Use Logic to Make Quick Work of Difficult Sentence Correction Problems
This tip for improving your GMAT score was provided by David Newland at Veritas Prep.
Perhaps more than any other question type, Sentence Correction offers the best opportunity to save time – without sacrificing accuracy – to be spent on future questions. Top scorers usually take around 1 minute and 15 seconds per sentence correction question, leaving them with about 2 minutes for each Critical Reasoning and Reading Comprehension question.
One of the keys to becoming efficient at sentence correction is to effectively utilize multiple decision points within a sentence. To do this you must not only know and apply the rules of grammar but you must also understand the role that logic plays in sentence correction.
Read the following sentence from the GMATPrep official practice tests. After reading the sentence look through the answer choices for differences in the answers (called “decision points.”)
“The list of animals that exhibits a preference of either using the right or the left hand (i.e., claw, paw, or foot) has been expanded to include the lower vertebrates.
(A) exhibits a preference of either using the right or the left hand (i.e., claw, paw, or foot) has been expanded to include
(B) exhibits the preference to use either the right or the left hand (i.e., claw, paw, or foot) has been expanded and includes
(C) exhibit a preference in either using the right or the left hand (i.e., claw, paw, or foot) has been expanded to include
(D) exhibit a preference for using either the right or the left hand (i.e., claw, paw, or foot) has been expanded to include
(E) exhibit the preference as to either using the right or the left hand (i.e., claw, paw, or foot) has been expanded and includes”
Did you notice the decision point at the very beginning of the answer choices? Choices A and B use the singular verb “exhibits,” while the other choices use the plural verb “exhibit.”
This is a great place to begin eliminating incorrect answers! A strong decision point is one that requires one answer to be incorrect. A noun cannot be both singular and plural at the same time so subject-verb agreement usually makes for an excellent decision point.
The difficulty with this decision point is that grammatically-speaking, the relative clause beginning with “that” can modify either “list” or “animals.” If “list” is modified then you need the singular verb “exhibits.” If “animals” is modified then the plural “exhibit” is required.
There is no need for guesswork, simply look at the modifying phrase and see which noun it must logically modify. The relative clauses indicates something about having a preference for using the right or left hand. Can a list have a preference for using a right or left hand? Lists do not have hands (or paws or claws). Therefore, logically, it must be “animals” that is modified by the relative clause. This allows you to eliminate choices A and B.
This decision point is a great example of the important role that logic plays in sentence correction. Often both options on a decision point will be grammatically acceptable, but only one option will be logical.
Now you are left with choices C, D, and E. Choice E has several problems in both logic and grammar. At the end of choice E it is not logical to say that the list “has been expanded and includes…” the logical meaning of the sentence is that the list has been expanded to include new groups of animals. It is also incorrect to show “animals that show the preference.” There is more than one possible preference, so animals show “a preference.”
Deciding between choices C and D can involve either parallelism or idioms. In either case choice D is correct. The correct idiom is “a preference for” not “a preference in.” “A preference in” as a single phrase would never be correct.
Choice C also lacks proper parallelism. Since the word “either” is located in front of “using” parallelism requires that the second half of the “either…or” statement also have the word “using”. As in, “either using the right or using the left.” Choice D uses the correct idiom and with “either” located after “using” is also parallel.
Answering this question requires the proper application of some grammatical rules, but logic is the key to making quick work of this this difficult sentence correction question.
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