The Most Important Parts of a GMAT Sentence Correction Sentence

You should follow me on Twitter. While you're at it, take a moment to subscribe to GMAT Hacks via RSS or Email.


In the majority of GMAT Sentence Correction questions, the entire sentence is not underlined. Sometimes the underlined section is just a word or two, while in other items the underlined section can be multiple lines long.

Any time the underlined section is about three words or longer, but does not include the entire sentence, two parts of the underlined section are more important than the rest. Do you know what they are?

The two crucial elements of the underlined portion are the beginning and the end. Errors can turn up anywhere, but they are most likely to show up in those two locations. There are a couple of structural reasons why that is.

Somebody Decided What To Underline.

Much as SC questions may appear bewildering, they follow predictable patterns. Pick any question out of the Official Guide, and look at the beginning and end of all five answer choices. It is extremely rare that all of the beginnings or all of the ends are the same.

If they were the same, why would they underline that part of the sentence? They're giving you a part to analyze, and if all five choices are the same, there's nothing to analyze there. This isn't a guarantee that the beginning or end is a mistake (obviously, the correct answer could be (A)), but they are two places that you almost always have to consider.

You're Reading Out of Context.

When you read the sentence, you can generally follow along. Even a very poorly constructed sentence can be understood. But when you read through the answer choices, you are reading only a part of a sentence. To pick an example at random:

due to their enhancement of reproduction or survival, but that they are

Do you have any idea whether "due to" is correct, or whether "but that they are" needs to be changed? Of course, it's a little easier when you've just read the sentence, but no matter how fresh that sentence is in your mind, you've also got several other answer choices competing for attention.

In other words, the testmaker can insert a glaring error at the beginner or end of a choice (particularly at the end) and many GMAT test-takers will miss it.

One solution to that problem is to read through the sentence five times, once with each of the answer choices. That is probably overkill--there are usually a couple of choices you can eliminate without that much effort. However, if you eliminate all but two or three choices, it may be worth your while to read through the entire sentence to check on the beginning and end.

As always, look for patterns and think about how the test is constructed. You can't "game" the GMAT, but you can study smarter.



About the author: Jeff Sackmann has written many GMAT preparation books, including the popular Total GMAT Math, Total GMAT Verbal, and GMAT 111. He has also created explanations for problems in The Official Guide, as well as 1,800 practice GMAT math questions.

Total GMAT Verbal

The comprehensive guide to the GMAT Verbal section. Recognize, dissect, and master every question type you'll face on the test. Everything you need, all in one place, including 100+ realistic practice questions.
Click to read more.