Tag Archives: sentence correction

GMATPrep Q&A: Choosing the Best Answer on SC

This GMATPrep® Sentence Correction question was sent to us by a student who got stuck between two choices and couldn’t decide which was right. It is a perfect example of the fact that the GMAT asks you to choose the best version of the sentence from among the five choices given, not the best possible version. Let’s take a look:

Regarded by opponents as ineffective and meddlesome and by supporters as a conserver of life and energy, the fight over the speed limit continues in our legislatures and on our freeways.

(A) Regarded by opponents as ineffective and meddlesome and by supporters as a conserver of life and energy, the fight over the speed limit continues in our legislatures and on our freeways.
(B) Regarded by opponents as ineffective and meddlesome and by supporters as a conserver of life and energy, the speed limit continues to be fought over in our legislatures and on our freeways.
(C) Regarded by opponents as ineffective meddling and by supporters as the conservation of life and energy, the speed limit continues to be fought over
in our legislatures and on our freeways.
(D) The fight over the speed limit, regarded by opponents as ineffective and meddlesome and by supporters as a conserver of life and energy, continues in our legislatures and on our freeways.
(E) The fight over the speed limit, a measure regarded by opponents as ineffective and meddlesome and by supporters as a conserver of life and energy, continues in our legislatures and on our freeways.

The original sentence contains a misplaced modifier. Logically, it is not “the fight over the speed limit” that would be “regarded by opponents as ineffective and meddlesome and by supporters as a conserver of life and energy,” but the speed limit itself. With this in mind, we can immediately eliminate any choices in which the modifier beginning with “regarded” appears to modify “the fight over the speed limit” rather than “the speed limit”: choices A, D, and E. Do not be fooled by the fact that “speed limit” comes right before the modifier in choices D and E. It still appears as part of the phrase “the fight over the speed limit” and still creates a misplaced modifier.

Now we must look at choices B and C comparatively. Since both of them use the passive construction “the speed limit continues to be fought over,” neither one is perfect. However, choice C’s descriptions of the speed limit as “ineffective meddling” and “the conservation of life and energy” make it decidedly more wrong, so choice B is correct.

Is choice B perfect? Hardly. It’s a bit awkward, it puts the modifier in the beginning when it would be much clearer to put it in the middle, and it uses the passive voice. However, it is clearly the best of the five choices given.

Top 10 Tips for the GMAT Sentence Correction Section

The Sentence Correction section of the GMAT can be intimidating, especially for test-takers who grew up speaking a language other than English. Luckily for all you Quant whizzes, Sentence Correction portion is actually quite math-like. There are specific words and phrases that you can use to eliminate options, and you can learn how different constructions must fit together in order to form a “correct” sentence.

To ace the SC section, start by learning to identify the most commonly tested errors on the GMAT. Here are 10 concrete tips to get you on track:

1. Watch the prepositions

Do answer choices use different prepositions? If so, check for idiomatic errors. Sometimes the difference between a correct idiom and an incorrect one comes down to which preposition is used (i.e., a consequence of vs. a consequence from).

2. Check for parallelism.

The word “and” should send you looking for parallelism errors. If the word “and” connects items on a list, the items connected must be parallel. If you see a comma plus “and” (or another conjunction like for, and, nor, but, or, etc.) connecting two clauses, make sure that each of the clauses is independent; if not, you’ve found a sentence structure error.

3. Know the time.

Use time cues (ex. before, during, as, in 1960) to eliminate options that contain verb tense errors. Remember, events that occur during the same time period must be in the same tense!

4. Look for agreement.

See a collective noun, like committee, company or team? Check for subject-verb and pronoun-antecedent agreement. Even better, check to see that EVERY underlined pronoun agrees with its antecedent (the word to which the pronoun is referring).

5. Skip the filler.

When sentences are injected with modifiers, like prepositional phrases, ignore the filler words between the subject and the verb to make sure that you have subject-verb agreement. If you have a hard time spotting the subject-verb pair amidst all the clutter in the sentence, find the verb and think, “What subject logically corresponds to this action?” Remember: The subject of a sentence will never be inside of a prepositional phrase.

6. Know which noun goes with which.

See the word which in an answer choice? When which introduces a clause (called an adjective clause), make sure that the clause introduced IMMEDIATELY follows the noun or idea it modifies. Just as an adjective must describe a noun, so an adjective clause must describe a noun. If the clause introduced by “which” describes an abstract idea and not a specific noun, you’ve found a modifier error.

7. Run the numbers.

If a sentence is about some sort of numerical quantity (ex. the percentage of homeowners in Minneapolis or the number of women studying French) check for idiomatic errors. Remember: “fewer” describes a countable quantity, like people; “less” describes an uncountable quantity, like sugar. Also check for redundancy (ex. “went up by a 20% increase”).

8. Comparison shop.

The words “as,” “than,” and “like” should send you looking for comparison errors. Make sure that the items compared make sense; if a sentence says more X than Y, X and Y have to be items of the same type.

9. Well, this is awkward.

If an option is wordy or awkward, do not immediately eliminate it unless you find a concrete error. Hold on to the choice unless you find another choice that also contains no errors. Compare the two constructions, and if you still cannot find an error in either construction, choose the less wordy, less awkward, and/or more active construction.

10. Keep things logical.

Don’t forget about the logic of the sentence. When down to those last two options, plug each one back into the sentence and see which one makes more sense intuitively. You can always use your ear to check for clear and logical modification.