Using Possessive Pronouns in GMAT Sentence Correction
Possessive pronouns aren’t one of the biggest issues tested on the GMAT, but they do appear sometimes, and understanding them can not only potentially boost your Verbal score but can also make you a better writer, which will help in your AWA and your business school application process.
Just like other pronouns, possessive pronouns must have a clear antecedent, and must agree with that antecedent in gender and in number. There are a few tricky rules that come into play with possessive pronouns that you don’t see elsewhere, however.
1.No apostrophes needed
Turning a singular noun into a possessive noun usually involves the use of an apostrophe. For example, you might say “my neighbor’s car.” “Neighbor” is the noun, and to make it clear that the car belongs to your neighbor, you add an apostrophe and an “s”. If we replace “neighbor’s” with “his,” though, we don’t need an apostrophe to indicate possession. People often become particularly confused by the possessive form of one specific pronoun: it. The rule is that “it” is followed by an apostrophe and an “s” only to indicate the contraction of “it is.” The possessive form of the pronoun is “its.”
2. Possessive pronouns are generally used as adjectives
A possessive pronoun is used to describe a noun, as in the examples seen above. The location of the adjective in the sentence can determine its form in some cases: one would speak of “his car,” but a...
How to solve GMAT Critical Reasoning Inference question
You’re having lunch with your friend Jane, and you suggest getting hot fudge sundaes for dessert; Jane tells you that she doesn’t eat hot fudge sundaes. In real life, you could draw several valid inferences from this: she’s lactose intolerant, she has sensitive teeth and so can’t eat frozen desserts, she’s on a diet and trying to avoid sweets, or maybe she just doesn’t like ice cream or hot fudge.
In real life, those would all be acceptable inferences, because the real-world definition of infer is to do any of the following:
1. to derive by reasoning; conclude or judge from premises or evidence: e.g., They inferred his anger from his heated denial.
2. (of facts, circumstances, statements, etc.) to indicate or involve as a conclusion; lead to.
3. to guess; speculate; surmise.
4. to hint; imply; suggest.
“Infer” is, as you can see, a word with fairly flexible meaning. We most often use it in day-to-day life to mean “make an educated guess.” If your friend Jane says she doesn’t eat hot fudge sundaes, you apply your existing knowledge about the possible reasons someone could have for not enjoying the hot fudge and ice cream deliciousness, and you make an educated guess as to what her reasons could be. On the GMAT, however, “inference” has a different meaning. Think of inferring as the process of deriving the strict logical consequences of assumed premises.
On the GMAT, therefore, if you are told that Jane doesn’t eat hot fudge sundaes, you can derive two logical consequences from that premise...
GMAT Parallelism - How to Make Your Lists and Comparisons Parallel
It’s important to make sure that whenever you compare two things, those things are similar enough to make a comparison appropriate. For example, if you and a friend are both preparing for the GMAT, but your friend has the luxury of studying full-time while you have a job and a family competing for your attention, it’s not appropriate to compare your score improvements with those of your friend. Doing so would be an example of what is idiomatically called “comparing apples to oranges.”
The same thing is true on GMAT Sentence Correction questions. When items are being compared, they must be “apples to apples,” or parallel. For instance, take a look at the following example of a comparison:
Unlike most business students at her school, who attended classes full time, Carla’s schedule was so full that she could only attend part-time.
The sentence as written compares “most business students” to “Carla’s schedule.” Schedules are things, and business students are people; this is an apples-to-oranges comparison. In order to correct it, we should put the items being compared into parallel form, like this:
Unlike most business students at her school, who attended classes full time, Carla was so busy that she could only attend part-time.
It’s not just items being compared that need to be parallel, though; items in a list must also be in parallel forms, and you’re actually more likely to see this kind of parallelism tested on the GMAT. Here’s an example:
An urban neighborhood is...
Using Venn Diagrams to solve GMAT Set Questions
On your GMAT, you will encounter 1-3 questions that contain overlapping groups with specific characteristics. You will almost never see more than two characteristics (since you can’t draw 3D on your scratch paper). For illustration, let’s take a look at the following Data Sufficiency example:
Q) Of the 70 children who visited a certain doctor last week, how many had neither a cold nor a cough?
