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Got a 47 Verbal yesterday, here's my method: pt.2

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Got a 47 Verbal yesterday, here's my method: pt.2 [#permalink] New post 28 Jun 2008, 12:42
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On sentence correction, my approach is obvious, but it's what works for me. I find that agonizing over which sentence "sounds" the best is generally not too helpful. So that's good news for any non-native speakers. If I get down to two sentences and I really, truly can't decide, then I might select on the basis of what sounds right, but I realized early on that I was getting a lot of the questions wrong when I was trying to answer the questions using my ear. That is partly because the correct GMAT answer is not always the one that sounds the best, and also partly because your ear can get pretty confused after reading a sentence five times in different permutations. I do still rely on my ear a little, generally to rule out answers that have a CLEAR subject-verb agreement problem (these errors will really only be clear if the subject and verb are basically right next to each other in the sentence, because subjects and verbs that are separated by other clauses can also get confusing for your ear), or those that are clearly WAY too wordy or awkward. Basically, I only use my ear to rule out sentences that are EXTREMELY wrong. Hopefully, that can rule out one or two of the choices, but don’t despair if you are not a native speaker and/or don’t trust your ear. I never formally learned English grammar, and only know the terms for the different parts of speech because I’ve studied other languages. I got lucky, because I had a teacher in the eighth grade who taught me all I ever needed to know to resolve these types of grammar uncertainties. The method that I learned from him was this: ignore any parts of the sentence that are not in question so that you can simplify the sentence. For instance, consider this sample question:

Violence in the stands at soccer matches has gotten so pronounced in several European countries that some stadiums have adopted new rules that aim to identify fans of visiting teams and that seat them in a separate area.

A. to identify fans of visiting teams and that seat them
B. to identify fans of visiting teams and seat them
C. to identify fans of visiting teams for seating
D. at identifying fans of visiting teams so as to seat them
E. at identifying fans of visiting teams and that seat them

In this question, you can remove the entire first half of the sentence (“Violence in the stands at soccer matches has gotten so pronounced in several European countries that some”), as well as the prepositional phrase “of visiting teams” without disturbing the structure of the phrase in question. Now your sentence is just “Stadiums have adopted new rules that aim to identify fans and that seat them in a separate area.”

From there, I would first try to ignore the details in the sentence so that I could figure out its structure. In this sentence, the structure is “Stadiums have adopted new rules that __X__ and that __Y__,” where X = “aim to identify fans” and Y = “seat them in a separate area.”
Looking at the sentence this way, I can see that the phrases “that __X__” and “that __Y__” are independent from each other, and that each refers to the “new rules”. As a result, the sentence should still make sense if I cover up “that __X__ and,” and read the sentence as “Stadiums have adopted new rules that __Y__.

But plugging the Y back into that sentence leaves me with: “Stadiums have adopted new rules that seat them [fans] in a separate area.” This doesn’t make sense because rules (inanimate objects) cannot themselves undertake the action of seating fans in a separate area.
Instead, you can see that the two phrases X and Y are not actually independent, because the sentence is trying to say that the new rules aim to __X__ and the new rules also aim to __Y__. To avoid being repetitive, you would normally remove the second instance of “aim to,” leaving you with “the new rules aim to __X__ and __Y__,” or “the new rules aim to (identify fans) and (seat them in a separate area).” That’s choice B.

If you really can’t figure the answer out from this method of strategically removing pieces of the sentence that are irrelevant to the grammatical question at hand, make strategic guesses. I have noticed that in sentence correction questions, the five answer choices are usually broken down so that three begin one way (here, they begin with “to identify,” and the other two begin another way (here, “at identifying”). The correct one is almost always (not ALWAYS, but nearly every time) the one with three choices rather than three. So that should knock off answers D and E right off the bat. You’ve got a one in three chance! Choice C might sound good to your ear, but try to think about what it means. If the new rules aimed to identify fans for seating in a separate area, it would mean that the purpose of the new rules was primarily to identify fans in order to place them in already-designated seating areas. Looking at the entire question, it seems more likely that the stadiums did not have separate seating areas until the new rules took effect. Had they already had separate seating areas, the countries probably would not have been so much violence in the first place. So we can assume that the new rules were designed with the intention of achieving two separate goals: first, identifying fans, and second, seating them in a newly-created separate area. So knock off C. You’re down to a one in two chance!

