Sentence Correction - Platinum Techniques

The best way to master the GMAT, especially the GMAT's sentence correction section, is to master the content tested on the GMAT. This means understanding subject-verb agreement, verb tense, parallelism, idioms, etc. Nonetheless, we realize that there are certain techniques and tips that can significantly enhance your ability to solve correctly the questions that you face. This page contains techniques that other test-takers have found exceedingly helpful for GMAT sentence correction problems.

Identify Question Types

One of the most important aspects of successfully answering sentence correction questions is identifying what aspect of English grammar is being tested. What is tested on each question depends on the question type. An overwhelming majority of problems fit into a few common question types. It is essential that you are able to understand and recognize these so that you can identify the one or two crucial issues that the GMAT test-writers are testing you on.

Identify Splits in Answer Choices

The answer choices are often quite similar and differ only by a few words or the placement of a single phrase. The key to this technique is identifying the differences in the answer choices and allowing these differences to inform you about what the GMAT is testing. For example, if the answer choices are the same except for the tense of the verb, you know that the GMAT test-writers are testing your knowledge of verb tense.

Use Non-Underlined Portion

The section of the sentences in the question stem that is not underlined is always correct. Consequently, you should use grammar hints in this section as a guide to making changes in the underlined section. For example, if you have determined that the question is testing your knowledge of singular vs. plural verb conjugation but you are unsure whether the verb should be singular or plural, look to the non-underlined section and see if a word or phrase provides the answer. Similarly, if you figured out that the GMAT is testing your knowledge of verb tense but you are unsure whether the underlined verb should be in the past or future tense, look to the verbs outside the underlined section and see if there are any clues as to the proper tense, keeping in mind that words in a single sentence can legitimately be in two different tenses.

Simplify and Say Aloud

Although it is true that more difficult GMAT sentence correction questions are designed to trap test-takers relying on their ear to determine what proper grammar is, you can use the way a sentence sounds to help you (presuming you are careful). In fact, simplifying a sentence correction problem and saying it to yourself is extremely helpful. Consider how this would work in evaluating the following sentence:

Mrs. Piersons, along with the students in all of her classes, were excited to go on a field trip to the zoo.

  1. After identifying that this question tests subject-verb agreement and Mrs. Piersons is the subject and were is the verb the sentence used, you are ready to use your ear to evaluate whether this is grammatically correct.
  2. Simplify the sentence by eliminating everything but the subject and verb: Mrs. Piersons were excited.
  3. The phrase above is wrong and most English speakers immediately recognize this. In addition, it is significantly easier to hear that the correct sentence is: Mrs. Piersons, ... , was excited.