(1) 40 of the 70 children had a cold but not a cough.
(2) 20 of the 70 children had both a cold and a cough.
There are two characteristics (cough and cold) and two categories for each (yes and no), so there are four total categories, as indicated by this matrix:
I’ve filled in the given information from both statements, and the parenthetical information is inferred. This clearly lays out the 4 combinations of options. If we sum vertically, we can infer that there are 60 total children with colds. Because there are 70 total children, this also means that 10 do NOT have colds. The bottom-right quadrant cannot be found because we do not know how those 10 children get divided between the two empty boxes. Choice E – together the statements are insufficient.
We may also visualize the question as Venn diagram, in which there are still two characteristics, represented by overlapping circles. You will notice that there are still two undefined regions, so the given information is insufficient.
For any Data Sufficiency or Problem...
GMAT Sentence Correction Flow Chart
The above is no substitute for reading each sentence carefully, predicting what the correct answer might look like, and finding it in the answer choices of course. A little more on each of the decision points:
• Whole sentence underlined: There isn't much to say about this. With no part of the sentence left static, there's more to keep in mind; the other decisions still help.
• Answer start or end with a verb: Beware nouns close to the verb that may distract you from the real subject
• Answer start or end with a pronoun: Read carefully for the pronoun's antecedent (the word it's replacing in the sentence)
• Modifying phrase, set apart by comma(s): These phrases are easier to spot and work with when they start the sentence, since you need only look at the first thing after the first comma, but these modifying phrases can appear anywhere.
• Separation of subject and verb: The further apart they are, the more words there will be to confuse you. Try paraphrasing the core of the sentence to simplify it.
• List in the passage: The GMAT loves parallelism so much, they should get married, and lists are a great way to test parallelism.
Learn when Diction Impacts Grammar in GMAT Sentence Correction Questions
As you may know, diction refers to word choice. Usually, we use the term “diction” to describe an author’s tone or style - rarely does word choice have an effect on grammar. In some cases, though, it does. The GMAT Sentence Corrections will test you only on those occasions when word choice affects grammar, not when one word will be more effective than another.
1. Adverbs vs. Adjectives
While the subject of adverb usage may deserve its own category, the topic can be included under diction. Simply put, an adverb (those words that often end in ly) describes a verb, adjective, or another adverb, while an adjective describes a noun.
Adverb usage is the reason we say “I did well on my test” and not “I did good on my test;” well is an adverb while good is an adjective.
Example 1. Scientists dream of one day creating armies of nanobots, tiny robots smaller than a cell, that can enter the human body and use their practical unlimited access to find and repair defects in bodily structures.
A. practical unlimited access to find and repair defects
B. practical unlimited access to finding and repairing defects
C. practically unlimited access to find and repair defects
D. practically unlimited access for finding and repairing defects
E. practically unlimited access...
GMAT Formal Logic Basics: And, or, neither, nor…
We’ve covered, in an earlier blog post, how to deal with the simplest formal logic statement: If X, then Y. But what happens when our necessary or sufficient factors become more complicated? Let’s look at a couple of examples, using the idea of a vegetable salad. The simplest statement and its contrapositive might look like this:
If the salad has lettuce, then it has tomatoes.
If the salad has no tomatoes, then it has no lettuce.
Now let’s add more vegetables (and more complicated logic):
If the salad has lettuce or spinach, then it has tomatoes and peppers.
Here’s an important idea: when you are forming a contrapositive, you already know that the necessary and sufficient factors are switched around and negated. But now you also have to remember that “and” becomes “or,” and vice versa. So the statement above becomes:
If the salad has no tomatoes or no peppers, then it has no lettuce and no spinach.
I find it extremely helpful to individually negate each element of the statement; otherwise, it’s easy to get confused. For instance, if I only negate the first part of the statement above and say to you, “If the salad has no tomatoes or peppers…” you might interpret that as meaning that neither of those vegetables should be in the salad. But in formal logic terms, it would technically mean that I either want peppers or no tomatoes. Neither of those ideas, though, is what I mean to say in the contrapositive; the intended meaning is that I want no tomatoes or no peppers.
