GMAT Articles

General Approach to Sentence Correction Questions

- by Katharine Rudzitis

GMAT Sentence Correction questions can be challenging, so it’s important to approach each of them with a general strategy. Jumping right into reading the answer choices isn’t the smartest way to proceed. Test-takers should carefully read the sentence, look for errors, and eliminate answer choices methodically.

More specifically, our approach is as follows:

  • Read the sentence to understand intent
  • Look for errors in the underlined portion
  • Eliminate answer choices that repeat the error
  • Scan for differences and create groups
  • Eliminate incorrect groups
  • Reread the sentence
  • Select the answer

We’ll use this general strategy on the following problem from the 2015 Official Guide for GMAT Review.

Despite the increasing number of women graduating from law school and passing bar examinations, the proportion of judges and partners at major law firms who are women have not risen to a comparable extent.

(A)   the proportion of judges and partners at major law firms who are women have not risen to a comparable extent

(B)   the proportion of women judges and partners at major law firms have not risen comparably

(C)   the proportion of judges and partners at major law firms who are women has not risen comparably

(D)   yet the proportion of women judges and partners at major law firms has not risen to a comparable extent

(E)    yet the proportion of judges and partners at major law firms who are women has not risen comparably

Read the Sentence to Understand Intent

Our first step is to read the original sentence carefully to determine the author’s intent. The sentence begins with “despite,” which sets up some sort of contrast. We can summarize this sentence with a shorter, core idea: despite this, that happens or even though X occurs, Y occurs. The author wants to show that, despite the rising number of qualified women, the number of female judges/partners hasn’t increased by the same amount. Now that we understand the intend, we’ll move on to the next step.

Look for Errors in the Underlined Portion

Take a second look at the underlined part:

the proportion of judges and partners at major law firms who are women have not risen to a comparable extent

It often helps to find the subject and verb in a sentence. To make this task easier, we’ll bracket out any modifiers and subordinate clauses, since the main subject/verb must be in the main clause of a sentence.

the proportion [of judges and partners] [at major law firms] [who are women] have not risen [to a comparable extent]

Once we ignore some of the “fluff,” our sentence becomes:

the proportion have not risen

The error should be clear: the subject, “proportion,” is singular, but its corresponding verb, “have” is plural! The correct simple sentence is:

the proportion has not risen

Eliminate Answer Choices that Repeat the Error

Now that we’ve found the error in the underlined section, let’s eliminate answer choices with that error. Here are the choices again:

(A)   the proportion of judges and partners at major law firms who are women have not risen to a comparable extent

(B)   the proportion of women judges and partners at major law firms have not risen comparably

(C)   the proportion of judges and partners at major law firms who are women has not risen comparably

(D)   yet the proportion of women judges and partners at major law firms has not risen to a comparable extent

(E)    yet the proportion of judges and partners at major law firms who are women has not risen comparably

Two of these choices contain the same subject/verb agreement error:

(A)   the proportion of judges and partners at major law firms who are women have not risen to a comparable extent

(B)   the proportion of women judges and partners at major law firms have not risen comparably

(A) and (B) cannot be the right answers, but the three remaining choices have proper subject/verb agreement. Time to move to the next step in our strategy.

Scan for Differences and Create Groups

We have three choices remaining, and it’s easy to see that (D) and (E) both start with a transition word, “yet,” while (C) does not. Also, (C) and (E) both use “comparably” instead of “to a comparable extent.”

Eliminate Incorrect Groups

We have two error groups to consider: “comparably” versus “to a comparable extent,” and including a transition word (“yet”) or omitting the transition word.

Let’s first examine the issue of “comparably” versus “to a comparable extent.” When one must choose either a single adverb or a longer phrase, the shorter choice is typically correct. Having said that, we shouldn’t necessarily eliminate answer choice D just because ”to a comparable extent” contains more words. Since both modifiers mean the same thing, let’s keep D for now, but we’ll be extra leery of this answer choice if we’re unable to eliminate it later.  

So, we still have three contenders:

(C)   the proportion of judges and partners at major law firms who are women has not risen comparably

(D)   yet the proportion of women judges and partners at major law firms has not risen to a comparable extent

(E)    yet the proportion of judges and partners at major law firms who are women has not risen comparably

Let’s examine the issue of whether the transition word “yet” is needed. Since the word “despite” at the beginning of the sentence already introduces the contrast between the first and second parts, a second contrast word in the form of “yet” is illogical and ungrammatical.  So, we can eliminate D and E.

Reread the Sentence

Before choosing (C), we should read the modified sentence in its entirely to make sure we haven’t missed anything.  

Despite the increasing number of women graduating from law school and passing bar examinations, the proportion of judges and partners at major law firms who are women has not risen comparably.

The subject/verb agreement is correct, and the sentence emphasizes the difference between the number of women who are qualified and the number of women in certain roles.

Select the Answer

Our choice seems reasonable, so we’ll pick (C) to fix the sentence.

Final Words

In this example, we followed a simple, step-by-step approach to eliminate obviously wrong answer choices, group the remaining options, and find the correct choice. This methodical technique helped us reach the proper answer and complete the sentence.

 

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