Archives For Verbal

GMAT-sentence-correctionOn some Sentence Correction (SC) problems, an error jumps out at you immediately. On others, you’re left trying to figure out where to start. How do you dig in when the starting point isn’t obvious?

Try this GMATPrep® problem from the free exams and then we’ll talk about it.

* “A recording system was so secretly installed and operated in the Kennedy Oval Office that even Theodore C. Sorensen, the White House counsel, did not know it existed.

“(A) A recording system was so secretly installed and operated in the Kennedy Oval Office that

“(B) So secret was a recording system installation and operation in the Kennedy Oval Office

“(C) It was so secret that a recording system was installed and operated in the Kennedy Oval Office

“(D) A recording system that was so secretly installed and operated in the Kennedy Oval Office

“(E) Installed and operated so secretly in the Kennedy Oval Office was a recording system that”

The first step on SC is to glance at the start of the underline (even before you read the sentence) in order to see whether the opening change in the answers gives you a clue about where to start. In this case, the underline starts right at the beginning of the sentence. A scan down the beginning of each answer choice signals exactly nothing on this problem. Now what?

Okay, on to step 2: read the original sentence (for both meaning and grammar). What do you think?

The sentence sounds kind of clunky. It uses an idiom (so X that Y). Is the idiom used correctly? Here are some correct examples.

She was SO extraordinarily lucky THAT she actually won the lottery three separate times.

The CEO was SO preoccupied with profits THAT he missed the signs of a market collapse.

Notice the structure in these examples. There are actually two subject-and-verb pairs—one set before the word that and one set after. In addition, the Y portion of the sentence (after that) represents evidence to support the scenario in X or some consequence of that scenario. The fact that she won the lottery three times is evidence that she’s really lucky. The CEO’s preoccupation actually caused the CEO to miss signs of the collapse.

The original sentence has this same structure:

(A) The system was SO secretly installed THAT even Sorensen did not know it existed.

This structure, then, is correct in the original sentence. What about the other answers?

Here’s where things start to get messy! Strip down the structures for each choice:

(B) SO secret was the system (even Sorensen did not know it existed.)

(C) It was SO secret THAT a system was installed (even Sorensen did not know it existed.)

(D) A system that was SO secretly installed (even Sorensen did not know it existed.)

(E) Installed SO secretly was a system THAT (even Sorensen did not know it existed.)

Answer (B) is missing the that portion of the idiom. People often skip this word in real life but notice what happens when you do so:

She was so late, I wasn’t even sure she was coming!

There are two complete sentences connected only by a comma. That’s a comma splice error! Eliminate (B).

Answer (D) does have the word that, but it’s before the so. This sentence turns out to have no main verb for the subject (system). That was so secretly installed modifies system, and even Sorensen… doesn’t provide a verb for system. Eliminate (D).

In both cases, the missing that signaled a problem with sentence structure.

Answer (C) has the that…but wait a second. It moved. Is it still okay?

No! That a system was installed is just a modifier of secret; it’s not actually finishing off the idiom by providing some follow-on info or consequence of the so portion. There should still be a that before even Sorensen:

It was SO secret that a system was installed THAT even Sorensen did not know it existed.

(That sentence may still sound clunky to you. The double that may be tripping your “sounds bad!” instincts, or possibly the passive It was opening. I definitely wouldn’t write the sentence this way myself!)

Eliminate (C). Okay, what about answer (E)?

The so X portion of the sentence should provide the opening information that is later addressed in the that Y portion. What was so surprising that Sorensen didn’t know?

The surprise was that this system had been installed and was being operated in the area where he worked. In answer (E), though, those verbs come before the so—that is, they are not part of the X portion of the sentence. Eliminate (E).

Only answer (A) uses the idiom to convey the proper meaning: This system was SO secretly installed and operated THAT even someone who worked there didn’t know about it!

The correct answer is (A).

Key Takeaways: Meaning, Structure, and Idioms in SC

(1) When you don’t spot an obvious way into the sentence, consider examining the core sentence, particularly if the sentence contains a structure that extends across nearly the whole thing, such as parallelism or an idiom (as in this case).

(2) Messing up an idiom can lead to both meaning and structure errors. Even if you don’t know the idiom, then, you might still be able to narrow down the answers! In the problem above, answer (B) was a run-on and answer (D) was a fragment, all because the usage of the idiom was messed up.

(3) Stripping the sentence down to the minimum necessary to test the sentence (and idiom) structure takes some time but may be your best shot at answering the question. This may not get you all the way to the right answer, but there’s a good chance it will help you eliminate some wrong answers.

