Apparently, GMAT sentence correction accounts for ~40% of questions on the GMAT Exam Verbal Section. So, expect anywhere between 12-14 questions pertaining to sentence correction. From what I have explored till now, this has turned out to be a real challenge. GMAT sentence correction is going to be tough and will probably need the most preparation for non-native speakers.
English grammar is the way in which meanings are encoded into wordings in the English language. Eight “word classes” or “parts of speech” are commonly distinguished in English: nouns, determiners, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, and conjunctions.Wikipedia
Does the sentence sound right ?
The basic tool kit is just the grammar intuition of whether the statement seems right or off. From what I have been practising and trying to do. Just the intuitive feel is not going to go too far. Most sentences sound very similar and it’s difficult to differentiate on that basis.
You will need to pick up the basic tenets of grammar construction which can be used to quickly spot any grave errors. This method of eliminating options using the grammar rules can help narrow down to 2-3 options. Post this it could be any of the following which can help narrow down to the right option
- Too complex a statement.
- Intuitive Guess
- Statement with clear clarity
The right way to go about the whole thing would be to quickly revise these basic definitions and then learn the basic rules of grammar construction. This will be useful because many explanations across the sites and references, use the definitions and terms to point out the errors. You will not understand them, nailing down the definitions.
Basic Definitions I
We will go through the basic definitions and understand the topics: nouns, determiners, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, and conjunctions.
- Nouns: A noun is a word that names something, such as a person, place, thing, or idea. In a sentence, nouns can play the role of subject, direct object, indirect object, subject complement, object complement, appositive, or adjective. (Definition by Grammarly)
- Nouns are either common or proper nouns that refer to a specific person/object and have a capitalized name. Proper nouns include person, country etc.
- Pronouns: A pronoun is a word that takes the place of a noun. Pronouns can be subjects of the sentence (I, he, she, it, you, we, they) or express possession (his, her, your, my, mine, yours, its, our, their, ours, theirs). (Definition by Socratic)
- They can take the place of a Noun in different parts of the sentence. Technically, it’s supposed to be treated similar to Noun while testing the grammar of a sentence.
- Verbs: Verbs are words that show action (sing), occurrence (develop), or state of being (exist). Almost every sentence requires a verb. (Definition by Merriam Webster)
- These words put the act of the Nouns into context.
- Adjectives: Adjectives are words that describe nouns (or pronouns). “Old,” “green,” and “cheerful” are examples of adjectives. (Definition by grammar-monster).
More Definitions II
Besides the basic definitions and types of words, we also have these derivative words/terms which aid in the process of sentence creation.
- Determiners: A determiner is a word placed in front of a noun to specify quantity (e.g., “one dog,” “many dogs”) or to clarify what the noun refers to (e.g., “my dog,” “that dog,” “the dog”). (Definition by grammar-monster)
- These words bring specificity to Nouns.
- Adverbs: An adverb is a word that modifies (describes) a verb (he sings loudly), an adjective (very tall), another adverb (ended too quickly), or even a whole sentence. (Definition by Grammarly)
- e.g. Fortunately, I had brought an umbrella
- Prepositions: Prepositions indicate relationships between other words in a sentence. Many prepositions tell you where something is or when something happened. (Definition by Grammarly)
- At, under, then etc are all prepositions depending on the context.
- They fill in for direction, time, location etc.
- Conjunctions: Conjunctions are words that link other words, phrases, or clauses together. Conjunctions allow you to form complex, elegant sentences and avoid the choppiness of multiple short sentences. (Definition by Grammarly)
- They are the glue for connecting different sentences.
- e.g. I work quickly and carefully.
The next phase for GMAT Sentence Correction preparation involves understanding rules, concerning these definitions. These basic pillars of grammar construction will help significantly improve the accuracy of our sentence corrections.
Subject Verb Agreement
All sentence correction instances will be intended to either inform, instruct or inquire. None of these in any way will be used for any other purpose such as parody, sarcasm or provoke any kind of emotions such as laughter or disgust.
