3 Colloquialisms to Avoid on GMAT Sentence Correction

by on August 4th, 2015

GMAT-blog-colloquialismsYou ear can be a powerful tool on the GMAT. Often times test takers, especially native English speakers, can tell what sounds right and what doesn’t. However, there are a few instances when your ear can lead you astray. This is because there are some things we say in every day English that would be considered incorrect on the GMAT.

Take a look at these examples:

1) If a friend calls, will you tell them that I’m busy?

What’s wrong:

In everyday English we often use “they” to refer to a singular person when the gender is unknown. A statement like this, however, will never be correct on the GMAT. You need to use “him or her” instead because the pronoun MUST agree with what it is referring to—singular with singular and plural with plural.

Correct version: If a friend calls, will you tell him or her that I’m busy?

Another sentence that would be absolutely incorrect on the GMAT, and in all truth, in everyday English, as well:

2) After failing the math test, Mark’s parents were disappointed.

What’s wrong:

It was Mark who failed the math test, not his parents. The first phrase and up to the comma is a modifier which is supposed to be modifying Mark; “Mark” should come directly after the comma, as Mark should be the modified. Instead “Mark’s parents” is placed after the comma so it is the parents that are are modified. This is what we call a dangling modifier.

Correct version: After failing the math test, Mark was disappointed and so were his parents.

Another problem with the way we speak colloquially is our tendency to imply things we don’t mean. For example:

3) I can’t decide if I want to start my GMAT studies with Verbal or Quant.

What’s wrong with this statement:

When choosing between two alternatives, “whether” is the proper word of choice to connect the two options. Using the word “if” in the above example unintentionally implies the possibility of not starting your GMAT studies at all! And we know that can’t be true.

Correct version: I can’t decide whether I want to start my GMAT studies with Verbal or Quant.

In summary, your ear can be helpful, but it is important not to rely on it too much. You need to have a good grammar knowledge base to understand when you can rely on your ear and when you cannot.

This post appeared first on the Economist GMAT Tutor blog.

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