And a final word of advice on the sentence correction section: if you still have a fair amount of time left before the test, READ! Spend at least an hour every day reading any writing that you trust to have grammatically correct prose, and try to keep an eye out for idioms and complex (i.e. multi-clausal) sentences. I truly believe that reading good writing is the best way to learn how to write well.

Last edited by kelli on 29 Jun 2008, 11:40, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Got a 47 Verbal yesterday, here's my method: pt.2 [#permalink] New post 20 Jul 2008, 19:28
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tarek99, I'm getting pretty confused about all these X's and Y's and whether something is parallelism or not, and I think that should be a sign for me to step back from the rules for a second. I can't give you a rule that will hold true in every situation, which is why this stuff can be a little tricky. But you should know that finding a rule to explain the answer to the kind of question you're asking probably wouldn't be very helpful, because it would have so many caveats to it that you wouldn't be able to keep them straight anyway. Rather than trying to draw universal rules from each of the verbal questions you practice, I would recommend that you should use your practice time to try to get a sense of the way the GMAT test-writers think and of the most basic grammar principles that the GMAT tests. From there, you will have to work at making educated guesses as to what is correct. We could probably point out something wrong with every one of the sentences that the GMAT calls correct, but your task is not to find each one of these flaws -- it is to figure out which of those errors the writers were thinking of when they wrote the question. So sometimes you have to prioritize. Choice B might seem a little off to you, but all the others will seem even worse. Or choice A might have a minor error in it, but it still fixes the major error that all the other choices missed. There is no hard and fast rule for this stuff, unfortunately. Hope that helps some?
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Re: Got a 47 Verbal yesterday, here's my method: pt.2 [#permalink] New post 20 Jul 2008, 21:12
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ps. If this post helps you out some, would you please make sure to +1 me? I'm working towards those GMAT challenges so I don't break the bank (well, any more than I already have) on my preparation. Thanks all.
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Re: Got a 47 Verbal yesterday, here's my method: pt.2 [#permalink] New post 28 Jun 2008, 15:17
excellent stuff kelli +1
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Re: Got a 47 Verbal yesterday, here's my method: pt.2 [#permalink] New post 30 Jun 2008, 02:55
Another +1, superstuff
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Re: Got a 47 Verbal yesterday, here's my method: pt.2 [#permalink] New post 10 Jul 2008, 01:08
great post! but I have a question. how come "them" is not ambiguous? I initially was trying to get rid of it because I thought that "them" could refer to either "rules" or "european countries" or even "stadiums." So what makes "them" here clear?
thanks
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Re: Got a 47 Verbal yesterday, here's my method: pt.2 [#permalink] New post 10 Jul 2008, 07:07
superb...great illustration with eg..another +1 from me. :lol:
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Re: Got a 47 Verbal yesterday, here's my method: pt.2 [#permalink] New post 10 Jul 2008, 23:51
tarek99, I'm mostly off email during my family vacation in Jamaica, but just saw your question and thought I'd write back quickly.

The reason the "them" is not ambiguous is that the "to" is not repeated. Had choice B said "to identify fans of visiting fans and to seat them," then it might have been slightly more ambiguous, since the two ideas of that clause (identifying fans + seating them) would have been clearly separated. However, because the "to" was not repeated, it is pretty clear that the two ideas are related.

To put it another way, it's the difference between "to X and Y" and "to X and to Y." In the first instance, X and Y are clearly part of the same idea, so we can assume that the "them" in Y is referring to the "fans" of X.

Let me know if that doesn't make sense to you.
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Re: Got a 47 Verbal yesterday, here's my method: pt.2 [#permalink] New post 11 Jul 2008, 00:19
kelli wrote:
tarek99, I'm mostly off email during my family vacation in Jamaica, but just saw your question and thought I'd write back quickly.

