The 5 Hardest GMAT Sentence Correction Questions

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For many GMAT test takers, hard Sentence Correction questions are what stand between them and a top Verbal score. But what do the hardest GMAT Sentence Correction questions look like? What skills and concepts do they test? What do they have in common? What strategies can we use to get these GMAT Verbal questions right?

In this article, I’ll go over the five hardest GMAT Sentence Correction questions, what you’ll need to know to solve them, how to approach them on test day, and what we can learn from hard GMAT questions about mastering Sentence Correction.

 

How We Found These GMAT Sentence Correction Questions

To gather these questions, our GMAT experts took advantage of the computer adaptive algorithm used on the test. Over the course of the test, the difficulty levels of questions change based on how well you performed on previous questions. Get a few questions right, move up a difficulty level. Get a few questions wrong, move down a difficulty level. By the end of the test, every test taker should be presented with questions that perfectly match their ability.

Our GMAT experts took the practice tests on the GMATPrep software multiple times without missing a single question on the Verbal section. We collected the questions they received into a master list of the hardest GMAT Verbal questions. We then looked at activity on various online forums to determine which of these questions test takers struggled with the most from each question type. This left us with the five hardest GMAT Sentence Correction questions out there, ready for you to study!

 

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GMAT Sentence Correction Question 1

Based on records from ancient Athens, each year young Athenian women collaborated to weave a new woolen robe that they used to dress a statue of the goddess Athena and that this robe depicted scenes of a battle between Zeus, Athena’s father, and giants.

  1. Based on records from ancient Athens, each year young Athenian women collaborated to weave a new woolen robe that they used to dress
  2. Based on records from ancient Athens, each year young Athenian women had collaborated to weave a new woolen robe with which to dress
  3. According to records from ancient Athens, each year young Athenian women collaborated to weave a new woolen robe that they used to dress
  4. Records from ancient Athens indicate that each year young Athenian women collaborated to weave a new woolen robe with which they dressed
  5. Records from ancient Athens indicate each year young Athenian women had collaborated to weave a new woolen robe for dressing

When we have a sentence as long and confusingly ordered as this one, a really good move is to eliminate anything unnecessary to the grammatical structure of the sentence. This can help us to figure out what exactly the sentence is actually saying and pinpoint errors in sentence construction. Some good candidates for elimination are parts of the sentence set off by commas and long descriptive phrases — we should be able to remove anything that provides “extra” information and still have a grammatical sentence. For example,

This Thursday afternoon, I went to the potluck at Julianne and Michelle’s apartment.

can be simplified to

This Thursday afternoon, I went to the potluck at Julianne and Michelle’s apartment.

without messing up the grammar.

Let’s do the same thing with our sentence:

Based on records from ancient Athens, each year young Athenian women collaborated to weave a new woolen robe that they used to dress a statue of the goddess Athena and that this robe depicted scenes of a battle between Zeus, Athena’s father, and giants.

or, simplified,

Young Athenian women collaborated to weave a new woolen robe and that this robe depicted scenes of a battle.

Much simpler! Now we see that the sentence is divided into a series of two parts (“Young … woolen robe” and “that … battle”) separated by a conjunction (“and”). We also see that the last portion of the sentence is not underlined. Whenever we see that we have a series where part of the series is underlined and part is not, we should immediately start looking for parallelism issues.

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Looking at our two parts, we see one big difference in grammatical structure:

  • Young Athenian women collaborated to weave a new woolen robe
  • that this robe depicted scenes of a battle

Since the part of our series that isn’t underlined begins with “that”, we need the other part to include “that” to match. Looking through the answer options, only D uses the word “that” twice, giving us correct parallel structure.

 

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GMAT Sentence Correction Question 2

With surface temperatures estimated at minus 130 degrees Fahrenheit, Jupiter’s moon Europa has long been considered far too cold to support life, and with 60 square miles of water thought to be frozen from top to bottom.

