3 Reasons You Need to Use Your Scratch Pad for Sentence Correction

It is incredibly common how many GMAT students have ZERO strategy when it comes to Sentence Correction. Most students just read (A) and try to see if something “sounds weird,” then continue on to (B), (C), (D), and (E), often reading and re-reading each of the 5 choices until they choose what “sounds right” to them, or which one they like the “best” out of the 5. This is NOT a time-efficient or accurate way of doing Sentence Correction! Let’s look at three “home truths” we need to digest in order to move our grammar skills from “okay” to “foolproof!”

High-scorers do not do SC on “feel.” It’s great if you read a sentence and you can sense something is “wrong” or “off” about it, but if you cannot pinpoint WHAT is wrong and WHY it is wrong, then you don’t know Sentence Correction as well as you think. Without writing down a GMAT reason, how do you know that the reason you are elimination Choice (A) is because of a GMAT error and not simply your own gut instinct?

If you don’t record your impressions, you can learn nothing from them. Let’s say you’re taking a full-length practice test. There are 41 questions in the Verbal section. That’s a LOT of questions!

Let’s say you missed Question #5 and it was a Sentence Correction. You go back to the problem a 2-3 hours after completing your practice test to review all your incorrect questions. You have some fuzzy memories of the specific question, but it’s been a few hours, and you did 36 questions after it, so of course you won’t recall it too distinctly.

You look at your scratch pad for this question and it looks like this:


What does this tell you about what you were thinking in your mind as you did the problem? Absolutely nothing. 😦

Therefore, you don’t really have anywhere to go. You can see you chose (D), but you don’t know why. How are you supposed to learn from the question? You read the official explanation, and some additional explanations from GMATPrep or Beat the GMAT, but they don’t tell you what YOU were thinking when you were working through the problem. Let’s say the correct answer was (E). You have no idea why you crossed it off. There is no record. So, how can you improve?

We don’t have Predictions for SC.  Sometimes students try to use symbols for their process of elimination. Symbols such as happy or sad faces and plus or minus signs are great tools to use for Reading Comprehension and Critical Reasoning answer choices, because we are comparing those answer choices to a pre-conceived idea, a prediction for what we think the correct answer will look like.

But, sadly, in SC we have no idea what the correct sentence is going to look like! Maybe it will look like (A). Maybe it will look completely different from (A).

Let’s say your scratch pad for our hypothetical Question #5 looked like this:

A ?
B –
C –
D +
E ?

This gives us a tiny bit more information about what we were thinking when we looked at each choice, but still not nearly enough. We aren’t thinking like the GMAT test-makers yet, because we aren’t “speaking” their language. They write answer choices to include these specific errors, so we need to be able to point out and name those specific errors. It’s the only way to achieve true Sentence Correction mastery. We have to think like the test-makers!

Now let’s say we DID try to apply our content knowledge of tested grammar/meaning errors to Question #5. Our scratch pad could reveal something like this:

B Para
C Mod
D Wordy?
E Para?

Suddenly, we have a LOT of great questions to ask ourselves:

• In (A), (B), and (C) was there really a Subject-Verb, Parallelism, and Modification issue? Did I recognize these errors correctly? What markers told me this error was present? Or did I miss the “real” error, and simply got lucky in my elimination?
• In (D), was there a grammar or meaning error I could not spot that made this choice incorrect? If so, what was it, and why couldn’t I spot it? What were the markers that indicated it was being tested? If there was no grammar or meaning error, was the only issue with this sentence the wordiness, or was another “style” error present?
• In (E), the correct choice, why did I invent a Parallelism error when no Parallelism error was present? What were the markers that made me think it was testing this concept, and WHY was the Parallelism actually okay? What do I need to remember about Parallelism so I can be more careful and not invent future Parallelism errors?

You will not be able to do this type of self-analysis without the knowledge of what your thought process was as you were attempting the problem!

Just because you speak English, read English, and feel like you generally understand English, don’t be fooled into thinking you don’t need to use strategy for GMAT Sentence Correction! It’s incredibly important for your growth and betterment, and my mission is to help you do it!


GMAT Quant: Question of the Day!

Try Picking Numbers with the GMAT practice problem of the day!

Last year the price per share of Stock X increased by k percent and the earnings per share of Stock X increased by m percent, where k is greater than m. By what percent did the ratio of price per share to earnings per share increase, in terms of k and m?

