Articles published in Verbal

Boring is Sometimes Best on GMAT Verbal

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Manhattan Prep GMAT Blog - Boring is Sometimes Best on GMAT Verbal by Chelsey CooleyDid you know that you can attend the first session of any of our online or in-person GMAT courses absolutely free? We’re not kidding! Check out our upcoming courses here.


There’s a particular exercise I like to do with students who overthink Reading Comprehension and Critical Reasoning problems. (I initially got it from fellow instructor Ceilidh Erickson, who developed this exercise for her own GMAT classes.) It involves answering GMAT RC and CR problems without looking at the passage or the argument. With a little training, my students can often reach 50% accuracy or better! That might seem impossible — but keep reading to learn the secret. Read more

GMAT Sentence Correction Tests Good Grammar, Not Good Writing

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Manhattan Prep GMAT Blog - Sentence Correction Tests Good Grammar Not Good Writing by Chelsey CooleyDid you know that you can attend the first session of any of our online or in-person GMAT courses absolutely free? We’re not kidding! Check out our upcoming courses here.


There’s a type of sentence known among linguists and grammar mavens as a “garden path” sentence. These sentences earned this name by leading readers “down the garden path” — you think the sentence is going in one direction, but halfway through, you suddenly realize that it’s saying something else entirely. Here’s the classic example:

The horse raced past the barn fell.

Believe it or not, this sentence is grammatically correct. The core of the sentence is The horse fell. “Raced past the barn” is just a modifier describing the horse. The sentence is equivalent to this one:

The horse that was raced past the barn fell. 

The second sentence is written much more clearly. The phrase “that was” makes it obvious that a modifier is about to start, so you don’t expect raced to be the main verb of the sentence. Yet grammatically, they’re both technically fine. It’s okay to start modifiers with that was, but it’s also okay to start modifiers with just a past participle, like in these examples.

The man trampled by the horse has made a full recovery.

                The mural created last year won several awards.

In English grammar, it’s often okay to leave out the that was or who was. Doing so sometimes leads to a poorly written or difficult to read sentence, which is why writers are cautious about it. But the GMAT tests grammar and logic, not clear writing. The right answers to GMAT Sentence Correction questions will sometimes phrase things in awkward-sounding or unclear ways.

Another example is the infamous appositive. Here’s a grammatically correct sentence from the GMAC’s GMATPrep software:

Architects and stonemasons, the Maya built huge palace and temple clusters without the benefit of animal transport or the wheel.

The phrase “architects and stonemasons” at the beginning of the sentence throws many readers off. It seems as if two nouns have been stuck onto the front of the sentence with no attention to how they fit in. This type of modifier — in which a noun, set off by commas, can modify another noun — sounds awkward to many readers. We almost never use appositives in speech, and many writers rarely use them. However, they’re acceptable in formal English grammar, and they’re acceptable on the GMAT.

In his recent self-help book, the author and diet guru proposed a revolutionary new way of losing weight, a method that allowed dieters to eat dessert after every meal and do only minimal exercise.

The phrase beginning with “a method” is also an appositive. Making matters worse, the appositive contains yet another modifier inside of it: that allowed… modifies method. Yet the sentence is still grammatically correct! You don’t need to memorize the technical details of this type of modifier, but you should remember that even if they sound strange, that’s just because they’re rare. They’re grammatically correct and okay on a GMAT Sentence Corrrection problem.

I’ll leave you with one last bizarre sentence. You might think that it’s never possible to have two verbs right next to each other! But this sentence would be correct on the GMAT:

The threat of dehydration that desert reptiles, such as the northern blue-tongued skink and the red diamond rattlesnake, face results from the dry and hot environment.

This sentence sounds strange because of the two verbs, face and results, that appear immediately next to each other. It’s also difficult to read because these two verbs can both also be used as nouns! However, structurally and grammatically, the sentence is correct. It actually has two modifiers nested inside of each other. The core is The threat of dehydration results from the dry and hot environment. The next phrase, that desert reptiles face, modifies threat of dehydration. And finally, such as the northern blue-tongued skink and the red diamond rattlesnake modifies reptiles.

The threat of dehydration that desert reptiles, such as the northern blue-tongued skink and the red diamond rattlesnake, face results from the dry and hot environment.

That’s a hideous sentence — but it’s not wrong. And what can you do about this? Here are three major ideas to use as you practice Sentence Correction:

  1. Learn the grammatical constructions that tend to sound wrong to you, so that when you see them on the test, you’ll know not to eliminate them by accident.
  2. It’s okay to use your ear, but use grammar first. GMAT Sentence Correction tests grammatical and logical rules, not writing style. Your ear might not know the difference between wrong grammar and just plain lousy writing.
  3. Don’t ever eliminate an answer choice just because it seems poorly written — unless it’s totally incomprehensible, or you can’t find any more grammatical or logical issues to work with.

To learn all things Sentence Correction, check out our Sentence Correction Strategy Guide. 📝


Want full access to Chelsey’s sage GMAT wisdom? Try the first class of one of her upcoming GMAT courses for absolutely free, no strings attached. 


