How Important Are Idioms for GMAT Sentence Correction?

The short answer: VERY!  Admittedly, idioms alone are not the single most tested topic on the GMAT Sentence Correction.  Of course, I would recommend studying all grammatical and syntactical rules, not merely idioms in isolation.  Nevertheless, there are rumors swirling around on the web to the effect that the GMAT “no longer emphasizes idioms” or even “no longer tests idioms.”  Buffalo feathers!!  That’s pure nonsense!!


Idioms in GMAT Sentence Correction

Here is the breakdown by topics in the Sentence Correction section in the OG 13.  For each concept, I list the number of Sentence Correction questions in the Official Guide which test that concept, and then express this number as a percentage of the 140 SC questions in the Official Guide.

Agreement = 28 questions (20%)

Diction = 16 questions (11.4%)

Grammatical Construction = 34 questions  (24.3%)

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Idioms =  36 questions (25.7%)

Logical Predication =  60 questions (42.9%)

Parallelism =  39 questions (27.9%)

Rhetorical Construction =  46 questions (32.9%)

Verb Form =  27 questions (19.3%)

This is the list of topics given in the “Basic English Grammar Rules”, at the beginning of the Sentence Correction section in the OG13: all of these terms are explained there.  Notice, also, the percentages do not add up to 100% because multiple concepts are tested on each question.

Idioms are tested on one quarter of all the Sentence Correction questions in the Official Guide.  If the OG is any guide, you would expect that, of the 13-14 Sentence Correction questions you see on the GMAT Verbal Section, about 3-4 of them should test idioms.  If we interpret 25.7% as a probability, then the chance that, of 14 Sentence Correction questions on the real GMAT, you would not see an idiom question is about 1 in a 100.  The odds are overwhelming that you will have to deal with idioms at least once on the GMAT!

Idioms are tested on 36 questions, and Parallelism is tests on 39 —- only three more.  If anyone said that the GMAT doesn’t test parallelism on the Sentence Correction, we would be ready to lock that person up on a padded express to the funny farm.  Clearly, parallelism is one of the GMAT’s very favorite topics!  Well, again, if numbers in the Official Guide are any indication, idioms are almost as important as parallelism!


Should I study idioms?

Yes, yes, and yes. Idioms are alive and well on the GMAT Sentence Correction.  Here’s a SC question on which to practice your knowledge of idioms.

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What are some idioms you find tough? Let us know!

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  • Mike MᶜGarry

    Mike served as a GMAT Expert at Magoosh, helping create hundreds of lesson videos and practice questions to help guide GMAT students to success. He was also featured as "member of the month" for over two years at GMAT Club. Mike holds an A.B. in Physics (graduating magna cum laude) and an M.T.S. in Religions of the World, both from Harvard. Beyond standardized testing, Mike has over 20 years of both private and public high school teaching experience specializing in math and physics. In his free time, Mike likes smashing foosballs into orbit, and despite having no obvious cranial deficiency, he insists on rooting for the NY Mets. Learn more about the GMAT through Mike's Youtube video explanations and resources like What is a Good GMAT Score? and the GMAT Diagnostic Test.

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6 Responses to How Important Are Idioms for GMAT Sentence Correction?

  1. test March 17, 2013 at 7:19 am #

    I can hardly believe how lucky I am that I visited such a well-written blog.

    • Mike MᶜGarry
      Mike March 17, 2013 at 11:36 pm #

      Why, thank you. Best of luck to you.
      Mike 🙂

  2. Kumar Dipankar February 5, 2013 at 9:16 pm #

    Hello Mike 😀
    I would like to draw your attention to the following post on gmatclub forum
    But I guess OG is the only Official Indicator out there and so we shoud go by that 😀

    • Mike MᶜGarry
      Mike February 6, 2013 at 10:39 am #

      Kumar — that post is a perfect example of the wild rumors I am trying to combat. In that summit meeting, apparently the GMAC folks said some nuanced statement — something like, no SC question will be based *solely* on idioms and nothing else: in other words, idioms will be test in the context of other grammatical issues — this is already reflected in the OG questions — and in an internet game of “telephone”, that announcement became garbled into “the GMAT will never test idioms again!” Pure nonsense! THE MGMAT article cited in that post is from 2011 — the OG13 was printed since then, and as I indicate above, it is loaded with SC questions that test idioms.
      Thank you for raising this point. Does this make sense?
      Mike 🙂

      • Dipankar February 7, 2013 at 7:11 am #

        Yes Mike it makes perfect sense. Thnx for clearing that up 😀

        • Mike MᶜGarry
          Mike February 7, 2013 at 3:39 pm #

          You are quite welcome.
          Mike 🙂

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