A. k/m
B. (k – m)
C. [100 (k – m)]/ (100 + k)
D. [100 (k – m)]/(100 + m)
E. [100 (k – m)]/ (100 + k + m)

If the original price per share of Stock X = 100
Let’s say k = 20
New price per share = 120

Original earnings per share of Stock X = 100
Let’s say m = 5 (since k > m)
New earnings per share = 105

Old ratio of price/earnings = 100/100 = 1
New ratio of price/earnings = 120/105 = approx 1.14

The percent increase is approx 14%.

Plug in our numbers into the answer choices, and look for the choice that also yields 14%:

A. k/m = 20/5 = 4 too small

B. (k – m) = 20 – 5 = 15 too big

C. 100 (15) / 100 + 20 = 1500 / 120 = 12.5 too small

D. 100 (15) / 100 + 5 = 1500/105 = approx 14. CORRECT!

E. 100 (15) / 100 + 20 + 5 = 1500/125 = 12

The answer is (D).

Interpreting Evidence Correctly on the ACT and SAT

In all three types of ACT Science passages, you will need to be able to understand how evidence is presented and be asked to answer questions based on the evidence. These are a bit like Reading questions.

To interpret evidence correctly, you need to focus on the results. Draw logical conclusions based on the presented data, and actively read the information in the accompanying passage. It’s important to know the difference between direct and inverse variation.

To answer Interpreting Evidence questions correctly, ask yourself these 3 questions: – What is the evidence presented? – Whose position is supported by the evidence? – What does the evidence suggest?

Interpreting evidence for Data Representation and Research Summaries ends up requiring more Data Analysis skills, since data is a large component of those passages. For Conflicting Viewpoints, interpreting evidence is a matter of keeping the two theories (two scientists) straight. Watch this video for a strategy on how to do this!

This video describes how to answer “Inference” questions on the SAT and ACT Reading Test. You may wonder what this has to do with ACT Science, but sometimes interpreting evidence is a LOT less scientific than it sounds, and a LOT more like reading comprehension. Remember that you can only make an inference BASED on something directly stated. Incorrect answer choices are frequently “out of scope.”


3 Ways of Looking at “Profit” Questions on the GMAT

As someone who is about to shell out hundreds of dollars in MBA application fees, you know that money makes the GMAT-world go round. Profit is an essential concept for any aspiring MBA admissions applicant. The GMAT tests this concept in both Problem Solving and Data Sufficiency questions in three main ways. Let’s examine the need-to-know formulas with three GMAT practice questions.

1. A firm increases its revenues by 10% between 2008 and 2009. The firm’s costs increase by 8% during this same time. What is the firm’s percent increase in profits over this period, if profits are defined as revenues minus costs?

(1) The firm’s initial profit is $200,000.

(2) The firm’s initial revenues are 1.5 times its initial costs.

In this question from Grockit, we can start with our most basic Profit formula:

Profit = Revenue – Cost

Using Statement (1), we can say that 200,000 = R – C.
(1.1)r – (1.08)c = 200,000(1 + x), where x equals the amount of the increase. We still do not know R and C so we can’t find x. Insufficient.

Using Statement (2), 1.5c – c = p and (1.1)(1.5)c – (1.08)c = (1 + x)P. Here we can simplify.

.5c = p

.57c = (1 + x)p
Without continuing to solve, we can see that we can solve for x using substitution. .57c = (1 + x)(.5c), and dividing both sides by c will cancel out that variable and allow us to isolate x. Statement 2 is sufficient. Now to a more challenging question!

2. A store purchased 20 coats that each cost an equal amount and then sold each of the 20 coats at an equal price. What was the stores gross profit on the 20 coats?

(1) If the selling price per coat had been twice as much, the store’s gross profit on the 20 coats would have been $2400.

(2) If the selling price per coat had been $2 more, the store’s gross profit on the 20 coats would have been $440.

This GMAT Prep question asks about gross profit.

Gross Profit = Selling price – Cost

For the value Data Sufficiency question, we need to know the price of each coat and the selling price of each coat. From the given information, we can use our known formula to set us the equation: P = 20 (s – c). So either we’ll need a value for s and a value for c, or we’ll need the value of (s – c).

Statement (1) tells us that $2400 = (20(2s – c)) or 2400 = 40s – 20c. We can divide both sides by 20 and simplify it to: 120 = 2s – c. We still don’t know s and c. Insufficient.

