Sentence Correction

“Sentence Correction constitutes to roughly one-third (expect 14-15 questions) of the Verbal section on the GMAT. This section tests you on your knowledge of English grammar. The grammar in this section is very precise and require excellent clarity of concepts and idiomatic usage. You will be given ONE sentence – a part of or the entire sentence underlined. The underlined part of the sentence is the part that you evaluate. Only ONE answer choice can be correct. The first option A is a repetition of the underlined part, which is the answer in the event of no error in the underlined part. One thing common to all high scorers is that they all do the SC’s with almost 100% accuracy. I feel that Sentence Correction is very tricky and can make or break your 750+ dream. We will cover the SC strategies and basic understanding of the section in this article. Subsequent articles will cover the grammar topics in further detail.

Know your enemy!

Although the SC demands high levels of precision and speed, the good news is that all the questions can be broadly categorised into 10 major topics:

  1. Subject/Verb Agreement
  2. Verb Tenses
  3. Subjunctive Mood
  4. Misplaced/Dangling Modifier
  5. Pronoun Problems
  6. Parallel Construction
  7. Comparisons
  8. Quantity Words
  9. Idioms and Idiomatic Expressions
  10. Redundancy

We will cover each of these topics in detail in the later articles. But first let’s buckle up!

What you need?

There are many books in the market…good, bad and ugly. I have a very good idea by now as to which ones are really good. These are what I recommend. (I got a 45 in verbal! I know this stuff)

  1. My notes and articles on this website (FREE!!)
  2. The Official Guide for GMAT Review, 12th Edition
  3. Official Verbal Review 2nd Edition
  4. Mahattan SC
  5. Kaplan Verbal Workbook
  6. Kaplan 800
  7. A good grammar book handy for reference. I recommend Wren & Martin.
  8. A good eyesight!

Have a plan?

First things first. Right after you finish reading this article, go and wipe off the dust off your old grammar book and start with the following topics:

  1. Nouns — collective nouns, singular/plural rules
  2. Verbs — subject-verb agreement
  3. Pronouns — antecedents
  4. Adverbs
  5. Tenses, sequence of tenses

This is pretty much which you can cover from your grammar book. Once you enter the GMAT land, you will see many new terms — dangling modifiers, split infinitives, things like that…scary stuff. But don’t be scared. Just make sure you have covered the basic topics listed above thoroughly. When I say thoroughly, I presume that you’ve made notes and listed out the rules on a small notebook that you can keep handy with you. I can’t stress enough how important it is to make notes, simply because it helps….a lot!!

Once you have covered the basic stuff, it’s time to move on to a higher level. Start with the Manhattan SC. It has around 12 chapters I guess and should take 2 weeks if you take your own sweet time. I finished it off in a week and believe it doesn’t take a superhuman effort to do that. The important thing here is to make sure that before you do the exercises…you’ve covered the stuff thoroughly.

A good idea is to do the corresponding problems from OG as you finish each chapter in SC Manhattan. Manhattan provides you a grid at the end of each chapter which has the questions number of all those questions in OG and Verbal Review which test the topic of that chapter. But I don’t recommend doing both the books. I recommend doing OG in that fashion while leaving the verbal review for later stages in your preparation. The logic is that compared to doing sums topic wise, doing it in a mixed fashion requires more skill and is the actual indicator of your skills. So keep the Verbal review for later. Remember you have to take all the sections together and still manage to finsh them off simultaneously. The key is to schedule your sessions in a planned manner and execute the plan accordingly within strict time limits.

Finishing off the OG means that you’ve a list of all the mistakes, question type-wise analysis chart, accuracy meter readings and everything as told in my earlier posts. This is pretty much what you will do in with your CR, or RC or for that matter any section. Mistakes, mistakes, mistakes…they are your enemy. Spot them, destroy them!!

Tips, Tricks & Strategies

  1. Scan the answer choices vertically…this is very very useful!!
    Look for the changes between the five answer choices. This is the best strategy I have ever known. In my experience it works for almost 70% of the questions. For example:
    A) ______has________
    B) ______has________
    C) ______have________
    D) ______have________
    E) ______have________
    You right away know that it has something to do with plural/singular. So even if you didn’t see the error initially, ths will help you narrow downthe choices in no time.
  2. Go over the list of common SC errors in your mind. There are around 10 common errors. A good way to do this is pick out the first letter from all the errors and form a word of your own which is easy to remember and go over it whenever you are stuck. eg. MISC VEPP – Modifiers, Idioms, Subject-verb, Comparison,….
  3. DO NOT rewrite the sentence in your head and look for a match among the choices.
  4. Most of the answer choices have a 2-3 formation….that is 2 of one type and rest 3 of other type…so try to narrow down on choices.
  5. Elimination….very helpful!! Never look back at options you are sure are wrong.
  6. Last but not the least…don’t right away discard choice A…trust me I think 5 out of 15 questions on my my final exam were A!!! (atleast I think they were A…and I got 45 on verbal :-D)

Guys…these are only tips…until and unless you focus on your weak areas in SC…nothing is gonna help. My weak areas were Parallelism and Pronouns. But I worked on them…wrote down every type of error I found and eventually got better on those types of SC.

Don’t forget the idioms. It will take sometime to familiarise yourself with idioms. Idioms are VERY important if you want to reach that 95% accuracy level. I have a list of idioms, go through it. I stuck a list on the wall facing my study area and was able to memorise most of them without an extra effort. You should follow these methods in all the sentence correction questions you do.

Books I used for cracking Verbal

I recommend you getting the books right away. One good reason is motivation. New books help you stay motivated. I am not a big fan of xerox copies. They don’t smell good. The smell of a new book excites me and gives me another reason to start early with a zest. I get all my stuff from Amazon. (Yes it even ships books to India!) You get good deals and you can club your books to get in one shipment. Don’t think too much. I can vouch for the quality and effectiveness of the books I am recommending. Happy GMATing!!!

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