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The Idiot’s Guide to GMAT Idioms

Posted in Test Prep on October 3, 2011 by

You may have heard that the GMAT is no longer testing idioms. You also may have heard that the first 10 questions on the GMAT are the most important. You also may have heard that Lindsey Lohan is great at Data Sufficiency.

Why do you believe everything you hear?

Dr. Lawrence Rudner is the Vice President of Research and Development at the Graduate Management Admission Council. In other words, he is The Man with regards to the GMAT. Here is what he has to say on the matter: “Some Sentence Correction items continue to pose reasoning tasks that incorporate English-language, NOT American, idioms. These are not intended to test specialized knowledge of colloquialisms and regionalisms.”

In other words, the GMAT will continue to require you to understand which of the two following sentences is correct.

I am capable of acing the GMAT.

I am capable to ace the GMAT.

You should know that the adjective “capable” is always followed by the preposition “of” and a gerund. There is no need to memorize hundreds of idioms: your Knewton core work, the practice on the freely available GMAT Prep software, and (if you still need more questions) the GMAT Official Guides should be sufficient to learn all the commonly tested idioms.

The idioms you do not need to learn are those that are specific to American, or any other, culture. For example, Americans sometimes use the phrase “He’s gone bananas” to mean that someone has gone a little crazy. This phrase, however, would not necessarily suggest that meaning in other cultures.

There are also some rumors out there that Sentence Correction is changing. Once again, I’ll defer to the estimable Dr. Rudner: “In recent years, GMAT item writers have been concentrating on the reasoning aspects rather than the purely grammatical aspects of Sentence Correction skills…. This means that whereas two sentences may both be grammatically appropriate, the correct answer is the sentence that is most ‘effective’ ─ the sentence that better expresses the idea.”

So there is no change, just a continuation of a policy that has existed for at least a few years: clarity of expression, as well as grammar, is tested in Sentence Correction. This should come as no surprise to Knewton students. Our lessons emphasize that the SC sections tests meaning and clarity as well as grammar.  So there may be two grammatically correct answer choices, but only one will clearly express the meaning implied by the question prompt.

As I close this blog post, I want to give a special thanks to GMAC’s Director of Field Marketing, Joanna Graham, who responded to an email in 5 minutes on a Saturday night. Why we are both working at 8:45 on a Saturday…  well, that’s an issue for another post.

You can see the full text of Dr. Rudner’s post here.