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...
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:
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...
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.
I have been struggling with SC since the last 2 months. I have done the Manhattan GMAT SC Guide, as well as, the Official guide multiple times. But my scores are just not going up. I seem to know all the rules like the back of my hand but when it comes to the actual test I seem to make mistakes in the most obvious of places. What is worse is that even after practising so hard I don’t seem to figure out where I am going wrong. Is there anything – just about anything – I can do to improve my accuracy in SC?”
I perhaps have this question multiple times over the forums, over personal messages, over emails, and even in person. It intrigues me since I think the basic problem is for all to see but somehow we tend to not know this.
Let me start with a simple question. How many formulae are there in maths? Say about 100 in each topic MAX. So that makes it about 300 put together in arithmetic, geometry and algebra. Now let us say that you were to mug up these formulae, how long would it take? 50 a day, so maybe 6 days? A week at the max? So would that mean that in about a week’s time you will get 51?
Somehow when people are confronted with this logic it seems apparent the answer is NO. So why would you think that studying the rules of grammar are going to help you in Sentence Correction.
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. ...
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...
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...
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...
A common trick used by GMAT test makers is to insert modifying phrase incorrectly. Here are some sentences that incorrectly use modifying phrases:
Sentence A: Ever since her paw was crushed in the front door, Mrs. Benson has been worried about Muffin, her pet cat.
Sentence A starts off with the modifying phrase “Ever since her paw was crushed in the front door,” and then talks about Mrs. Benson and her worry for her cat. But Mrs. Benson sounds like a person, and as a person, she probably doesn’t have a paw to be crushed. It’s MUCH more likely that Muffin’s paw got crushed, causing Mrs. Benson’s worry. This sentence needs to be corrected to put the modifying phrase next to the item it modifies.
Here are a couple of ways that we can do that, depending on where the sentence’s underlining is placed:
Sentence A1: Ever since her paw was crushed in the front door, Mrs. Benson has been worried about Muffin, her pet cat.
If the modifying phrase isn’t underlined, we don’t have the opportunity to fix it-- but we can rearrange the rest of the sentence so that the thing that is modified (...
Errors in pronouns—words like he, she, it, they, our, etc.—and antecedents—the words that the pronouns refer to—are among the most common errors in English Grammar. Take this sentence as an example:
Sentence A: I spoke to someone at the help desk, and asked what kinds of product returns the company allows; they told me that they only take unopened items.
This sentence wouldn’t set off any “grammar alarms” for the average reader and speaker of English; however, you, intrepid GMAT test-taker, need to be wiser than average and spot a couple of pronoun/antecedent errors, such as:
1. “They” and “their” are plural pronouns, and CAN’T be used as gender-neutral singular pronouns
One of the most frequently-committed grammar sins in every day speech is the use of “they” and “their” to indicate gender neutrality. Sentence A, above, says “I spoke to someone.” The sentence later says, “they told me,” and based on context it is clear that the “they” in question is the “someone at the help desk.” “Someone” is...
On the GMAT sentence corrections, an “idiom” is a recognized grammatical construction that is a rule simply because of tradition. The idiom constitutes the ultimate tautology: we say something a certain way because, well, that’s how we say it.
On the test, most of the idioms you will face involve preposition usage. Why do I listen “to” the radio instead of listen “at” the radio? We say “listen to” because that is how English speakers have said it for hundreds of years. We like it that way, and we are not willing to change.
For some test-takers, idiom errors can be the easiest to spot on the exam. To these test-takers, an idiom error sticks out like a sore thumb. When they read something like “listen at the radio,” they hear dissonance. The only way to restore grammatical harmony is to replace the grating “at” with the soothing “to.” Balance is restored.
English as second language
Not everybody thinks this way. For many who learned English as a second language, and even for those who have a purely logical--as opposed to intuitive--understanding of language, idiom errors are extremely difficult to detect. After all, there is no logical explanation for why we say “listen to” instead of “listen at.”...
GMAT Sentence correction(SC) comprises 15 of the total 41 verbal questions, which means that the majority of verbal questions are from GMAT SC. With SC questions, you will be presented with a question followed by five answer choices. The question will be underlined in part. You have to select the best answer choice that rephrases the underlined part of the question. Remember - the first answer choice will repeat the original text so don't bother to read it again.
Here is a step by step action plan to solve GMAT SC Questions
1. Read the whole sentence slowly and carefully. We all have different reading speeds, but as a good rule of thumb, you’ll want to read the sentence significantly slower than you would read a novel. For you fast readers who don’t subvocalize as you read, you might want to try subvocalizing SC sentences; sometimes it’s best to hear the mistake rather than see it.
2. If you notice what looks like an error in the underlined portion, try to identify the type of error before you move...
You may feel confident with the most commonly tested grammar rules on the GMAT Sentence Corrections - subject-verb agreement, verb tense, pronoun reference, pronoun number, misplaced modifiers, parallelism, idioms, false comparisons, and quantities. It’s hard to imagine any other grammar rules that could possibly be tested, but you can bet the GMAT test writers are pretty exhaustive. Here are four grammar rules that don’t receive as much attention; you’ll need to master these if you’re going for a top score.
1. Subjunctive Mood
You won’t see the subjunctive mood tested on college entrance exams like the SAT and ACT; it’s purposely reserved for the GMAT for good reason. Most of the English verbs we use are in the indicative mood - that is, verbs that have happened, are happening, or will happen. The subjunctive mood is used to express wishes or possibilities that have not happened.
The most common subjunctive verb that you might encounter is were, the subjunctive form of was.
Example 1: If he were athletic, he could make the football team. (He is not actually athletic, so the verb communicates an idea that does not really exist).
Notice that “If he was athletic…” would be incorrect, even though you may not reconize such an error in speech or writing.
Example 2: The teacher requires...
Once in a while, the GMAT will hurl a particularly nasty question in your direction, one that seems deliberately designed to make you feel uncertain about all of the answer choices. These sorts of questions will most likely include rare idioms, awkward phrasing, and suspicious pronouns to keep you off balance.
In these instances, sometimes your only defense is to plant your feet firmly on the ground, forget the rules, and pretend that you’re saying the sentence to your best friend. Pick whichever choice makes you feel the least ridiculous. However, this strategy should be reserved for those times when your knowledge of grammar isn’t helping much. Even if English is your second (or third) language, remember that using your ear and feeling the sentences on your tongue can still be one of your most powerful tools.
Take a look at the following question:
Students in the metropolitan school district lack math skills to such a large degree as to make it difficult to absorb them into a city economy becoming ever more dependent on information-based industries.
(A) lack math skills to such a large degree as to make it difficult to absorb them...