Today we introduce a new occasional series on the Veritas Prep Blog, called “GMAT Gurus Speak Out.” Veritas Prep has dozens of experienced GMAT instructors around the world (all of whom have scored in the 99th percentile on the GMAT), and it’s amazing how much collective experience they have in preparing students for the exam. This new series brings some of their best insights to you. Our first tip comes courtesy of Brian Kalar, a Veritas Prep GMAT prep instructor in St. Louis.

On the GMAT, Sentence Correction can seem intimidating if you don’t approach it correctly. Each of us makes several mistakes each day in grammar and usage. In fact, I try to point out to my classes in the first meeting that it would be nearly impossible to speak with GMAT-perfect grammar and usage even in teaching the class! So, how then can we be expected to strive for perfection on test day?

It is very important to remember that you are not an editor here, but instead a judge of editors. Do any of the American Idol fans out there know if Randy Jackson can sing? No – because as a judge, he’s never had to! The GMAT always gives you the original sentence plus four other possibilities. Make sure that you view these as contestants, each with an equal shot until you determine what you’re looking for!

Here’s what I recommend:

1. Find just one error in the original sentence. Since there can be one to five errors, quite typically two or three, this makes things much more manageable than trying to fix everything at once! This could be an agreement error, modifier placement, really anything that you spot first and are confident in knowing.
2. Eliminate answer choices that don’t address that particular issue or do so incorrectly. Beware here of rewordings that correct in a way that you don’t expect.
3. Typically you’ll now be down to 2 or 3 choices. Simply compare answer choices and look for differences as locations of probable error. Even if you may not have noticed an error when reading the original sentence, when comparing side-by-side with the correct answer errors can certainly be much easier to spot!
4. Once you’ve isolated and tackled each difference between answer choices one-by-one, you’ll most likely answer with confidence. If not, you can at least make an educated guess knowing that you’ve accounted for what you DO know and that you’re only guessing because you clearly needed to and understand why.

This step-by-step method can be much quicker than evaluating each answer choice in its entirety, and can certainly give a clear solution path to what can be a very complex evaluation of answer choices. So, to revisit the American Idol analogy, you don’t need to possess perfect pitch yourself to know what sounds good!

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