The reason the "them" is not ambiguous is that the "to" is not repeated. Had choice B said "to identify fans of visiting fans and to seat them," then it might have been slightly more ambiguous, since the two ideas of that clause (identifying fans + seating them) would have been clearly separated. However, because the "to" was not repeated, it is pretty clear that the two ideas are related.

To put it another way, it's the difference between "to X and Y" and "to X and to Y." In the first instance, X and Y are clearly part of the same idea, so we can assume that the "them" in Y is referring to the "fans" of X.

Let me know if that doesn't make sense to you.


thanks for the great explanation, kelli! :) but i now have another question. Very often I find sentence correction question that would NOT repeat the second "to" but is still considered parallel. So for example: "To X and to Y" or "To X and Y" are pretty much the same thing because in the second example, the missing "to" for Y is still considered parallel because the second "to" is implied. so how can we differentiate between a sentence that would avoid the second "to" in order to simplify parallelism vs a sentence that is trying to express the same idea about both X and Y? know what i mean? because as i was working on this question, i honestly thought that the second "to" was implied.
that would be an interesting question.
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Re: Got a 47 Verbal yesterday, here's my method: pt.2 [#permalink] New post 11 Jul 2008, 08:45
fundoo explanation :-D
The weakest of my areas in GMAT is SC now i think i will follow thi post .
Kelly do u have other tips do pot in we would like to know other fundae
of SC .Any notes links .
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Re: Got a 47 Verbal yesterday, here's my method: pt.2 [#permalink] New post 20 Jul 2008, 00:38
Great post!

in your last paragraph in the original post, you said that the answer choice is almost always in the 3 options as opposed to the 2 others.
What I mean is... 3 answer choice options begin in one way, and 2 others begin in another way, and you feel that it is almost always in the 3 that begin the same way.

I'm asking b/c it's weird that THIS weekend, I came across something called the 3/2 rule (or something like that) in a prep book that said that in those cases, the right answer is usually one of the TWO!
Confusing, isn't it?
I didn't have trouble figuring this one question out, but I wonder if the source I'm using is an inaccurate one :?:
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Re: Got a 47 Verbal yesterday, here's my method: pt.2 [#permalink] New post 20 Jul 2008, 19:12
Calala22, thanks for pointing out that discrepancy on the 3/2 rule. ( I didn't even know that there was such a thing as the 3/2 rule before, so that's funny that you found it elsewhere.) I don't claim to be an expert on the GMAT and probably don't have as much data to work from as someone who has compiled a book on the subject, but I will say that in my own experience I have nearly always found that the correct answer was one of the 3, and not one of the 2. It would seem to make sense to me that that would be the way the test-writers would choose to do it, because it means that someone who is able to figure out which of the two ways is correct will still have to pick from 3 answer choices -- thereby making the test a little more guess-proof.
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Re: Got a 47 Verbal yesterday, here's my method: pt.2 [#permalink] New post 21 Jul 2008, 00:12
Kelli:

I guess you are spot on with strategy to attempt a SC question. Most of us end up doing so when we practice a lot SC questions. The bigger problem however is to do that in test situation within 1 min or 1 min 10 sec and not in 2+ min since many posts here advise to gain more time for CR and RC at the expense of SC.

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Re: Got a 47 Verbal yesterday, here's my method: pt.2 [#permalink] New post 24 Jul 2008, 10:51
kelli wrote:
On sentence correction, my approach is obvious, but it's what works for me. I find that agonizing over which sentence "sounds" the best is generally not too helpful. So that's good news for any non-native speakers. If I get down to two sentences and I really, truly can't decide, then I might select on the basis of what sounds right, but I realized early on that I was getting a lot of the questions wrong when I was trying to answer the questions using my ear. That is partly because the correct GMAT answer is not always the one that sounds the best, and also partly because your ear can get pretty confused after reading a sentence five times in different permutations. I do still rely on my ear a little, generally to rule out answers that have a CLEAR subject-verb agreement problem (these errors will really only be clear if the subject and verb are basically right next to each other in the sentence, because subjects and verbs that are separated by other clauses can also get confusing for your ear), or those that are clearly WAY too wordy or awkward. Basically, I only use my ear to rule out sentences that are EXTREMELY wrong. Hopefully, that can rule out one or two of the choices, but don’t despair if you are not a native speaker and/or don’t trust your ear. I never formally learned English grammar, and only know the terms for the different parts of speech because I’ve studied other languages. I got lucky, because I had a teacher in the eighth grade who taught me all I ever needed to know to resolve these types of grammar uncertainties. The method that I learned from him was this: ignore any parts of the sentence that are not in question so that you can simplify the sentence. For instance, consider this sample question:

