Update from Larry Rudner on Idioms, etc.


Larry Rudner, GMAC R and D VPSince the GMAT Prep summit, we have been covering what the changes that were described there mean based on what Larry Rudner, GMAC vice president of research and development and chief psychometrician, has told us. Now he has written an official response, which we have re-posted below.  Hopefully this will further clarify what those differences consist of and how you can study for the GMAT successfully. You can find the original posting here.

Idioms, Sentence Correction, and the GMAT Exam

Recently there has been some discussion and questioning about the role and place of idioms and sentence correction as they apply to the skills tested in the GMAT exam.  Much of what has been written has been well reasoned but some of what has been written is only partially accurate or reflects some misconceptions. With this posting I hope to put these two important pieces of the GMAT exam in their proper place within the context of what the exam measures and how.


The general categories of language-use skill tested in GMAT Sentence Correction items haven’t changed, and test takers do not need to do anything different to prepare for the Verbal section of the GMAT.

For years, GMAC has paid close attention to the growing international make up of GMAT test takers and has worked to assure that the exam is not viewed as “ nor is it actually –an American test. As the GMAT exam has expanded globally and been taken by more students from around the world, GMAC has continually made extra efforts to ensure that newly introduced GMAT items do not depend on familiarity with distinctively American expressions and usages.  We have taken steps all along the way to ensure global fairness and appropriateness.

Still, every language everywhere in the world consists of idioms, or standard constructions that are not literally derived from the most basic rules of grammar and vocabulary. Some Sentence Correction items continue to pose reasoning tasks that incorporate English language, NOT American, idioms.  These are not intended to test specialized knowledge of colloquialisms and regionalisms.

Grammar in Sentence Correction:

In recent years, GMAT item writers have been concentrating on the reasoning aspects rather than the purely grammatical aspects of Sentence Correction skills. As always, test takers need to carefully read the prompt in order to choose the answer that produces the most effective sentence.  This means that while two sentences may both be grammatically appropriate, the correct answer is the sentence that is most effective, the sentence that better expresses the idea.

The end result is a GMAT exam that doesn’t test simply a person’s ability to memorize grammatical rules or recognize idioms for their colloquial meanings but a test that rewards reasoning regardless of the test takers background.

The recent back and forth around whether idioms are in or out or how sentence correction works, ignores the fact that the core purpose of the exam hasn’t ever changed, even as the way we treat certain categories of questions in order to meet the needs of our ever expanding marketplace may have.  The GMAT exam tests higher order reasoning and preparing for the exam remains an exercise in developing and exercising those skills.



  1. Bhushan November 11, 2011 at 11:35 am


    Thanks for publishing the sample meaning questions and tips on how to deal with them. Your posts are always intuitive and fun to read.

    MGMAT has the most comprehensive list of idioms I have found. Some of them are so called “american-centric” idioms. Some are common idioms list such as “as…as”, “more…than”, “so…that” and so on…

    Does MGMAT plan to publish a compressed list of common idioms soon? It would be really helpful for the MGMAT student community to have a short and commonly tested idioms list that are not “american-centric”. There are students out there, like me, who will be taking the test soon and this short idioms list will help a great deal.


  2. swetha November 10, 2011 at 2:34 am

    I have the same question as Stacy…. so are we expected to go through the Idiom list given in chapter 9 of Manhattan SC strategy guide or can we give it a skip

  3. sandy November 8, 2011 at 8:11 am

    Hi stacy,
    Shall i go thrugh list of idioms mentioned in chapter 9 of SC guide or its fine without it?
    i have only a month left now 🙁 please help asap!