GMAT Sentence Correction example: Subject-Verb Agreement

When solving GMAT Sentence Correction problems, it’s a wonderful thing to be able to eliminate at least some of the wrong answer choices as quickly as possible.  Looking for subject-verb agreement (or lack thereof) is generally a very quick technique for eliminating wrong choices.

GMAT Sentence Correction example: Subject-Verb Agreement

 Let’s look an example:

Reduced income, often caused by job loss, rank currently as the leading reason that homeowners face foreclosure, surpassing even mortgage payment increases, health problems, and divorce

A.  rank currently as the leading reason that homeowners face foreclosure, surpassing even mortgage payment increases, health problems, and divorce

B.  ranks currently as the leading reason that homeowners face foreclosure, surpassing even mortgage payment increases, health problems, and divorce

C.  are the leading reason that homeowners face foreclosure, even surpassing mortgage payment increases, health problems, and divorce

D.  have been ranked as the leading reason that homeowners face foreclosure, surpassing even mortgage payment increases, health problems, and divorce

E.  ranking currently as the leading reason that homeowners face foreclosure, even surpassing mortgage payment increases, health problems, and divorce

Let’s analyze the choices for proper/improper subject-verb agreement.  To save time, we’ll pull just the subject and verb out of each version of the sentence and compare them to see if they agree.

Choice A:  “Income” is the subject, and “rank” is the verb.  However, “Income rank” does not exhibit proper subject-verb agreement.  Choice A is eliminated.

Choice B:  “Income ranks” does exhibit proper subject-verb agreement.  This is probably the right answer.  But let’s see if we can quickly eliminate the rest just to be on the safe side.

Choice C:  “Income are”.  The subject and verb are not in agreement.  Choice C is eliminated.

Choice D:  “Income have been ranked”.  The subject and the verb do not agree.  Choice D is out.

Choice E:  “Income ranking currently”.  Is there agreement?  Actually, Choice E is a little bit different than the others.  Here you must read the entire sentence carefully.  When you do, you’ll realize that the Choice E version of the sentence is not really a complete sentence at all.  “Reduced income” is followed by a couple of clauses, but there is no verb for the subject “income”.  Choice E is eliminated, confirming Choice B as the correct answer.

Subject-verb agreement is such a quick technique for eliminating wrong answers because in many cases you don’t need to read all of each answer choice.  You can ignore most of the words in each choice, focusing only on the subject and verbs presented.

In this example, on choices A through D, we could safely ignore the clause “often caused by job loss” which came before the verb, and also ignore these words following after the verb: “the leading reason that homeowners face foreclosure, surpassing even mortgage payment increases, health problems, and divorce”.  All of those words have nothing to do with the issue of subject-verb agreement, and by ignoring them we save lots of valuable time and energy.  Only on choice E did we read the entire sentence, and that was only because our fruitless search for a verb to go with the subject led us that far.

 Keep practicing reading only the essential parts of sentences and answer choices, and ignoring all of the nonessential portions. Eventually this will become second nature, and your speed and accuracy will show a distinct improvement, hopefully just in time for the GMAT.

Good luck on the GMAT! For more practice with GMAT sentence correction problems, take a look at these posts:

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