You Are Not the Decision-Maker on Sentence Correction

This tip for improving your GMAT score was provided by David Newland at Veritas Prep.

The Winter Olympics are coming in February, and that means judges will be making difficult decisions in choosing the winners. The good news on sentence correction is that you are not like an Olympic judge; you do not have to choose the winner. The correct answer has already been chosen by the test makers; you just have to recognize it.

The true decision-maker in sentence correction is not you. It is the portion of the sentence that controls the decision point. As described in the Veritas Prep Sentence Correction book, a decision point is “a difference in the answer choices that is used to help eliminate one or more answers.” The decision-maker is a term that means the portion of the sentence that controls the decision point. Essentially, sentence correction can be described as the process of bringing together the decision point and the decision maker.

Take a look at this question and focus on the decision points and the decision makers:
“The demand for professors in highly vocational fields like business, law, and the applied sciences remain strong despite a difficult job market for most Ph.D. graduates seeking to teach in academia.

fields like business, law, and the applied sciences remain
fields like those of business, law, and the applied sciences remain
fields such as business, law, and the applied sciences remains
fields such as business, law, and the applied sciences remain
fields, like the fields of business, law, and the applied sciences remains

This question features two prominent decision points: first, the choice between “like” and “such as” introducing the list of examples of highly vocational fields and second, the option of “remain” versus “remains” as the main verb of the sentence.

Either decision point offers a good, clear choice to begin your elimination. They each have one correct option and one option that is clearly incorrect. For this analysis, we begin with the decision between “remain” and “remains.” This particular decision point is found at the end of the answer choices, an excellent location for spotting potential decision points.

The verb “remain” is the plural form, as in “they remain the most popular stars in Hollywood.” The other option for this decision point is “remains”, the singular form of the verb, as in “He remains a good friend.” Singular versus plural is probably the most popular decision point offered on the GMAT, so you will want to be on the lookout for this.

In order to make this decision, you need to identify the decision-maker. In the case of the main verb, this will be the subject of the sentence. The subject will control the singular-vs.-plural-verb decision point. The subject is “the demand.” This is a singular noun that requires the singular verb “remains.” The simplified sentence reads: “The demand … remains strong.” Therefore, choices A, B, and D can be eliminated.

Note that the subject of the sentence is not found in the prepositional phrases beginning with “for” and “in.” These modifiers help to disguise the subject of the sentence. Your job is to look past the disguise and see the true decision-maker.

Choices C and E are left as options. The additional decision point can be used to choose between these answers. Choice C uses the proper phrase “such as” to introduce the list of examples. Choice E uses the ungrammatical “like,” which should never be used to introduce examples. The proper phrasing is “I like fruits, such as bananas, oranges, and pineapples.” Choice E is also redundant, with the unnecessary repetition of “fields.” For these reasons, choice C is the correct answer.

It was not up to you to choose which answer is correct; you merely had to recognize the decision that had already been made. When you get the decision point together with the decision-maker, sentence correction becomes much less intimidating. Take the pressure off your shoulders. After all, you are not the decision-maker on sentence correction.

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