Chelsey CooleyChelsey Cooley Manhattan Prep GMAT Instructor is a Manhattan Prep instructor based in Seattle, Washington. Chelsey always followed her heart when it came to her education. Luckily, her heart led her straight to the perfect background for GMAT and GRE teaching: she has undergraduate degrees in mathematics and history, a master’s degree in linguistics, a 790 on the GMAT, and a perfect 170/170 on the GRE. Check out Chelsey’s upcoming GMAT prep offerings here.

Taking the new mini-GMAT for EMBA? Here’s how to prep! – Part 2

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Manhattan Prep GMAT Blog - Taking the New Mini-GMAT for EMBA Candidates? Here's How to Prep (Part 2) by Stacey KoprinceDid you know that you can attend the first session of any of our online or in-person GMAT courses absolutely free? We’re not kidding! Check out our upcoming courses here.


Last time, we talked about the IR and Verbal sections of the new Executive Assessment (EA) exam for EMBA candidates. Today, we’re going to dive into Quant and also talk more about your overall study. Read more

Taking the new mini-GMAT for EMBA? Here’s how to prep! – Part 1

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Manhattan Prep GMAT Blog - Taking the New Mini-GMAT for EMBA Candidates? Here's How to Prep (Part 1) by Stacey KoprinceDid you know that you can attend the first session of any of our online or in-person GMAT courses absolutely free? We’re not kidding! Check out our upcoming courses here.


The Executive Assessment exam was launched in March 2016 to provide a more streamlined version of the GMAT for EMBA candidates at certain schools. Follow that link for logistics.

I’ve spoken with multiple students who are planning to take the exam and they all have the same question: How should I prepare for this test? Read more

GMAT Grammar Biweekly: Noun Modifiers

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Manhattan Prep GMAT Blog - GMAT Grammar Biweekly: Noun Modifiers by Emily MadanDid you know that you can attend the first session of any of our online or in-person GMAT courses absolutely free? We’re not kidding! Check out our upcoming courses here.


If you’ve been following these posts, you already have one kind of  noun modifier safely stashed away – opening modifiers. Let’s expand your repertoire using the same sentence: Read more

GMATPrep Reading Comp: Tackling a Tough Passage (part 2)

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Manhattan Prep GMAT Blog - GMATPrep® Reading Comprehension: Tackling a Tough GMAT Passage - Part 2 by Stacey KoprinceDid you know that you can attend the first session of any of our online or in-person GMAT courses absolutely free? We’re not kidding! Check out our upcoming courses here.


In the first installment of this series, we deconstructed a challenging Reading Comprehension passage from the GMATPrep® free exams. Pull up that page, as I’m not going to repeat the full text of the passage here.

I also gave you the first problem to try. Let’s talk about it now!

Here’s the problem again: Read more

Easy Answers Are Lousy Answers on the GMAT

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Manhattan Prep GMAT Blog - Easy Answers Are Lousy Answers on the GMAT by Chelsey CooleyDid you know that you can attend the first session of any of our online or in-person GMAT courses absolutely free? We’re not kidding! Check out our upcoming courses here.


The number one rule in my GMAT classes is this: we stay in control of the test, not the other way around. Many GMAT questions have both a right answer, and an answer they hope you’ll pick — and those often aren’t the same! Learn to recognize the “too easy” answers that the test writers want you to pick, and stay far away from them. Read more

GMAT Grammar Biweekly: Opening Modifiers

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Manhattan Prep GMAT Blog - GMAT Grammar Biweekly: Opening Modifiers by Emily MadanDid you know that you can attend the first session of any of our online or in-person GMAT courses absolutely free? We’re not kidding! Check out our upcoming courses here.


Modifiers can seem overwhelming. They have lots of rules, impact meaning, and come in different kinds, each of which is restrictive in different ways. So why not throw modifiers out the window? They are the grammatical spice of life! Consider this simple sentence:

The dog ran down the street.

Basic. Boring. Factual, but unimportant. Now compare it this sentence: Read more

The Top Three GMAT Sentence Correction Errors That Sound Totally Normal

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blog-soundsDid you know that you can attend the first session of any of our online or in-person GMAT courses absolutely free? We’re not kidding! Check out our upcoming courses here.


Here are three simple mistakes that can fool even the best-trained ear. The GMAT loves testing these rules on tough Sentence Correction problems, since the test writers know that we misuse them constantly in speech and in writing. Learn these rules by heart, and prevent avoidable mistakes when you take the GMAT. Read more

GMAT Grammar Biweekly – Participles: Everything You Never Wanted to Know

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GMAT Grammer Biweekly - Participles: Everything You Never Wanted to Know by Emily MadanDid you know that you can attend the first session of any of our online or in-person GMAT courses absolutely free? We’re not kidding! Check out our upcoming courses here.


Participles. Just the word is enough to inspire dread in the heart of most GMAT Test Takers. Let’s break down what they are and why you should care. Read more