GMAT Files – Sentence Correction: Multi Issue Questions

The SBC GMAT Files

Search our GMAT Teacher Hub for your perfect GMAT/GRE course or teacher.

Sentence Correction: Multi Issue Questions
Ilana Goldberg, Ph.D, Master GMAT Verbal Instructor

Some sentence correction questions plant one major grammatical mistake – for example a tense mistake – in the question stem, and then propose various ways of correcting it.  This type of single-issue question does not branch out to other grammatical issues, and can therefore be easier to tackle than most SC questions, as long as the original mistake is correctly identified. Some questions, however, may present only one initial mistake in an otherwise flawless question stem, but then introduce new grammatical mistakes in the rest of the answer choices, resulting in a multi-issue question.

Take a look at the following question:

Established in 1945 upon the demise of the League of Nations, the United Nations’ General Assembly, comprised of all the nations who are signatories to the UN charter, play a crucial role in sustaining international agreements concerning human rights, global trade, and environmental protection.

(A) nations who are signatories to the UN charter, play a crucial role in sustaining international agreements concerning human rights, global trade, and environmental protection
(B) signatories to the UN charter, plays a crucial role in sustaining international agreements concerning human rights, global trade, and protect the environment
(C) nations that are signatories to the UN charter, plays a crucial role in sustaining international agreements concerning human rights, global trade, and environmental protection
(D) nations, which were signatories to the UN charter, plays a crucial role in sustaining international agreements concerning human rights, global trade, and environmental protection
(E) nations that are signatories to the UN charter, is playing a crucial role in sustaining international agreements concerning human rights, global trade, and environmental protection

The original sentence commits two errors  – a subject/verb agreement problem (the singular subject “assembly” does not agree with the plural verb “play”, and the use of the wrong relative pronoun (who) to modify the noun “nations”. In the GMAT, “who” is usually used to modify human nouns. “Nations” is a non-human noun.

Answer choice B corrects both original errors by changing the verb to the singular “play” and getting rid of the word “nations”, and even presents a more concise formulation: “comprised of all the signatories to”. It could be tempting to select this answer choice for correcting the original mistake, but by scanning the rest of the sentence we see that this sentence has created a parallelism problem. The verb “protect” at the end of the underlined section is not parallel to the other elements in the list.

Answer choice D deals with the SVA problem in the original sentence, and corrects the pronoun mistake by changing who to which. However, this correction creates a new problem:  the use of the non-defining relative pronoun “which” following a comma changes the meaning of the sentence. In this answer choice, the Assembly is comprised of all nations and all nations had to sign the US charter. However, the intention of the original sentence is to say that the Assembly is comprised only of the nations that have signed the UN charter. In other words, their signing of the charter defines these nations as a group. This drastic and unnecessary change of meaning is enough to place D under suspicion.

Answer choice E corrects the pronoun mistake in the original sentence by changing the relative pronoun “who” to “that”, but it introduces a new mistake by unnecessarily changing the verb “play” in the Present Simple tense to “is playing” in the Present Progressive tense. The use of the progressive is inappropriate, as the role of the UN is not just occurring in the moment, but is a general fact.

Answer choice C is correct because it corrects the original mistakes, but does not contaminate the corrected sentence with new types of grammatical or stylistic mistakes.

The main takeaway from this problem is that when tackling an Sentence Correction question, a test-taker has to keep her or his radar open for multiple grammatical issues.  In this example the issues tested were: subject-verb agreement, choice of relative pronouns, parallelism, and correct use of tense.

***

By Ilana Goldberg, Ph.D, Master GMAT Verbal Instructor

For further information and to try out our world class course for free please visit:
www.mastergmat.com
You may also write to: support@mastergmat.com
Call 1 888 780 GMAT

More Testing Advice from our blog

Return to the GMAT Files Main Page