In this article, we’re going to practice a standard GMAT sentence correction question that involves the relationships between nouns and using an Official Guide to the GMAT diagnostic exam practice problem. You can either read this article or watch this GMAT sentence correction video on YouTube.
GMAT Sentence Correction Practice Question from GMAC
The results of two recent unrelated studies support the idea that dolphins may share certain cognitive abilities with humans and great apes; the studies indicate dolphins as capable of recognizing themselves in mirrors—an ability that is often considered a sign of self-awareness—and to grasp spontaneously the mood or intention of humans.
(A) dolphins as capable of recognizing themselves in mirrors—an ability that is often considered a sign of self-awareness—and to grasp spontaneously
(B) dolphins' ability to recognize themselves in mirrors—an ability that is often considered as a sign of self-awareness—and of spontaneously grasping
(C) dolphins to be capable of recognizing themselves in mirrors—an ability that is often considered a sign of self-awareness—and to grasp spontaneously
(D) that dolphins have the ability of recognizing themselves in mirrors—an ability that is often considered as a sign of self-awareness—and spontaneously grasping
(E) that dolphins are capable of recognizing themselves in mirrors—an ability that is often considered a sign of self-awareness—and of spontaneously grasping
As is the case with every GMAT strategy, the first step is to set up your scratch pad.
To avoid confusion down the line, write down the question number first. Next, write the corresponding letters for each answer choice in a vertical line so you can easily mark them as you work through the process of elimination. Finally, draw a line to designate the space in which you will articulate the particular issue you will later identify within the sentence so that you don't lose sight of it as you work through the problem.
Now that your scratch pad is set up, it’s time to read the sentence.
Although the use of long dashes in this question certainly stands out, it’s important to note that the GMAT does not test punctuation as a standalone issue. This is because punctuation tends to be subjective, whereas all errors on the GMAT must be absolute. In other words, the difference between using dashes and commas in the above sentence is entirely up to the editor of the sentence and has nothing to do with what the exam is testing. Instead, we ought to be investigating the big-picture concepts that the exam deals with. This is often the advice you'll get when working with one of our GMAT tutors.
In this case, the question requires us to consider the subject and verbs in order to develop the clearest possible understanding of the potential errors at hand. Evidently, the subject of the sentence is dolphins who are “capable of recognizing themselves in mirrors,” and “to grasp spontaneously the mood or intention of humans.” Evidently, these two phrases are not parallel. With this in mind, we know we are dealing with a parallelism and verb tense issue.
Right off the bat, we can therefore eliminate choice A for not being parallel.
In choice B, the same issue remains but in reverse.
Despite the fact that choice C seems to change the sentence structure significantly, we remain faced with the same fundamental incommensurability between “recognizing” and “to grasp.”
Not only is choice D wrong due to the unparalleled use of the word “of,” but it also changes the intended meaning of the original sentence by swapping out “being capable” with “having the ability.” Although these phrases are used similarly in colloquial language, “being capable” merely suggests the possibility of having an ability. The Dolphins, however, simply are capable of recognizing themselves in mirrors. With this in mind, always default to the sentence as it was written when you're considering issues of meaning.
The correct answer, of course, going to be choice E, which properly conveys the intended meaning of the sentence with parallel phrases.
We hope this example has demystified sentence correction problems that deal with the relationship between nouns and verbs. To see all of our GMAT sentence correction videos, please check out our YouTube playlist. For further information about MyGuru's proven GMAT tutoring approach, visit the GMAT prep page on our website. To learn more about the GMAT and grad school admissions in general, visit our GMAT admissions blog.