GMAT Prep Analysis: Sentence Correction “Comparison” Question

It’s always valuable to take a good hard look at questions from the GMAC available in the two free GMATPrep CATs and the two supplemental GMAT Exam Pack 1 (for $39). These are all “official” retired GMAT question, so while the GMATPrep does NOT offer explanations for its questions, if we can come up with discerning explanations on our own, we’ll be one step closer to a strong Verbal score on Test Day!

Here’s one question students often get incorrect from the GMAT Prep:

So called green taxes, which exact a price for the use of polluting or nonrenewable fuels, are having a positive effect on the environment and natural resource base of countries as varied as China, the Netherlands, and Hungary.

(A) as varied as
(B) as varied as are
(C) as varied as those of
(D) that are as varied as
(E) that are varied as are

This question tests 2 concepts: Idiom, and Meaning. Idiomatically, when we make a comparison with “as” we need to use a “double as,” or “as…as.” Only (A), (B), and (C) contain the correct idiom. Now we must carefully examine the Meaning.

Here we are comparing the “positive effect” in various “countries.” Since “China,” “the Netherlands,” and “Hungary” are all countries, the comparison is clear in (A).

Why can’t it be (B) or (C)?

The word “are” in (B) is simply not necessary. It does not make the sentence (1) more grammatically correct, (2) cleaner stylistically, or (3) clearer in terms of meaning. (A) is a better choice because it has no grammar error, is shorter, and already has a crystal-clear meaning.

(C) contains a pronoun error – “those” would logically refer to the “environment and natural resource base” of the countries of China, the Netherlands, and Hungary, but we are comparing the countries to one another NOT their respective environment and natural resource bases. The COUNTRIES themselves are “varied,” not the “bases.” Notice how the inclusion of this pronoun changes the Meaning.

This questions serves to remind us that while Idioms are not heavily tested anymore on the GMAT, knowing some of the most common (such as “as…as”) can save you time on Test Day. It also reminds us to pay attention to both Style and Meaning when using process of elimination to remove wrong answer choices.

Learnist: GMAT “Logical Structure” Reading Questions

Questions that ask about the “function” of a detail, sentence or paragraph is a Logical Structure question. These frequently appear on the GMAT — always look for the logical keywords that tell you where the author is taking the discussion.

Authors organize their ideas in paragraphs, and each paragraph has a mini-purpose. Why, otherwise, would the author write it? Try to get a sense of the function of EACH paragraph as you read by looking for the keywords. Put the “function” in your own words and write it down!

Since keywords and phrases are ALL you have to go on to extrapolate the structure of the passage and the author’s intentions, practice pulling out the key phrases in this passage. Then scroll down, comparing them to those the author identified.

 This blog is for GRE passages, but they are the same in terms of form and content to the GMAT. Notice the list of “Function” verbs here. Copy them down and try to “assign” an infinitive verb to each paragraph. What is author DOING with each paragraph?

Just like every paragraph has a function, each sentence within each paragraph has a function. Start with the overall function of the paragraph, then ask: how does this detail relate to the paragraph’s overall function? Is it aiding the main idea? Qualifying it? Making a concession?

How Drawing a Picture Can Help you Get More GMAT CR Correct!

Take a look at this Critical Reasoning question from 1000 CR:

Archaeologists seeking the location of a legendary siege and destruction of a city are excavating in several possible places, including a middle and a lower layer of a large mound. The bottom of the middle layer contains some pieces of pottery of type 3, known to be from a later period than the time of the destruction of the city, but the lower layer does not.

The force of the evidence cited above is most seriously weakened if which of the following is true?

(A) Gerbils, small animals long native to the area, dig large burrows into which objects can fall when the burrows collapse.
(B) Pottery of types 1 and 2, found in the lower level, was used in the cities from which, according to the legend, the besieging forces came.
(C) Several pieces of stone from a lower-layer wall have been found incorporated into the remains of a building in the middle layer.
(D) Both the middle and the lower layer show evidence of large-scale destruction of habitations by fire.
(E) Bronze ax heads of a type used at the time of the siege were found in the lower level of excavation.

This one is interesting since we are not provided with a conclusion, so we have to draw one based on the evidence.

Evidence: Bottom of middle layer contains pottery 3. Pottery 3 is made AFTER the destruction.

I’m going to draw a picture, because drawing is fun, and totally under-rated when it comes to GMAT Critical Reasoning. 🙂

We can infer that usually the deeper the level = the older the time period. Since as we move forward in time, we generally build up on things.

So, the city was probably destroyed around the lower layer, or in the middle layer but beneath where the pottery was found.

Question: What casts doubt on the Type 3 pottery in the middle layer/destruction of city inference?

Prediction: If the pottery was moved around — if the location doesn’t represent the time period accurately.