  1. Europa has long been considered far too cold to support life, and with
  2. Europa has long been considered far too cold to support life, its
  3. Europa has long been considered as far too cold to support life and has
  4. Europa, long considered as far too cold to support life, and its
  5. Europa, long considered to be far too cold to support life, and to have

This question is tricky because it relies heavily on having an idiom memorized rather than applying grammatical concepts — if you don’t know the idiom, it’s going to be much harder to get the question right. The GMAT has a few classic idioms that are bound to show up on any test. “Consider X, Y” is one of them. “Consider as” and “consider to be” are both used colloquially, but neither is grammatically correct. This allows us to eliminate C, D, and E right off the bat, leaving us with A and B.

Like the previous question, we’re dealing with a pretty complex sentence. Right away, we see that “With surface … Fahrenheit” is a descriptive phrase set off by a comma, so it shouldn’t be necessary to the grammar of the sentence. Let’s go ahead and eliminate it from our sentence to simplify things:

Jupiter’s moon Europa has long been considered far too cold to support life, and with 60 square miles of water thought to be frozen from top to bottom.

Looking at A, we see that the sentence is divided into two clauses (“Jupiter’s … life” and “with … bottom”) separated by a conjunction (“and”). However, this time we have a comma before our conjunction. Whenever we have two clauses connected by a comma + a conjunction, both clauses need to be independent — they need to be able to stand on their own as sentences. For example,

Rosalind put on boots and wrapped a scarf around her neck.

is fine, but

Rosalind put on boots, and wrapped a scarf around her neck.

is not — “wrapped a scarf around her neck” doesn’t work as it’s own sentence. We would need to add a subject:

Rosalind put on boots, and she wrapped a scarf around her neck.

Let’s see if both parts of our sentence can stand alone as independent clauses:

  • Europa has long been considered far too cold to support life.
  • With 60 square miles of water thought to be frozen from top to bottom.

We see right away that the second part of our sentence is not a complete thought. We can eliminate A, leaving us with B as the correct answer.

Now, if we didn’t recognize the idiom error in the sentence, we can eliminate A based on the reasoning above and continue to use sentence structure to eliminate answers. We see that a few of our answer choices have additional pieces of the sentence set off by commas that we can remove:

  1. Jupiter’s moon Europa has long been considered far too cold to support life, its 60 square miles of water thought to be frozen from top to bottom.
  1. Jupiter’s moon Europa, long considered as far too cold to support life, and its 60 square miles of water thought to be frozen from top to bottom.
  2. Jupiter’s moon Europa, long considered to be far too cold to support life, and to have 60 square miles of water thought to be frozen from top to bottom.

As expected, B looks fine. However, we see that D and E don’t make much sense once we remove the “unnecessary” parts of the sentence. We can eliminate both, leaving us with B, C, and a 50% chance of guessing correctly.

 

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GMAT Sentence Correction Question 3

For the farmer who takes care to keep them cool, providing them with high-energy feed, and milking them regularly, Holstein cows are producing an average of 2,275 gallons of milk each per year.

  1. providing them with high-energy feed, and milking them regularly, Holstein cows are producing
  2. providing them with high-energy feed, and milked regularly, the Holstein cow produces
  3. provided with high-energy feed, and milking them regularly, Holstein cows are producing
  4. provided with high-energy feed, and milked regularly, the Holstein cow produces
  5. provided with high-energy feed, and milked regularly, Holstein cows will produce

Once again, another long, complicated, heavily punctuated sentence. Sensing a trend? Before we start breaking this sentence apart, however, let’s scan to see if there is anything a little easier to work with in this sentence by looking at the differences between the answer choices. We notice quite a few changes in tense (“providing” vs. “provided”, “milking” vs. “milked”, and “are producing” vs. “produces” “will produce”), but we should also notice something simple: the change from “cows” to “cow”. Whenever we see changes between singular and plural in answer choices, we should immediately look for issues with pronoun agreement. We find our pronoun in the non-underlined portion of our sentence: “For the farmer who takes care to keep them cool”.

Because this part of the sentence isn’t underlined, we know that the sentence must discuss “Holstein cows”, not “the Holstein cow”. We can eliminate B and D.

