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What to Memorize for the GMAT: 5 More Must-Know Grammar Rules

In the first post of our “What to Memorize for the GMAT Verbal” series, we covered the business and logic vocabulary you should know for the test. In the second post, we covered 5 must-know grammar rules.

Next up: more grammar!

While GMAT grammar isn’t easy, there are certain concepts that the test loves to target. Here are a list of five more rules to memorize that will help you master even the trickiest grammar situations.

Rule 1. –Ing phrases must describe a logical noun.

–Ing phrases can appear three ways in a sentence on the GMAT.

(1) Within or at the end of a sentence and set off by a comma, –ing phrases can describe the subject of the previous clause or the noun immediately before the comma. “Bridget left the party, rushing to catch her plane” logically describes the subject Bridget as “rushing to catch her plane.” “Bridget left the party, dying down because most of the guests fell asleep” logically describes the noun before the comma, the party, as “dying down because most of the guests fell asleep. As long as only one noun is logically described, the –ing phrase can describe either noun. However, “Bridget went to the mall with Sally, loudly screaming” is unclear, because it is unknown whether Bridget or Sally is “loudly screaming.”

(2) Within or at the end of a sentence and not set off by a comma, –ing phrases must describe the noun immediately before them. “The clown making noise in the car is ugly” describes the clown as “making noise,” but “The clown in the car making noise is ugly” describes the car as “making noise.”

(3) At the beginning of a sentence (the most common way the GMAT tests –ing phrases), the –ing phrase must describe the noun immediately after the comma. “Making a pizza, Tony spilled all of the sauce” describes Tony as “making a pizza.”

GMAT sentence: “Assuming the title of “Khagan” after the death of his older brother Mongke, the battle of succession against younger brother Ariq Boke in 1264 was won by Genghis.”

Should be: “Assuming the title of “Khagan” after the death of his older brother Mongke, Genghis won the battle of succession against his younger brother, Ariq Boke in 1264.”

Rule 2. Possessives are not nouns.

The possessive form of a noun (e.g. Joe’s) acts as an adjective that describes the noun belonging to the possessive. The GMAT will try to trick you into thinking that possessives are nouns. For example:

“Auditioning for the play, Joe’s lines were forgotten” contains a misplaced modifier, because “Joe’s lines” did not audition for the play. The misplaced modifier can be corrected by placing the logical noun after the comma, as in:

“Auditioning for the play, Joe forgot his lines.”

GMAT sentence: “Renovating the dining facilities, the park experienced a decrease in revenue, that was due in part to competition from a competing theme park.”

Should be: “While its dining facilities were renovated, the park experienced a decrease in revenue that was due in part to competition from a competing theme park.”

Rule 3. Linked items must look the same.

Two or more words or phrases that play the same role in a sentence must be in parallel form; in other words, they must “look the same.” Nouns should be linked to other nouns, –ing words should be linked to other –ing words, and so on. For example:

“The monkeys love eating bananas and to climb trees” is not correct because “eating” and “to climb” are not in the same form.

When two items seem “linked,” look at the item after the link, which is often the word “and.” In the sentence above, “to climb” follows “and.” In order for “to climb” to be correct, “to climb” must link to another “to be” verb form, but there is no “to be” form earlier in the sentence.

“The monkeys love eating bananas and climbing trees” is correct. The item after “and,” “climbing,” logically links to the other –ing word, “eating.” There are two things that the monkeys love, “eating bananas” and “climbing trees.”

GMAT sentence: “The board of directors will be swayed by quantifiable evidence, favorable market conditions, and to vote unanimously for the proposal.”

Should be: “The board of directors will be swayed by quantifiable evidence, favorable market conditions, and a unanimous vote to pass the proposal.”

Rule 4. Simple tenses describe things that do not change.

Every verb has a tense that tells you when the action occurs in time. Make sure that sentences use the simple present tense to describe the current state of something that does not change. A common way this is tested on the GMAT is with movies or books, which do not change over time. When describing such works, use the simple tense.

For example:

“In the movie Peter Pan, the children are adventuring to a land far, far away” is not correct. Adventure should be in the simple present tense.

“In the movie Peter Pan, the children adventure to a land far, far away” is correct.

Another example:

“I am knowing my country’s national anthem” is ungrammatical, because knowing a national anthem is something that is stable over time.

“I know my country’s national anthem” makes much more sense.

GMAT sentence: “Whether or not the board is understanding the ramifications of the proposal depends on how clearly the costs and benefits are laid out in the presentation this afternoon.”

