Using Sentence Correction Answer Choices

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On GMAT Verbal much more than GMAT Math, the answer choices are a crucial part of the question. On Sentence Correction in particular, they can dictate your strategy.

As SC items get more difficult, it is tougher to tell from the initial sentence what the mistake is. (Or if there is a mistake at all.) Many test-takers redouble their efforts on the sentence, reading it three or four times in search of an error.

Because of the structure of the questions, every possible mistake is right in front of you. If there is a way the GMAT wants you to improve the sentence, it's in one of the answer choices. Take advantage of this!

Let's look at an example. Here are the answer choices from one question from the GMATPrep practice test question pool:

(A) had expected it to and its business will improve
(B) had expected and that its business would improve
(C) expected it would and that it will improve its business
(D) expected them to and its business would improve
(E) expected and that it will have improved its business

The answers--even out of the context of the sentence itself--give you plenty to work with. Here are just some of the issues:

  • "had expected" or "expected?" Should the verb be past or past perfect?
  • "it" or "them?"
  • "will improve" or "would improve?" (Or "will have improved?")
  • "and" or "and that?"
  • "expected" or ""

As is common on GMAT Sentence Correction questions, there are multiple errors in every wrong answer choice. You don't need to recognize every single one of them. In fact, as it turns out on this question, "had expected" and "and that" are both correct, making (B) the only possible answer. There are a lot of other ways to eliminate choices, so you don't need to puzzle out every grammatical possibility.

To be clear: I certainly don't mean to suggest you should thoroughly analyze the choices in every SC question, or that you should look at the choices before the sentence. There are plenty of questions on which you'll recognize the error(s) on the first read-through, and there's no reason to change your strategy.

Analyzing the choices, whether all five or just a couple of remaining choices, is a good backup strategy. Practice it, and take the pressure off of your careful reading of the sentence.



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.
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