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How to improve from great (760) to incredible (780!) on SC

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How to improve from great (760) to incredible (780!) on SC [#permalink]

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This (LONG!) post is in honor of a fine fellow named gmat2k17, who is the proud owner of a 760 -- but wants to improve by another 20 points. He asked the following question in the “Should I retake the GMAT” thread:

Quote:
Any advice you would like to enhance the SC skills. I am good in CR and RC but SC is pulling me down. I am thinking of re-taking the GMAT to improve my score by another 20 points and enhance my V41 to V46.

So basically: you’re asking for near-perfection here. I like that! Of course, there’s no magical formula or magical resource that will get you there – but hopefully a few changes to the way you focus on questions can help a little bit. And if they don't help you, hopefully they'll help somebody else! :-D

This is an oversimplification, but I like to think of SC errors as coming in three broad categories:

    1) Basic, straightforward grammar rules
    2) Advanced/nuanced grammar rules – or funny exceptions to the basic grammar rules
    3) Subtle, meaning-based stuff

And as you go down that list, you’re likely to encounter increasingly difficult issues that can separate great test-takers from truly elite ones.

Let’s take these one at a time:


1) Basic, straightforward grammar rules


As you all probably know, GMAT tests a handful of mechanical grammar rules in a relatively straightforward way. A small sampling:

    • pronoun agreement
    • modifier placement (especially “that,” “which,” and participles, among others)
    • parallelism
    • subject-verb agreement
    • verb tenses (past perfect tense usually causes the most confusion here)
    • placement of -ing and –ed modifiers
    • basic comparisons (especially using “like” and “unlike”)
    • countable vs. non-countable modifiers
    • semicolons

These sorts of things are pretty foundational (and my list isn’t meant to be exhaustive – there are obviously other grammar topics we could add here). If you make a mistake on basic, non-tricky applications of these fundamental rules, you’ll probably struggle to get an elite score.

So for a guy like gmat2k17 who has already scored a 41V, these are almost certainly a non-issue at this stage. Let’s move on…


2) Advanced/nuanced grammar rules – and funny exceptions to the “rules”



If you’re already scoring in the low 40s on verbal, this is the easiest place to look for more points on SC.

Many of the “foundational” grammar topics I listed above have some funky little exceptions and nuances. Take, for example, our old friend “which.” Here’s a straightforward, textbook example:

  • My favorite restaurant is in Brooklyn, which serves delicious Uzbek horse meat salad.

GMAT veterans have seen this sort of thing dozens of times: “which” seems to be modifying “Brooklyn”, and that doesn’t make sense. If Brooklyn served delicious Uzbek horse meat salad, I’d move there in a heartbeat. But for GMAT purposes, that’s illogical.

But then there’s this classic OG sentence:

Quote:
Emily Dickinson’s letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson, which were written over a period beginning a few years before Susan’s marriage to Emily’s brother and ending shortly before Emily’s death in 1886, outnumber her letters to anyone else.


If you’re applying the most basic form of the “which” rule, you’d conclude that “which” is trying to modify “Susan Huntington Dickinson”, right? And you’d say that this sentence is incorrect – but it turns out that it isn’t. Check out the full discussion here: https://gmatclub.com/forum/emily-dickin ... 10142.html

There are similarly tricky nuances and exceptions to other basic rules. A few examples:

  • Past perfect tense: often, we oversimplify and say that past perfect tense must be accompanied by another action in simple past tense. But there are exceptions, as discussed toward the end of this thread. An official example can also be found here: https://gmatclub.com/forum/less-than-35 ... 75119.html

  • Parallelism: I don’t think that there are many exceptions to the parallelism rules, exactly, but sometimes, the exact application of the rule can be incredibly tricky, especially when the parallel elements are separated by a ton of text. A couple of my favorite examples can be found here or here.

  • Pronouns: actually, there’s tons of nuance to understanding exactly when the GMAT considers “it” or “they” ambiguous. A discussion on this issue can be found here or there's an official GMAT example here.

We could go and on and with examples. Bottom line: to get a crazy-elite (46!) verbal score, you’ll need to know when the “basic grammar rules” of the GMAT start to break down. Mike (GMATNinjaTwo) and I are still constantly learning more about the GMAT’s funny nuances with some of this stuff – so there’s ALWAYS at least some room to continue improving in this area.


3) Subtle, meaning-based stuff



This is probably the biggest issue that separates good SC scores from AMAZING SC scores. And there’s no single formula or tip or trick or gimmick that I could ever offer that will magically make you great at deciphering the subtle little meaning differences between answer choices.

