How to go through GMAT sentence correction questions quickly

The best and fastest way to approach sentence correction passages is to look at it like a series of choices.  Once you have read the full sentence, group the answer choices based on similar aspects.  I usually start by looking at the beginning of the sentence, then the end, then if I still have answer choices left I look at the middle. It is important to do this, because there is way too much to keep track of with the 5 answer choices.  If you simply read each answer choice and try to pick the best one in your head,  you will likely miss some mistake and choose incorrectly.  Thus, grouping will not only improve accuracy, but also speed.  Let’s take a look at an example:

The effect of the company’s efforts to improve morale are evident in the results of its employee satisfaction survey, which demonstrates higher employee satisfaction.

(A) are evident in the results of its employee satisfaction survey, which demonstrates higher employee satisfaction.

(B) is evident in the results of its employee satisfaction survey, which demonstrates higher employee satisfaction.

(C) are evident in its employee satisfaction survey results, which demonstrates higher employee satisfaction.

(D) is evident in its employee satisfaction survey results, which demonstrate higher employee satisfaction.

(E) is evident in the results of its employee satisfaction survey, which demonstrate higher employee satisfaction.

When reading through this sentence, the first thing you might notice is that “are evident” is incorrect.  This is because “are” is modifying effect, which is singular, so it should be is.  This is our first grouping: are vs. is.  Going through the answer choices, we can see that C also has this flaw, so we know to eliminate a and c.  Knowing that C shares that flaw means that we don’t have to read the whole answer choice, we already know it is wrong.

If we look to the end of the sentence, we can see that B says “which demonstrates” and D and E say “which demonstrate.”  In all cases, they are talking about the results of the employment satisfaction survey, so the correct term is demonstrate, ie “the results demonstrate.”  So, we can also eliminate B.

Now we look at the middle of the sentences, and see that the main differences between the two is that, “which” modifies results in B and “which” modifies the survey in E.  If we look at the sentence again, we can see that “which” should be modifying the results and not the survey itself, so D is our correct answer.

As you probably noticed from this example problem, a common GMAT test maker trick is to put a lot of stuff in between a subject and its verb or modifier to make you lose track of what is being modified.  So when reading a sentence try to break it down to the meat of the sentence.  For example, the “effect of the company’s efforts to improve morale are evident” seems like it might be right, but if you break it down to the meat of the sentence, the “effect are evident,” it is much clearer to see that there is something wrong here.

When you’re coming down to the last two answer choices, you may have to pick based on GMAT preferences.  GMAT preferences are something that should only be used when all other options have been exhausted.  For example, GMAC generally prefers more concise answers, but this doesn’t mean that you should select the shortest answer choice every time.  Another important thing to remember is that you want to pick the best answer, which is not necessarily the ideal answer.  The right answer might not sound perfect, but as long as it lacks the big mistakes its usually still ok.

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Eliza Chute

I was always just an average student, but with the right course prep I was able to score a 770 on my first try. I had to wade through a lot of material to find what was right for me, but luckily for you I've done all the research for you! See more on my GMAT courses page.

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