* GMATPrep® questions courtesy of the Graduate Management Admissions Council. Usage of this question does not imply endorsement by GMAC.

 

Sentence-correction-part-3-gmatWelcome to the final installment in a series of three articles about meaning and sentence structure in sentence correction. Our first one tested meaning and also covered issues related to having to break the sentence into chunks. In the second, we talked about how to use that chunk idea to strip the sentence down to the core structure vs. the modifiers.

Today, I’ve got a third GMATPrep® problem for you following some of these same themes (I’m not going to tell you which ones till after you’ve tried the problem!).

* “Today’s technology allows manufacturers to make small cars more fuel-efficient now than at any time in their production history.

“(A) small cars more fuel-efficient now than at any time in their

“(B) small cars that are more fuel-efficient than they were at any time in their

“(C) small cars that are more fuel-efficient than those at any other time in

“(D) more fuel-efficient small cars than those at any other time in their

“(E) more fuel-efficient small cars now than at any time in”

The first glance doesn’t indicate a lot this time. The answers change from small cars to more (fuel-efficient small cars), which isn’t much of a clue. Go ahead and read the original sentence.

What did you think? When I first read it, I shrugged and thought, “That sounds okay.” If you can’t come up with something to tackle from the first glance or the first read-through, then compare answers (A) and (B), looking for differences.

Hmm. I see—do we need to say that are more fuel-efficient? Maybe. Answer (C) uses that same structure. Oh, hey, answer (C) tosses in the word other! I know what they’re doing!

If you’ve seen the word other tested within a comparison before, you may know, too. If not, get ready to make a note. Take a look at these two sentences:

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With GMAT INTERACT™ coming June 16th, we’d like to take you behind-the-scenes to explore some fun facts about GMAT INTERACT and the creation process that has made all of this possible. Here are a few fun facts we’d like to share.

1. GMAT INTERACT was years in the making.

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It took over 6,000 hours of development to bring GMAT INTERACT to life. An expert team of Manhattan Prep designers, coders, developers, and instructors worked for over three years on the design and development of the platform to create a user experience that is unlike anything else in test prep.

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GMAT INTERACT is a comprehensive on demand, self-paced program that features 35+ lessons that are interactive, funny, and completely directed by you. No two people see the same thing. Designed around the student-teacher connection, an expert Manhattan Prep instructor will guide you through each section of the GMAT, asking you questions and prompting you to think about the content presented. What’s more: every response you give tailors the lesson you’ll receive.

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Manhattan GMAT is known for our incredible instructors (just check out our Beat The GMAT Verified Reviews). Not only are our teachers top scoring GMAT experts, they’re also fun and engaging—and we’ve put them front and center in GMAT INTERACT. And, we may have also thrown in a sock puppet or two…

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When we say that GMAT INTERACT is comprehensive – we mean it! We put eleven of our most accomplished instructors in front of the camera, take-after-take, and are delivering them to your computer and mobile devices wherever you are. Not just a video, our instructors will engage with you based on the responses and answers you input.

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While the full version of GMAT INTERACT won’t be available until June 16th for purchase, you can try a FREE GMAT INTERACT Geometry Lesson right now, for free. So what are you waiting for? Jump in and have some fun! Test prep doesn’t have to be boring ever again!

GMAT-sentence-correctionLast time, we tried a problem that tested meaning; we also discussed how to compare entire chunks of the answer choices. Today, we’re going to combine those two things into a new skill.

Try this GMATPrep® problem from the free exams and then we’ll talk about it.

* “The striking differences between the semantic organization of Native American languages and that of European languages, in both grammar and vocabulary, have led scholars to think about the degree to which differences in language may be correlated with nonlinguistic differences.

“(A) that of European languages, in both grammar and vocabulary, have

“(B) that of European languages, including grammar and vocabulary, has

“(C) those of European languages, which include grammar and vocabulary, have

“(D) those of European languages, in grammar as well as vocabulary, has

“(E) those of European languages, both in grammar and vocabulary, has”

At first glance, the underline isn’t super long on this one, Glance down the first word of each answer. What does a split between that and those signify?

Both are pronouns, so they’re referring to something else in the sentence. In addition, one is singular and one is plural, so it will be important to find the antecedent (the word to which the pronoun refers).

Next, read the original sentence. What do you think? It isn’t super long but it still manages to pack in some complexity. Learn how to strip it down and you’ll be prepared for even more complex sentence structures.

My first thought was: okay, now I see why they offered that vs. those. Should the pronoun refer to the plural differences or to the singular organization?