Rules aren’t helpful here: you just have to think deeply and precisely about how, exactly, a small tweak to the sentence will change the meaning of the sentence. And that’s really, really hard – which is why it tends to separate the low-40s verbal scores from the mid-to-high-40s scores.

So here’s what we always tell our students to do on SC, regardless of whether they're chasing a 46V or something more modest:

  • Step 1: cross out the answer choices with any concrete, definite, rule-based errors. (I’ll bet that most of you are already pretty darned good at this part – especially a guy like gmat2k17, with his 41V.)
  • Step 2: compare the remaining answer choices, and figure out EVERY difference between each pair of choices. Then, see if you can figure out how those tiny little differences might impact the meaning.

Almost without exception, there’s room to improve at step 2, partly because every hard GMAT SC question is just a little bit different from the next one. I have plenty of criticisms of the exam, but the test-writers are definitely creative and crafty, and they’ll keep you on your toes when it comes to the meaning of SC sentences.

Basically, your job is to become really precise at identifying those little differences. You’ll never see the same little difference twice – but eventually, you’ll start to “get inside the GMAT’s head” and develop a super-sharp instinct for these things.

Here are a few of my favorite official examples with some funky little meaning details embedded in them:


If any of you have favorite examples of really tough, meaning-based OFFICIAL SC questions, post ‘em below. Would love to hear which ones have helped you get inside the GMAT’s head. :-D

Go kick some butt, gmat2k17!
_________________

GMAT Club Verbal Expert | GMAT/GRE tutor at www.gmatninja.com (Now hiring!) | GMAT blog | Food blog | Friendly warning: I'm bad at PMs

GMAT Ninja Wednesdays LIVE on YouTube
Join us, and ask your questions in advance!

Beginners' guides to GMAT verbal
Reading Comprehension | Critical Reasoning | Sentence Correction

SC & CR Questions of the Day (QOTDs), featuring expert explanations
All QOTDs | Subscribe via email | RSS

Need an expert reply?
Hit the request verbal experts' reply button -- and please be specific about your question. Feel free to tag @GMATNinja and @GMATNinjaTwo in your post.

Sentence Correction articles & resources
How to go from great (760) to incredible (780) on GMAT SC | That "-ing" Word Probably Isn't a Verb | That "-ed" Word Might Not Be a Verb, Either | No-BS Guide to GMAT Idioms | "Being" is not the enemy | WTF is "that" doing in my sentence?

Reading Comprehension, Critical Reasoning, and other articles & resources
All GMAT Ninja articles on GMAT Club | Using LSAT for GMAT CR & RC |7 reasons why your actual GMAT scores don't match your practice test scores | How to get 4 additional "fake" GMAT Prep tests for $29.99... in any section order

YouTube verbal webinars:
"Next-level" GMAT pronouns | Uses of "that" on the GMAT | Parallelism and meaning | Simplifying GMAT verb tenses | Comparisons, part I |
November webinar schedule

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Re: How to improve from great (760) to incredible (780!) on SC [#permalink]

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New post 14 Apr 2017, 15:29
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Thanks a lot GMATNinja.

Thanks for taking out time and writing this detailed post for me. I'm sure it will help others as well.

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How to improve from great (760) to incredible (780!) on SC [#permalink]

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New post 19 May 2017, 09:07
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wow... this is really helpful. Thanks!
I wish I could give 100 kudos :)

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Status: GMAT and GRE tutor
Joined: 13 Aug 2009
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Kudos [?]: 2049 [0], given: 465

Location: United States
GMAT 1: 780 Q51 V46
GMAT 2: 800 Q51 V51
GRE 1: 340 Q170 V170
Re: How to improve from great (760) to incredible (780!) on SC [#permalink]

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New post 19 May 2017, 14:07
Thank you, yashbabu! So glad to hear that it's helpful!
_________________

GMAT Club Verbal Expert | GMAT/GRE tutor at www.gmatninja.com (Now hiring!) | GMAT blog | Food blog | Friendly warning: I'm bad at PMs

GMAT Ninja Wednesdays LIVE on YouTube
Join us, and ask your questions in advance!

Beginners' guides to GMAT verbal
Reading Comprehension | Critical Reasoning | Sentence Correction

SC & CR Questions of the Day (QOTDs), featuring expert explanations
All QOTDs | Subscribe via email | RSS

Need an expert reply?
Hit the request verbal experts' reply button -- and please be specific about your question. Feel free to tag @GMATNinja and @GMATNinjaTwo in your post.

