How to Solve Fully Underlined Sentence Correction Questions
Last updated on December 8th, 2014
While attempting the questions in the Verbal section on the GMAT, one type of question that makes your hearts skip a beat is definitely the fully underlined sentence correction question.
In your mind, Sentence Correction is already full of gruelling grammar rules and exceptions – add to that a fully underlined question and you probably don’t even know where to begin! Imagine getting such a question in the last 15 minutes of your test – a brain shutdown or heart attack in this circumstance cannot be overruled 🙂
One reason that can be attributed to this mind-freeze is purely psychological. So let’s look at how to work out these questions. The first question that we need to ask ourselves is this; “Why does GMAC underline the complete sentence?” “Is it just to make life more complicated?”
We think that an SC question tests us on too many concepts. However, somewhere at the back of our mind, don’t we know that many concepts tested means easier error-identification? The most challenging part of a fully underlined SC question is the fact that you cannot use the vertical scan technique to eliminate options. This is because every option begins differently.
Here’s the good news though. Research on hundreds of official GMAT questions show that fully underlines SC questions very often test 2 concepts: Modifiers & Parallelism. So, if you are thorough with these two concepts and are able to identify underlying patterns and traps, tackling fully underlined questions can become very easy!
The Modifier Rule(s):
We all know the basic rule for Modifiers, don’t we? Let’s quickly list down those rules here.
1. A modifier must be placed closest to what it modifies.
Ex: Arranged in secret, the discovery of Romeo and Juliet’s wedding was not as expected – Wrong!
Arranged in secret, Romeo and Juliet’s wedding was discovered in the most unexpected way – Right!
2. Whatever the modifier modifies must exist in the sentence. Otherwise it would create a dangling modifier.
Ex: Using a Scanning Electron Microscope, upto 1000 times magnification can be achieved while trying to study blood cells – Wrong!
Using a Scanning Electron Microscope, a technician can achieve upto 1000 times magnification while trying to study blood cells – Right!
3. Make sure that the modifier doesn’t modify the possessive form of the noun that it is supposed to modify.
Ex: A developing nation, India’s status is slowly rising. – Wrong!
A developing nation, India is slowly rising in its status – Right!
4. “Which” is a non-essential modifier and “That” is an essential modifier. However both of them refer to the noun that immediately precedes them.
Ex: I am trying to sell my washing machine, which was brought 20 years ago. – Right!
This is the antique clock that was owned by the Queen herself – Right!
5. Adverbial modifiers usually take the place after the object of the verb.
Ex:Ram killed with one arrow Ravan – Wrong!
Ram killed Ravan with one arrow – Right!
Now that we have revised the basic rules, let’s look at how we can use the above pointers to solve a question.
Controlling most inroads to business ventures in Europe, economists argue that the U.S., with its diminished economic leverage there, now has reason to fear the European Common Market.
A) Controlling most inroads to business ventures in Europe, economists argue that the U.S., with its diminished economic leverage there, now has reason to fear the European Common Market.
B) Controlling most inroads to business ventures in Europe, the diminished economic leverage of the U.S. there is, according to economists, one reason to fear the European Common Market.
C) Because it controls most inroads to business ventures in Europe, a place where the U.S. have diminished economic leverage, economists argue that they now have a reason to fear the European Common Market.
D) Because it controls most inroads to business ventures in Europe, economists argue that the U.S.’s diminished economic leverage is a reason for the U.S. to fear the actions of the European Common Market.
E) Economists argue that the U.S., with its diminished economic leverage in Europe, now has reason to fear the actions of the European Common Market, which controls most inroads to business ventures in Europe.
If you notice, when the whole sentence is underlined, then the options are different versions of the questions by itself. Hence, comparing the options to find the error might be tedious.
So let’s try to identify the error, which is clearly misplaced modifiers in this case. The core sentence in this question is “Economists argue that the U.S, now has reason to fear the European Common Market” and the modifying phrases are “Controlling … Europe” and “with … there”.
The phrase modifies “Economists” incorrectly whereas the second phrase modifies “U.S” and hence is right. Yaay 🙂 Error identified!!
A – Eliminated for the above stated reason.
B – The phrase “Controlling … Europe” incorrectly modifies the diminished Economic Leverage – Eliminated.
C – Look at the phrase “ A place where the U.S have …” U.S is singular and have is plural – SV Agreement error – Eliminate.
D – The phrase “Because ….. Europe” again incorrectly modifies “Economists” – Eliminate.
E – OA – The phrase “ with … Europe” modifies U.S and the phrase “which .. Europe” modifies European common market.
And there, you have the answer. 🙂
The Parallelism Rule:
Whenever there is a list, the items of the list must be balanced. By balanced we mean that the items in the list need to be of the same grammatical structure.
Ex: My cricket coach told me that I should diet, follow a strict fitness regimen and I should lose my weight – Wrong! The clauses in the sentence (list) don’t follow similar grammatical structure.
My cricket coach told me that I should diet, follow a strict fitness regimen and lose my weight – Right! All the clauses in the list follow a similar grammatical structure.
Parallelism, again as said, isn’t a grammatical rule by itself. It is just a way in which a sentence needs to be constructed so that it looks elegant and neat! However remember that sometimes when a complete sentence is underlined, then check out whether there is a list and use parallelism to arrive at the answer.
Other Grammar Rules to be Remembered:
When the complete sentence is underlined, remember that it’s easy for GMAC to play around with phrases and clauses. So keep the following in mind as well.
We might be too engrossed in trying to figure out modifiers and parallelism that we might miss out to identify run-on sentences. If you remember, run-on sentences are two dependent clauses connected with a comma.
Ex: I took the GMAT, I scored 750. Wrong!
I took the GMAT and scored 750.
Because of modifiers or additive phrases in between, the Subject and the Verb might be placed far from each other and hence identifying subject verb agreement errors might also be a problem.
If figuring out run-on sentences is on one hand, so is figuring out sentence fragments. Again, a sentence fragment is a phrase that ends up making a sentence incomplete. Since multiple manipulations are possible with a completely underlined sentence, it is easy for GMAT to leave a sentence fragment and since we have SCTVS (Sentence Correction Tunnel Vision Syndrome :)) we tend to only look at the erroneous part and neglect the other part where there are errors.
Who said completely underlined SC questions are a trouble now? Just don’t lose your cool and have a methodical approach! 🙂
Here are some fully underlined SC questions for more practice:
OG 12 :
Qn 96, 100, 107, 108, 110, and 113
Verbal Review :
Qn 59, 88, 104, 109 and 111.
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