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Sentence Correction – Tips and Tricks to

solve Questions in CAT Exam


Tuesday, March 5th, 2019

One of the most scoring as well as tricky part of Verbal Ability section is- Sentence
Correction. What do you think can be the purpose of this topic? Well, it checks your
grammar skills. In other words, you need to identify whether the sentence is
grammatically correct or a part of it needs to be replaced. So, what do you need to
know for that? A few fundamental rules of grammar and correct usage of words!

In such questions, you may find a part of or the whole sentence in bold or underline and
you are expected to find the correct phrase to replace it. Basically, you need to figure
out the grammatical error in that particular part of a sentence. Most of the times, you
will find that one of the options repeats the same phrase while the rest rewrite it in
different ways. So, it’s for you to decide whether the given phrase is correct or not.

We all have learned the basic grammar rules in our school days. Now, let’s discuss some
important rules and errors so as to tackle questions based on sentence correction.

1. Subject-verb agreement
As the name says itself, the verb used in the sentence should be in accordance with the
subject. Both should be either plural or singular at the same time.

E.g. The girl was reading.. (Singular)

The girls were reading.. (Plural)

Let’s recall some of the essential rules of subject-verb agreement.

 In case of collective nouns (like police, army, herd, etc.), the verb used is singular.
 Similarly, for subjects connected by ‘and’/‘or’, plural verbs are used.
 If the sentence begins with each/anyone/everyone, a singular verb is used.
 For the sentences that contain ‘either/or’ and ‘neither/nor’ pairs, the verb used will
be singular if both the subjects are singular. In case one or both the subjects are
plural, the plural verb is used.
 Often, there arises confusion between the usage of ‘I’ and ‘me’. Let’s see the
following examples:

Mary and I joined the sports club. (Here, ‘Mary’ and ‘I’ are the subjects of the sentence.)

John took Mary and me to the sports club. (Here, ‘Mary’ and ‘me’ are the objects of the
sentence.)

Similarly, in case of comparison, ‘I’ is used with the other subject. E.g. He is shorter than I
am.

Another important thing to identify here is the correct usage of pronouns as per the
subject and object.

In some cases, long sentences are given without the required verb. That calls for an
answer option with the required missing verb.

2. Repetition
Sometimes, there is redundancy in the sentence. In other words, the same thing is
written twice in a single statement. Most of the times, you can spot such errors easily.
Example:

I returned back from Goa. (Incorrect)

I came back from Goa. (Correct)

3. Error in modifiers
As you can guess from the name itself, modifiers modify the subject. So, where do you
think should the modifiers be placed? Yes, they need to be placed next to the subject it
modifies. Example:

Sitting in the garden, a scorpion stung her. (Here, you can’t figure out who is sitting in the
garden- the scorpion or the girl. This is an incorrect way. )

The correct way would be: Sitting in the garden, she was stung by a scorpion.
4. Parallelism
What exactly can be parallelism in sentence? Well, it relates to the structure of the
sentence. Putting it other ways, the different phrases/words performing the same
function should be used in the same format. Example:

Sonia likes to dance, sing and cook. (Correct)

Sonia likes dancing, singing and cooking. (Correct)

Sonia likes to dance, sing and cooking. (Incorrect)

5. Error in diction
A diction error refers to the error in choice of words/phrases. At other times, even some
idioms occur in sentences in an incorrect way. Common pair of words and phrases
where you may face diction error are:

 affect v/s effect (E.g. the effect of the decision, ..affect the outcome)
 adapt v/s adopt
 argue against v/s argue with
 later v/s latter
 lay v/s lie
 few v/s less (E.g. less water left.., ..few students in class)

6. Wrong comparisons
Sometimes, the comparisons are made between dissimilar things or in an incorrect way.
Example:

John is wiser than all men. (Incorrect way)

John is wiser than all other men. (Correct way- John needs to be excluded from the rest of
the same category.)

In the above example, comparative degree is used. But in case of superlative degree, the
person/thing compared is included in the rest of the class. E.g. John is the strongest of all
men.
Overall, you need to make sure that the different parts of speech (adjective, adverb,
nouns, pronouns, conjunctions, interjections, verbs, etc.) are used appropriately and at
the right place in the sentence.

So now, you are aware of the errors that may occur in questions based on sentence
correction. The next step should be to devise a strategy to answer these questions in an
accurate and timely manner. Keep the following things in mind while tackling a sentence
correction question:

 Identify the concept

The very reason above-stated rules were discussed! Generally, in such questions, one or
two rules are rules are used inappropriately. So, the first task is to identify the particular
kind of error/s.

Keep an eye on the time indicators (before, after, during, etc.). This can help you spot
the verb tense errors easily. In some cases, the whole sentence needs to be rewritten.

Once you have figured out the kind of error/s, try to make the correction without
looking at the options.

 Similar answer choices

Sometimes, the given answer options are very close to each other and display very less
difference. So, you need to extra careful in the examination of such choices. Read the
full statement before selecting your answer. Also, if there are 2-3 similar answer options,
that doesn’t mean one of them must be the right choice. The actual answer may be the
completely dissimilar one.

 Treat all options equally

While going through the answer options, you may feel the initial particular option is
correct and neglect the remaining. It is advised to go through all the options before
deciding your answer choice.

 Pay attention to the non-underlined part

It is common to ignore the non-underlined part of sentence. But, this part may contain
vital hints about the kind of error as well as the required answer.

 Choose the shorter answer


In case you are stuck with two options, choose the shorter one. Often the long
sentences are added in the options to confuse the candidates. This also helps when you
are unsure of the concept being tested. It is always wise to start examining the shorter
options first, before moving on to the longer ones.

 Substitute the selected answer

Before you mark your selected answer, it is a good idea to read the sentence along with
the answer option. Infact, it would be great if you read it a second time after the correct
insertion. Also, sometimes, error is caused in an exceptional rule and not the usual
standard rules. So, make sure the sentence makes sense.

If it still seems too complex, listen to the sentence. In other words, say the sentence in
your head and choose the option that sounds best to your ears.

 Elimination technique

Multiple errors in a sentence and similar answer choices – complicate matters! Here,
elimination strategy comes to your rescue. This technique proves effective in any kind of
question. There would be some options that change the meaning of the sentence while
some make it grammatically incorrect. In such cases, elimination technique will help you
arrive at the right answer.

1. Do not eliminate options with idioms or pronoun ambiguity in the first go. These
pose problem only when the meaning of the sentence is altered.
2. The options with ‘ing’ form is mostly incorrect and can be rejected outright.
3. In some cases, the word pair (just as…so, not only..but also, etc.) is used
incorrectly or half of it is missing.

Finally, do not get stuck with a particular answer choice if it appears confusing to you.
Go through the rest and eliminate the obvious ones first.

So, now you are all set with the knowledge of important rules and strategy to handle
sentence correction questions. The best way to remember the rules is to practice as
much as you can. Mock tests and previous year papers will familiarise you with the kind
of sentence correction questions that feature in CAT. Along with that, you need to have
a good vocabulary base to understand the meaning of sentences given in such
questions. Gaining expertise in this area can greatly enhance your score in CAT Verbal
Ability section.

Finally, try to solve these questions in a given time frame.