Now we can look at the structure of the sentence. We see that the sentence begins with a list of three things the farmer does to cause the Holstein cow to produce more milk. A list is just a series of three or more items, which means we need to start thinking about parallelism. Since the first list item is not underlined, we want to match the structure of the second and third items to the first.

Looking at A, we see that the farmer

  • takes care to keep them cool
  • providing them with high-energy feed
  • milking them regularly

So all of our list items involve verbs, but the -ing verbs in the second two list items don’t match any tenses in the first list item. Eliminate A.


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Note: some might think that “providing … regularly” might act as a modifying phrase for “takes care to keep them cool”, making an -ing verb a good pick (as in “I quickly called the office, holding my breath and hoping they wouldn’t be closed”). However, it doesn’t make much sense that feeding and milking cows would describe keeping them cool. Similarly, the comma between “feed” and “milking” would not be grammatical outside of a list.

C sets up a similarly confusing list. The farmer keeps the cows

  • cool
  • provided with high-energy feed
  • milking them regularly

“Cool” and “provided” both act as adjectives to describe the cows, but now “milking” doesn’t fit the structure. We can eliminate C, leaving us with E, in which the farmer keeps the cows

  • cool
  • provided with high-energy feed
  • milked regularly

 

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GMAT Sentence Correction Question 4

There are no legal limits, as there are for cod and haddock, on the size of monkfish that can be caught, a circumstance that contributes to their depletion through overfishing.

  1. There are no legal limits, as there are for cod and haddock, on the size of monkfish that can be caught, a circumstance that contributes to their depletion through overfishing.
  2. There are no legal limits on the size of monkfish that can be caught, unlike cod and haddock, a circumstance that contributes to depleting them because they are being overfished.
  3. There are legal limits on the size of cod and haddock that can be caught, but not for monkfish, which contributes to its depletion through overfishing.
  4. Unlike cod and haddock, there are no legal size limits on catching monkfish, which contributes to its depletion by being overfished.
  5. Unlike catching cod and haddock, there are no legal size limits on catching monkfish, contributing to their depletion because they are overfished.

Sentences that are fully underlined can be intimidating — we aren’t sure of anything in the sentence. However, this is often a blessing in disguise. Since there may be multiple errors in the sentence, there may be multiple opportunities for us to rule out answer options.

Scanning over our sentence, we notice that the sentence sets up a comparison between the existence of legal size limits for cod and haddock and the lack of legal size limits for monkfish. Comparison questions are a favorite on the GMAT since they test a couple things — parallelism and “like/unlike” vs. “as”. Like with a list or a series, things being compared must have parallel structure. This concept is pretty easy to test for on a question-by-question basis, but “like” vs. “as” is another one of the GMAT Sentence Correction rules on idiom and diction we need to have memorized: “like” is used to compare two objects (nouns), while “as” is used to compare two actions (verbs).

Looking at A we see our comparison is between

  • There are no legal limits … on the size of monkfish that can be caught

and

  • there are [legal limits] for cod and haddock

… which actually works fine — the two things being compared are parallel and are both verbs, which fits with the use of “as”. We can keep A and check our other answers.

B sets up a comparison using “unlike”, so we know we should be comparing two nouns. However, the first part of our sentence doesn’t change at all, giving us a comparison between

  • There are no legal limits … on the size of monkfish that can be caught

and

  • cod and haddock

So we have a parallelism issue, (comparing a lack of legal limits to a fish doesn’t make much sense), AND we have an issue with idiom and diction (“unlike” can’t compare a verb to a noun). We can eliminate B based on either.

Looking at D and E, our other “unlike” answer choices, we see similar issues. In D, we compare “there are no legal size limits on catching monkfish” with “cod and haddock“. In E, we compare “there are no legal size limits on catching monkfish” with “catching cod and haddock (where “catching” is a gerund, a type of noun). We can eliminate both.

This leaves us with A and C. C doesn’t use “like” or “as”, so we’re out of luck there. It does, however, use the word “which”, which (… get it) should ring some more idiom and diction bells. On the GMAT, the word “which” must refer to the closest noun. For example:

We ran to the store, which made us tired.

is something we might say colloquially — the act of running made us tired. However, on the GMAT, this sentence would indicate that the store itself made us tired.