Violence in the stands at soccer matches has gotten so pronounced in several European countries that some stadiums have adopted new rules that aim to identify fans of visiting teams and that seat them in a separate area.

A. to identify fans of visiting teams and that seat them
B. to identify fans of visiting teams and seat them
C. to identify fans of visiting teams for seating
D. at identifying fans of visiting teams so as to seat them
E. at identifying fans of visiting teams and that seat them

In this question, you can remove the entire first half of the sentence (“Violence in the stands at soccer matches has gotten so pronounced in several European countries that some”), as well as the prepositional phrase “of visiting teams” without disturbing the structure of the phrase in question. Now your sentence is just “Stadiums have adopted new rules that aim to identify fans and that seat them in a separate area.”

From there, I would first try to ignore the details in the sentence so that I could figure out its structure. In this sentence, the structure is “Stadiums have adopted new rules that __X__ and that __Y__,” where X = “aim to identify fans” and Y = “seat them in a separate area.”
Looking at the sentence this way, I can see that the phrases “that __X__” and “that __Y__” are independent from each other, and that each refers to the “new rules”. As a result, the sentence should still make sense if I cover up “that __X__ and,” and read the sentence as “Stadiums have adopted new rules that __Y__.

But plugging the Y back into that sentence leaves me with: “Stadiums have adopted new rules that seat them [fans] in a separate area.” This doesn’t make sense because rules (inanimate objects) cannot themselves undertake the action of seating fans in a separate area.
Instead, you can see that the two phrases X and Y are not actually independent, because the sentence is trying to say that the new rules aim to __X__ and the new rules also aim to __Y__. To avoid being repetitive, you would normally remove the second instance of “aim to,” leaving you with “the new rules aim to __X__ and __Y__,” or “the new rules aim to (identify fans) and (seat them in a separate area).” That’s choice B.

If you really can’t figure the answer out from this method of strategically removing pieces of the sentence that are irrelevant to the grammatical question at hand, make strategic guesses. I have noticed that in sentence correction questions, the five answer choices are usually broken down so that three begin one way (here, they begin with “to identify,” and the other two begin another way (here, “at identifying”). The correct one is almost always (not ALWAYS, but nearly every time) the one with three choices rather than three. So that should knock off answers D and E right off the bat. You’ve got a one in three chance! Choice C might sound good to your ear, but try to think about what it means. If the new rules aimed to identify fans for seating in a separate area, it would mean that the purpose of the new rules was primarily to identify fans in order to place them in already-designated seating areas. Looking at the entire question, it seems more likely that the stadiums did not have separate seating areas until the new rules took effect. Had they already had separate seating areas, the countries probably would not have been so much violence in the first place. So we can assume that the new rules were designed with the intention of achieving two separate goals: first, identifying fans, and second, seating them in a newly-created separate area. So knock off C. You’re down to a one in two chance!

And a final word of advice on the sentence correction section: if you still have a fair amount of time left before the test, READ! Spend at least an hour every day reading any writing that you trust to have grammatically correct prose, and try to keep an eye out for idioms and complex (i.e. multi-clausal) sentences. I truly believe that reading good writing is the best way to learn how to write well.


Excellent Post!!
Kelli I use the same approach for long SCs with modifiers and it works like charm.
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Re: Got a 47 Verbal yesterday, here's my method: pt.2 [#permalink] New post 24 Jul 2008, 13:01
Hey Kelli,

Thanks for the great posts!! I would love to get your tips on the RC! :)
Re: Got a 47 Verbal yesterday, here's my method: pt.2   [#permalink] 24 Jul 2008, 13:01
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