How to Handle Passive and Active Voices in GMAT Sentence Corrections
These two sentences have an important difference. Can you spot it?
1) She spoke persuasively, arguing for major legislative changes.
2) Major legislative changes were argued for in her persuasive speech.
The first sentence is written in the active voice, and the second is written in the passive voice.
In the first sentence above, the subject is “she,” and the verb is “spoke.” In the second sentence, the subject is “major legislative changes” and the verb is “were argued for.”
Writing in the active voice means that the subject of the sentence is performing the action; writing in the passive voice means that the subject of the sentence is the object of an action. It’s tricky sometimes to distinguish between passive and active voices, but it’s worth practicing, because sometimes on GMAT Sentence Corrections, the difference between two grammatically sound answers is passive and active voice. Many people in this situation end up guessing because they can’t think of any good reason to reject either of the choices. By learning how to use passive and active voices, you can avoid that frustration.
Many GMAT students complain that the use of passive and active voices on the GMAT is random. Sometimes, the correct answer to a Sentence Correction will be in the passive voice, but other times, a choice will be eliminated for being in the passive voice. How can you tell when it matters and when it doesn’t? In general, the GMAT favors the active voice. However, sentences written in the passive voice can still be correct if every other...
Using “Whom” and “Who” in Sentence Corrections on the GMAT
Some GMAT sentence correction questions test not only for the accepted rules of grammar but also for the specific preferred style of the GMAT. Luckily, “who” vs. “whom,” is not one of those issues; this is a pretty straightforward issue, and is usually not tested in a complicated way. However, since even the most knowledgeable and educated writers sometimes misuse “who” and “whom,” it’s worth reviewing a couple of rules that can help guide you in determining the correct usage of these pronouns.
1. If someone were to ask a question about the sentence, would the answer be “him/her/them” or “he/she/they”?
This is probably the most effective way to remember the difference between “whom” and “who,” and most of the time, this will be enough to help you answer correctly. If a question about the action being described would be answered with “him,” “her,” or “them,” then the correct form is “whom.” If a question about the action being described would be answered with “he,” “she,” or “they,” then the correct form is “who.” Just remember this: the words with M’s at the end go together. They = Who, and Them = Whom. Here’s a basic sentence addressing this issue:
The Dalmation is a high-strung, energetic dog, and has historically been associated with firefighters, who/whom originally used the animal to guard and guide the horses that pulled fire-carts.
In this sentence, you can determine the correct answer by asking yourself about the action being described: “Who was associated with Dalmations?” And then answer that question with the correct pronoun: “They were.” Since “they” is appropriate here, we use “who” in the sentence. Let’s try the same approach on another sentence.
If the delivery driver doesn’t arrive this afternoon, I will have to call to call whoever/...
GMAT Sentence Correction: Subject-Verb Agreement
Sentence corrections on the GMAT tests many of the same issues in subject-verb agreement as in pronoun-antecedent agreement: it’s important to distinguish singular nouns from plural ones, even when the test-makers have made it difficult to do so. For example, take a look at the first sentence of this article: there’s a mistake. The subject of that sentence is “[s]entence corrections,” which is plural, but the verb, “tests,” is singular. Because the singular “GMAT” is placed between them, the singular verb SOUNDS right, but is actually incorrect.
Let’s look at a couple more examples:
The team of football players are accompanied by their trainer and head coach.
This sentence demonstrates the same common trick, which is that a singular subject (team) is associated with a plural noun (players); a plural verb (are) is then placed next to that plural noun, and the unwary test-taker, relying on his or her sense of what “sounds right,” is lulled into thinking that the sentence is correct as written.
Incidentally, there’s a second, similar issue here: the pronoun-antecedent problem. While the test tricks you into thinking that “team of football players” agrees with a plural verb, it also throws in the plural pronoun “their.” The correct possessive pronoun for a singular entity like a team is “its.” The correct version of the sentence above should look like this:
The team of football players is accompanied by its trainer and head coach.
Another trick that can cause subject-verb agreement problems is the insertion of a modifying phrase between the subject and verb, which distracts from the proper agreement...