Should be: “Whether or not the board understands the ramifications of the proposal depends on how clearly the costs and benefits are laid out in the presentation this afternoon.”

Rule 5. Comparisons must make sense.

A comparison is logical only if the objects being compared are of the same type. For example:

“China’s gross domestic product is larger than France” is incorrect, because it is illogical to compare China’s gross domestic product to the entire country of France.

“China’s gross domestic product is larger than France’s” is logically and grammatically correct.

The noun “gross domestic product” can be implied to exist after the possessive France’s.

As soon as you see comparison words like “as… as” or “more/less/greater… than,” see what the sentence is comparing. Make sure that people are compared to people, food is compared to food, literature is compared to literature, and so on.

GMAT Sentence: “Government subsidization of large, nonprofit arts organizations is no less worthy than individual artists who benefit from private charity.”

Should be: “Government subsidization of large, nonprofit arts organizations is no less worthy than private charity that benefits individual artists.”

What to Memorize for the GMAT Verbal: 5 Must-Know Grammar Rules

5 Must Know Grammar Rules for the GMATIn the first post of our “What to Memorize for the GMAT Verbal” series, we covered the business and logic vocabulary you should know for the test.

Next up: grammar rules.

Like the SAT and other standardized tests, the GMAT includes a “sentence correction” section. Unlike the SAT, the sentences are more complex and the errors not as easily recognizable. However, there are certain concepts that the GMAT loves to target. Here are a list of five rules to memorize that will help you master even the trickiest grammar situations.

Rule 1. Verbals are not verbs.

On the GMAT, it is important to recognize that the –ing form of a word, without a helper verb like “is,” “was,” or “am,” does not act as a verb. Without one of these helper verbs, the –ing form of a word, called a verbal, acts as a noun or as a modifier. If a subject corresponds to a verbal and not a verb, the sentence is a fragment.

For example: “Johnny making a sandwich” is not correct, because “making” is a verbal, not a verb.

By adding a helper verb or changing the verbal into a verb, you can correct the sentence:

“Johnny is making a sandwich” and “Johnny makes a sandwich” are correct.

GMAT Sentence: “Her disguise as a magician’s assistant obscuring her true occupation, which was that of a detective, investigating a murder” (incorrect).

Should be: “Her disguise as a magician’s assistant obscured her true occupation, which was that of a detective investigating a murder.”

Rule 2. Fragments occur when the subject does not correspond to a verb.

In grammatically correct sentences, a verb is in the same clause as its subject. A sentence that does not contain the subject and its verb in the same clause is called a fragment. The words “that,” “which,” “who,” “whose,” and “whom” begin new clauses, and a verb in one of these clauses cannot correspond to a subject.

For example: “The building, which was built last year and was a total waste of taxpayer money” is a fragment because all verbs are in a clause beginning with “which.”

To fix the fragment, you need to put at least one verb outside of the adjective clause:

“The building, which was built last year, was a total waste of taxpayer money.”

The next time you recognize a fragment, take a second to understand precisely why it is not a full sentence.

GMAT Sentence: “The administration’s proposal, which was discussed last year and determined unfeasible and will be up for review at the third meeting this semester” (incorrect).

Should be: “The administration’s proposal, which was discussed last year and determined unfeasible, will be up for review at the third meeting this semester.”

Rule 3. Dependent clauses cannot stand on their own.

Conjunctions like “because,” “although,” and “since” can begin a sentence or connect clauses, but neither the main subject nor the main verb can be in a clause beginning with one of these words. Clauses beginning with these words are called dependent clauses, because they cannot stand on their own. These clauses depend on another clause. For example:

“Although Monique, the girl next door, prefers French cheeses, tolerates cheddar” is a fragment because the subject “Monique” is in a dependent clause. To fix the fragment, make sure that there is a subject and verb pair outside of one of these clauses.

“Although Monique, the girl next door, prefers French cheeses, she tolerates cheddar” is a complete sentence because “she tolerates” is a subject-verb pair outside of the dependent clause.

GMAT Sentence: “Depending on what we consider to be the purpose of the amendment, which was instituted in last year’s cycle” (incorrect).

Should be: “Depending on what we consider to be the purpose of the amendment, which was instituted in last year’s cycle, ______. (Example: “Depending on what we consider to be the purpose of the amendment, which was instituted in last year’s cycle, the committee may decide it is ineffective and decide to veto it.”)

Rule 4. Run-on sentences occur when clauses are not connected correctly.