It could be easy to get turned around here, so strip down the sentence structure:

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gmat-quant-strategyAs dedicated readers of this blog may have guessed, this is a follow up to my earlier post When is it Time to Guess on Quant? Timing troubles are not, however, exclusive to the Quant section, so in this piece I’ll talk about some common scenarios that bedevil students on the Verbal section.

As with Quant, not all guesses are created equal. The earlier you decide to guess, the more likely that you will make a random guess. If, on the other hand, you’re far enough into the question that you’ve eliminated 2-3 answer choices, then you’ll be making an educated guess.

One immediate difference between guessing on Quant and Verbal is that guessing strategy is essentially identical for both Problem Solving and Data Sufficiency questions. Each of the Verbal question types, on the other hand, has less in common. That being said, there are a lot of parallels in guessing strategy among the three types.

No matter the question, there are really three distinct stages at which it becomes a better idea to guess than to keep going. I’ll briefly describe each stage, then show how it connects to each of the Verbal question types.

Stage 1: No Clear Starting Point

As a general rule, if you haven’t really made progress on a question after 30 seconds or so, it’s usually a good idea to just make a random guess and save your energy for a question you’re more comfortable with.

Reading Comprehension Stage 1: I don’t know where in the passage to look.

The great thing about Reading Comprehension (or at least its saving grace) is that the correct answer has to have support in the passage. With the vast majority of RC questions, as long as you can find and reread the relevant portion of the passage, you can find an answer choice that will match what you read. In fact, you should be able to answer to come up with your own answer to most RC questions before you even look at the answer choices.

Many questions provide good clues as to where in the passage to look for the answer (seriously – a surprising amount of questions are very helpful in that regard). Things get much tougher when they don’t. So here’s your first big clue that it may be time to guess. If you’ve read the question, and you’ve skimmed through the passage looking for an answer, and you still don’t feel like you found what the question was asking about, it’s time to guess.

At this point, you could guess randomly, but I would recommend taking one quick pass through the answer choices. If any choice contradicts your understanding of the passage, eliminate it. After you’ve each answer once, pick from the remaining.

Sentence Correction Stage 1: I don’t understand the sentence and the underline is long.

On the Verbal section, you have to answer 41 questions in 75 minutes, which is less than 2 minutes per question. Critical Reasoning and Reading Comprehension are naturally time-consuming, so that time is going to have be saved largely on Sentence Correction. Remember that you only have an average of 1 minute and 20 seconds to answer these things.

If you’re struggling to even understand what the sentence is saying, then it will almost certainly take too long to properly analyze the answer choices, especially if the underline is long. No need to fight through the pain. Just take a quick scan through the answer choices and pick one that doesn’t sound immediately wrong.

Critical Reasoning Stage 1: I don’t understand what the argument is saying.

To my mind, good process on Critical Reasoning questions means being in control the whole way through the process. The worst situation to be in is one in which you’re hoping that the answer choices will help you make sense of the argument. Four out of the five answer choices are actively trying to trick you, and the GMAT has gotten pretty good at tricking people over the years. By the time you get to the answer choices, you need to understand the argument well enough to effectively evaluate each choice.

Consequently, if you’ve read the argument two or three times, and still can’t articulate to yourself the link between the premises and the conclusion, you shouldn’t waste time with the answer choices.

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AppIconWe are happy to announce that the latest version of our free GMAT app, Pocket GMAT Flashcards, is now available for download via the App store! New updates include:

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The app also now works better on iOS6 devices and we have fixed issues with scrolling and swiping, so overall navigation is smoother. We’ve also fixed content errata and made the images look better.

Manhattan Prep has teamed up with Learningpod to make Pocket GMAT free for everyone! In addition to the adaptive algorithm, there is also a sequential practice mode that lets you flip through the cards however you want. You also have the ability to enter a Target Date to keep you on pace and track your progress. The flash cards are organized into “KeyRings” by topic and include algebra, number properties, word problems, geometry, fractions, decimals, and percents.

We hope the new updates improve your studying experience, and if you’re as excited as we are about the revisions, please let us know in the review section of the App store. We use your feedback to make our study tools the best they can possibly be!

gmat-Advanced-Critical-ReasoningMy last two articles (part 1 and part 2) gave you some advanced tools to analyze deductive reasoning. Now it’s time to dive into the wonderful world of inductive reasoning, which appears much more often, especially in the following GMAT question types:

• Assumption
• Strengthen
• Weaken
• Evaluate
• Fill in the blank
• Identify the role
• Identify the overall reasoning
• Identify the conclusion
• Mimic the reasoning (sometimes)

According to Wikipedia:

“Inductive reasoning (as opposed to deductive reasoning) is reasoning in which the premises seek to supply strong evidence for (not absolute proof of) the truth of the conclusion. While the conclusion of a deductive argument is supposed to be certain, the truth of an inductive argument is supposed to be probable, based upon the evidence given.”

