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SC Guessing Strategy 3/2 split [#permalink]
30 Jun 2013, 15:35
This is my first attempt at posting a question on here, and I'm hoping that I don't mess it up. This question has been on my mind for a while now regarding how Official SC questions are set up.
From the limited exposure I've had to SC questions it seems that there is usually an obvious 3/2 split in answer choices for most SC questions, and more often than not it seems like the correct answer is among the 3 side of the split rather than the 2. I am wondering if there is any truth to this observation, and, if this really is a tendency of the test writers, whether it could be a smart idea to use this bit of information as a tie breaker when you are forced to guess between two answer choices. To illustrate this question I've included an example:
Not one of the potential investors is expected to make an offer to buy First Interstate Bank until a merger agreement is signed that includes a provision for penalties if the deal were not to be concluded.
A. is expected to make an offer to buy First Interstate Bank until a merger agreement is signed that includes a provision for penalties if the deal were B. is expected to make an offer for buying First Interstate Bank until they sign a merger agreement including a provision for penalties if the deal was C. is expected to make an offer to buy First Interstate Bank until a merger agreement be signed by them that includes a provision for penalties if the deal were D. are expected to make an offer for buying First Interstate Bank until it signs a merger agreement with a provision for penalties if the deal were E. are expected to make an offer to buy First Interstate Bank until they sign a merger agreement including a provision for penalties if the deal were
To use this question as an example: Say you able to eliminate answer choices B,C, and D, but you are unable to remember the rule for whether the singular verb 'is' or the plural verb 'are' is the right choice in this particular case. In this hypothetical example, say that there is nothing else in either answer choice A or E that gives you any clue as to what the right answer might be, and since you can't remember which verb is correct you are forced to guess between A and E. In this case there is an obvious 3/2 split. There are three answer choices using the verb 'is' and two answer choices using the verb 'are.' In a tiebreaker situation like this, would it be considered a legitimate test taking strategy to give more weight to the three split choice over the two split choice or is this a counterproductive way to think about the test. (btw the OA for this questions is A which is on the three side of the split)
While many questions on the GMAT do have a 2/3 split in the answer choices, it is not a good assumption to assume that the right answer is the one with three choices, the test writers can write it either way and assuming one way or another could lead to a wrong answer that you could have gotten correct using a more thorough grammar check.
Some people do find it easier to focus on the 2/3 split in the answers but be sure to name the rule and identify the reason why you are choosing one over the other before making a choice, be very careful not to allow "sounds right" to make the decision for you. Instead make a decision based on the grammar. If you recognize a grammatical error but don't know which is the correct answer skip the error for the time being and focus on other errors within the sentences. The example you cited has pronoun errors, idiom errors as well as subject/verb errors at the end of the sentence. Never make a guess until you have eliminated all of the errors first.
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Thank you for your response. I guess my thinking was that the test writers might have a tendency to bury the correct answer among a three split because it might make the question a little bit harder. Clearly this is just speculation since we don't know what the test takers are thinking, and this will not be true all of the time. I was just curious to see if anyone else used this strategy in the rare situation where they have to guess on a SC question.
Clearly the things to do are just to focus on studying the SC concepts and working more SC practice questions.
I always get a little nervous about strategies like this. In a small sample size, you can find some interesting patterns, but remember that the people doing the GMAT have been doing it for years and they are very good at making sure the questions really do test CONTENT as opposed to simple test tactics.
You will notice as you continue your studies that the splitting gets much less regular as the questions get more difficult. Focus on building your understanding of grammar rules and proper meaning and you'll be just fine.