Statement (2) tells us that 440 = 20(s + 2 – c). Let’s simplify: 440 = 20s + 40 – 20c. 400 = 20s – 20c. 400 = 20 (s – c). 20 = s – c. Sufficient. Even though we didn’t solve for s and c separately, we were able to find the value of (s – c). Sometimes DS will surprise you!

3. If the cost price of 20 articles is equal to the selling price of 25 articles, what is the % profit or loss made by the merchant?

A. 25% loss
B. 25% profit
C. 20% loss
D. 20% profit
E. 5% profit

Profit/Loss % = (Sales Price – Cost Price) / Cost Price x 100

The question asks about % profit or loss. It tells us that 20c = 25s, or 4c = 5s. So the ratio of the sales price to the cost price is 4/5.

Let’s simplify our Profit/Loss % formula by dividing each term by the cost price:

Profit/Loss % = (S/C – C/C) x 100

P/L% = (S/C – 1) x 100
We know that S/C = 4/5 for this problem. So we can plug in and solve:

P/L% = (4/5 – 1) x 100

P/L% = (-1/5) x 100

P/L% = -20%. The answer is a 20% loss.

Grammar Guide: the usage of “those”

Confused about how “those” works on the SAT, ACT, GRE, or GMAT? Let’s take a look at a question from Manhattan GMAT that uses this word!

Salt deposits and moisture threaten to destroy the Mohenjo-Daro excavation in Pakistan, the site of an ancient civilization that flourished at the same time as the civilizations in the Nile delta and the river valleys of Tigris and Euphrates.

A) that flourished at the same time as the civilizations
B) that had flourished at the same time as had the civilizations
C) that flourished at the same time those had
D) flourishing at the same time as those did
E) flourishing at the same time as those were

In general, “those” is the plural of “that.” It’s in a group called “determiners” along with “this”, “that”, “these”, “those,” “here” and there that are technically pronouns but often function more like adjectives.

For C, D, and E, “those” is meant to mean something like “the ones” and could be used as a pronoun to replace a plural antecedent if there was one in the sentence, and if the construction was parallel.

The correct answer is (A).

Spotting Consistent Ideas in GRE Sentence Equivalence

Sentence Equivalence is one of the newer GRE Verbal question types (replacing the older Sentence Completions). Like Sentence Completions, Sentence Equivalence consists of one sentence with one blank. Unlike Sentence Completions, there are two correct answers and not one, and you must get both to get the question correct.

To solve Sentence Equivalence, you’ll need to know 1) the relationship of the blank to the rest of the sentence, and 2) the meaning of the entire sentence. There are approximately 8 total Sentence Equivalence questions on the GRE, 4 on each Verbal section. These questions should take approximately 1 minute each.

Consistent Ideas is one of the four types of Sentence Equivalence questions. In Consistent Ideas questions, the blank will mirror or extent the logic of the rest of the sentence. Like it sounds, the blank will continue the ideas of the rest of the sentence. You’ll be able to recognize this type because of certain constructions.

Here are common “Consistent Ideas” key words and phrases to look out for: for this reason, again, to reiterate, along with, in addition, for example, to illustrate, thus, likewise, similarly, since, also, and, next, as well as, as a result, to sum up, concluding, additionally, etc.

Let’s look at an example Sentence Equivalence question:

1. As a teacher of creative writing, Mercedes demanded her students’ best work; likewise, her own fiction was often subjected to ———– analysis by those same students.

A. scrupulous
B. equitable
C. reverent
D. spiteful
E. malicious
F. rigorous

We know this is a Sentence Equivalence Consistent Ideas question because of the keyword “likewise.” The semicolon tells us the second half of the sentence will mirror the logic of the first half. The key phrase is “demanded” which explains the relationship. We can predict something like “demanding” for the blank. We need a word that is neither positive nor negative, but shows a strong, exacting demand.

Quick Guide to IR: Graphics Interpretation on the GMAT

GI was one of the 4 new Integrated Reasoning question types launched in June 2012 in the Integrated Reasoning section. Graphics Interpretation questions will present you with a piece of data in the form of a graph, Venn diagram, etc and two “fill-in-the-blank” statements.

Integrated Reasoning (IR) will be scored on a scale of 1 to 8, in whole-number increments. IR scoring is based on the number of correct questions, and the questions will have multiple integrated parts. To receive credit for a question, you will have to answer each part correctly. There is no partial credit; you will not get extra points for getting part of a question right.

Check out some video explanations and practice questions on this Learnboard!