Sentence Correction articles & resources
How to go from great (760) to incredible (780) on GMAT SC | That "-ing" Word Probably Isn't a Verb | That "-ed" Word Might Not Be a Verb, Either | No-BS Guide to GMAT Idioms | "Being" is not the enemy | WTF is "that" doing in my sentence?

Reading Comprehension, Critical Reasoning, and other articles & resources
All GMAT Ninja articles on GMAT Club | Using LSAT for GMAT CR & RC |7 reasons why your actual GMAT scores don't match your practice test scores | How to get 4 additional "fake" GMAT Prep tests for $29.99... in any section order

YouTube verbal webinars:
"Next-level" GMAT pronouns | Uses of "that" on the GMAT | Parallelism and meaning | Simplifying GMAT verb tenses | Comparisons, part I |
November webinar schedule

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Re: How to improve from great (760) to incredible (780!) on SC [#permalink]

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New post 23 Jun 2017, 01:27
Great post (like always :)) GMAT Ninja.
Your posts always clear doubts.

I need your help though. I have been trying to get answers to some specific SC rules and searched various sites and videos on youtube but still I am confused and lack understanding on those rules.

Is it possible, if I pm you the doubts and you provide your understanding on them. Please let me know.

Thanks :)
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Help me make my explanation better by providing a logical feedback.

If you liked the post, HIT KUDOS !!

Don't quit.............Do it.

Kudos [?]: 21 [0], given: 275

Expert Post
GMAT Club Verbal Expert
User avatar
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Status: GMAT and GRE tutor
Joined: 13 Aug 2009
Posts: 1230

Kudos [?]: 2049 [0], given: 465

Location: United States
GMAT 1: 780 Q51 V46
GMAT 2: 800 Q51 V51
GRE 1: 340 Q170 V170
Re: How to improve from great (760) to incredible (780!) on SC [#permalink]

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New post 24 Jun 2017, 12:19
Shiv2016 wrote:
Great post (like always ) GMAT Ninja.
Your posts always clear doubts.

I need your help though. I have been trying to get answers to some specific SC rules and searched various sites and videos on youtube but still I am confused and lack understanding on those rules.

Is it possible, if I pm you the doubts and you provide your understanding on them. Please let me know.

Thanks


Thank you for the kind words, Shiv2016! I'll be honest: I get absolutely buried in PMs and have zero hope of responding to all of them -- and in the spirit of the GMAT Club community, public discussions are always better. So could I trouble you to start a thread (or multiple threads) with your questions? And then tag me in it, and I'll do my best to respond there.

Thanks!
_________________

GMAT Club Verbal Expert | GMAT/GRE tutor at www.gmatninja.com (Now hiring!) | GMAT blog | Food blog | Friendly warning: I'm bad at PMs

GMAT Ninja Wednesdays LIVE on YouTube
Join us, and ask your questions in advance!

Beginners' guides to GMAT verbal
Reading Comprehension | Critical Reasoning | Sentence Correction

SC & CR Questions of the Day (QOTDs), featuring expert explanations
All QOTDs | Subscribe via email | RSS

Need an expert reply?
Hit the request verbal experts' reply button -- and please be specific about your question. Feel free to tag @GMATNinja and @GMATNinjaTwo in your post.

Sentence Correction articles & resources
How to go from great (760) to incredible (780) on GMAT SC | That "-ing" Word Probably Isn't a Verb | That "-ed" Word Might Not Be a Verb, Either | No-BS Guide to GMAT Idioms | "Being" is not the enemy | WTF is "that" doing in my sentence?

Reading Comprehension, Critical Reasoning, and other articles & resources
All GMAT Ninja articles on GMAT Club | Using LSAT for GMAT CR & RC |7 reasons why your actual GMAT scores don't match your practice test scores | How to get 4 additional "fake" GMAT Prep tests for $29.99... in any section order

YouTube verbal webinars:
"Next-level" GMAT pronouns | Uses of "that" on the GMAT | Parallelism and meaning | Simplifying GMAT verb tenses | Comparisons, part I |
November webinar schedule

Kudos [?]: 2049 [0], given: 465

Re: How to improve from great (760) to incredible (780!) on SC   [#permalink] 24 Jun 2017, 12:19
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How to improve from great (760) to incredible (780!) on SC

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