As we wrote in our recent article on how an understanding of common subject-verb agreement traps can help you improve your GMAT verbal score, the GMAT Sentence Correction section is the only part of the GMAT Verbal section where you can quickly and clearly acquire new skills and knowledge to improve your score.
Unlike Critical Reasoning and Reading Comprehension, where performance is in large part a function of your long term commitment to reading and writing critically, GMAT sentence correction offers ample opportunity for quick acquisition of new knowledge that directly helps you answer more questions correctly.
As we discussed last time, in this section, you’ll be given a sentence to read, and part of it will be underlined. Your task is to determine whether and how to change the underlined section so that the sentence is written correctly.
As discussed last time, three ideas must be kept in mind as you answer these questions: Grammar, Meaning, and Style. In our last article we addressed subject-verb agreement, which is a matter of grammar, but can impact meaning, too. Today, we’ll address diction, which is more directly a matter of meaning, since it refers to word choice.
As Wikipedia will tell you, diction is about word choice, and how those choices impact the meaning, clarity, and style of a piece of writing. On the GMAT, you will often see passages underlined, and it will be clear that either of two choices is correct. But, which choice is best?
Here are some typical pairs of words that are often used interchangeable, but which have distinctly different meanings.
a. Among is used when there are more than two things: Among, X, Y, and Z, I prefer Z.
b. Between is used when there are only two things: You must choose between the GRE and the GMAT.
a. “As” = “in the capacity of.” For example: Joseph Soandso serves as the appellate judge in the umpteenth district of Narnia.
b. “Like” = “similar to.” For example: The GMAT is not like any other test you have ever taken.
3.) Like/Such as
a. “Like” = “similar to.” So, Joe likes sports like hockey, basketball, and soccer means that Joe likes sports that are similar to hockey, basketball, and soccer.
b. “Such as” = “for example.” Joe like sports such as hockey, basketball, and soccer means that Joe likes hockey, basketball, and soccer.
4.) Their/His or her
a. Substituting “their” for his or her is a common mistake that is becoming part of day to day English.
i. Incorrect: Does everyone have their copy of the 13th OG?
ii. Correct: Does everyone have his or her copy of the 13th OG?
a. “That” introduces a restrictive clause – a clause that is essential to the meaning of a sentence.
b. Example: The car that has voice activated ignition is the Chrysler on the far side of the parking lot.
c. “Which” introduces a non-respective clause – a clause that is not essential to the meaning of a sentence. In this case the non-restrictive clause is surrounded by commas.
d. Example: The car on the far side of the parking lot, which is a Chrysler, has voice activated ignition.
a. “Who” is a subject pronoun, so it will perform the action of the verb. It serves the same function as “he” or “she”
b. Example: Who gave you this book? He gave me this book.
c. “Whom” is an object pronoun, so it will receive the action of the verb. It serves the same function as “him” or “her.”
d. Example: To whom did you give the book? I gave the book to her.
Of course, the above is not an exhaustive list of scenarios on the GMAT that involve diction. However, it’s helpful to keep in mind the concept of proper diction, and as you read for pleasure, work, school, or specifically for GMAT preparation, notice when proper diction plays a role in the meaning of a particular piece of writing.
In our next article, we’ll address how the principles of logic can be applied to improving your GMAT verbal score on the sentence correction portion of the GMAT.
About the Authors
This article was written by MyGuru founder Mark Skoskiewicz, a 2010 graduate of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. However, it pulls very heavily from materials developed for MyGuru’s small group GMAT prep class. These materials were written by John Easter, one of MyGuru’s senior GMAT tutors in Chicago, the instructor for this class, and the founder of Jedi Prep.