A – decent choice, shows pottery could’ve been moved
B – doesn’t comment on Type 3 pottery
C – this implies at some point the middle-layer people used the wall below them to build up — but doesn’t show that the pottery could have moved down or up
D – Fire is totally irrelevant
E – “at the time of the siege” is vague — and this doesn’t relate at all to the pottery evidence

The correct answer is (A).

Tough GMAT: “Strengthen” CR Question of the Day!

Try this challenging Critical Reasoning question from Kaplan LSAT!

Editorial: When legislators discovered that some public service is not being adequately provided, their most common response is to boost the funding for that public service. Because of this, the least efficiently run government bureaucracies are the ones that most commonly receive an increase in funds.

The statements in the editorial, if true, most strongly support which one of the following?

(A) The least efficiently run government bureaucracies are the bureaucracies that legislators most commonly discover to be failing to provide some public service adequately.

(B) When legislators discover that a public service is not being adequately provided, they never respond to the problem by reducing the funding of the government bureaucracy providing that service.

(C) Throughout the time a government bureaucracy is run inefficiently, legislators repeatedly boost the funding for the public service that this bureaucracy provides.

(D) If legislators boost funding for a public service, the government bureaucracy providing that service will commonly become less efficient as a result.

(E)The most inefficiently run government bureaucracy receives the most funding of any government bureaucracy.

Here’s how I’d analyze this passage (it’s okay if your notes are slightly different!):

CONCLUSION: Less efficient agencies get MORE funds.

EVIDENCE: Legislators give more $$ to public services that aren’t functioning.

ASSUMPTIONS: Public services are run by bureaucracies; bureaucracies are getting the funds directly.

QUESTION REPHRASE: What would SUPPORT the conclusion?

PREDICTION: Something showing continued inefficiency.

The correct answer is (A). It is the clearest restatement of the passage. Notice how (E) uses some pretty extreme language (“most”…”the most”…”of any”…). On that basis, it can be eliminated.

15-Second Tips for Better Sentence Correction Scores

Here are a few quick tricks I like to use when Sentence Correction starts to feel overwhelming (especially when dealing with convoluted meanings, extremely bloated, wordy clauses, and completely-underlined sentences):

1. Mentally “remove” appositive phrases.

Long GMAT sentences often have way too much extra information. Try to mentally delete the useless info, and hone in on the main pieces of the sentence.

2. Listen to your gut.

Your accuracy was better when you were instinctually identifying what “sounded funny” to you. Hone in on that. The point of learning the common errors is to have a mental checklist to go through when you CAN’T identify what “sounds funny”.

3. Start by identifying the Subject & the Verb.

Every sentence must have them, and if you start here, you’ll be less likely to be overwhelmed by the sentence as a whole.

Contrast Words in GMAT Sentence Correction

Contrast keywords are fairly common on GMAT Sentence Correction questions. Some of the most common words you’ll see include:

  • but
  • however
  • on the other hand
  • unlike
  • in contrast to
  • different from
  • whereas
  • while
  • yet
  • as opposed to

Let’s look at an example question now

However a minimal role in causing air pollution, trash pollutes both land and sea, creates problems in wildlife habitats, and harms endangered species

A) However
B) With
C) Being
D) Therefore accounting for
E ) Despite playing

Here we have the phrases “minimal role” and “trash pollutes..creates problems…harms…” which tells us we’ll need a Contrast word to open the sentence. (B), (C), and (D) do not provide a contrast, so we can quickly eliminate them.

Between (A) and (E), (E) is the better choice since “However a minimal role…” is an awkward construction. A better way to use “however” here would be: However minimal its role….

GMAT Sentence Correction: Infinitive v. Participle

To sneeze, to smash, to cry, to shriek, to jump, to dunk, to read, to eat, to slurp— all of these are infinitives. An infinitive will almost always begin with “to.” A participle is a verb form used as an adjective. A participle ending in “-ing” is called a present participle. Let’s take a look at a GMAT question involving these concepts!

The American Medical Association has argued that the rapidly rising costs associated with malpractice litigation are driving doctors from the profession and that reform of the tort system is imperative for bringing malpractice insurance premiums under control.

(A) that reform of the tort system is imperative for bringing malpractice insurance premiums
(B) that reform of the tort system is imperative if malpractice insurance premiums are to be brought
(C) that reform of the tort system is imperative to bring malpractice insurance premiums
(D) reform of the tort system is necessary in bringing malpractice insurance premiums
(E) the tort system needs to be reformed so that malpractice insurance premiums are brought

In constructions like this, the GMAT prefers the infinitive form to the participle form. Usually the phrase “imperative FOR” is followed by a noun.

“It is imperative FOR the success of the company that this merger be successful.”

Following “imperative FOR” with a participle verb is awkward.

“It is imperative FOR succeeding…” = Not Good

Generally, unless the participle is introducing a new clause, the GMAT prefers the infinitive.

If for no other reason, notice that “to bring” is slightly shorter (and thus more concise) than “for bringing.” The correct answer is (C)