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GMAT Sentence Correction Strategies

So, when you are faced with a GMAT Sentence Correction question, the proper thing to do is to read the prompt carefully, and then read all five answer choices carefully, right?  WRONG!  That is an absolute trainwreck approach, guaranteed to cost 5+ minutes per question.  You can’t afford to work that slowly on the GMAT!  You need an approach that maximizes efficiency!


The Efficient Approach to GMAT Sentence Correction

The suggested approach above is partially correct.  You should read the prompt sentence carefully, noting any grammatical mistakes and any possible areas for improvement.  You should NEVER have to read Answer Choice (A), since it’s identical the underline text in the sentence.  After reading the sentence, you should not read but scan Choices (B), (C), (D), & (E), looking for patterns.

The diagram below shows, schematically, a typical Sentence Correction question.

Pretend that the grey boxes are just the information of the sentence, blah, blah, blah.  Let’s say that the red circle and the sky-blue triangle represent words or phrases in the original sentence that don’t sound quite right – they are either grammatically incorrect, or ambiguous, or too wordy.  Then we scan the answer choices.  One pattern we see is that the sky-blue triangle has two alternatives: the orange diamond and the green pentagon.  Let’s pretend that, of those three options, the green pentagon is the best.  Right there, we have narrowed things down to choices (C) or (E) only.  The other options we have to evaluate are red circle vs. purple semicircle.  Let’s pretend that that the purple semicircle is preferable.  That very quickly isolates (E) as the best choice.  Once you think you have the best answer, always carefully reread the sentence with the answer you have chosen.  Ideally, you only have to read word-for-word two things – the original prompt sentence, and the new sentence with the answer choice you have selected.


Applying the Strategy

Admittedly, this example is a little simplified.  Sometimes, the alternatives on the real GMAT are not quite as easy to recognize.  It’s always true, though, that there will be similarities and patterns among the five answer choices of Sentence Correction.  This means, it’s always the most powerful Sentence Correction strategy to read carefully only the prompt sentence, then scan the answer choices, eliminating based on comparisons of similarities and differences.  You may be able to narrow the choices down to one simply through scanning, but even if you narrow it down to two, much better to read word-for-word only two answer choices instead of all four! If you can master this strategy, you will maximize the efficiency with which you handle these challenging questions.

Here’s a practice question in which you can apply this strategy.

Magoosh GMAT Prep has more than 100 practice GMAT Sentence Correction questions, each with its own video solution :).

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