GMAT Sentence Correction questions are poorly understood by most test takers, and you can quickly improve your GMAT score by learning the proper approach to this important GMAT Verbal question type. Success in Sentence Correction begins with understanding what the authors of the GMAT, the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), are really trying to test.
The GMAT exam is designed to assess skills and behaviors that are important to graduate business schools. Just to name a few:
- Creative problem solving
- Good decision making
- Critical thinking
- Hyper vigilance
- Effective communication
The goal of the GMAT Verbal Reasoning section is NOT to determine who knows arcane grammar rules and unusual idiomatic structures. After all, this is not an exam used to assess qualifications for PhD programs in literature or creative writing. So why do forums on GMAT Sentence Correction frequently suggest that students memorize obscure idioms and lesser-known grammar rules? The primary reason is that people don’t understand what Sentence Correction questions are really designed to evaluate.
GMAT Sentence Correction problems use core writing and grammar skills (which you must possess to succeed in business!) to assess the attributes noted earlier—specifically, prioritized decision making and the ability to leverage every crumb of information. In business, successful managers use all available resources to make the best decisions they can, and if they don’t know the correct answer to a question, they delegate it to an expert. These Sentence Correction questions are brilliantly made to assess exactly that—to see whether you are using core competencies to make informed decisions or focusing on unimportant grammatical issues for which you lack the proper expertise.
To be clear, you absolutely need a certain level of grammar knowledge to succeed in GMAT Sentence Correction, but these questions do not test obscure grammar rules in a vacuum. Most people possess the requisite grammar knowledge can acquire it quickly, but they don’t understand how to “play the SC game” properly.
The way to get better at Sentence Correction is not by wasting your time learning random grammar rules and memorizing idioms, but by doing high-quality official practice questions that allow you to improve both strategy and knowledge through each question.
GMAT Sentence Correction best practices
Given what Sentence Correction is designed to assess, there is a set of best practices that are essential to success, yet I don’t see many students using these fundamental strategies when they first start attacking this GMAT Verbal question type. These strategies, developed by our team over decades of teaching, will help you quickly eliminate incorrect answers and avoid the mistakes that these questions are designed to elicit.
1. Always do a quick scan of answer choices before reading the original sentence
Certain differences in the answers can tell you immediately what to consider when reading the sentence and make you much more efficient in your analysis. For instance, if answers differ in terms of subject verb agreement or modifiers, you will know to assess that in your initial reading. Without this quick scan, you must notice any errors in the original answer choice in a vacuum, something that is much harder to do.
2. Use process of elimination only
Most students prefer to select the answer choice that they like the best and that sounds most pleasing to their ear—a sure recipe for disaster on difficult GMAT Sentence Correction questions. Almost all harder questions have something unusual in the correct answer with which you might not be comfortable: weird word order, obscure idioms, rhetorical devices that seem to break defined grammar “rules,” etc. You may not like the correct answer in these cases, but there will be defined and concrete reasons why the other four answer choices are wrong—find those reasons and eliminate answers accordingly until you are left with one correct answer.
3. Once you have eliminated a few answer choices, make sure to carefully leverage every clue provided by the differences in the remaining answer choices
Those clues are the only way you will get hard Sentence Correction questions correct. Ask yourself: “Why have I been given this choice of word placement or grammatical structure?” It is common in hard Sentence Correction problems that virtually no one—even top grammar experts—would realize that an incorrect answer is wrong until the correct answer choice is put beside it. Analyzing every little hint that is given by differences in the answers is the key on this GMAT Verbal question type, yet students rarely do that effectively.