GMAT Tip of the Week: The MVP Comparison for Sentence Correction

Ah, summertime. Perhaps you’re spending this first-weekend-of-July at the Jersey Shore, or perhaps you have plans to watch baseball. Either way, there’s a good chance you’ll run into an MVP comparison, and if you do you’re helping your GMAT verbal score more than you’ll ever know. Because the key to Sentence Correction success is the MVP comparison.

MVP, as everyone knows, stands for Most Valuable Player *or* for Mike, Vinny, and Pauly of Jersey Shore fame. But when you’re approaching GMAT Sentence Correction, it stands for:

Modifiers
Verbs
Pronouns

And you should throw Comparisons in there, too, whether you’re comparing Mike’s situation to Vinny’s or Mike Trout to Miguel Cabrera in an MVP debate. Why? Because those four categories – Modifiers, Verbs, Pronouns, and Comparisons – are the most commonly-occurring Decision Points in GMAT Sentence Correction AND they’re the easiest to notice. Which means that they’re your competitive advantages on the GMAT.

In a phrase, before you do anything else on a GMAT Sentence Correction problem, look for an MVP Comparison. Consider an example (courtesy of the Official Guide for GMAT Review):

Out of America’s fascination with all things antique have grown a market for bygone styles of furniture and fixtures that are bringing back the chaise lounge, the overstuffed sofa, and the claw-footed bathtub.

(A) things antique have grown a market for bygone styles of furniture and fixtures that are bringing
(B) things antique has grown a market for bygone styles of furniture and fixtures that is bringing
(C) things that are antiques has grown a market for bygone styles of furniture and fixtures that bring
(D) antique things have grown a market for bygone styles of furniture and fixtures that are bringing
(E) antique things has grown a market for bygone styles of furniture and fixtures that bring

It’s easy to get sidetracked by the phrases “things antique” vs. “things that are antiques” vs. “antique things”. But remember MVP – if you can find modifiers, verbs, pronouns, or comparisons attack those first! And here you have two verb decisions: the singular/plural of “has grown” vs. “have grown” and the singular/plural/tense decision in the last words of the answer choices related to “bring”. Since the subject of all these verbs is “market” and the event is ongoing, the verbs have to be “has grown” and “is bringing”, making B the correct choice. And more importantly, if you lock on to the verb decision early, you can avoid the danger of getting thrown off by the inversion of “things antique”, a common “false decision point” that leads people astray.

This is just one example, but you’ll find as you study that a few things stand out about the MVP Comparison:

1) Most SC problems include at least one of these four decisions
2) These decisions are easy to spot: if some answer choices say “it” and others say “they”, you have a clear pronoun decision; if some say “have been” and others “has been”, you have a clear verb decision. And if a sentence leads with a description – a modifier – or makes a comparison your task is clear. MVP Comparison is efficient.
3) You can make these categories your core competencies – you can get really good at them. Many folks dislike Sentence Correction because they hate studying “grammar”, when in actuality the scope of GMAT grammar is relatively narrow. If you become incredibly good – an MVP, perhaps – at these categorizes then you have pretty much all of SC beaten, and you’ll find that the game of spotting the errors you know is much more enjoyable and productive than the game of trying to figure out obscure decisions.

So as you study Sentence Correction this summer, think of the MVP Comparison as your most valuable process.

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