GMAT Sentence Correction, GMAT Verbal
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GMAT SC: When it’s about the “meaning” of the sentence

On the GMAT it will always boil down to a question or two here and there. As we have discussed in an earlier post, you can make only about 11-12 mistakes in the Verbal Section to score reach a 700, provided you get a 49-50 on Quant, making about 7-8 mistakes or fewer.

While it might seem like a healthy margin for error, when we break it down into question-types, the margin for error will not seem that wide.

12 mistakes means about 1 mistake per RC, totalling to 4 , and 4 each on CR & SC, which averages out to 1 mistake for every 4-5 questions answered.

Sentence Correction questions are spread over a range of errors that on questions of higher level of difficulty are combined in a single question. Amidst the pressure to remember all of these rules, test-takers sometimes ignore questions that test the most basic rule of all — the meaning of the sentence.

Let’s look at a couple of questions from the GMAT Official Guide 2015.

SENTENCE 1

Joachim Raff and Giacomo Meyerbeer are examples of the kind of composer who receives popular acclaim while living, often goes into decline after death, and never regains popularity again.

(A)  often goes into decline after death, and never regains popularity again
(B)  whose reputation declines after death and never regains its status again
(C)  but whose reputation declines after death and never regains its former status 
(D)  who declines in reputation after death and who never regained popularity again
(E)  then has declined in reputation after death and never regained popularity

On the face of it, this might seem to be a question testing Parallelism — receives, declines, regains. By this logic since the original sentence has all verbs in the same structure, most test-takers would go for option A, falling for a typically perfect GMAT Sentence Correction trap.

GMAT SC Tip: No matter how convinced you are about an option always ensure that you reject the other options.

Options D & E can be eliminated on account of both them not having all the three verbs — receives, declines and regains in the same form — leaving you with options A, B and C.

These three options can be separated only if you understand the meaning of the sentence, which in turn will strike you only if you read options B and C.

Options B & C introduce a new word — reputation — that is necessary since a person cannot go into decline after his death, as is the case presented by option A, making it incorrect.

Between B and C, the crucial difference is the usage of the word but that reveals the meaning of the sentence.

The sentence is giving examples of composers who have contrasting fortunes while they are alive — lot of popular acclaim — and after their death — decline and subsequent loss of reputation.

The word but thus becomes essential to express this contrast, leaving only Option C as the right option.

SENTENCE 2

Last week local shrimpers held a news conference to take some credit for the resurgence of the rare Kemp’s ridley turtle, saying that their compliance with laws requiring that turtle-excluder devices be on shrimp nets protect adult sea turtles.

(A) requiring that turtle-excluder devices be on shrimp nets protect
(B) requiring turtle-excluder devices on shrimp nets is protecting
(C) that require turtle-excluder devices on shrimp nets protect
(D) to require turtle-excluder devices on shrimp nets are protecting
(E) to require turtle-excluder devices on shrimp nets is protecting

The best GMAT questions always trap you into looking for another error while in reality testing the meaning of the sentence.

In the previous question it was parallel structure, in this one it seemingly tests understanding of the subjective rule or imperative mode, you can read more about this rule here.

In reality what will get you fastest to the answer is the meaning of the sentence.

  • Local shrimpers for (X reason) are saying that their compliance with laws (Y and Z) protect adult sea turtles.

So it is clear that it cannot be protect. It has to be — their complianceis protecting.

Only two options correct this error — B & E. E is incorrect due the usage of to require; it should either be that require or requiring.

These two questions show how it is essential that you always read the sentence for its meaning as well not necessarily the specific sub-parts but the broad structure. You might not see too many questions of this type but even one or two can set you back both in terms of time as well as score.

What happens is that as test-takers start practicing more and more questions they tend to start ignoring the non-underlined part and the meaning of the sentence. Since they have mastered the rules they tend to focus very narrowly on the underlinned part and solve the question in an auto-pilot mode, somehting that test-takers have factored while setting traps.

Feel free to post any questions or queries in the comments section.

 

 

 

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