Agreement: The subject-verb for a sentence should be in sync and agree with each other. Basically singular subjects take singular verbs and plural subjects take plural verbs. The other kind of agreement is when a word refers to a pronoun in the other part of the sentence. They both need to have the same terms.
- I walks to the store vs I walk to the store.
- The first sentence has a disagreement between the subject/pronoun I and the corresponding verb.
- The engineers are a friend of mine vs The engineers are friends of mine.
- Engineers word is plural and thereby the word friends should be plural and in agreement with it. It can’t be a friend for plural.
The first thing to check for here is to identify the subjects here and see if the verb is in alignment in terms of singular/plurality. The above sentences were small and easier to evaluate than the ones you might encounter under GMAT sentence correction.
Besides getting the grammar correct for the sentence. The other key aspect is to get the logical structure for the sentence correct. Despite being grammatically correct, a sentence might be a confusing or unintended meaning due to the way, it has been framed.
- I put the cake by the door that I baked vs I put the cake by the door that I baked.
- The first sentence despite being grammatically correct implies that the subject baked the door and not the cake.
- Concerned that it might be venomous, the snake was left untouched by the workers in the crate vs Concerned that the snake might be venomous, the workers left it in the crate untouched.
- Here, the wrong placement of the pronoun ‘it’ can result in a confusing state where we don’t know if the ‘it’ referred to the snake or the crate. The sentence with clarity wins here.
Words and phrases in a sentence, with similar roles, should have similar treatment. This requires ensuring the fact that parallel clauses have a parallel structure. This often shows up in how the verbs get treated.
- She tackled the problem calmly, efficiently and was analytical vs She tackled the problem calmly, efficiently and analytically.
- The second sentence is the right construction since it maintains parallelism between the 3 verbs calm, efficient and analytics.
This is broadly the idea behind parallelism. It proves useful when used in conjunction with other grammatical concepts to eliminate wrong options.
Despite the sentence adhering to all grammatical constraints, similar to logical predication. GMAT sentence correction requires sentences to be devoid of unnecessary fluff. The sentences should be simple and concise. Post elimination of those with wrong grammar.
The best option in case of a tie is the one that conveys the message in the simplest way without any redundancy.
Similar to rhetoric, the sentences correction methods here go beyond grammar and see if the sentence as a whole sounds right, if the diction is right. Some of the corrections belonging to this section get covered by the Subject-Verb agreement as well.
- We only bought a few rice vs We only bought a small amount of rice.
- The diction with the second half is the correct way to quantify the amount of rice here.
Another such example of diction is the use of among and between. Among is used to compare more than two groups while between is used to compare just the two.
Idioms are the standard form of expression that consists of ordinary words but the usage follows a specific defined pattern, which may not be logical from a grammatical point of view. These are mostly memorised or recalled from past usage.
Some popular idioms. These are standard ways of using these and should be used in a similar fashion.
- On regard with vs With regard to
- Neither the pomegranates have arrived yet neither the melons vs Neither the pomegranates have arrived nor the melons.
There is a nice collection of popular idioms for GMAT here.
Besides the above know grammatical errors in form of subject-verb, idioms, parallelism, diction. The grammatical errors go beyond them. Effective communication through a sentence involves the right placement of the words and their relevance to the meaning being conveyed.
- In any case is acceptable vs In any case, the contract is acceptable.
- ‘The contract’ is a necessary subject here for the sentence to have any meaning. This could fall under logical predication as well.
Make sure to get the verb forms to inform past, present and future tense correct. The section requires a little bit more context and is best taken over by this site.
As can be inferred from the long list of the different kinds of errors and what all needs to be taken care of in trying to ace GMAT sentence correction. The rules need to be remembered and then with enough practice, one should be able to build the framework of checking for each aspect step by step.
There are a bunch of strategies to approaching the problem statements which includes critical steps like splitting. Splitting stands for splitting the options into 2-3 parts based on an error and then recursively further splitting the remaining options based on other errors. The strategies in detail are discussed here.