Therefore, in inductive arguments, conclusions are a matter of opinion, some more strongly supported than others.

Beyond the basics: P.O.S.E.

First, from class and your own study, you should be able to DECONSTRUCT arguments–in other words, identify the background, conclusion, premises, counterpoint, and counter premises of all inductive arguments. Our books cover that skill thoroughly if you need more work.

Next, you should learn to categorize each conclusion by type.

Fortunately, the GMAT uses only a few basic argument patterns, with similar assumptions and a limited number of ways to strengthen or weaken those assumptions. If you can spot and name those patterns, you’re well on your way to drastically improving your CR score.
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gmat-advanced-critical-reasoning-2
My last article discussed the difference between inductive and deductive arguments. Today’s article will focus mostly on the rules of deductive arguments. I promise to nerd out on inductive reasoning in later articles.

Here’s a quick quiz on the difference between inductive and deductive logic: http://www.thatquiz.org/tq/previewtest?F/Z/J/V/O3UL1355243858

To review: In a deductively “valid” argument, if all the premises are true, the conclusion must also be true, with 100% certainty. Luckily, on the GMAT, we should usually act as if the premises of an argument are true, especially when the question specifies, “the statements above are true.”

Deductive reasoning shows up most often on inference (aka “draw a conclusion”) questions and “mimic the reasoning” questions, but it often appears on other types of questions, and even on reading comprehension!

On inference questions, the correct answer will usually be deductively valid (or very very strong, inductively). An incorrect answer will be deductively invalid, with some significant probability that it could be false.

What follows are most of the formal rules of deductive reasoning (from a stack of logic textbooks I have on my shelf), with examples from the GMAT. For shorthand, I’ll label the arguments with a “P” for premise and a “C” for conclusion:

P) premise
P) premise
C) conclusion

Remember: these are not the same kind of conclusions (opinions) you’ll see on strengthen and weaken questions. Deductive conclusions are deductively “valid” facts that you can derive with 100% certainty from given premises.

EASY STUFF: Simplification/conjunction (“and” statements)

This is kind of a “duh” conclusion, but here goes: If two things are linked with an “and,” then you know each of them exist. Conversely, if two things exist, you can link them with an “and.”

Simplification:

P) A and B
C) Therefore, A

Conjunction:

P) A
P) B
C) Therefore, A and B

P) Bill is tall and was born in Texas.
P) Bill rides a motorcycle.
C) Therefore, Bill was born in Texas (simplification).
C) Therefore, at least one tall person named Bill was born in Texas and rides a motorcycle (conjunction).

CAUTION: Fallacies ahead!!

Don’t confuse “and” with “or.” (More about this later.) More importantly, don’t confuse “and” with causality, condition, or representativeness. Bill’s tallness probably has nothing to do with Texas, so keep an eye out for wrong answers that say, “Bill is tall because he was born in Texas” or “Most people from Texas ride motorcycles.”

MEDIUM STUFF: Disjunctive syllogism (“or” statements)

With “or” statements, if one thing is missing, the other must be true.

Valid conclusions:

P) A or B
P) not B (shorthand: ~B)
C) Therefore, A

P) We will go to the truck rally or to a Shakespeare play
P) We won’t go to the Shakespeare play.
C) Therefore, we will go to the truck rally.

CAUTION: Fallacies ahead!!

Unlike in the real world, “or” statements do not always imply mutual exclusivity, unless the argument explicitly says so. For example, in the above arguments, A and B might both be true; we might go to a play and go to the movies. Yes, really. A wrong answer might say “We went to a play, so we won’t go to the movies.” This error is called “affirming the disjunct.”

Invalid:

P) A or B
P) B
C) Not A

GMAT example:

To see this in action, check out your The Official Guide for GMAT Review 13th Edition, by GMAC®*, question 41. This argument opens with an implied “or” statement:

“Installing scrubbers in smokestacks and switching to cleaner-burning fuel are the two methods available to Northern Power…”

The author here incorrectly assumes that by using one method, Northern Power can’t use both methods at the same time. Question 51 does the same thing; discuss it in the comments below?

TOUGH STUFF: Fun with conditional statements

This is important! Keep a sharp eye out for statements that can be expressed conditionally and practice diagramming them. Look for key words such as “if,” “when,” “only,” and “require.”

I use the symbol “–>” to express an if/then relationship, and a “~” to express the word “not.” Use single letters or abbreviations to stand in for your elements.
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