Any clause that can stand on its own as a complete sentence is called an independent clause. In order for a sentence to contain two independent clauses, the clauses must be separated by a semi-colon (;) or by a comma paired with a conjunction. Otherwise, the sentence is called a run-on and is considered incorrect on the SAT.

For example: “The girls completed many chores they each received an allowance for their hard work” is a run-on sentence, because “The girls completed many chores” and “they each received an allowance for their hard work” are both independent clauses.

There are three ways to fix a run-on:

(1) by separating the clauses with a semi-colon, as in: “The girls completed many chores; they each received an allowance for their hard work.”

(2) by separating the clauses with the correct FANBOYS (For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, So) conjunction, as in: “The girls completed many chores, and they each received an allowance for their hard work.”

(3) by making one of the clauses dependent with a conjunction like “although,” “because,” “when,” or “since,” as in: “Because the girls completed many chores, they each received an allowance for their hard work.”

GMAT Sentence: “Ossification is the synthesis of bone from cartilage, this synthesis may occur through intramembranous ossification, endochondral ossification, or a fusion of both processes” (incorrect).

Should be: “Ossification is the synthesis of bone from cartilage; this synthesis may occur through intramembranous ossification, endochondral ossification, or a fusion of both processes.”

Rule 5. A describing phrase at the beginning of the sentence must describe the noun after the comma.

Many sentences on the SAT begin with a descriptive phrase called a “modifier.” This phrase does not contain a subject-verb pair and is set off from the rest of the sentence by a comma.

Often, but not always, this phrase begins with a participle, the –ing form of a verb or the –ed form of a verb. The modifying phrase at the beginning of a sentence must logically describe the first noun that comes after the comma; otherwise, the sentence is said to contain a “misplaced modifier.”

For example: “Visiting the restaurant for the first time in three years, the prime rib did not satisfy Jennifer as much as it used to” contains a misplaced modifier, because the prime rib did not visit the restaurant for the first time in three years.

The misplaced modifier can be corrected by placing the logical noun after the comma, as in:

“Visiting the restaurant for the first time in three years, Jennifer was not as satisfied by the prime rib as she used to be.”

GMAT Sentence: “As they develop into osteocytes, the matrix or the calcified part of the bone holds these osteoblasts” (incorrect).

Should be: “As they develop into osteocyctes, these osteoblasts are located in the matrix or the calcified part of the bone.”

What to Memorize for the GMAT Verbal: Business/Logic Vocabulary

gmat vocabularyYou’ve probably heard that the GMAT doesn’t require math or verbal skills beyond the high-school level and that it tests your analytical ability as opposed to your knowledge of a particular subject. All this, while true, may lead you to think you don’t have to memorize anything for the test. But this isn’t true, particularly with the verbal section.

This series of posts will focus on areas where you can’t necessarily rely on your reasoning skills or intuition. Yes, memorization can be a pain, but the good news is once you know this stuff, you know it, and you can check it off your list of things to master before the big day.

First, up: business and logic vocabulary.

Unlike the GRE or SAT, the GMAT does not contain a sentence completion or analogies section; memorizing large amounts of vocabulary, as a result, is not an efficient way to study. You certainly shouldn’t be poring over your old SAT flashcards in preparation for the test.

That being said, it will be difficult to manage the Reading Comprehension or Critical Reasoning section without a decent vocabulary and a facility with “logic” and “business” words in particular.

So, if you don’t know the meaning (and by “meaning” I don’t mean a general, vague understanding of the word; I mean, a cold hard definition) of any of the following words, be sure to look them up.

overhead
income
stock
option
contractual
diversification
incentive
municipal
hierarchy
insurance
demand
labor
investment
indicator
commercial
merger
transactions
customers
sales
profit
net
gross
resources
human resources
manager/management
model
technique
disruption
supply

Brushing up on your vocab skills can also help you on the AWA. One thing I’ve noticed in the process of evaluating hundreds of AWA essays is that many students do not express themselves precisely because certain words are not actively a part of their vocabulary. To make things easier on yourself and improve your AWA score, get to know the following words and practice incorporating them into your essays:

conclusion
evidence
assumption
claim
basis
judgment
opinion
support
deny
weaken
undermine
strengthen
advocate
dispute
reject
agree
disagree
likelihood
probable/probability
adequate
prediction
position
authority

The introduction of just a few of these new words will strengthen your AWA essays, eliminating vagueness and allowing you to convey complex arguments more clearly and succinctly. For more AWA tips, check out this post.