GMAT Tip of the Week: If You Can’t Be With the Sentence You Love, Love the One You’re With

Happy Valentine’s Day, a day when we honor the soulmate, that one special someone, the concept of true love and destiny. Valentine’s Day is about finding “the one” and never letting go, and this day itself is about being with that one you love, your one true destiny.

But if you think your destiny includes Harvard, Stanford, or Wharton, your Sentence Correction strategy should be a lot less “Endless Love” and a lot more “Love the One You’re With”. As Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young sing directly about the art of GMAT Sentence Correction:

“If you can’t be with the one you love, honey, love the one you’re with.”

What do they mean?

On GMAT sentence correction you’ll seldom *love* the answer choice you pick. The correct answer choice might not be your knight in shining armor, but instead will be the best of five options. So if you can’t find an answer choice you love, learn to love the one you’re stuck with. Consider this example:

So dogged were Frances Perkins’ investigations of the garment industry, and her lobbying for wage and hour reform was persistent, Alfred E. Smith and Franklin D. Roosevelt recruited Perkins to work within the government, rather than as a social worker.

A. and her lobbying for wage and hour reform was persistent,
B. and lobbying for wage and hour reform was persistent, so that
C. her lobbying for wage and hour reform persistent, that
D. lobbying for wage and hour reform was so persistent,
E. so persistent her lobbying for wage and hour reform, that

There’s a good chance that none of these answer choices give you goosebumps or make you blush. You won’t likely love any of them, but you have to pick one so it’s time to love the one you’re stuck with. But as you yearn for an answer choice you love you might remember this common-GMAT-sentence-structure lie from Romeo and Juliet:

“Parting is such sweet sorrow that I shall say goodnight till it be morrow.”

And think “oh, right – this sentence is trying to set up a ‘critical mass’ structure”: Frances Perkins’ investigations were so dogged that FDR fell in love with her political abilities. In other words, the structure “so dogged…” begs for a “that” to complete that “parting is such sweet sorrow that…” style structure. So only answer choices C and E need apply.

Between the two remaining choices, choice E has two advantages going for it: 1) it’s parallel to the first portion of the sentence (So X was Y, so A was B, that); and 2) it “goes somewhere” with the thought that her lobbying was persistent, by adding that “so” to connect with “that” it means that her lobbying was also causal to FDR’s desire to hire her. So choice E is correct.

Now, most of us would never write that sentence and very few of us would say that we love that answer choice. But that’s GMAT Sentence Correction – it’s not a search for your soulmate sentence but instead a Bachelor-style game in which you have to eliminate four and live with one. If you’re looking for love in Sentence Correction answer choices, you’re looking in all the wrong places (quant questions might be your thing – there the answer you algebraically dreamed of will usually be right there waiting for you). Sentence Correction is about settling for the best you can find at the time, not about finding perfection. You won’t find the answer choice you love, so part of the game is learning to love the choice you’re stuck with.

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By Brian Galvin