunity to focus specifically on what they’re good at—subject-verb agreement and verb tense. Since “the market” is what has grown and what is bringing back the furniture styles, a savvy examinee can avoid the initial constructions altogether: the verbs have to be singular, so it must be “has grown” and “is bringing” making B the only logical choice.

The lesson?

Don’t let the GMAT draw you into decisions that you haven’t studied or simply aren’t comfortable making. The key to effective Sentence Correction is prioritizing the decision points that you are most comfortable with, and then of course in becoming a master of the major decisions. Approach Sentence Correction like an experienced manager: before you get sidetracked on a task that you may not do well, survey the assignment and determine where you’ll add the most value. By test day, that should mean that you’re looking at modifiers, verbs, pronouns, and parallel structure before you ever consider errors that don’t fit in those buckets.

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