Looking at our sentence, we see that “which contributes to its depletion by being overfished” refers to monkfish … so monkfish are contributing to their own depletion. That doesn’t make much sense. We can eliminate C, leaving us with A as the correct answer.

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GMAT Sentence Correction Question 5

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

  1. small cars more fuel-efficient now than at any time in their
  2. small cars that are more fuel-efficient than they were at any time in their
  3. small cars that are more fuel-efficient than those at any other time in
  4. more fuel-efficient small cars than those at any other time in their
  5. more fuel-efficient small cars now than at any time in

Unlike the monkfish question, this sentence is short, and the underlined portion is even shorter. This means we may not be working with much.

Reading the initial sentence, we should notice the phrase “more fuel-efficient … than”. Once again, we’re dealing with a comparison: the fuel efficiency of small cars in the past vs. the fuel efficiency of small cars in the present.

However, we might notice something sounds odd about the comparison in first sentence. Small cars are “more fuel efficient now than at any time in their production history“. Well … doesn’t “any time in their production history” include “now”? Meaning that small cars are more fuel efficient now than they are … also now?

The impossible comparison is yet another classic GMAT trap, though this one doesn’t show up quite as often as some of the others in these questions. When we compare one thing in a group to the rest of the things in the group, we need to make sure that we exclude the one thing from the group we compare it to, typically using the word “other”. For example:

Keisha scored higher on the the test than all of the students in her class.

is illogical. Keisha is one of the students in her class; this sentence tells us she scored higher than all of them — including herself. We can correct this by excluding Keisha from the class in our comparison:

Keisha scored higher on the the test than all of the other students in her class.

Looking back at our sentence, we can eliminate any answers that use the phrase “at any time”: A, B, and E.

Let’s look at the comparisons made in C and D.

C tells us that manufacturers make “small cars that are more fuel efficient than those [small cars] at any other time in production history”. So the small cars manufacturers make now are more efficient than the small cars they made before.

D tells us that manufacturers make “more fuel efficient small cars than those [manufacturers] at any other time in their production history”. This has a slightly different meaning. Now, the sentence tells us that the manufacturers make more fuel-efficient small cars, not that the small cars they make are more fuel-efficient. So with C, the manufacturers are increasing fuel efficiency, while in D, the manufacturers are increasing the number of cars.

When dealing with issues of meaning on Sentence Correction questions, we want the correct answer to capture the meaning intended by the original sentence. Ignoring the errors in the original sentence, we see that it conveys the idea of “more fuel-efficiency” not “more cars”, making D wrong and C correct.

 

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Key Takeaways: Learning From The Hardest Sentence Correction Questions

So what can the hardest GMAT Verbal questions teach us about GMAT Sentence Correction questions in general?

  1. It’s crucial to know the tricky GMAT Sentence Correction rules about idioms, diction, and sentence structure — the most difficult questions tend to target constructions that sound okay in casual conversation but don’t fly on the GMAT.
  2. The hardest Sentence Correction questions often have complex sentence structures. Simplifying sentences by eliminating unnecessary elements (descriptive clauses and phrases, for example) can make them easier to decipher.
  3. Often dealing with several types of errors within a sentence gives us multiple opportunities to eliminate the wrong answer options. This makes long underlined portions a blessing in disguise.
  4. That said, challenging questions often come down to issues of meaning. Knowing GMAT Sentence Correction rules is usually enough to get you down to two answer choices, but on the hardest GMAT questions, you’ll usually need to understand what the sentence is saying to definitively answer the question.

 

What’s Next?

What are the most important grammar rules for the GMAT? The most common GMAT idioms? The top tips for Sentence Correction? These articles expand on the concepts used in these five problems, explaining what you need to memorize for Sentence Correction before test day.

Aiming for an 800 on the GMAT? This article shares key strategies for getting a perfect score.

If you’d like similar analyses of the hardest questions from other GMAT question types, check out our five hardest Data Sufficiency questions (coming soon).

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