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GMAT Tip: Sentence Structure Problems


GMAT Tip: Sentence Structure Problems

Photograph by Runstudio/Getty Images

The GMAT Tip of the Week is a weekly column that includes advice on taking the Graduate Management Admission Test, which is required for admission to most business schools. Every week an instructor from a top test prep company will share suggestions for improving your GMAT score. This week’s tip comes from Zeke Lee, co-founder of the GMAT Pill Study Method.

Sentence structure problems ask GMAT test takers to review a statement, then choose the answer choice that best expresses its intended meaning. Here’s a sample question:

In ancient Thailand, much of the local artisans’ creative energy was expended for the creation of Buddha images and when they constructed and decorated the temples that enshrined them.

A. much of the local artisans’ creative energy was expended for the creation of Buddha images and when they constructed and decorated the temples that enshrined them
B. much of the local artisans’ creative energy was expended on the creation of Buddha images and on construction and decoration of the temples in which they were enshrined
C. much of the local artisans’ creative energy was expended on the creation of Buddha images as well as constructing and decoration of the temples in which they were enshrined
D. creating images of Buddha accounted for much of the local artisans’ creative energy, and also constructing and decorating the temples enshrining them
E. the creating of Buddha images accounted for much of the local artisans’ creative energy as well as construction and decoration of the temples that enshrined them
Official Guide for GMAT Review, 12th edition

The official answer to this question, according to the publishers of the test, is (B). But for many test takers, (D) is a viable option. After all, the phrase “enshrining them” makes the subject the Buddha images, whereas the words “them” and “they” in the rest of the answer choices are ambiguous.

The issue with (D) is sentence structure. “Creating something accounted for X, and also constructing and decorating …” clearly does not make sense in terms of sentence structure. Already we know (D) is no good. And does “them” really refer to Buddha images? It doesn’t. From a sentence structure perspective, the word “them” refers to “local artisans”—which doesn’t make sense. So, (D) cannot be correct.

The sentence structure is better in (B). “Much of [the local artisans'] creative energy was expended on the creation of Buddha images and on construction and decoration of the temples in which they were enshrined” reduces to: “much of [their] energy was expended on [X] and on construction/decoration of temples in which [the Buddha images] were enshrined.”

The structure “expended on X and on Y” is what we want. “They” properly references Buddha images in (B).

Zeke Lee, who scored in the 98th percentile on the GMAT, is the author of How to Ace the GMAT in 1 Month and co-founder of the GMAT Pill Study Method, an online video course that teaches students how to think efficiently on the rigorous GMAT exam. A graduate of Stanford University, Lee has experience as a management consultant at Booz & Co. and as a derivatives trader on Wall Street.


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