The truth about changing the meaning in sentence correction

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I originally addressed this issue a few months ago, but I find that people continue to want to eliminate answer choice because they "change the meaning" from what was written in the original sentence.

If you think that this is a reason to eliminate please read on and you learn what my research revealed...


There are no official GMAT questions that I have seen that are perfect in Grammar and in Logic that can be eliminated because you change the meaning of the sentence from that in answer choice A (original sentence). There are instances where answer choices are eliminated because they distorted the "intended meaning" of the sentence, but the intended meaning is not necessarily expressed in the original.

Let's review:

In the Official Guide 12th edition and the Verbal Supplement I found NO instances where a choice was ruled out because it changed the meaning from the original sentence. Let me tell you what I did find as reasons to eliminate a choice other than grammar:

A) Wordiness
B) Awkwardness
C) Being indirect
D) Confusing
E) Lack of clarity

and a really important category
F) Not logical (which includes distorting the intended meaning of the sentence)

Please note that even answer choice A can be distort the intended meaning!

Take for example question #37 in the GMAC Verbal Review, Second Edition. The underlined part of the original sentence says "Some buildings that were destroyed and heavily damaged in the earthquake last year" the official explanation eliminates this choice because "The buildings are illogically said to be both destroyed and damaged."

For this example, the correct answer choice changes the meaning to "destroyed or damaged." So here we have the original meaning changed from something that was illogical to logical.

If you were to employ the "cannot change the meaning from A" way of thinking then you would have eliminated the logical choice and kept the incorrect, illogical choice!



This is a very important issue so I have spent time to go through the entire OG 12 Edition to find instances where answer choices are considered wrong for reasons of meaning. This took some time but was very enlightening.

What I found was this: You can eliminate an answer choice based on changing or distorting the "intended" meaning. Interestingly, answer choice A does not always convey the intended meaning and I found that A was eliminated as often or more often than any other choice, because of changing the intended meaning. So you CANNOT eliminate a choice because it changes from answer choice A. You can eliminate if it changes from the intended meaning but you have to determine that meaning, which may not be the one in the original sentence.

In the OG 12 edition, the following questions had answers eliminated for being illogical, but no mention of changing the meaning. Numbers 8, 14, 17, 36, 39, 47, 51, 53, 98

The following questions do mention a change in meaning, however, that is not a change in meaning from Choice A, but a change in meaning from the "intended meaning." By the way, each of these answer choices also feature other errors so you could have gotten the right answer if you had saved "meaning" until last: questions 37, 46, 55, 57, 64, 91.

To emphasize that the original sentence is not the standard by which meaning is measured, the following answers all feature an original sentence that was illogical or did not correctly convey the intended meaning. Let me restate, it is possible for Choice A to not convey the intended meaning. (Answer Choice A was described as "not conveying the intended meaning" or "illogical" or "does not make sense.") questions 19, 23, 31, 41, 78, 89, 97, 120, 132, 135, 137

I have listed the question numbers for those questions that I found had some relation to this subject so that each person could investigate if they choose and not have to take my word for it...

Hope that helps!
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by BarryLi » Tue Feb 22, 2011 12:03 pm
Thanks for writing this post David, it will surely bump many users' GMAT scores by a few points.

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by hja379 » Tue Feb 22, 2011 12:53 pm
Thanks David. This is very helpful.
Google "GMAT Pill"<--really helpful, worth checking out--especially for RC passages.
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by [email protected] » Tue Feb 22, 2011 2:15 pm
Thanks guys! It is my mission to communicate the fact that Answer Choice A is not special. "A" can just as easily as any other answer choice be illogical or stray from the meaning. You should do very well if you focus on grammar and logic first, then move to things like awkwardness and wordiness versus clarity and brevity. If it should be necessary to go with the "distorts the intended meaning" then we now know what to do!
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by [email protected] » Tue Feb 22, 2011 3:07 pm
Great post, David - thanks for doing that! I've always been less-than-impressed with that "it changes the meaning" reason that people use to eliminate answer choices. Not only is it not a valid reason based on those the GMAT lists (grammar, clarity, etc.), it also just doesn't make sense that the GMAT would logically commit itself to that rule. Choice A is "live" answer choice - it should only have a 20% chance of being correct, so why would the test 1) institute a rule that gives favoritism for A and 2) punish people who didn't make that "tie goes to A" leap? It just violates the spirit of what the GMAT is trying to do.

Thanks for posting this - very well done!
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by Target2009 » Tue Feb 22, 2011 5:11 pm
Great Post David. Thanks
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by AIM GMAT » Tue Feb 22, 2011 8:36 pm
Thanks David , the information is really very helpful , will save us from falling into traps . :)
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by chieftang » Fri Dec 30, 2011 9:37 am
Absolutely critical, IMO. Take, for example, dangling modifier problems. In many of these cases, the meaning of the original sentence MUST change! E.g.

While driving down the road, a tree fell on Maria's car.

In this case, I'd better find an answer choice that doesn't have a tree driving down the road!
Last edited by chieftang on Fri Dec 30, 2011 11:56 am, edited 1 time in total.

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by happymanocha » Fri Dec 30, 2011 11:06 am
Thanks for insightful information. I started my prep few days back and amazed to see such information from you experts.

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by [email protected] » Sat Jan 07, 2012 3:57 pm
THANK YOU DAVID!!! for this wonderful post. It will really help in acing the GMAT SC.
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