Sentence Correction Questions of GMAT Verbal Section
Sentence Correction questions are one of the three types of questions you can find on the Verbal Reasoning section of the GMAT, along with Reading Comprehension questions and Critical Reasoning questions. Each Sentence Correction question contains a sentence with 0-2 errors in a specified underlined portion of the sentence. You can expect the Sentence Correction questions to make up roughly 40% of the Verbal Reasoning section, so it is important to spend equal, if not more, time preparing for these questions.
Preparing adequately for Sentence Correction questions can be the most effective way to boost your GMAT Verbal score, so take the time to use a systematic approach to the questions and do as many practice questions as you can to familiarize yourself with the way the test questions are written and the types of errors you will see frequently.
Common Grammatical Errors
Sentence Correction questions are not assessing whether you remember the technical grammatical jargon you learned in secondary school or your knowledge of spelling or vocabulary. Rather, these questions assess your ability to clearly communicate ideas in written standard English. Brush up on these commonly abused grammar rules:
Subject/Verb agreement – simply, subject/verb agreement means that the verb in the sentence should accurately align with the number of the subject in the sentence (singular or plural).
Verb Tense – verb tense signals to a reader when an event occurred. Throughout a sentence, the verb tense should be the same.
Modifiers – a modifier is a word, phrase, or clause that provides additional information about another word or phrase, generally functioning as an adjective or adverb. Often, in Sentence Correction questions, you will find a misplaced modifier which makes the sentence unclear.
Pronouns – pronouns are words which replace antecedents, or nouns which come before them in the sentence. Your job is to make sure the pronoun accurately reflects the antecedent in number and whether it represents a subject or an object.
Comparisons – when writing a comparison between two people, things, or ideas, it is important to ensure clarity with word order and grammatical structure.
GMAT test-makers, above all, do not like sentences which are not clear. Ask yourself if the answer you chose helped to clarify the ideas the sentence.
You will also need to review the above grammar rules to avoid relying on your ear. Some test-takers, especially native English speakers, fall into the trap of choosing the answer that 'sounds' right; however, in daily English conversation, we frequently make technical grammatical errors. This can deceive your ear to think the answer you are considering is correct when it is not. Rely on the rules instead of your intuition.
A Systematic Approach
As you have probably noticed, a Sentence Correction question is very different from the other question types in the Verbal Reasoning section of the GMAT. Because Sentence Correction questions deal with specific grammar rules, it can be easier to implement a systematic approach to each question, which will help you to crack even 700-level questions.
Simplify the sentence: The first thing you can do is to simplify the sentence given. These sentences are generally packed with superfluous information to confuse the test-taker, so look for 'extra' details. First, you can look for information offset by commas.
Example: "Dogs, unlike the wolf, has been bread for thousands of years to live amongst humans." becomes "Dogs has been bred for thousands of years to live amongst humans." It is now clear that the subject and verb are not in agreement, and the sentence should be changed to, "Dogs have been bred for thousands of years to live amongst humans."
Simplify the sentence further: Remove adjective and adverb phrases to continue to distill the sentence down to its main idea. This will help to further reveal grammatical errors.
Example: "The activism of state citizens have led to a significant decrease in the number of traffic accidents." becomes "The activism have led to a decrease in accidents." Again, it is clear that there is a subject/verb issue. When we leave "of state citizens" in the sentence, it can confuse us to think that have is the appropriate verb, however, it is the activism (singular) which has led to a decrease in accidents.
Use the answers to find the problem: Sometimes simplifying the sentence does not help you find the error because the error lies within the pieces you have removed. If you are having trouble finding the error, consider looking at the answer choices. You can spot differences in the answers and isolate groups to quickly eliminate the wrong answers.
Once you feel comfortable with the grammatical rules of standard written English, your goal is to slow down and pay attention to small details. Stick with your systematic approach and resist the urge to rush through Sentence Correction questions. Remember that doing as many practice questions as you can will help you to begin to notice patterns in the way the sentences are written and where the mistakes tend to appear.